Cancer, Kiss My Too Large Ass
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Before I get on with my post today, I want to say I think I did a bad job  explaining myself yesterday. Many of you got the idea I was taking a break from blogging. I am NOT leaving, well...there's a little vakay coming up in my near future, but that's it. I AM NOT GOING ANYWHERE. HELLO! HELLO! I'M HERE, GUYS! 

What I was trying to say was the whole blogging culture is getting out of control for me and I'm trying to figure it out as I go. I want to be a good blogger friend to everyone and there are so many blogs I love, but I've never been very good at managing and I've just let this blogger love overtake me.  And so in ways I haven't been really able to define yet, I'm trying to create a better balance between me and the Internet. Bear with me. I'm still here. I've just got some growing up to do. But, I'm not going anywhere!!!

Today, the gracious Crowning Glory of Red Hair, Dee from Say Anything is beginning Taboo Tuesday, a once a month foray into non-cocktail fodder, topics that can cause a bit of squirming. And since I like to make people squirm, I decided to join in today. 

Today's topic is cancer. 

And since it is me writing about this insidious disease, there might just be a few laughs sandwiched in my terrible tale. Let's just see. 

A few years ago, my family had this awful patch of misfortune. It seemed like the bad just followed bad. One after the other, we sustained some awful punches to the gut. 

The first one was the sudden death of my father. A moment, a day suspended in time that is a ravaged scar across my memory and heart. It took a long time for all of us to find our way out of that black hole of grief. 

Just as we were feeling the sun against our faces, another devastation hit us, knocking us down with its stealthy punch. 

My dad has 8 siblings. His brother, Dubs retired early to live his days in the tropics alongside my dad. Both stellar men with bottomless hearts. Both men with big booming families, whose children counted on our dad's presence, no matter how grown up we all were. 

Uncle Dubs worked for my brother the builder. One of my uncle's daily job errands involved him driving a long stretch of country road. 

One day he set off on his routine errand, a day just like all the other days before this one.

He never made it back home. 

He disappeared. Vanished from the face of the earth like he'd never been here in the first place  He was driving my brother's green pickup truck and he and the truck were just gone, as if the earth had opened its jaws for an enormous yawn and swallowed him whole.

I got the phone call at 9:00 that night. People were beginning to panic. They wanted my friend Jake's phone number to see what the po-po could do. Uncle Dubs had a wife of many years and a few of those children from that large brood were still at home. Uncle Dubs had a good and happy life. Uncle Dubs was not the disappearing kind. 

The men organized a search party. They each bought these crazy-expensive, intense police type lights. They mapped out routes, coordinated searches, called the many, many folks in this town we consider family to join in the search. They called Jake. They enlisted policemen on their beat. They were out all night. 

There was not a trace of him, anywhere. 

I stayed home with the children while my husband joined the search. It was black and endless that night. I felt impotent as I lie there under the covers wide awake, my mind measuring out in painful one by ones, the "what if's". Now, because of that night, because of all the unmitigated fear that rose up and terrorized my heart, I cannot fathom how people do not shatter into thousands of broken bits when a loved one comes to a violent end. Just the specter of my good, gentle uncle encountering evil and violence was too much for my unsteady heart to bear. 

In the morning, the men tromped back in, drank some coffee, slapped some water on their face and began again, retracing their steps. 

My Hubby was in his car searching with one of Uncle Dubs' daughters. Uncle Dub's daughter saw the glint of metal reflecting off the sunlight shrouded in the dense woods of that long country road. My Hubby knew before he stopped the car. He begged my cousin to stay in the car while he checked it out. 

My Hubby is strong like that. My Hubby is the one when the rest of us could only sit there numb in our grief, who called funeral homes, made plans, went through my father's files, called all my dad's customers, handled the paperwork and closing of my dad's business and sat down and helped my mother negotiate through all the investments, insurances and financials of their life. 

His shoulders are the widest of any man I have ever known. 

He begged my cousin not to go, but she ran, ran to the glint, tore through the green shrubbery that camouflaged my brother's green truck so effectively, a phalanx of police lights could not find it in the dark. 

Sometimes the light brings darkness. 

My Uncle suffered a heart attack, gripping his body with such a force, he let go—of the steering wheel, of the brake, of this life. 

Death came instantly. 

I think this was taken after my Uncle Dubs died. This is about 1/16 of my family. I am not kidding you. And in our family tradition, we are celebrating life the best way we know how with laughter and family and friends and beer.

I was with my mother when we got the call. We were coming out of a doctor's office, a place she'd been referred to because of the lump that'd been found in her breast. This doctor who looked to be about 12, a doctor she only knew as a piece of paper pressed into her palm, had ordered some tests. We were to come back the following week after the test. But, we couldn't keep our minds focused on much of that with our new earth-shattering news.

Once again, death shocked us all as it stole our uncle away from us without even a hint of a warning. 

The next week, my mom and I enshrouded in grief, traveled back to this doctor for test results. Test results that would tell us whether cancer would be our next journey of grief. 

We waited 2-1/2 hours in this doctor's office for a result. A yes or a no. 

I'm kind of big on standards. I've got this policy of being treated as respectfully as I treat others. I was a little wary at the big sign outside this guy's office that shouted out his breast enhancement and botox services. I grew a lot more wary as the time stretched on and plastic Barbies were called in one after another as we sat there waiting for a yes or a no. 

Yes, I will admit I asked a few times how long it would be. Yes, I will admit I pointed at the doctor who was standing in the hallway chatting up a nurse as the receptionist told me he was in emergency surgery. Yes, I will admit I sighed a LOT as I sat there waiting. Yes, I will admit that I asked 4 times when we would be seen for our YES or NO. Yes, I will admit I got a little testy with the nurse who scolded my mother for her high blood pressure and I may have told her with a smile on my face and a collected tone in my voice that perhaps it was the 2-1/2 hour wait to find out if she had cancer that might have upped those numbers a bit. 

But, I still didn't deserve the cocky, God-like, shiteous way that Doctor Ass came storming into the room and informed me, I had no right to terrorize his staff.

Terrorize? Terrorize? I asked a few questions and I did it with a smile on my face and I never raised my voice and then a God-like ego turned our appointment into an argument— me being civil with a smile on my face, he being all outraged and bellowing out his indignation that I, the lowly, non-medical would have the audacity to question a DOCTOR. 

Man, I despise those kind of folks. No matter who you are, don't play the magisterial game with me. I don't bow to anyone. Anyone. We are on this planet together, borne of the same matter, all just trying to find our way together. 

Finally, I ended the argument by saying just that, enough of the petty arguing and could he please just give us the news. 

To this day, I will never forget. He threw my mother's file on the examining table and said, "You want the news? Fine, you've got cancer. There's your news."

It was the closest I've ever come to battery and assault. It is the closest I have ever come to placing my hands on another human being in a blinding fit of rage. My mother saved me with her instant tears. I comforted my mother as Doctor Ass tried to backslide from his abominable, egotistical, shit-driven behavior. He immediately started gussying up the truth, talking about this early detection, about good odds and about the fact that he could give my mother a magnificent set of taa-taa's if she chose mastectomy. In her shock, my mother looked at him incredulously and said, "I'm a 60-something year old grandma, I don't need magnificent taa-taa's!"

It was all he could focus on, the plastic. The cancer became secondary and as I led my mother from the room as fast as we could go, I turned and politely thanked him and told him we would be now going to Moffitt Cancer Hospital, one of the finest cancer hospitals in the land. We are lucky to have them just around the riverbend.  

He actually said to my mother because at this point, he was pretending that I was nonexistent "I guess Moffitt's all right, if you want residents working on you. Because, that's what you're getting over there, residents. I, on the other hand, am board certified."

I really wanted to turn around and say, "What, The Doogie Howser/Dr Evil Board?" 

I might not have placed my hands around his throat literally, but I'm certain my words put a chokehold on his glamorous plastic surgery life in my exacting letter to the Medical Review Board.

On the cusp of another sudden death, I made some phone calls and was shocked to hear, Moffit was filled from morning til night with cancer consultations. There were no appointments for weeks, the claws of this insidiuos disease sweeping more and more into its evil grip. 

I didn't know what to do. I sat back, my mind swirling in a tempest of grief and sudden sorrow and now shock over this cancer diagnosis. And then suddenly, I remembered. 

The week before, I'd been to a luncheon hosted by one of my dearest friends. Her husband was the general manager of our professional hockey team. Her husband was the guiding force that brought the Stanley Cup to its place of victory here in the land of sunshine and palm trees. Who would have ever thought there would be such a day in hockey? And it was a grand day, indeed. But those are stories for another day. 

My friend invited me to her luncheon benefitting the Moffitt Breast Cancer Center. A tall, handsome man, a breast cancer surgeon, a non-Doogie Howser board certified surgeon with a trail of other distinguished certifications behind his name, took the podium. Dr. Bradford Carter gave an impassioned speech about the research and the ongoing march towards a cure for this malevolent insipid beast.

At the time, I was moved by his passion and his positive outlook that the day of cure is coming. 

I was moved, but I hadn't been touched. 

It took a week for breast cancer to tap its sharp claws upon my doors. 

I emailed Dr. Carter and told him how impressed I was with his words of strides and hope and cures and then I pleaded for his help. 

Within 5 minutes of hitting the enter key, my phone rang. 

Dr. Carter was on the line, penciling in my mother for an appointment the very next day. 

My dad and Uncle Dubs high-fiving each other up in the heavens as this good doctor became our angel of grace. 

My mother's cancer was found in its earliest stages. The best of all outcomes. Only a lumpectomy was needed. No new taa-taa's for this grandma. 

My 6 siblings came from across the country and together we walked our mom into this place of sadness and hope. In my life, I have never been received with such open and welcoming arms. Moffitt Cancer Center is a place of angels, of this I am convinced. 

After the surgery, it was decided that my brother Dennis would be the one allowed to go back. Always the favorite, her baby boy would be the first face she would see. (JKing about the favorite, it's just a family joke.) 

Here they are, many years ago, twins like no other.

He came out laughing. He had a hard time getting the words out. The nurses had informed him, that sometimes while still under the effects of sedation, women would often try to lift up their shirts to show their loved ones their surgery battle wounds. She told us to be prepared for that kind of show. We all had a good laugh over that one.

It was then decided that since my Hubby drove the most comfortable car, he would be the one to take her home. 

My mother was oblivious to the nurse's warning and so she thought nothing of it when she started adjusting her bindings in the car, trying to make herself a little more comfortable. 

On high alert, my mother said my Hubby drove off the road, when he saw her sticking her hands underneath her shirt. As he bumped along the potholes, bringing his car back onto the roadway, he shrieked, "What are you doing? I don't WANT TO SEE IT! I DON'T WANT TO SEE ANYTHING!"

It hurt my mother to laugh when we told her the story. 

I'm not sure my Hubby has ever recovered. 

The march for a cure goes on and on and in the meantime, good doctors, researchers, blessed, loving staffs of cancer centers, good people of all kinds give hope, sustain life, and give back the dreams of people afflicted by this terrible disease. 

Cancer blows the big one. It's the most basic way I have of saying it. And I hope and pray every single day for everyone touched by its boundless reach.

Today's Definite Download: My boys, "Walk On." For everyone who has experienced cancer in some way in their lives. Walk on, past the darkness. There are angels everywhere to bring you out to the light. 

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can't steal it
No they can't even feel it
Walk on, walk on...
Stay safe tonight

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Leave it behind
You've got to leave it behind



Lisa said...

Oh Joann...Your story touched me...I'm so glad you reported that pompous A**hole to the board! What a jerk!! I think I was actually growling when I read how he treated you!

And cancer sucks. My sister in law is battling breast cancer right now, and a dear friend battled it for 8 years before losing the fight a couple of years ago. I am so glad your mother is doing well now!

JennyMac said...

those song lyrics are amazing. And so is this post. I just posted yesterday about my Mom's BFF who went from no cancer to stage IV in one day. She is a survivor and we celebrate her every day.

pieters said...

oh honey. i woulda been your get away driver after you jacked that doctor. whaddanass.

cancer sucks big time.


Dee said...

Doctor Asshole should lose his license! Seriously. I'm so glad your mom got through it, and your husband has recovered from the peep show~

Mrs. Ohtobe said...

I think our Mom's shared the same asshat of a doctor. You should do the Moffit Cancer Walk with us in May! I say that like I do it all the time, last year was our first but we plan on walking every year for my Mom.

Noelle said...

Please tell me that doctor is not still practicing??? And you're amazing for how you handled it!

My twin sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and at the time was given just months to live.

She beat it...twice, actually...and I'm grateful every day for her life.

Bossy Betty said...

Oh my gosh. I can't believe the behavior of that doctor. Wow. This post sort of has me stunned by all the stories in it. You've gone through so much.

LisaPie said...

I hope like hell that you reported that douche bag to every governing body there is. Complete ass. that's all I can think of. Just a complete ass.

Remind me to tell you sometime about my family's Year from Hell with cancer. We are like your bunch in that when we weren't crying our hearts out we were laughing so hard "we" (not naming any names) wet our pants. Works for us. Keeps us sort of sane and normal.

Oh, and I am with pieters above, you ever decide to do something evil to that douche-y doctor, I sooooo want in on it!

Kelly said...

"Your Honor, he NEEDED killing."

Cancer, and that assmunch of a doctor, is evil and must be destroyed.

The Furry Godmother said...

Yeah, people need to learn to beep when they back up like that...

I would have reported him to the board.

I haven't been checking in as much as I would like. I have an opening to hang at the Wings Cancer Center here in Memphis on Thursday... I got the show the same day I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, stage II, in situ. The world is a place serendipity, huh?.

Oh. And ask Terra. I would have cold cocked the SOB.

Anonymous said...

I hate illness of any kind and have seen WAY too much.

In my experiences, I have learned that doctors are NOT all that and that the patient really needs to be aware. Thankfully, you were, what an idiot that guy was!

However, though my life, I also have come to LOVE many doctors after seeing the bad ones.

I especially love the Mayo clinic and it really is all that they say it is!

I am so happy all turned out good for your mom.

I just hate how life sometimes throws all of the bad at you at once. So not fair!

Suburban Correspondent said...

You were one of 6? And it sounds like you all hang together great as adults! What a reassuring thing for a mother of 6 to hear, especially during a rough spot...

Survivormama said...

Your story really touched my heart...I just found out myself that I am in complete remission and I am so happy...glad to hear your mother is doing good...that doctor was a horrible doctor and I am glad you reported him for his behavior...thanks for sharing!

Joann Mannix said...

Furry! No! No! NO! Damn It! I'll be right over to your blog.

Suburban: I am one of 7. I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters and I am the exact middle and we all get along fabulously.

A.O. Goodwin said...

Here is a happy ending.My youngest daughter was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) in 2005 she was 11 yrs old. In the sixth month of treatment she got a fungus in her lungs although her cancer was in remission. It took her to death's door.(Chemo had knock out all of her defenses.) They gave her less than a week to live but God had other plans for our Mindy. She became one of the 10% to survive that type of fungus. She is now in her fourth year of remission from the cancer. She just turned 15 in February.

Stephanie Faris said...

What an inspiring story. I'm so sorry you went through that with the doctor who delivered the news. I hope you reported him to the state medical board? I work for our state's medical board and the people who take these kind of complaints take them very seriously. His behavior was unprofessional and something should have been done about it.

But the other doctor sounds like an angel, sent straight from heaven.

Paula said...

OMG, I was SEETHING when I read about that self-important shit-eating doctor. I am SO glad you reported him. What an asshole.

So glad you had Moffitt for Mom.

Your family scares me! Just the size of it! (I'm an only child.)

The Drama Mama said...

My father-in-law lost his battle with cancer on Christmas Day, just past. Your song was a good choice. Definitely a good reminder that we got to keep on going. Stopped in from SITS.

Heather said...

What a wonderful story to share. I know it has sadness and happiness, but you shared a big piece of your life and touched mine. My Mom was the same way with the lifting of the shirt after her mastectomy. I will forever picture your brother running from the room.

And good for you standing up to the doctor. They are people like us. There are good ones and bad ones.

Dawn in D.C. said...

Cancer really does blow. My stepmum last her "girls" to cancer last year. She's a survivor and cancer free in time for her 60th b-day. We don't talk about 2009 anymore. It's over.

I like the song.

duffylou said...

Your writing is so eloquent, but descriptive. I don't know that I would have had the same self control as you when dealing with the douche bag doctor. Especially if it concerned my mom. Who like yours also had breast cancer. Rock on Joann.

Rae said...

Cancer is a scary word, but sometimes our passion for life can beat the odds. I lost my mother, sister, and mother-in-law to cancer. Sorry it has seeped into your life also.
I was going to participate in Taboo Tuesday, but the month crept up so quickly- I kept thinking it was next week!
Great post!

Christine Macdonald said...

Beautiful post. One of my favorite songs, too.


Anonymous said...

My blood pressure went up when I read about that asshole doctor. I can't imagine what yours must have been doing. Sorry I've been away and am just catching up. Great post and I was so happy to see it. What a great family. I got a visual of your Dad and Uncle Dubs high-fiving in heaven:-)

Katherine said...

WOW. All I can say is WOW. I have to give you credit for not KILLING that doctor. And thank GOD He put the right doc in your hands... AMAZING.

My mom is a 16 year survivor... I recently had a scare myself, but all turned out OK. Your post is amazing and beautifully written!

MrsBlogAlot said...

Incredible post as always Joann. This one touched many heart strings...Cancer sucks a big one it does.

Dee said...

Girl, I'm having such a hard time keeping up with all the blogs that I love to read! Real life gets in the way and I get behind on reading my blogs and then I panic! I feels like there's no way I can catch up!

Then it makes me feel like a bad know what I mean lol!!

This was a beautiful entry! I wish I wouldn't have missed the "cancer" one! I could have wrote one that would have quickly turned into a book! lol...

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