Who needs those organs anyway

The Big Dig

I’ve got a surgery date: October 9. In less than two weeks, I will weigh about 4.5 pounds less.

It’s an auspicious date. Historically, on October 9:

  • My maid of honor got married
  • Charles the Bald was crowned king of Lotharingia
  • Slavery was abolished in Costa Rica
  • Laura Ingalls was the first woman to complete a transcontinental flight (are they sure about that one…not Little House on the Prairie?)
  • Kathy Sullivan became the first US woman to walk in space
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at an all-time high

During my last surgical consult we talked about lots of things…blood transfusions (hoping I won’t need one), epidurals (too risky to give me one), recovery (long), and Heaven’s Gate (potential Halloween costume if in Rancho Santa Fe). The surgery should take up the good part of a day.

They won’t know until they open me up exactly what they’ll take out, but the definite ones are the kidney and adrenal gland; possibly half the liver, gall bladder (that was new) and then there’s the potential reconstruction of the inferior vena cava. I don’t remember if I shared this before, but I actually have an extra one — an inferior vena cava — apparently awaiting 47 years for its moment of glory. We don’t know yet if the extra one is actually going to be helpful, but I like to think so — why else would I have one?

The surgeon told me not to eat anything after midnight the day before surgery, but then his nurse called to tell me that he had ordered a “bowel prep” the day before, which means no eating after breakfast the day before surgery, and 300 ml of liquid magnesium citrate for lunch. I enjoy eating so much that for the removal of my wisdom teeth I opted for local anesthesia so that I could optimize my food intake the day before (a story for another time). I am not very nice when I’m hungry, so avoid me the day before surgery.

I’m ready. I’ve been waiting a long time to get to this point, and even though I’m likely to have chemo afterwards, it’s a big milestone. Sacha asked the surgeon to take pictures of the tumor — so we can, you know, include it in our Christmas letter.

In other news

My mom has also started being treated at MD Anderson. They weren’t able to remove all the cancer in her first surgery, so now, since there’s been growth, she needs to decide whether to have a second surgery to remove the lung completely, or to head down the radiation / chemo path. Each choice has its own benefits and drawbacks. Once again, we’ll both be enduring major medical treatments at the same time.

Another strange development is that in the course of just a few months, there have been three other people in my extended family, and a former classmate, who have been diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know if that’s unusual but it seems like a lot. Especially because I’m always on the lookout for other bald people free of eyelashes and eyebrows, so I can share a knowing look like we’re in some kind of fight club, and I hardly ever see them.

I’ve been keeping busy. I work out with the diligence of a person training for a race, and I’m trying to get my work wrapped up and in a good place before the 9th. I go to the kids’ games and events whenever I can. If you had asked me years ago if I’d be working during cancer treatment, I would’ve said no way. But I don’t get stressed about work anymore (turns out, cancer is more stressful than work). It’s a welcome distraction, and a good way to keep my brain tuned up while it’s fighting the brain damage from the chemo.

The bright side

I went to see my niece in a kindergarten soccer game last weekend, and it delightful. It was like watching foosball…or as my brother said, foosball where the handles are loose and you can’t quite control the players. At the end, the girls didn’t care who won or lost, and after shaking hands the sea of red and purple uniforms commingled and they were alternately holding hands, spinning around and hugging one another, like they were doing the Virginia reel, which I actually learned how to do in a Virginia public school.

My best friend from elementary school surprised me by mailing me a package of notes I wrote in the early ’80s and shoved into her locker. I appeared to be a prolific note writer, favoring cursive writing, obsessed with something we were plotting called “Project Boogeyman”. I am 100% sure that these notes were composed during class, which makes all the more remarkable the fact that I now possess a college education.

Separately, a friend from high school also sent me photos of notes that I had written in the mid-’80s. As my kids would say, they were very “cringe-y”. I never would have survived anywhere outside of that science high school.

In my last post, I linked to this article in the New York Times about Gwyneth Paltrow, which I read no fewer than ten times and gleefully quoted and sent to some of you, possibly more than once. So you won’t be surprised to know that when I received a message from the author — one of my writing idols — I nearly fell out of my chair (I didn’t was because I was in a car, secured by a seatbelt). Turns out she is the cousin of one of my business school friends, who shared my blog with her, and in an ultimate display of grace and eloquence, I responded to her: “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!”

Which is what I’m hoping I’m going to say after the surgery.

26 thoughts on “Who needs those organs anyway”

  1. I’ll be thinking of you on the 9th. I’ve always remembered it as Becky Clark’s birthday but I know new historical facts!

    And if you have a picture of that tumor, you better bet your ass I’m getting on your Christmas card list.

    Much love Sandi. Take care of yourself until you no longer can.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sandi I just informed the Sister of your Surgery date. We will all be saying our Risary and dedicate our reading for the day to you and the Drs that will be doing the surgery. I hope and pray that this will be all you have to go thru, and that the Drs get everything. Love Jane

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Sandi, thank you so much for taking your time and sharing such a beautiful reflection when you probably have a lot on your mind. I will be praying hard not only on the 9th and the day before you will be prepping for the surgery!! 😉 You, your mom and family are in my continued prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also think 10/9 is auspicious because of what 1 and 9 symbolize in numerology. 1 stands for beginnings and creation, while 9 is a symbol for longevity. I know this next step is a big one, so all my laser beams of love are pointed at you, sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. October 9 is sure thing on my calendar – will be sending my thoughts and prayers. Glad your mom is finally treated by competent doctors, that’s obviously is a big deal, I’ll be thinking about her too. Your strength and positivity is remarkable, but that’s old news.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have been anticipating this, and it will be good in many ways to get it behind you – though I am sure it will have its rough moments and recovery. You are in my “thoughts and prayers”, as they say (but for real!). Also, if it’s ok to consume, make or buy Bone Broth to drink during your bowel prep day. It helps me a lot. I have a long, sordid entry in my sparse blog with a bunch of Laura’s tips on bowel preps (isn’t aging glamorous?)! Thinking of you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Sandi, sending love to you, Sacha and the girls, and with continued strength and positivity wishing you the best possible outcome from your surgery. Richard & Hayley

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m not a praying person, but I’ve been thinking about you a lot these past months. If anyone’s “got this”, you do. Your bravery though all of this is awe-inspiring.

    Also, I am now glad I’m not on your Christmas card list :D.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh Sandi! You amaze us with your courage and eloquence and humor. I know you’ll be taking that straight into the OR with you. Will be thinking of you and praying hard on October 9th for a successful outcome. Give that tumor some hell!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We will be thinking of you, and please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help out!! As for the bowel cleanse, I just did a colonoscopy last winter…have some lemon slices on hand when you’re drinking it. It cut the awful taste to suck on a lemon between gulps. And straws. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear Sandi, I am not sure I can say I enjoyed reading this note as I usually do, given that the Big Day of Operation is looming. So am sending just a friendly hug to you and all yours and am waiting for the news Out Of the Operating Theatre. All the best, as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. October 9th has been on my calendar! Will be praying you through starting from “prep” day.

    Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad that you’ve been able to enjoy these nice surprises from friends. WE ALL LOVE YOU!!!

    Will be praying for you all and your mom too!! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sending you love and positive thoughts, during these days that lead up to your surgery, on the day of your surgery and throughout your recovery and the rest of your treatments. You are truly remarkable to share your journey with all of us with such bravery, grace and humor. Gall bladders are over-rated anyway ; )
    Praying for your mom as well. Much love to you Sandi xo

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Amazing to think that A. someone invented the Virginia Reel and B. they thought it was amazing enough to make everyone else learn it.

    You’ve got lots of prayers coming your way, so I’ll be focusing all my negative energy on making that sarcoma shrink away in fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I just wanted to add my comments — so similar to all the others — for great success on Oct 9 and thereafter. I’m so impressed with your “can-do” attitude and the support of so many loving friends, far and wide.

    I mentioned previously that at the next opportunity, I would raise a glass to good health for you and your mom. I want you to know that that opportunity arrived. I explained the situation to my dinner guests. They all joined in and the wishes were multiplied several times over!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Just wanted to add a thank you for the reference to Taffy Ackner’s writing.

    Her work is so rich that it demands multiple readings, to extract every ounce of “wow” out of it.

    Thank you, Sandi.

    Liked by 1 person

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