Friday, April 1, 2016


Today marks the 3rd anniversary of my knowledge that my cancer had metastasized. It was a Monday, April Fools’ Day, 2013. The irony lingers.

On that day I was driving my youngest daughter to her gymnastics class. I answered the buzz of my phone, and the few words my oncologist spoke set a course for my life I hoped would never happen. I was sad and scared. At the time I had no idea I would also become disappointed. The person I depended on to guide me; the person I relied on to answer my questions or concerns did not have the courage, or perhaps the time, to give me all the facts. Instead, the task to tell me I was stage IV and terminal was pushed to someone else--a person I didn’t know.

This person continues to be my oncologist today. I can only imagine what she was thinking when she realized I didn’t know the details of my diagnosis. She had been chosen to do the dirty work. The image in my mind of her looking down at my new patient form, reading the words I had written stating why I was there to see her that day still remains. She looked up, and I learned my hope for stage III was not to be.  

I have thought a few times about contacting him—my old oncologist--to let him know how I am doing, but then I remember our relationship wasn’t what I thought it was. I felt deserted by him then and now. At the same time, though, I am glad he sent me away. If I had not been reassigned to a new doctor at a new facility far away from home, I might not have no evidence of disease like I do now. (I would like to say completely-gone-disease, but words like those are not used—well, only rarely, very seldom, most often not, okay, usually never—to describe people with stage IV breast cancer.) My former oncologist did say he wanted me to have access to the newest and best treatments. He might not have been as willing to listen to my suggestion of Cyber-Knife radiation to zap the nodule in my right lung the way my present oncologist did in October. Not that he couldn't have sent me to Chapel Hill or Greenville where Cyber-Knife treatments happen every day, but would he have? So, really, sending me away has worked well for me—and him.

The view from my front porch--wisteria blooms.
What I thought was unwanted, this move to a new oncologist and new facility, I now appreciate. It has taken awhile for me to trust and even to like the oncologist that told me the horrific news three years ago. But, like the wild wisteria that grows along the roadways that lead to my house, what seems unwanted can bring big surprises. Weeds can become beautiful if nurtured in just the right way.

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