In they walked, shaking your hand as they introduced themselves by first names, Dave, Ted, Bruce and Tom — surgeon, radiologist, chemotherapist and resident — your medical team crowding into the tiny hospital consulting room. It feels like you’re meeting a squadron of World War II fighter pilots — brash, confident, surprisingly young top-drawer practitioners who’ve just signed on to fight your personal war with cancer. They make the mission clear right from the start: “This is about a cure,” the surgeon tells you, “that’s where we’re headed.”
Halfway through the strategy session you ask if eight weeks from now you might be recovered enough to serve as chaplain on a round-the-world cruise. In what’s almost a theatrical way, the four physicians shake their heads ‘no’ in unison. “Ah, well,” you think, “it’s clear that this particular cure is going to take some time. You may be booked on the express, but it’s a long-distance connection; they all know it, and now, so do you.
The team lays out the options and you all agree fairly quickly on a treatment plan. You choose the European protocol: radiation for only one week followed almost immediately by laparoscopic surgery. And that’s it, except . . . . ”Except?” you ask. Except, they continue, if it turns out the cancer has spread. In that case, you’ll undergo chemotherapy next — eight infusions over sixteen weeks. Something tells you you’ll need to take those noxious chemicals. Then and there, you set your course spiritually for a six-month recovery period. It’s good to know and it’s good to be prepared; you’re not an old Eagle Scout for nothing.
“At least we have a roadmap,” you say to Elizabeth as you leave the hospital. She wryly responds, “Well, it’s not the trip we planned!” You look at each other, and you both begin to laugh. You have to stop where you are, on the granite steps leading to the street. With one hand you each hold on to the brass railing beside you. Your free arms circle each other and you keep on laughing as the world around you passes in and out the hospital doors.