Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Benign, But In a Moment, So Much More

Earlier this month, we received some very good news.  But in the midst of this good news, there was a moment, just a small moment, that contained a brief and fleeting glimpse of the deep struggle, mystery, and pain that are a part of this life.  Joy and sorrow, mixed together in an instant.

Several weeks ago, Nancy went to her surgical follow-up visit to learn of the pathology of her recent colo/rectal surgery.  The result : no evidence of cancer.  In fact, what had previously looked likely cancerous was in fact, benign.  She is, and we are all, deeply and profoundly thankful.  Words simply will not do.  The doctors want to keep a close eye on her in the years to come, but for now, the way ahead is clear.

When Nancy met with her doctor, his schedule was typically packed to overflowing, and she only had a couple of minutes of time with him.  I should interrupt here and mention that by some feat of sheer Divine Providence, we ended up with the Chief of Surgery at City of Hope as our doctor.  The story behind this is too long to relate here, but is quite amazing in its own right.  And so, this doctor is a busy man.  And a man that Nancy and I have been thinking about a lot lately, now that our journey through surgery is done.  And here is why.

When Nancy received her good report from the doctor, with a sense of compassion that is her hallmark, she replied, "Well, doctor, it must feel great for you to give out this kind of good news every once in a while."  I think her reply came from both our brief experience at City of Hope, and our experience the past years as grown ups.  We know now, sometimes painfully at this season of life, that often, cancer is not equivalent with good news.  Not all polyps are benign.  Not everyone gets to go home from the doctor and right back to leading a "normal" life.  Many do not.  Many are stuck in the midst of wondering, and worrying, and confusion, and hoping.  Many face multiple surgeries for a cancer that will not go away.  Many do not make it out of that dark journey.

At just the moment that Nancy spoke her reply, the doctor's eyes dropped, for a moment, to the ground. For just a moment.

What was happening in just that moment, in that brief, fleeting, glance away?  Oh, to know the thoughts in the mind and heart of that surgeon at just that moment.  To know the many surgeries he has performed that did not look good at all, where the cancer was not neatly contained and defined, or benign, or simple.  To see the things he has seen with his trained eyes.  To be present in the recovery rooms, where the post surgical report was not so happy, so simple, or so, well, benign.  To watch with his eyes, as he explains a not-so-hopeful diagnosis to family members desperate for good news.  And, as he travels home in the car in the dark, after a long day of surgery and meetings, and patient visits; to know the thoughts and wonderings of this good man.

In that brief look to the floor, so very much was contained in a brief and slightly awkward silence.  So much contained, and to Nancy, to us all, unknown but felt.

But we can imagine some of the things our doctor was thinking.  And we can pray.  We can pray for him, for the good people at the City of Hope, and for those involved in medical research that just may, someday, bring relief to so many lives.

And I have been wondering too.  Why did we get this good news?  Why us?  And now that we have it, what will we do with our lives that will make this diagnosis a blessing to others.  Its not just about us, its about so very much more.  Take a moment and watch this; you will see our smiling doctor at 0:30 exactly.  Watch this, and feel hopeful, and if you feel lead, give to the City of Hope, or the cancer cause of your choice.  Its important - its a matter of life and death.

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