Time is always of the Essence

28 Jan

Hello dears,

A banner day, a double posting.

My pub and I certainly do not want to turn this into a blog on cancer. There are many of those, each as informative and respectable as the next. But we do want to share something that happened to us today in relation to the past few months.

A beloved was diagnosed with cancer just before Thanksgiving. This was a surprise. It came during a routine check up. Our dear one had been experiencing some discomfort the past few months, but passed it off, as many of us do, as exhaustion, doing too much of this and not enough of that, etc., etc., etc.

He did not tell anyone because he was not the first to know. My pub was. The Dr. called her and said lifesaving surgery was immanent. He also let her break the news to the newly diagnosed. She had never done this before and was not sure how to “bring it up.” There is no app for that.

But like anything involving cancerous tumors that continue to grow, the meter was running, leaving precious little time to find the right words. Do you grab a box of Kleenex and somberly say, “I have some bad news…”? Or do you bring it up in passing. “Dr. so and so called. He said you have cancer and you need surgery right away. Have you eaten? I could use some lunch. Why don’t we go to Legal Sea Foods?”

OK, you may not find the latter approach on the American Cancer Society website, but it seemed the most effective method for all involved. The ugly diagnoses and upcoming scans were discussed over Naked Cowboy oysters and a Ketel One martini with 3 olives for him and a Santa Marguerite Pinot Grigio for her. By the time the entrees were served, the conversation had shifted to Tom Brady and Typhoon Haiyan. That was not so bad.

The scans however, posed new threats. One was scheduled on a weekend, a low-ranking employee forced to come in on a Saturday. The results confirmed the first doctor’s recommendation for immediate surgery. Our dearly beloved wanted a second opinion. That sounds easier than it is. My publicist called around and learned that second opinions, even for life-threatening illnesses, may take months to book. She booked two for January, after the date the original surgeon said was critical.

She showed no shame in approaching a lady at her gym who she knew was married to a world-renowned oncologist. (My pub read about their renovated vacation home in the NYT. Totally off-the-charts gorgeous!) Before this, my pub and the woman had the kind of relationship that could be described as a friendly nod of hello. Nothing more.

My pub gave a brief summary of recent events. The woman could not have been kinder. Emails were exchanged. Three hours later, an appointment for a second opinion was made for the following week with the best of the best.

The following days and weeks were spent researching colon and rectal cancer, the surgery and its aftermath. Was it worth it? Both surgical teams said that doing nothing would allow the tumor to grow and become more painful “until there was no more pain.” That would be four to 10 months. Surgery did not guarantee anything. There was a better chance our loved one would live for a few more years, there was also a 5 percent or less chance he would suffer a fatal heart attack in the OR.

My pub gathered all this information, googled the very big words and prepared a comprehensive report for our patient, family and very close friends to read. She chose not to give her opinion of what should be done, though she was quietly disappointed when he was leaning toward “do nothing.”

Then earlier this month, over a shared sandwich from the Whistle Stop Cafe, he declared he’d go for the surgery. Again, she tried to show no expression, but maybe got out of her chair a little too quickly to contact the hospital. Surgery would be the following Thursday. She sat back down to her half of the sandwich minus the bread (she does not eat it) and then he asked her to schedule him a trip to South Africa and Namibia. He had never been to either before and had been meaning to.

One thing at a time, she assured him. But yes, once the recovery is over, we’ll see about getting him on safari.

As those of you who followed the last few posts know, the surgery was successful and recovery will be long. The trip is still not planned but it’s in the tickler file.

But what prompted this post, was not all of the above, but news my pub received at the gym today. A woman she has not seen in a while died yesterday from lung cancer that was diagnosed in late October. She was young, had never smoked in her life and was the vision of health. My pub probably would have noticed the woman’s absence, had she not been so preoccupied. The news of her death seems surreal. Her family and friends were going through the same things as us at exactly the same time. A parallel hell. Theirs with a horrific outcome.

We don’t have a moral to this story, because we still have not sorted out all the pieces. We’ve all heard the phrase “live each day as if it’s your last,” and the like, but the impact takes on another meaning when someone you saw regularly just lived their last day and another came very close. Time is always of the essence.

Thanks for letting us share, and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming after this post,

xo, LMA



8 Responses to “Time is always of the Essence”

  1. Carol Jamison January 29, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    Thank you for sharing such a hard story Ms. Alcatt! My heart goes out to your publicist and her beloved, along with wishes for the best possible outcome. Sending electronic hugs, and will hug your publicist in person at the gym.

  2. onespoiledcat January 29, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    Well told story of one of the scariest things we can hear – “it’s cancer”……as a survivor I know – often time is of the essence but you want to know EVERYTHING before making decisions…..and I so totally “get” wanting to have a safari booked – it’s the carrot on the end of the string kind of thing. I actually went on a river cruise in Europe while on chemo because it was important to SEE and DO and LIVE. I’m a firm believer in living every day as if it was the last…….every morning I wake up I am grateful. Thanks for sharing this story.


    • louisamayalcatt January 29, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

      Hi Pam, We are really glad you wrote in b/c we thought the South Africa/MNamibia thing was a bit ‘out there’ at first. but it is something he has mentioned in passing the last few years. Once we get the green light from the medical staff, we will be on that.

      We are thrilled you did one of those European river cruises. they look like such fun. We are even more Thrilled that you survived this beast called cancer. We love your philosophy and we, too, are grateful for every day. thank you for sharing, LMA

      • onespoiledcat January 30, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

        My pleasure……the river cruise while I was on treatment was something I will ALWAYS remember. People all along the way were helpful – airport staff, security people, cruise and airlines personnel. I carried a letter from my physician explaining the refrigerated bag of needles and medicine (of course!) and everyone really bent over backwards to make things EASY. I hope there’s a safari in your loved ones future……I really, truly do.


  3. sued51 January 29, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    LMA, this type of story can never be told enough! It seems none of us listen until it happens to someone we know.
    I have a dear friend going through it now with a loved one…and that person is on another continent! They Skype as much as possible, which is of some comfort, but certainly not the same thing as being there. That person is someone who exercises, doesn’t smoke and eats healthy…that horrible disease can sneak up on anyone!

    • louisamayalcatt January 29, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

      So true, cancer does have a way of sneaking up. We hope your friend and her/his loved one get to see each other. We know it’s not easy. In the meantime, we are very grateful the inventors of Skype and Facetime. What an advantage to be able to look at someone while you chat. Thanks for writing in, xo LMA

  4. Bruce Thiesen January 30, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    LMA, Cancer is such a violent and awful assault on a person and I am pleased that your loved one has made good progress. I am equally saddened to hear about your friend. It’s an awful and sad story.

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