Healer

The body is a miracle, the way it heals. A factory of survival and self-repair.  As soon as flesh is cut, cells spontaneously begin to divide and knit themselves into a protective scar. A million new organic bonds bridge the broken space, with no judgment passed on the method of injury.

Wow. That’s pretty prose.  I wish I had written it.

I’d love to claim it as my own, but that would be wrong, and Lord knows I need the great karma wheel to turn my way. I can’t afford to tempt the gods of fate, as they seem to like toying with me.

Carol Cassella wrote that prose. If you’re a fiction fan and don’t know her work, I encourage you to get her books sooner rather than later. Whether you run to the bookstore or download onto your e-reader, get on it. You won’t be sorry. She’s an anesthesiologist-turned-author whose first book, Oxygen, is one of my all-time favorites. Her second book, Healer, wasn’t quite as good but I gobbled it up in hopes that it would be.  I liked her right off the bat, because she’s a Texas native and a Duke graduate. A girl after my own heart. She’s also the mother of two sets of twins (!) and how she got anything done, much less wrote 2 bestsellers, is a mystery to me.

I read Healer this summer, while I was trying to heal. I was struck by the passage above, and loved how dramatically it introduces the book. From the very first sentence, I was hooked. While I certainly didn’t set out to turn this blog into a space for book reviews, sometimes things happen that way, and I’m an equal-opportunity blogger, so there we are.

As a physician, Cassella understands the intricacies and magic of the human body. As an author, she’s able to capture that and express it so that someone like me, an impatient patient, can read it and say, yeah, that’s right–the body is a miracle!

I needed that reminder. I was so focused on wanting my healing to occur faster, I didn’t realize that the fact that it was happening at all was amazing.

Equally amazing is the education this experience (e.g., the “cancer journey”) has provided. I’ve learned a bunch of lessons I never wanted to learn, such as how utterly unfair life can be. I’ve acquired skills I never thought I could and hope to never have to use again. Anything involving packing a wound or administering IV drugs at home falls into that category.

I’ve certainly learned a new vocabulary. Not just the new definition of “normal,” either. Things like nosocomial (originating in a hospital, as in a nosocomial infection). Like debridement (removal of foreign material or dead tissue from a wound in order to promote healing). Like aromatase inhibitors (drugs like Tamoxifen that lower estrogen levels in the body by blocking aromatase, an enzyme that converts other hormones into estrogen). Like oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries).

I’ve learned how to get a good night’s sleep in a noisy hospital. I’ve learned the difference between DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) and invasive breast cancer, and that they’re both plenty scary.  I’ve learned that an injection can leave a bruise for close to 3 months. I’ve learned that the practice of medicine is both a science and an art. And I’ve completely forgotten what it feels like to wear a bra.