I PROMISE that I won’t bore you by force feeding every chapter of this book as I write it through this blog or through my Facebook page, but just had to share this today for two reasons…that milestone moment when the first draft of Chapter One was actually in writing and two – to hopefully garner feedback and suggestions for what I have done and what I should do.
I shared this quote on my Facebook business page a few weeks ago. “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
So, once she completes a first draft, she shares it with her trusted advisors in order to get their feedback. I figure if an acclaimed writer like Anne Lamott does that, perhaps I should too. At least today. SO, here goes. Chapter One.
The Tunnel Re-visited
Chapter One – Diagnosis
Is it irony, the hand of God, or mere coincidence that I am sitting at my computer this morning, Thursday, October 22, 2015, to finally begin the book I have talked about for the past six years?
The story actually unfolds back in the fall of 2009. Blessed with good health, I had not visited a doctor’s office in more than five years. However, I was feeling myself being pulled in the direction of finding a physician I could feel comfortable with as I aged, someone I could establish a medical relationship with, prior to it becoming some sort of emergency. My husband, Ken, had been forced into making that same decision the year before, following a serious health issue. He was very comfortable with the physician he had selected so, I decided to follow his lead.
I called to schedule an appointment and was told that the doctor required all new patients to undergo a complete physical. I didn’t know it then, or even suspect it, but I now know that call may have saved my life.
I went in for a consult, exam, and the entire battery of tests that could be done in-office. He then scheduled me for additional tests at the hospital….x-rays, DEXA Scan, colonoscopy and a mammogram. That appointment would be later that same week, on Thursday, October 22, 2009.
I reported to Radiology first thing in the morning. Things moved quickly and went relatively smoothly, and before I knew it, we were in the elevator headed to 6th floor for the dreaded colonoscopy. Once upstairs, we were told that the doctor was running late so we would have some time to relax in the room before someone came in to set up the IV. It was shortly thereafter that a bizarre chain of events began…a chain of events that leaves me shaking my head even today. How did I not suspect something?
A nurse knocked on the door and came in to tell me that I had been requested to return to radiology for one more picture. I do admit to finding that somewhat odd, but, not once did it cross my mind that there might be a problem. I just went back downstairs and followed their instructions.
Later, there was another knock on the door. This time the nurse told Ken that someone was there to see him. I might have found that even more bizarre than I did had they not been on the third attempt to get an IV going at the time and that was occupying most of my attention. Who would be stopping by to see my husband in the colonoscopy prep area at Mercy Medical Center? Seriously? I asked him that when he came back into the room and he just shrugged it off. He said the nurse from the doctor’s office (which is there at the hospital) had just stopped by to remind him he was past due for a blood test. Seemed odd, but I took him at his word.
Finally, they came to wheel me in for the exam. I heard the tech say to the doctor, oh, this is the mammogram. Apparently word was spreading quickly – to everyone but me. The gastroenterologist then asked me if I get mammograms. Seems pretty random, but I told him that, as a matter of fact, I had just gotten one that morning. He dropped the subject. I was given the anesthesia at that point and remember very little from then until late afternoon.
I was still very groggy when we got home and Ken had to get to class, so I laid down and went to sleep. Next thing I knew, he was waking me up with the news that I had breast cancer. They wanted to meet with us at the doctor’s office at 4:00. Apparently, when he had gotten called out of the room, it was, indeed, to talk to the nurse from the doctor’s office, but, it was not about his blood test. It was to tell him that the mammogram had revealed breast cancer and they didn’t want to tell me personally since I was just getting ready to go in for a procedure. They set up an appointment for us to return later that afternoon, and he was forced to keep that information to himself until he came home and woke me up.
In retrospect, I don’t know if it was the fact that I was still feeling the anesthesia or if I was already disengaging from all that I was about to go through, but, I had almost no reaction to what he had just told me.
We went to the office and were shown the photos of the unmistakably cancerous tumor. She asked if we had a preference for surgeon and then scheduled an appointment with him for the following Monday. That would be the beginning of a total whirlwind of events that would wind up with me fighting to find my way through a very dark, long and winding tunnel.
We had made plans to take a week-end trip to Omaha for Ken’s birthday and I saw no reason to cancel. I know that Ken spent the week-end thinking about cancer. I thought very little about it. I was already putting up the walls that would shelter me from an emotional rollercoaster that I was apparently unequipped to handle at the time.
So, there you have it. Chapter One. I welcome any and all constructive criticism. And, oddly enough, just as I completed the first draft of Chapter One, I received a call from the Cancer Center, wanting to schedule me for a mammogram. Hmmmm.