So a quick re-cap:
Contemplated divorce, found a bump.
Had a have-it-removed-or-I-won’t-be-home phone call from my husband
Had the bump removed, told it was cancer and met with Dr. Ego.
Had my surgery to install my port-a-catheter, by the way it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Who knew something so tiny could put so much pressure on your body. I had to sleep sitting up for the first week. Do you remember the scene from THE MUMMY RETURNS when the scarab beetle invades that hairy guy’s body? It looked like lumps moving around? Imagine that lump minus the hair sitting just over your heart. It was my constant reminder that my body wasn’t mine anymore.
Booby bump biopsied and came back as …. A fibroid.
Right leg… still there.
Everybody up to speed?
Obviously, we didn’t go back to Dr. Ego.
We had a second opinion at City of Hope. A little more optimistic, but not where we were supposed to be.
We also consulted a fertility doctor to see what we would need to do to save my eggs. The fertility doctor said we should see what our oncologist had to say… I didn’t take that as a good sign.
My mom was adamant we get to Norris Cancer Center at the University of Southern California.
While we waited for the HMO to approve our request, Mark and I did what any struggling couple facing their mortality would do … we went to Las Vegas.
I wish I could say it was relaxing it was anything but.
Mark was a full time student getting his Kinesiology degree from Cal State University Long Beach. He was also studying for the PA entrance exam and on top of that he was a 24hr on 24hr off EMT.
Add to that we had just bought our first home, a condo on Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach that faced the ocean.
Can you say debt?
Because we were in it up to our eyeballs.
On the last night in Vegas, I laid out all of our debt, all of the reasons why he should leave.
I had a plan to move in with my mom; sell our condo and give Mark the out he needed me to give him.
He just looked at me and shook his head. I was ready for him to say, “you’re right, Mind. It’s a good plan. I wish you the best”.
I had prepared to do this alone.
What I hadn’t prepared for was his answer.
“You obviously weren’t listening to our vows. The minister said for richer or poorer, in sickness and health. We’re just doing two at one time.” He smiled and folded up all my documentation on why he should leave and pushed it aside.
“I’m not going anywhere, Mindy.”
Driving back to California we got the call, the HMO had approved a third opinion and it was with USC, kind of…
September 19th, 2000
I’m not sure how we got to this Doctor… When my HMO case worker tried to explain it she said, “It’s really a miracle we just contracted with this Doctor.”
We met Dr. Chawla today.
He’s a kind man with kind eyes. He came to the waiting room and got me and my family. I’ve never seen a doctor come and get his own patients. He took us past the chemo room on the way to his office. I don’t think I’ve ever seen death cloaked in happiness before. There was a room full of lazy boy recliners and all these bald people hooked up to IV’s. It was everything I could do not to turn and run.
I just smiled back.
That’s going to be me?
.... Dr. Chawla’s an artist. He writes with a calligraphy pen and talks to himself. It’s like he’s solving the problem of me in his head. I think I’m where I’m supposed to be…
Dr. Chawla put down my folder, looked at my slides and finally said, “You know you’re not going to die.”
The room exploded with rebuttals, but Dr. Chawla rolled forward and grabbed my hands. “I have 50 healed cases; you’re not so bad.”
My eyes welled up with hope and tears and more hope… I believed him.
“Do you want to have babies?” he asked.
I shook my head. The hot tears skidded down my cheeks.
“You can’t say that to her.” Mark finally interrupted.
“Yes, I can. You watch.”
Dr. Chawla then told us about the tumor board that would dictate the chemo cocktail I would be prescribed. I would be on a 24 hour chemo cycle, a bag and a pump would come home with me for five to seven days straight.
“We’re going to take you to the brink of death and bring you back … and then we’re going to do it again. Four hard rounds, then your clean up surgery and the chemo cleanup rounds. We’ll try to stay away from the chemo that will make you infertile, but even then … no guarantees.” He said.
Before we left he brought in a little boy on a skateboard, he was maybe fourteen, he showed me the pump that was in a bag and strapped across his chest like a small purse. He showed me where the scar where they removed part of his tibia and put in a titanium rod. He showed me the chemo and said, “This is my last round.”
He was bald and still smiling.
I smiled and prayed one day I could say the same.
“You have your port?” Dr. Chawla finally asked.
“Yeah.” I was still afraid to touch it. Still afraid to even have my clothes lay on it.
“Good, we’ll access it next week.”
I know I giggle snorted here. The port terrified me and having anyone touch it, let alone access it... “Access it?”
“Yes. This won’t be easy, but if it were easy … everybody would want to do chemo.” Dr. Chawla stood and pulled me into a big bear hug.
“Trust me.” He finally whispered. “You start chemo next week!”