It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To
After twenty lonely, post-divorce years, at the age of 62, I had finally met and married a wonderful man. We pooled our resources and bought an oceanfront dream house, and opened an art gallery that was immediately successful. I had never been so happy but I will admit that I was expecting “the other shoe to fall”, as I could not believe that life had finally become so perfect.
Eight months after we married in a small celebration with a few friends at our home, we planned a huge and very elaborate post-wedding celebration party, with the finest caterers and about 80 guests. It was a very expensive celebration that my husband was happy to pay for himself as a gift to me. Three weeks before the party, I went for my annual physical, all excited to share the news of my new life with my doctor, with whom I had a friendly relationship. He asked me how I was feeling and I told him that I had never felt better in my life.
I had been sick though for much of the previous winter with a series of sinus and bronchial infections that were severe and persistent. But by the time of my appointment all that had cleared up and l was feeling great. I had never been concerned about my health and as a result, I had missed getting my blood drawn the previous year. I was concerned about my cholesterol, so I made the effort to be sure to get to the doctor’s office early enough, stomach empty, so I could have my blood drawn.
An uninvited guest
Later that afternoon my doctor called me at the gallery and told me that while I shouldn’t worry, he wanted me to have my blood drawn again the next day to see if the results were the same. Confident that my health was good, I didn’t worry as I could not imagine that I could feel so good and yet have anything seriously wrong with me. The evening of the second test he called me again to tell me that he wanted me to see an oncologist, as my white blood cell count was high, as well as my lymphocytes. I didn’t know what all that meant, but the word oncologist was a definite mood changer. I asked him what his concerns were but he really didn’t want to elaborate other than to say that it could be many things but he wanted to rule out blood cancer. BLOOD CANCER?
The next day I got the referral and tried to make an appointment with the oncologist but was told I had to wait three months for the next available appointment. I had just been told that I might have some form of blood cancer and I was expected to wait three months to find out? That was unacceptable to me and having already been on Lexapro for an anxiety disorder, I called my doctor and told him I wouldn’t survive three months of anxiety of that magnitude. He asked the oncologist to try to fit me in. The oncologists’ office called later that day and told me they could fit me in at 6:30 am the day before our big wedding celebration.
A stunning force
Still confident that it was all a mistake, I got up at 4:30 am, hopped into my convertible, top down, with my favorite CD and made the hour drive alone. I didn’t want my husband to come as I didn’t want to introduce any unnecessary drama into our perfect lives, as well as bring back any bad memories. My husband’s first wife had passed away from pancreatic cancer five years earlier.
The oncologist was an affable man with a low key demeanor and after the exam he told me that he thought I was going to be ok, however, he suspected CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. I could not speak, nor ask any of the questions that were going through my mind. I was stunned, and I felt my legs get weak as a force of fear took over my body. Someone helped me find my way to the lab to have the definitive blood test. I was told I would have the results on Monday, two days after the big party.
Fake it until you make it
The party was magnificent but my mind was elsewhere and I felt like a fraud smiling and pretending like life was perfect. I had to excuse myself several times and I went to my room to cry. I was terrified and I knew life was never going to be what we and all those guests out there were hoping for.
The call came in on Monday and the doctor asked me to meet him at his office to discuss the diagnosis. My husband came this time and he took the news calmly, having done this before.
So, this is not a bad dream?
For the first couple of months, I was in shock, still hoping that somehow it would all be a mistake, waking up in the morning thinking it was just a dream and then the realization that this was life, for the rest of my life, whatever that was going to be. I kept busy at the gallery, but I was depressed not knowing the full prognosis. The oncologist asked me if I wanted to know and told me there was a test that could “suggest” a prognosis, called the FISH test. I wanted to know so that I could plan and make the most of my life. I will say that the diagnosis made me see life from a different perspective, and I became much more appreciative of my family, my life and all the beauty that surrounded me.
My husband and I were out on our boat in the early evening and my cell phone rang….it was a private number and my heart sank as I suspected it was my oncologist. I feebly answered the call and my oncologist said, “I have good news about bad news….”, you are a 13q, that’s all, and most people do well with it. I thanked him profusely for making the call, took a deep sigh of relief, and we motored off into the sunset.
I take each day as it comes, and I am grateful for every day I wake up and there are no nodes or fatigue to alter the appreciating of a new day.