"Hello Kara! How are you?" he said as he stroked his long, gray beard."
"I am O.K. I would like you to meet my husband Brian", I replied.
"Dr. Fancy's" eyes lit up with excitement, "Oh, it is so nice to see the other half! Look -- you both share the same amazing warm smile. Welcome Brian, what brings you here?"
Shocked, I blurted out , "Brian has just been diagnosed with Colon Cancer. They think it may be Stage 3. I have him on this diet. He looks better. I think it is working. We don't want to do chemo... we really don't want to do chemo, it's poison. They said the tumor is the size of an orange."
"Dr. Fancy's" smile faded. I had assumed he, like the nurses who whispered behind our back, knew it was us with "The Cancer". I was wrong. He grabbed my hand and said, "Deep breath, sit down and tell me what you know."
I opened my little red notebook and started to ramble names of doctors and terms like adenocarcinomas, mucinous, and Stages 2C- 3, he nodded. I continued to tell him our fears and how we hated the way the news was delivered to us. I told him how the CT scan indicated the liver and vital organs seemed clear. I told him how Brian, in just 10 days, looked better than he did the day of the diagnosis. Then I told him how the gastroenterologist had suggested that we just get the surgery done by New Years. Suddenly, he snapped out of his zen state. "NO, we need to get it out and get it out NOW. If it has not spread to any vital organs and it's that large, we are lucky. I want it out -- next week."
My jaw dropped, "Next week?! It is Thanksgiving. We were hoping to have more..." I stuttered, "More time to get him healthy and shrink the tumor through diet and meditation." "Dr. Fancy" looked at me sternly, "Get it out! Get it out! Get it out! Listen, I supported Suzanne Somers when she opted not to do chemo, and I will support you guys on this journey. I too believe in diet and integrative medicine. Continue to do what you are doing BUT he has a tumor the size of an orange in him. That is NOT small. I want that thing out and together we will get his body strong for surgery. The rest we will deal with after surgery."
I held my tears back. I knew it had to happen. It was inevitable. I couldn't picture my husband, with his sweet smile, being sliced opened. I was now face to face with all the What Ifs?
-What if we can't beat this?
-What if we were wrong and he isn't getting better?
-What if he didn't come out of surgery?
-What if we never get to live the life I had so taken for granted together?
"Dr. Fancy" looked at Brian and said, "You're lucky you have her, she is going to take care of this." He winked at me, "You guys are going to pick a surgeon and be back in my office ASAP with your decision."
Suddenly, the tears snapped back inside me. I looked at Brian, "I told you I am going to produce the shit out of this."
Brian chuckled. I got to see that amazing smile once again.
The doctor continued to speak to Brian about his recommendations for a second opinion. My mind drifted to another place... I was thinking about the phone calls Brian was unaware of... the calls when I completely fell apart and looked for strength. My sisters had silently created a system with me.
In front of Brian, my job was to be normal. I was to Executive Produce our lives. I laid out what he needed to eat, where he needed to be and what he needed to do. Most of our friends only saw this persona as well. We were all scared. I needed to make everyone feel like this was a slam dunk. If we were going to beat this, that was the only way.
The minute Brian walked out the door everyday, I hit speed dial to my three sisters. Whomever picked up first I would sob to. All three were supportive. All three gave me a gift. All three got me through the next day.
One sister, like an emotional sponge would encourage me to release my darkest thoughts, my fears and my anger. She listened without judgement. After our conversations, I felt an incredible weight lifted from me. Another was a mighty rock I could lean on. She helped me keep focus, she reminded me of my strengths and dismissed the idea of me even possessing weakness. After our conversations, I was ready to take on any doctor, nurse or naysayer that stood in my way. Yet another reminded me that cancer could not take "who I was" away from me. She not only made me laugh but she allowed me to make jokes. She gave me the sense of normalcy I was craving. After our conversations, I knew I could kick the s*@t out of cancer.
My thoughts of how I loved my sisters was sadly interrupted. Again, I went to a dark place ... what if WE never get to have a wonderful family of our own?
I left "Dr. Fancy's" office armed with a list of names and numbers. In five business days, we needed to meet with 5 different doctors, learn as much as we could about this disease and make a decision. In between meetings, I needed to keep up his diet, keep up his spirits and keep up his hope. It wasn't going to be easy -- but for 10 years, my job had required me to talk my way out of situations in foreign languages, talk myself into places in several countries, and produce a mountain where there was a lake. I had always delivered given the task at hand...
When we got home, Brian headed to work and instead of crying, I turned to our dog Georgia and said, "You ready to do this?"