On Monday, I paid a visit to Dana Farber for a second opinion conversation. DFCI is the mother ship of cancer care, just a short drive from my home–and, at the same time, a world apart from life as I know it. The whole medical area is such a curiosity, full of brilliant people speed-walking around in their pjs and rubber clogs and shower caps, along with regular human beings, stressed in equal parts by whatever medical malady has them visiting their hospital of choice, and by the angst that comes with finding their way around in this maze of parking garages and porte cocheres and gift shops and service docks. I am at my most behind-the-wheel benevolent when I’m driving anywhere near the Longwood Medical Area, knowing that the hesitant car in front of me with Maine license plates could have been me with my sister, thirty years ago. No need to add to an ailing individual’s stress by being the typical impatient Boston driver.
My stress should have been relatively low, given that all I had on my agenda for the day was to have a conversation with, presumably, no new news. All I was doing there was getting ready to talk to an oncologist who had received all my films, slides, reports, and other ephemera, and have her tell me if what my team of able physicians was proposing for care going forward looked reasonable to her. Truth be told, I was feeling like this was all just so much hoop-jumping; the chances that my test results had been misread and my pathology findings were all upside down and backwards seemed hugely unlikely. And yet, doctors (the good ones, anyhow) don’t want you making big decisions without going through some due diligence. Confident as I was that my docs had it right, and anxious as I was to get the show on the road, treatment-wise, I knew this was a necessary step.
The day dawned damp and gray, which added a level of gloom I had not expected to feel. I’d already googled the doctor I’d be meeting, so I knew she had wild red hair and great credentials. Honestly, was hoping to fast-forward to the part where she would say, “Yep, this is what I would recommend, too.” And yet, at every turn so far along this adventure, whenever I’ve gotten a notion in my head about what might happen next, the actual result kept not being exactly what I was hoping for. Yes, it’s cancer, but it’s so very small. It’s small, but curiously, it’s also in your nodes. There’s not a lot of nodes involved, but your Oncotype is in the gray area. I had no expectations that this brilliant consulting doc might say, “Oh, please, you’re docs are totally overreacting, you don’t need chemo.” I knew that would be too much to wish for. What I wanted was, quite simply, confirmation that we were on the right path, so I could get moving on that path.
Which, in the end, was what I got. Delightful, blissful clarity. Go forth and be medicated, with the full credentialed DFCI blessing.
As I left the mother ship and stepped out onto the sidewalk, I felt like a life-affirming pronouncement was right there, in the air, all around me. The gray clouds were gone, the damp mist had evaporated, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It was the kind of sky that could even make the world’s ugliest parking garage look like just so much backdrop to a glorious new day.
Something about that new-found blue sky day put it into my head that what I needed to do, sooner rather than later, was head north, for a short visit to my home away from home. Time to sit in front of the fireplace, take down the Christmas tree, soak in the tub, and go for a rejuvenating hike/walk on my favorite five mile loop. I needed a couple of hours of brisk air and chickadees and visions of white mountains and tall pines. I got what I wanted, and then some. I also got that same amazing sky, full of wispy clouds in constant motion, curling and recombining and doing their own little do-si-do-ing dance.
Once again, the sky was speaking to me. The world was a glorious place, and i was lucky to be in it, of it.
Now I’m back at home, and tomorrow will not be just another day. Tomorrow will be the day I start the treatment phase–the day we take this growling lapdog of a cancer of mine, and start kicking the shit out of it.