In my last blog, My body, my battleground, I wrote about finding a lump in my breast, and having a biopsy. That was a month ago, though it seems more like an eon.
Not quite a week afterwards, my doctor’s secretary called. “The doctor would like to see you at five today,” she said. My heart plummeted into my lower stomach as I agreed. “That can’t be good,” I said, but she didn’t reply.
“The results were positive,” said my gynocologist. “You’ll need to speak with an oncologist.”
My mind froze, but my tummy kept churning. Positive? I thought. That’s not right. I don’t have cancer! “Do you know anyone?” I asked.
She did. Her husband was the head of Oncology at San Juan de Dios, the huge San Jose hospital run by the National Health Care (Caja). He also had a practice at CIMA, the private hospital in Escazu where the surgery would be performed. “I’ve asked him to come here tonight,” she continued. “Would you like to meet him?”
I would. He said I had a small, invasive tumor, perhaps stage one. I’d need radiation and possibly, chemotherapy. Like anyone who knows how those therapies work, I realized that my body would be under attack, along with the cancer cells. From somewhere deep within, a scream arose. Protect me, it pled.
The doctor picked up his phone and scheduled the surgery for a week later. We began making daily hours-long trips to CIMA and elsewhere for pre-operative tests. One would attempt to seek out cancer cells hiding in my organs. Another, scheduled on the morning of my surgery, would give my doctor a guide to the location of the tumor, and pinpoint the lymph nodes to be extracted.
I willed myself elsewhere, refused to feel the terror, grief, or acknowledge the sense that my body had somehow betrayed me. I watched a non-stop river of movies, all in the feel-good category, but my emotions would not be denied. They all leaked out as I tried, unsuccessfully, to sleep.
He said he could arrange radiation and chemotherapy at San Juan de Dios. “Radiation is very expensive,” he said. Since I’m on the national health plan, it would be free. But I don’t want radiation, I thought.
I’m no stranger to cancer. I count my mother, grandmother, and several of mom’s siblings among its casualties. I’ve tried to educate myself, though I never believed I’d succumb, since I nursed my daughter for two and a half years; exercised, beginning in my early twenties; and ate nutritiously.
The surgery was successful, I’m delighted to report. Neither lymph nodes nor the cells at the margins harbored malignancies. The tumor was 100% positive for estrogen, and 0% positive for testosterone. According to my doctor, that’s a good thing, if cancer can be considered good. He says I’m a candidate for Tamoxifen, also a good thing.
I’m not hiding from my emotions anymore. I’m focused on fortifying my immune system and keeping my life as stress-free as possible with daily meditation and mindfulness. I’m energized and optimistic that I’ll finish my embryo of a novel, and it will be the subject of bidding wars by publishing companies. Then I’ll be begged to write the screenplay, and I’ll say yes.