Kathy announced, “Chemo is very do-able”

Sitting in the Regional Cancer Care Centre waiting room was not where I wanted to be today.  But it was where I wanted to be. On one hand, it was a place where I would learn news about which “stage” my cancer was in.  On the other hand, it was a place where I would learn about which “stage” my cancer had progressed to.  Which one of those two alternatives would it be.

I hadn’t been waiting there for long when my husband, Kevin,  arrived.  He didn’t see me at first – likely not used to my bald head.  I waved to attract his attention.  He spotted me, smiled, and came over to sit down.  “Thank God.” I said to myself.  “I can’t do this without you.” I said again to myself. “How was the traffic?” I inquired out loud.  What I should have said were the kind words I was thinking, but my emotions were so close to the surface that I knew if I said something I would be reduced to a puddle on the floor once again.

Kevin and I bantered back and forth for a while.  The waiting room was quite full compared to our previous visits.  That was likely a result of a back-log from Thanksgiving holidays.  People were called by number to reception and people were called by name to their doctors appointments.  We waited.  I was lost in thought when I suddenly became aware of a woman standing in front of me looking at me.  I focused in on her face at the same time she asked, “Do you remember me?”  I hate that question.  As I age, I become less and less able to identify faces from my past.  I looked for a long while – nothing.  She was young looking with long blonde hair.  No wrinkles.  No scars.  No tattoos.  She looked too healthy to be in the Cancer Centre.  Nothing.  Fortunately she ended my misery of ignorance quite quickly.  “I’m Rob’s mom from Collingwood.”  Her name was Kathy.

“Good grief!  Of course.  Oh, my goodness, how are you?”

“I’m well now.” she explained.  “How are you?”

“Well.” I began.  How do I blurt out to a mother of a student I taught nearly 25 years ago that I was waiting to hear whether or not I had a death sentence?  “I have cancer.” I stated.

“I had cancer too.” Kathy explained.  “But, after a barrage of chemo, radiation, and surgery, I’m good.  Just here for a check-up.”

“Wow.  What kind of cancer did you have?” I inquired all the while wondering how appropriate my prying question was.

Kathy explained her cancer to me quite willingly.  It was still odd sitting face-to-face with her after such a long absence.  We were sharing intimacies of our lives when we had been strangers for decades.  It was bizarre.

“Did you lose your hair?” I asked.  Her hair was beautiful and cascaded down her back.

“I sure did. Even my eyebrows.  I kept my eyebrows until the third treatment and then all of a sudden, they all came out at once.”

I was so grateful for her honesty.  It was another Mark and Bea moment.  athy was sent to help me through this day the same way that Mark and Bea were sent to help me through the first chemo treatment.  She told me her story and answered my questions without hesitation.  “Chemo is doable.” she reassured me.  “Chemo is very doable.  And you will do fine.  If you got through the first round unscathed, you should be good for the next.”

“Stacey?” the nurse summoned me.

“That’s me.” I answered.

“Kathy, it was so nice to see you.  And I am so grateful that you were here today.  You were my gift.”

“You are on facebook, right?” she inquired.  “I’ll facebook you.”

“Great!” I responded.  “My post today is going to be named after you”

Kevin, the nurse, and I departed.  We walked the “Green Mile” or so it seemed to the doctor’s office.  “Sorry about the delay.  It’s been so busy today because of the holiday yesterday.”   Her name was Pam.  She was very out-going and I was immediately entertained.  Good distraction. Kevin and I had been lead down this road before and the results had been the life-changing pronouncement, “you have cancer.”

“There is no examination today, Stacey, I just have a few questions to ask you.  First I need to begin by asking you about your bowels.”

“Well.” I answered.  “I can answer that question with an affirmative response.  They are good.”  I gave more detail …  willingly… without hesitation!  Cancer removed all humility.  It didn’t matter what Pam asked me because I was more than willing to share.  The stakes were too high to be too proud.  “In fact, my liver has stopped hurting and my one-I-thought-hernia-which-turned-out-to-be-cancer seems to have shrunk.  Is that possible? I am almost afraid to be optimistic.”

“It is absolutely possible.  And why not be optimistic?  If you are feeling better with less pain – that is a good sign!”

And there it was.  The tone had changed.  It was not the death sentence I had expected.  In fact, Pam carried on to report my white blood cell count, specifically my leukocytes (mega-fighters of the immune system) were at levels higher than they had expected.  In fact, my blood test from one week after my first chemo were at levels where they would have administered chemo.  “You are rockin, Stacey.  Your blood looks great.  You are good to go for round two.   I’ll go and get the doctor now so that he can explain your results of your biopsy and CT scan.”

“How tall do you think he is?” Kevin inquired.  And the contest was on.  Kevin made his prediction about this “Dr. Russell” and I made mine.  It must have been less than one minute when the man of MY prediction walked through the door.  I was more focused on catching Kevin’s eye in a “I told you so” moment than I was on receiving news from the doctor.

And then – the time came… the verdict was in.  “We can’t tell what kind of cancer you have as the cells have mutated.  The cancer is malignant – but you already know that.  Your lungs look clear and we don’t suspect your pancreas is involved.  So, we will go ahead with the same cocktail for chemo tomorrow as we used before.”

I think I breathed.  I think I understood.  I looked at Kevin to confirm the news was as I had heard.  He was smiling.  That was good.  So, I smiled too.  And I think I smiled for the next hour or two or three… I finally knew my enemy.  I knew the weapons.  I knew the plan.  I knew I had cancer, but for the first time in four weeks, I became slightly optimistic. I think I floated out of the room – down the hall – out of the hospital.  Kevin and I made our phone calls to relieved family and friends to a chorus of “yahoos” and “sighs” of relief.

I am ready.  I am ready to fight once more.  My first batch of steroids are “down the hatch” and the mental preparations have begun.   I will look for “Cathy” tonight on facebook.

Funny, once again, how the right people appear at the right time.  There has to be some sort of invisible guiding hand that directs us to the support we need when we need it.  Today – the hand guided Kathy to me.  The Cancer waiting room was maybe not where I wanted to be today – but it was where I needed to be.  And afterall, good things come to those who wait.

About inmycorner

This blog began as an opportunity to tell my Dad's stories. I sat with him and the computer and together we told stories. It was a wonderful way to get to know Dad. He was 9. He and Mom had a wonderful life together and since she passed away a year and a half before him - Dad was ready to join her. I no longer tell his stories but have found stories of my own. The impetus to resume this blog was the discovery that I had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Since blogging had been so therapeutic for my dad and I to get through our grief, I felt maybe this would be a good outlet to process my situation. I also hoped it may serve as an outreach to anyone else who is facing this very ominous journey. So far, so good.
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29 Responses to Kathy announced, “Chemo is very do-able”

  1. Jason says:

    Add my Yahoo to the chorus!

  2. hopebringsstrength says:

    FANTASTIC NEWS!!! Continue to BELIEVE! Continue to have HOPE! Fear of the unknown of what tomorrow might bring steals the Joy from today! You will beat this! So thankful that you had Kevin by your side, doing what Kevin does best…brings smiles to peoples hearts. So thankful that you had an unexpected friend help you renew your hope and give you every reason to believe in a brighter tomorrow! TODAY was a GOOD Day… Embrace it with all the joy you can muster. Much Love

    • inmycorner says:

      You are so right! Thanks to you and others who have been so supportive, I believe. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of faith and hope, and charity. I am so grateful to have re-connected with you – my life-long friend.

  3. Gwen K says:

    I don’t think I can write a big enough “yahooo” to fully express myself. Again everything seems to be in the right place at the right time for you to truly “kick this thing”.

  4. WOOPTY WOOP!!!! 🙂 Stacey….Cathy has her angel wings today doesn’t she? I suspect there was a High Flying Dad and a Beautiful Mom angel standing behind her nodding at her encouraging, honest, words to you. 🙂

  5. Karen says:

    I’ve been thinking about you all day and am so relieved to read this!!

  6. Marcus Lees says:

    Hello 👋 Stacey,

    I wish I was update to date with your blog it seems so much has happened. That said I encourage you to keep this up, it is so uplifting to feel the resilience in someone coping with a situation that is out of their control. I think back to the situations when you were my teacher and being an outlet for us students in so many different ways. Your presence as a whole at the BLC went above and beyond the ‘call of duty’.

    I also wanted to say a few things on an individual level. Thank you for being the teacher who made learning for me engaging, fun and providing all what was required to be successful, motivation. I know personally that my faults in my past were stemming from a negative inconsistency. Your skills in communication with others by sharing your personal experiences found ways in changing my bad habits. In the most simplistic understanding, you made me believe that you cared; through your position as a authoritative figure, my teacher, it was empowering and it gave way for success follow. You are a role model not just for me but to the many that spend more than a days worth of your company. I attribute my success in going further in post secondary education to you as well as others. You initiated a intrinsic motivation for me in understanding what kind of student I am and what student I want to be. I am proud to say I am a student athlete at the University of NewBrunswick playing on the mens Varsity soccer team. For someone who attributed a low effort in academics it has proven to be worth my time.

    I hope it rings true that your character is infectious in creating positive learning environments and I seriously love you for this.

    Thank you,

    Marcus Lees

    • inmycorner says:

      Marcus – I just read your comment and am speechless. I am so proud of you – but spent in terms of energy. I have a long time to sit and respond tomorrow. And you will be the first. I have six hours to contemplate what you just wrote. You are a gem – and you always have been! Stacey

  7. kiwiskan says:

    Good news Cathy ♥

  8. Gallivanta says:

    Phew and double phew. I felt a bit mean rushing off to bed and leaving you in the waiting room. So it was great to read this post this morning. Blessings on Cathy and Kevin.

    • inmycorner says:

      Grin. No worries. I get it – again, weird how you went to bed to wake up to my post which I wrote and am now leaving you to go to bed. Wonderful to have you with me and caring so much! Good night – tomorrow I’m back in the chemo chair for round two.. I have six hours to write posts and walk you through my journey (poor you!) grin.

  9. pepesapam says:

    it is such a good news Stacey..after i read your article, i really wanted to know your condition…Well, you are such a strong fighter…!!! keep fighting and have a good day..!!

    • inmycorner says:

      Thank-you. I don’t know about strong — there is a lot of weakness. But with a wonderful family, job, and country – there is so much to live for. Even the autumn leaves give me purpose. Thank-you, Pepesapam (why that name, out of curiosity?)

      • pepesapam says:

        its ok, just hang in there, you will get through it. all your writings want me to work harder more, as i am doing my research in cancer and seriously i want to find a cure for it so that i can be some help to everyone. i have read many articles regarding this but yours writing touch me the most..so keep on writing :-)..!! and yes about my name, pepe is my nickname, my dad named me and sapam is family name. there is a word called ‘petpet’ in my language which means chubby, so my dad cut off the ‘t’s from my name and i came to be known as pepe 🙂

      • inmycorner says:

        I love this story behind your name. And God bless your work / research in cancer. I am SOOO grateful for this work. Even a few years ago I know that the medicines available to me now did not exist. My grandmother had NO chance of surviving her cancer in the 1950s. I am honoured that you have interest in my posts when there are so many credible and innovative articles to read. I will keep writing as it helps me process. You have made my day!

  10. It does seem like the right people appear at the right time. 🙂

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