Last year on 1/28/09 the doctor told me that my breast cancer had returned–metastasized to the bone. It was the kind of knell that rings in your head with a deadening, lingering echo. It was the day when the resident looked at me with eyes that spoke before his lips told me, I’m sorry to tell you that your breast cancer has metastasized to your spine. It was the reason that I had been having excruciating back pain that had exacerbated till I could barely stand up. They told me I would be admitted to the hospital to undergo back surgery; they would try to remove the tumor in my thoracic spine. I asked whether I should call the office to schedule my hospital stay; my doctor said, oh, no, you’re going there now. You’re not going home.
So we headed from the doctor’s office to the hospital. I have to say that the days in the hospital are mostly a blur. I remember that they kept checking my legs and lower body functions, asking me whether I could feel this or that, whether my personal functions were intact. The surgeon came to visit me before the surgery and said he was called in to do the surgery the night I was admitted but decided it was too complicated for a midnight procedure; he wanted to do it during the day with a fresh staff. I thanked him. They did the surgery on Friday 1/30/09. Funny how you can remember dates like this better than your own birthday. On 1/29/09 they came and went all day with various machines to check my heart and everything else. I don’t remember much else from that day except visits from some of my coworkers.
On 1/30/09 they were going to take me for surgery at 10:00 am. Instead, they came at 7:00 am. My husband had just arrived, so he was with me when they wheeled me to the prep room for surgery. He took some photos while they explained to me what was going to happen. I remember feeling a little scared but more feeling relieved that something was being done to deal with the pain and to remove the tumor. At that time I thought the cancer was going to be gone when I came out of the surgery.
When I came out of the surgery, I remember I was so out of it I did not know that the surgery had happened. I did not remember being taken to surgery prep or anything else. I did not think the surgery had happened, but somehow I remembered their telling me they were going to take me early to surgery. In fact, I tried to call my husband to tell him about the time change for the surgery. I tried to call a friend, also, to say don’t come before surgery because they were taking me early. My husband was not answering the phone, so I called his office and left messages on his service. When I called my friend, her husband answered and I said, please tell her don’t come to the hospital because they are taking me early for surgery. I don’t remember what he or she said, but I found out that I was calling them at 1:30 in the morning after my having slept all day, waking up who-knows-when and thinking it was still before the surgery. My surgeon later told me that the scheduled 6-hour surgery ended up being a 9-hour surgery.
The mental lag in awareness was maybe a symptom of my trying to absorb what was happening to me. Maybe I needed some time to hear it and understand it and believe it. Life had changed for me, suddenly. I really did not even know how or how much. Sometimes now, a year later, I think maybe I’m not yet to the part about believing it.
I still wonder: Is this a dream?
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