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.