Sunday, October 24, 2010

November 10, 2009

            This was the day we were supposed to get the results back from Tom’s biopsies. However, Tom had an appointment at our family doctor on this day in order to have Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork filled out, so he could take off work for his upcoming doctor’s appointments without incident with his job. I told him that he did not need to get it filled out yet, because we still did not have the results of his biopsy back yet. However, he insisted that he would rather have it taken care of sooner than later.
            Dr. Charles came walking in the room with a smile on her face as always. Tom handed her the FMLA paperwork, and he asked her politely if she would fill it out, so he could get it back to his job the following day.
            As Dr. Charles began filling out the paperwork, she was not sure how to answer the question that asked how long the patient/employee would be out of work due to his or her illness. She looked up from the paperwork and asked us, “Have you received back the results from the endoscopy procedure you had done last week?”
            “No, we have not received a call back yet from Dr. Peters. However, he did say that the results should be back sometimes today,” Tom answered her.
            “Well, I really cannot fill out this paperwork if I do not have any idea how many days you will be out of work, because I have no idea what your treatment plan is going to be. Tell you what, I am going to go out to the computer, and I am going to see if your biopsy results came back yet. Give me a few minutes, and I will be right back,” she said as she walked out of the room.
            Tom looked at me and said, “I really doubt if the results are back yet; otherwise, Dr. Peter’s office would have called us first thing this morning.”
            “Maybe we will get lucky, and they will be there when Dr. Charles goes to check.”
            Dr. Charles walked back into the room and without skipping a beat announced without any caution, “Yes, it seems that you have a stomach cancer.”
            Mine and Tom’s faces went blank. Thank God he was sitting in a chair because every ounce of color that he had on his face completely vanished. I was standing by the examination bed, and I could tell the expression on my face went completely blank in that moment. We were utterly speechless. I began to cry immediately and grabbed for a tissue.
            How could this doctor be so insensitive to break this news to us in this type of manner. However, when she saw the expressions on our faces, her expression on her face just vanished. She must have thought that we knew the tumor was cancerous.
            “Didn’t you know before you came in for this appointment that Dr. Peter’s had found stomach cancer?” She asked.
            “No! Dr. Peter’s office had not called yet before we left the house. This is the first we found out about this,” Tom answered her with astonishment.
            “I am so sorry. I thought that you were already aware that the mass was cancerous,” she said as she walked over to Tom and leaned down to give him a hug. She then proceeded to come over to where I was standing and hugged me. She looked at Tom and said, “Well, the next step you will need to take is you will have to meet with an oncologist. Is there any particular one that you like better than another?”
            “Dr. Chadsworth, Mary Chadsworth’s father, is an oncologist. I would like to see him. Liz’s mom saw him when she had her esophageal cancer, so I would like to go to him,” Tom answered her.
            “Ok, I will get this appointment set up before you leave today. Do either of you have any other questions before I go to schedule this appointment?”
            “No,” Tom said.
            Dr. Charles walked out of the room, and I immediately ran over and began hugging Tom. “It will be ok. We will get through this. It’s probably not that bad. They probably found it in its early stages,” I said trying to sound encouraging.
            Tom said nothing. He just sat there with a blank look on his face.
            Dr. Charles came back into the room. “Your appointment with Dr. Chadsworth is this Friday, November 13. However, you will have to go to a town about 20 minutes from here. Otherwise, he will not be able to see you locally for two weeks. Is the appointment for Friday ok?”
            “Yes, that is fine,” I said to her.
            We left the office once again speechless, but this time I believe was worse that when we left the gastroenterologist’s office. As we were walking out of the building with our heads hung low and not saying a word, we both immediately heard someone yelling our names.
            “Tommy! Liz!” this voice yelled.
            We immediately started looking around, but at first saw no one. Then from the bus parked in front of the doctor’s office came Tom’s sister, Joni, bounding off the bus as fast as her little legs could take her. When I saw her, I could no longer hold back the tears. I hadn’t seen Joni in three years even though we lived in the same town. Tom’s family was never very fond of him marrying me, so I learned over the years to just stay to myself. However, I always had a special place in my heart for Joni. I truly missed her when she stopped talking to me over the passed three years.
            “What’s wrong, Liz? It’s your mom isn’t it? What’s going on? Something is wrong. Tell me what’s wrong,” Joni wouldn’t let us get a word in edgewise.
            “Tom, you need to tell her what is going on,” I sobbed.
            “I was just diagnosed with cancer,” Tom told her reluctantly.
            “Oh my God, NO!” Joni started to cry. “Are you busy right now? Would it be ok if I came along home with you guys?” she asked.
            “Sure,” we both agreed.
            Joni didn’t stop talking the whole way to our house, but this was just fine because it kept our minds off the diagnosis Tom had just received.
            Later that evening after Joni went home, Tom sat down at the kitchen table and began to write five of the hardest letters he would ever have to write in his entire life. The letters were to his siblings explaining that he was just diagnosed with stomach cancer. Tom explained to me that as hard as it was to write five letters it would have been 100 times worse to have to tell his family members over the telephone of his diagnosis. He was making the right decision to tell his siblings of the situation.
We had no idea the turn our lives had just taken, and we had no clue how intense the journey we were about to embark on was going to be.

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