In a few hours I’m scheduled for surgery, an operation I’ve known was coming since last April. Compared to many procedures to remove cancerous tumors, mine will be relatively simple. Over the last few months I’ve had a lot of time to ponder the types of cancer I could’ve been diagnosed with – cancers that aren’t treated so easily. Cancers that don’t have such a hopeful prognosis. Cancers that have spread to other parts of your body.
That’s not the case for me.
I will have a lumpectomy, which together with radiation and Herceptin infusions over the next year will give me a five percent chance of recurrence of cancer over the next eight years. Those are great odds, if you ask me.
But I’m still scared.
I’ve had enough surgeries in my lifetime to know that most of the time things go just fine and you recover without a hitch. And I know that sometimes there are complications.
The last time I had surgery there were complications and it was no picnic. It took ten more days in the hospital and five more surgical procedures to repair the damage. The doctor did everything he could to make it right, including standing at the foot of my bed and telling me he was sorry.
That’s a good doctor, if you ask me.
During one of the last procedures, I woke up, keenly aware of the tube down my throat and a choking sensation. Terrified, I remember thinking, oh God, just put me back to sleep! Not being able to speak or move, I opened my eyes, thinking that would alert someone, which it probably did because I went back to sleep shortly thereafter. But right before I did, I glanced over to the corner of the room and noticed a nurse I hadn’t seen before – and by that time I knew all the staff involved in this particular procedure. Standing with her arms folded and one foot crossed over the other, she smiled at me.
“You’re okay,” she said. “He’s right here with you.”
I went back to sleep and never saw her again.
So maybe it was all the drugs they’d given me that week. Maybe it was just a dream.
Or maybe it was an angel in scrubs.
And whether I actually see her tomorrow or not, he’ll be there.