I had been thinking I would wait until I was ready to write this all out in saga form. But who knows when I’ll get to that. My creative/expressive energy feels dried up, and y’all have been patient enough.
Two and a half weeks ago we found that My Man had testicular cancer. There followed a week and a half of crying, research, tests, waiting, surgery to remove the tumor, slogging through the ridiculously bad New Orleans hospital system, more waiting and research, and eventually a very good prognosis.
As far as cancer goes, testicular cancer is one of the most curable. Even before we had the test results back, the statistics were 95% cure rate. It all depended on what kind it was, and whether it had spread. If it had, chances dropped to 80%. Which, I mean, those are great odds if you are horse racing. Pretty fucking terrifying when it’s the life of your husband and father of your children.
I did shockingly well. In fact, I can hardly believe how well I held my shit together. But I see now how that works, how people with such terror keep it together. Because what the fuck else are you going to do?
I have been, in my past, a sit right down in the middle of it kind of griever. When I’m sad I like to play Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat and really wallow. But, when all this hit, the chasm of fear/grief was simply too big. I was physically incapable of sitting around all day crying, it was too terrifying. I could barely peek over the edge into that depth, some kind of internal self-protection held me back.
And for any of you who’ve not yet broken your cherry on the banana seat of circumstance, let me tell you that all the cliches are true. As My Man said, right at the beginning, “This is just life, just what happens all the time to people everywhere.” He’s right, of course. I guess it just marks us as lucky that we hadn’t seen even the shadow of death yet in our 35-odd years. As I reached out into my community everyone seemed to have their story, their brush. Which didn’t really surprise me I guess. Ever since I met My Man, and we fell in love and everything went right and we started our happy little family, I have been waiting for that movie drama. The other shoe dropping. I guess I had looked at it like, if everything is going good, then something bad will happen soon. In a vindictive kind of way. But really it’s just that life is change. Whatever is going on now won’t be going on later.
Another true cliche is the incredible gratitude to one’s supporting web of family and friends. It cannot really be overstated. To know that whatever happened, we would not be alone, we would have help. Especially as a mama, oh my. To know that our families would rally for whatever we needed, no hesitation. And to know that people all around the country (and a few overseas) were thinking of us. Even the smallest lines sent by email mean so much. I felt a tangible spreading, like wildfire, as soon as we started telling people. The vibrating heat of love and worry for love that sprang up overnight.
But back to the news. Finally, after a week and a half of 95%/80% plastered inside my brain, there was the day. Sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for two hours, because that’s how they roll here. Finally the intern telling us the results, and the way they could hardly sink in. Best possible outcome. Pure seminoma, the slowest growing, most treatable kind of cancer. And no spread. Every indication it had been entirely contained in the testicle, and was now therefore gone.
They recommended a few rounds of radiation, in case any stray cancer cells were lurking. After that, just very close monitoring for years to come. Given the results, his chance of cure is over 99%.
And that’s it. Abrupt stop. Time to get off the roller coaster, I guess. Buck up to business as usual. Back to the dishes, laundry, daily dozen spills for wiping. Kind of anti-climactic to be honest. As a friend who’s been there put it, “When you’ve been fighting for your life, no other work can measure up.”
Except that, predictably after two weeks of such intense stress, I got sick. We all got sick, actually, but me and the Babe got it worst. For four days, I couldn’t conceive of any kind of mothering. I put my kids in front of a line-up of movies, fed them ramen for lunch, boxed mac n cheese for dinner, and ice cream to placate any fights. I fled to the other room with a book and a cup of tea. I needed it, and I don’t regret it. But what we have at the end of such degeneration is a filthy house, a stack of dirty dishes (despite my first ever purchase of paper plates), and two kids on Doracrack in need of an intervention.
We’re not exactly out of the woods. Radiation sounds much better than chemo, but still looks to pack a punch. They zap five days a week for three weeks, if I remember right. Which, even just logistically will be rough. Let alone putting My Man out of commission as Papa for a good long time. Hopefully he will still be able to do school stuff, and graduate in the spring.
Furthermore, we have been appalled by the sloppiness here in the New Orleans hospital system. Starting with the doctor visit in which My Man was assured that the weird, tight way his ball felt was just fine, and not to worry. But if he wanted to put his mind at ease, they could do a sonogram.
Thank fuck he wanted to put his mind at ease!
Yeah. Freaky right? Turns out that testicular cancer, although it is relatively rare, is most common in young men, and we are pretty sure that not recommending a sonogram was just irresponsible.
There were a few other disturbing mistakes made, that My Man only caught because he was smart and paying close attention. I guess this is just another proven cliche– the American medical model sucks. It’s been said before, and now we understand it. But I think it really does especially suck here in New Orleans, home of the bumper sticker “Third World and Proud.”
At any rate, given the quality of care, My Man is going up to see a specialist in Indiana next week. Just to make sure. We don’t want to let down our guard and then find out they read the tests wrong or something. Also, although the doctor here arrogantly acted as though there were only one possible course of action, we aren’t entirely sure that that’s true. Radiation has it’s own dangers, and we want to get someone who actually knows something about cancer to weigh in on the subject.
So, friends. That’s the news. I am gathering my wits. I don’t know how long it will be before I come back here in full force. Honestly, my creative energies feel depleted to zero. I don’t feel much like waxing eloquent about biscuits and budgets these days. If you want me back, you might have to beg.