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Coming of Age (part one)

     I’ve always been sure I’d live to a hundred with not a health problem in sight. I stayed away from doctors – they were for sick people. I figured I’d die in my sleep after finishing off a hot fudge sundae and enjoying an evening with my children and grandchildren. All this of course, after a busy day at the office.

     Suddenly I’m minus a few body parts – no longer essential, thank goodness – and under constant surveillance by doctors and machines. The word “cancer” has entered my vocabulary.

     They said they got it all. They said it was a particularly stubborn type. Not a surprise, since I can’t count the number of times my mother took me aside to point out the pluses and minuses of being stubborn.

     This stubborn cancer landed in my womb. So - off with the womb!

     Youch! Coming to after surgery I felt like I’d been through World War II. Delivering four babies in five years, having a childhood tonsillectomy and twenty years of driving in the fast lane of the California freeways never prepared me for this.

     Three days later the doctor walked in and told me I could go home.

     Go home?! I could barely move. I’d eaten the grand total of four slurps of orange sherbet and six sips of apple juice since the surgery.

     Best thing I ever did. The first morning I gave myself a sponge bath, sitting on a chair in the bathroom, weakly patting various parts of my body with a warm, damp, soapy washcloth. The second morning I sponged myself again and poured cupfuls of water over my head, rubbed in some shampoo and voila! Clean hair! I was making progress, big time. Still couldn’t eat much. Everything tasted funny – metallic funny.

     The third morning I put on real clothes. Used to be too big clothes, but not now, with this huge pooch sticking out where my not-so-flat tummy used to be. How can they take out all that stuff and you end up with a balloon stomach looking like you’re six months pregnant?


     But this is my reality now. No more head in the sand. I had a cancer to fight.

     The day we drove home from the hospital, a call had come in on my cell phone from the hematology/oncology department. I’d been scheduled for an appointment to discuss my treatment plan with Dr. Jien.

     Hematology? Dr. Jien? Never heard of him. Too weak to argue, I said okay. Monday was only four days away and I was barely able to get in and out of the car. How would I be able to walk from the parking lot to the fourth floor of the medical office?

     Silently I told myself not to worry. I’d reschedule the appointment. Go later in the week. Besides, I needed time to think about this cancer thing.

     At home, life got better each day. Sponge bath, shampoo, dress and walk around the house every hour or so. Lots of baseball Division Play-offs to watch on TV helped, but not as much as the prayers and well wishes of friends and family. And the candy from Dad.

     The day before the appointment, I stepped outside. Blue sky. Birds singing. New lavender buds on the chrysanthemums. Fantastic!

     On the morning of the appointment, I gathered my meager strength and dialed the hematology/oncology number. As I waited, a small voice suggested, “Why not just go? Find out about this treatment plan. 

     It was time to grow up. Cancer is cancer and doctors would become my friends and a fact of life for me, like it or not. Besides, sometime Saturday, the fight in me had surfaced. I was ready for the first round.

     I hung up the phone. I’d go to that appointment if someone had to wheel me in in a wheelchair.

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