Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Six Months

Quote of the day:
"It looks like he got it all."
-- Dr. David Ryan, MGH Oncologist


We met with Dr. Ryan today to get surgery results -- pathology report, liver function, etc. Dr. Ryan confirmed that the surgeon, Dr. Tanabe, got "clean margins." This means a safe margin of healthy tissue was removed along with cancerous tissue, so no cancer cells were missed.

The plan now is for Mat to have new MRI scans and other tests every six months to look for recurrence. If it is going to resurface, chances are that would be within the next two or three years, so we're focusing on six clean scans! The first one will be in February.

Aside from the whole bad news parts, I enjoy these trips to the doctor. It's like a mid-day date with my shmoopy. Today the sushi place was closed, so we went to Anna's Taqueria for lunch. The grilled vegetable quesadilla was so good I didn't eat -- I inhaled.

Mat was feeling a bit better today. My response: "Good, now I can get mad at you again."

It's nice to feel normal.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Walking on Water: A How-to Guide

Wednesday, June 14 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Mat and I met with Dr. Ryan to review a new MRI that would show how well the treatment of Temodar and Avastin was working. We got the answer pretty quickly.

Dr. Ryan walked into the room and said, “I don’t think this is working,” and proceeded to describe the MRI images that showed nearly 50 percent growth in the two largest tumors in Mat’s liver over the previous two months.

I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t breathe. Mat’s prospects had gone into free-fall. In my mind, Mat’s cancer went from being indolent (the medical term) to ruthless and aggressive. I tried feverishly to calculate in my head: 50 percent growth in two months … how big is a liver? how much liver does a person need to function? Could he have two years left? My guess turned out to be optimistic compared to a guess Dr. Ryan later gave Mat: one year.

I read religious books and magazines every night before I go to bed. It’s part of my bedtime ritual. I didn’t feel like it, but that night I opened a church magazine, the Ensign, to the place I had left off the night before, and dutifully began to read. These are some of the opening words of the sermon I read:

… I speak to those trying to hold back floodwaters of despair that sometimes wash over us like a tsunami of the soul. I wish to speak particularly to you who feel your lives are broken, seemingly beyond repair.

And then:
… whatever your distress, please don’t give up and please don’t yield to fear.

And one of my new favorite verses:
… I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 36:3)

The sermon described Peter walking on water and then, yielding to his fear, sinking into the sea. And then Christ reaching out his hand to save Peter. (Matt. 14:27-31).

I felt as though the entire sermon were addressed to me personally. Had I been on a very slightly different reading schedule, I would have read about the Church as the restoration of Christ’s original church. An excellent discourse, I’m sure, but not the life preserver I needed.

By the end of the sermon, I realized I had two choices: I could listen to Dr. Ryan and every shred of physical, rational, scientific evidence around me and drown. Or I could rely on repeated spiritual experiences that told me Mat will recover, fix Christ firmly in my sight, and walk on water.

I’ve tried drowning. Now I’m going to walk on water.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:23-24)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Laraine Wilkins


Another breakthrough: Mat and I went out for sushi this week! Mat's taking lots of short walks (all the way around the block!), and the highlight of his day is the ice cream truck that stops at the park by our house.

We got the sad news on Saturday that our friend Laraine Wilkins (photo, left) passed away as a result of injuries from a motor vehicle accident. Her 17-year-old daughter Lena was in the car with her and sustained very serious injuries. We will miss Laraine and are praying for Lena.

As my friend Ellen said, "What a rip-off."