Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Survivor guilt

I know this may sound crazy but I have shared so much with all of you for the past six months (thanks to my webmaster, Ginny Taylor Scott!) that I feel the need to say a few more words so that nobody misconstrues my silence or lack of returned e-mails as any form of ingratitude or disrespect. My family and I are still numb from the good news. Greg and I went straight from Georgetown Hospital to a sushi lunch yesterday after getting the pathology results. We hadn't cried and then suddenly as the green tea arrived and I had checked off a few salmon rolls inside out with the extra wasabi and ginger (which always cut through my chemo nausea) the tears began rolling. I couldn't catch my breath. (Greg didn't cry, but I knew he would have if he could have.) We were on an adrenalin high - such a high that I walked all the way to school and back to get the kids, even though I still have 4 drains pouring unsightly and unmentionable liquids from my newly constructed breasts. I felt no pain. Luke kept standing by the front door and saying, "Mama? Bye-bye?" Of course, I packed him up to take him to the school. (Again, I was feeling no pain - ok maybe it was the Percocet - but I felt like Hercules (and of course I had the help of Saint Rose pushing the stroller.) I got home realizing that I had overdone it - a few chills - "darn, was I getting an infection in the remaining drains?" I slept. When I woke up this morning and got the children off to school, Greg and I simply were at peace. For the first time, we just sat around with nowhere to go, sipping coffee and watching Luke try to find the Koi fish in our outdoor pond - the miracle fish who somehow survived the heavy snow and freezing winter (Greg says they are his favorite pet - probably because they don't talk back.) Luke seems to understand that I can't pick him up right now. He just puts his hand out to me and says, "Mamma" in the highest pitched sweetest little voice - he's just started saying it. I put my hand out and walk and hold his hand and he shows me the fish, which he calls, 'dish'. He seems to just "get it" right now. Then the door bell rang and more of the most beautiful, exquisite flowers that you have ever seen arrived. Then the phone rang - I almost didn't answer it because it said, "Ruby Devaras." Who is "Ruby Devaras?" But I did and it wasn't Ruby. It was Dr. Claudine Isaacs from Georgetown Hospital, my genius oncologist, who took that chance of throwing in some carboplatin to my chemo cocktail just to make sure this cancer knew who was boss. Even though others who will remain nameless said they wouldn't give it to me outside of a clinical trial.

Oncologists, you'll find, always have a lot of caveats. Not today. Claudine kept saying, "it's over - you can breathe again. You can celebrate." I queried her extreme confidence just to make sure no one was getting overly confident and she said, "no, you really can relax now - it's gone." Through choked tears and in a whisper, I thanked her for saving my life. We determined that i would come see her on my birthday April 20 just for good measure. (And just in case anyone was wondering - let's just say the ones I saw on Dancing with the Stars last night - including Pamela Anderson's - have nothing on my new set, thanks to Georgetown's Dr. Scott Spear - there is a reason plastic surgeons are a little cocky. He gets the bragging rights, no doubt. He was so pleased with the results yesterday he invited a visiting Korean surgeon in to see them in person. I have no shame anymore so I was ready to show the world (again I was on a little Percocet.)

So I guess what I would say now is that "Yes, I have a little bit of survivor guilt." I guess it's normal. I guess it's why I cried when I saw Phil Mickelson hug his wife Amy at the end of the Masters - she had been going through treatment all year and he wore the pink ribbon and nothing was said as they hugged and hugged. I watched as their two girls and son looked on. I feel badly for having worried so many of my friends and family. I appreciate all of the amazing bouquets and letters and gestures of extraordinary kindness. I can't go through all the people I'd like to thank now or it will start to sound like a Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech. Please know each gesture was received, fully appreciated and added to my willpower. If I had to thank one or two people, it would be my mom who slept upright in a mighty squeaky hospital Laz-Z-Boy the second night after my surgery, Greg, who gave the girls and Luke a sense that everything would be alright and has sat next to my bed for the past week delivering me food, hot tea and meds and was nice enough to say that my new pair were already better than before (adding that they weren't that bad before!) Thanks to my siblings and grandparents and to Aunt Barb who sent a mighty comfy wedge for me to sleep on with my arms elevated, and, of course, longtime friend Barry Roy who is taking Annalise and Amelia to Disney World on Thursday. He's your very own "Make a Wish" Foundation. Love, love. love to all of you and to Fox for giving me the time to fight this and recuperate with my family without worrying about anything. Now go hug your children, or your dog or your best friend because one day you'll hit a bump in the road and you'll be overwhelmed by how much good there is out there and how much you don't even know you are loved.