I have a dear friend in LA who is fighting a tough battle with cancer. She had been in remission, but then just a few weeks before I was diagnosed, she learned her cancer had come back. Ovarian cancer is a seriously mean dog. It comes at you like a rabid pit bull.
But my friend is strong. Spiritual. And even when she is most afraid, she is able to hold her ground, find her center, and fight. Her strength and resolve are an inspiration to me. I can’t tell you how many times in the last few weeks I’ve thought, “If she can do it, I can do it.”
I heard from Dr. P last night. She apologized for the delay, mixed signals on her end, and she stayed on the phone for as long as I needed, until I had exhausted all my questions — and hers. When she explained the anesthesia to me, she said it would be a beautiful, relaxing sleep. “Just before you drift off, we’ll talk about someplace beautiful and peaceful, you’ll drift off thinking warm relaxing thoughts. When you wake up, you’ll think only an hour or two has passed.” Have I said how much I love her? How thoughtful and caring she is?
She told me that most patients are worried about the anesthesia, about being under for so long, but she reassured me that the anesthesiologist would be monitoring “every breath, every heartbeat.” Her part of the surgery will take approximately four hours, then Dr. F will take over. She summed it up this way, “We’ll start around breakfast time. By lunch, I should be able to go out and speak with your family. By dinner — maybe a late dinner — Dr. F will be finished with the reconstruction.”
My friend had her surgery on Thursday. Because of the way her cancer had come back, her doctors needed to remove her spleen and her gall bladder and poke around behind her lungs and her colon and just about anywhere else they could think of to make sure they found every last bit of cancer they could find. Her surgery was 10 hours. Fifteen hours later she was sitting in a chair. If she can do it, I can do it.
When my mom asked me if anyone would be with her at the hospital, I didn’t immediately understand why she wanted to know. She has been unwavering in her commitment to being here, being at the hospital, and even spending that first night in my hospital room. I know my husband will be there too, but eventually, he will have to leave and be with our son.
I know how hard this is for my mom. I used to tell her, only half-jokingly, that if anything were to happen to me, if I ever needed to be in the hospital, that she was the only one I trusted to take care of me. “You better be here,” I would say, knowing that my demand required her to get on a plane, fly 3,000 miles, and set up camp in our tiny house for weeks on end. Of course when I used to say that, I never imagined it would actually be necessary. But my mom is an experienced caregiver, and the truth is, she is the one I want by my side, talking to the doctors, making sure everything is okay, even though she so rarely travels anymore, even though our winter weather is harder on her than I can imagine.
So when she asked me who else will be at the hospital, I didn’t realize it was because she will also need someone, maybe a few someones, to be with her. Growing up, I remember countless hospital waiting rooms. That’s what my family did. If someone was sick, or having surgery, we went to the hospital. We never left our person alone. And we never left our person’s person alone. We all need a village. And so, whatever it takes, whatever sort of tag team schedule we have to figure out, my mom will have hers. She won’t be alone waiting for her daughter to wake up.
When I think about my friend in LA, I think there may be such a thing as miracles. I think that cancer doesn’t always win; that doctors are good and smart and we are stronger than we know. I feel brave and hopeful.
And I expect miracles.