Doctor's good news stirs memories of helpful friends

September 16, 2010

My surgical oncologist laid the paper on the exam table and underlined with her finger a sentence on the mammogram report: BIRAD-2, BENIGN. She tapped the paper; “This is good,” she said, looking me straight in the eye.

Then she took me by the shoulders, again looked me square in the eyes. “Do you know,” she said, “that it’s been almost 18 months now since you were diagnosed?” I did not. I had not counted the days or number of treatments; I have gone through the last year and a half as a robotic sleepwalker — determined but robotic.

Dr. McGinnis was so excited about my report I thought she was going to shake me. Instead, she looked at me with laughing eyes. She takes, I think, my success as her success. And in part, it is.

It was she who called me on a Saturday morning after my biopsy on Sept. 23. When I picked up the cell phone, she asked me if it was a good time to talk. I knew that no surgeon calls on a Saturday morning for idle chat. She had known on Friday, but did not want to interrupt my seeing my own patients so she waited until Saturday.

I put her on hold, took 30 seconds to be nauseous, got a pad of paper and a pencil and said, “Tell me what I need to do.” I still have the list. When I hung up, part of me said, “I am not going to do this,” and another part of me said, “Make a list and move.” The list maker, problem solver in me won out — more than once.

The turning point, however, came when I attended a seminar being given by Dr. William Smith, radiologist at the KU cancer center, and another seminar given by Dr. Marilee McGinnis, surgical oncologist. Attending the seminar with me was a colleague and physician, who stood by me the entirety of my treatments. When we left the seminar that day, she said to me that I would be in good hands. From that day, I may have wavered, but I never turned back.

Soon thereafter my physician friend Marsha gave me a book entitled “Toward Jerusalem” by Amy Carmichael. It was a smallish book that I was able to carry with me and keep at my bedside, along with several other books. So many people carried me through these last months through prayer, their presence, the giving of tokens with wise sayings, cards, — which I have kept in two oversized shoe boxes — telephone calls, visits, soup, Scrabble and their sweet time.

I have read and re-read a passage from “A Quiet Mind” by Amy Carmichael: “Lord, grant to me a quiet mind/ that trusting Thee, for Thou art kind/ I may go on without a fear/ For Thou, my Lord, art always near.”

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