Is there a Hallmark card for that?Posted: January 24, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer | Tags: biopsy, breast cancer, Hallmark, mammogram, Mary Kay Letourneau, OB-GYN, real world, tennis, thank you, thank you note 9 Comments
I ran into my OB-GYN yesterday. That’s always kind of weird. Remember when you were a kid, and you would see one of your teachers outside of school? Not in a Mary Kay Letourneau kind of way–that’s creepy–but maybe bump into them at a restaurant or the grocery store. It always struck me as strange to see them out & about in the real world, because they were so confined in my mind to the classroom.
It’s sort of the same thing running into one’s doctor out & about in the real world.
So there we were, playing tennis on a Sunday morning, and through the fence of the court I saw my OB-GYN walking toward the gym. I’ve seen her at the club before, sweating away on the step mill or the recumbent bike. We’ve exchanged pleasantries and then I’ve gone my way and left her to her workout.
But I haven’t seen her since she found the lump in my right breast in March that turned out to be malignant and led to me having a mastectomy and getting an infection and going through some crazy stuff on this “cancer journey” and changing my status from regular person to survivor. It was kind of important to me to say something to her.
But what to say?
What’s the right thing to say to the person who essentially introduces you to your cancer? Is there a Hallmark card for that? I’m guessing not.
After she wrote my orders for the mammogram in March, the scenario could have had 2 different outcomes: either the mammo comes back clear and she sees me at next year’s well-woman exam; or the mammo comes back scary and she refers me to a specialist.
I’ve had a mammo every year for the last 5 years, a bit ahead of the recommended guidelines. Not because I like tests or crave extra attention, but because my mom died of a reproductive cancer, so my OB-GYN, who is married to an MD Anderson oncologist, has always been especially pro-active with me. To me, that’s a sign of a competent person: I didn’t have to say, hey since my mom died of uterine cancer, what extra steps do I need to take to ensure my health? I never had to ask because she was on top of it.
Thank goodness she was.
When my mammo came back scary, she called and told me and referred me to Dr Dempsey for a biopsy. I love her for that, because Dr Dempsey was the exact-right, totally perfect surgeon for me.
From there, Dr Dempsey referred me to Dr S for plastics and Dr Darcourt for oncology, and my OB-GYN was out of the loop. She called me a couple of times after she got the pathology report from the biopsy to check on me and see if there was anything I needed, but I was knee-deep in researching this beast, having tests run, scheduling all my appointments and keeping my regular life going that I never called her back. Then the infection took hold, post-surgery, and my life was topsy-turvy, to say the least.
I did sit down after all the brouhaha to write her a note to say thank you for finding the lump and saving my life. That’s just the way my mama raised me, to write a thank you note to someone who had extended you a kindness or given you a gift. I especially like the gift part, but the kindness part is good too.
This one was a strange note to write, though, and I found myself at a loss for words. That doesn’t happen to me very often. I don’t remember what I wrote but probably scratched out something along the lines of “thank you for finding the lump that saved my life.” Whatever the words were, they were a feeble attempt to convey a mountain of gratitude and I sure wish I had had just the right words to let her know that she really and truly has made a difference in my life.
So when I saw her from the tennis court yesterday, I didn’t even think about it, I just hollered her name and ran toward her. We were right in the middle of a game and not at a good stopping point, but this was important, so I didn’t care, and neither did my tennis friends.
She asked how I was and I told her the truth: I’m good.
There wasn’t much to say after that; we had covered the important stuff.
She said she was really glad to see me, and to see me playing tennis especially. I said, me too. I thought I would want to say so much more, but we really had covered the important stuff.