Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Here Comes the Sun

sun.jpg

After Sophia’s second surgery, there was still some DCIS seen in the tissue taken from her breast.  Her doctors were undecided on what to do next.  The pathology report seemed to indicate that Sophia should either have a third surgery or radiation.  Sophia’s oncologist wasn’t sure about the prognosis.  Sophia’s oncologist and surgeon went to a special weekly meeting of Cedars Sinai pathologists, and other cancer specialists, where they apparently discuss borderline and difficult cases, like something they might do on “House.”

We waited and waited. This morning we got their decision —

NO surgery and NO radiation.

The DCIS is of low invasive-ness, and there doesn’t seem to be any immediate danger.

NO surgery and NO radiation.

Here Comes the Sun!

…well, hopefully. That’s no surgery and no radiation…  for now.

The doctors still want Sophia to take a BRCA gene test.  The BRCA gene test does NOT test for cancer, but rather for a cancer gene.  Having the gene tremendously raises your chances of having breast cancer and some other cancers in the future.  Sophia does not have a family history of any cancer, but she has three of the other indicators:

1) Breast cancer before the age of 50
2) Being of Eastern European Jewish descent
3) Getting cancer again, especially a different type

As of now, we’re not even sure of the next step.   When the gene is present — the recommendation is to have a double mastectomy.  A lot of women who never had cancer, but find that they carry the BRCA gene, have a double mastectomy and even a hysterectomy,  just as a preventative measure.  Many chose to not even take the test because they don’t want to do anything based on a strong “possibility,” and they don’t want to be worried for the rest of their life about breast cancer if the gene is found.

But let’s take it one day at a time. For now, it is good news.

NO more surgery and NO radiation!

Can you feel the relief coming off my words? I mulled over the next sentence for several minutes, wondering if it is true:

The last month or so has been the worst of my life.

That’s a pretty strong statement. Surely, there must have been a worse month. How about when I was studying for finals? Breaking up with a girlfriend? The death of a family member? No, even the passing of my father was more sad than stressful.

I cannot remember a time as stressful. I think my hair turned grey overnight. All the uncertainty was awful. Yes, I did sleep on the floor next to Sophia, for a night and a half.  I did care for her.  But I was frequently a shitty and resentful caretaker.

“Why can’t Sophia be calmer about things?” I would ask myself.

She cried too much. She was always in pain. She is still in pain.

“How am I supposed to accomplish anything with her acting like this… always being in pain?!” I said to myself, self-pitying. “When my mother had surgery once, she came home that night and made dinner!”

Sophia had trouble adjusting to one of her new medications. It made her so hyper, she couldn’t sleep for days.  Is it my imagination, or do some medications just make you sick in new ways, so you have to take a second medication to cure your new ailments?

I’ve been depressed for weeks, the only joy coming from the sweet sounds of ABBA.  I felt upset about Sophia.  I felt upset about myself.  I felt guilty for being upset about myself when I was supposed to be upset about Sophia.  I avoided talking to friends in New York, or to my mother.  A few nights ago, Sophia and I had a nasty fight, calling each other names.  I don’t even remember the cause of it.  It was terrible.  I was pissed, and then I felt like a monster for being pissed at someone in pain.

I found it funny that some bloggers wrote to me, saying that illness can bring a couple closer together.  I’d like to take exception to that rule.  Laughter.  Sex.  Pizza.  Vacation.  Those bring couples together.  Health issues do NOT bring people closer together.  Maybe health issues can help you appreciate each other more, but if I had a choice, I’d rather go to Disneyland.

When I was growing up, my Pollyannish mother always used this cliche, “If you have your health, you have EVERYTHING.”  It used to bug the shit out of me when she said this, because it seemed like such a “loser” attitude.  “Well, duh!” I thought.  “But what about having a lot of money, a good job, and a hot wife? Is that chopped liver?”

Well, maybe she’s smarter than I thought.  That’s why she got the job as a mother.

This morning, Sophia called me from the bedroom.  From the sound of her voice, I assumed she was pissed at something.  Probably me.

“What?! What do you want?” I yelled.

“Come here.”

I reluctantly dragged myself over to her. I was surprised to see her looking happy.

“Jump up and down,” she said.

“What for?” I protested.

“Just do it.”

I jumped up and down.

“Dr. Karlan just called.  No surgery. No radiation.”

I jumped up and down again.  Finally, some good news.

Onward.

70 Comments

  1. What absolutely wonderful news. We are so very happy to hear this!

  2. –Neil, let me congratulate you and Sophia for surviving. I’m very happy and relieved.

    And, yes some medications make you sicker even when told they are supposed to make you better.

    Happy News

  3. Lovely post, Neil — honest, happy, struggling, human. You at your best. Hooray for Sophia and may she feel better and better with each day.

  4. Jumping up and down with you! Thank you so much for sharing all these complex feelings. It allows me to share all my own complex emotions.
    Smiles shining with the sun for you both from way over here.

  5. oh my goodness, that is SUCH good news! I cannot imagine how stressful this has been for both of you, don’t discount the effect this has on you, you’re entitled to some sympathy as well.

    (Jumping up and down for you both right now)

  6. So now that you have good news.. go get some pizza, and have some loving..and feel closer : )

  7. Wonderful news for the two of you. Thank G-d!

    Allow yourselves some time to unwind from this horrible, stressful rollercoaster ride.

    Perhaps splurge and go to a his and hers spa for a day. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….

  8. sarah g — that’s so funny. That’s exactly what we had… pizza!

  9. That’s such great news! I hope Sophia continues to recover quickly!

  10. I just have to add here a big whooo hooo for Sophia to be sure.
    It’s the not knowing that is hardest I think…
    And a note from semi personal experience– radiation is not that bad according to my sister. The only “bad” effects being that the radiation changes the consistency of the tissue. In fact, her left boob is a bit more pert than the right one… Debby would have liked a dose to the right.

  11. Jenn — Sophia did have radiation once before, when she had her first bout with breast cancer, almost 3 years ago. Having radiation twice in 2 years poses a lot of its own dangers. It may not be “so bad,” but there is a reason no one gives it as a birthday gift. The best thing is to pray to be healthy.

  12. I cried when I learned this news. Tears of joy. Sheesh, what a girl. I didn’t want to tell you at first that was how I reacted but I can imagine some of the things you went through.

    The underlying, unspoken yet palpable FEAR can tear at the strongest of relationships.

    Your mental decision to move forward is healthy and positive! Hooray!

    Many hugs,

  13. phewff. we all hang by a thread. once you really internalize that, nothing is the same. i’m very happy for both of you.

  14. *jumping up and down* Yeah!

    Things should lighten up from here… xoxo

  15. Yay! I’m so glad to hear this news.

  16. Oh! That is such wonderful wonderful news!

    Of course it’s stressful and I’m sorry that there have been fights.

    I wish I was there so I could hug the stuffing out the both of you!!!

  17. dealing with health concerns is one of life’s major stressors- it is no wonder you were/are feeling like that. don’t be so hard on yourself.

    and yes, sometimes medications need other medications to combat the side effects. how effed is that!?

    i am relieved for you and for sophia. i hope you can find a little fun this weekend.

  18. ..and I was thinking it was going end with “I’m sorry” sex. Either way, I love happy endings.

  19. Great news!!!! I have to agree with you-when I had panic attacks, my hubster was ready to ship me off. it was extremely difficult. illness does not always bring couples closer. It’s like having money problems-not easy.

    Cheers for the great news-have a great weekend!!

  20. Congrats to you both! Go celebrate some more.

  21. Great post Neil. Even better news.

    My wife as been in constant pain since the April 26th surgery (I believe the same as Sophia’s). The only relief is moist heat so when she is home that is what she is doing – applying the heating pad.

    Don’t hate me but we have had a different experience. Her getting ill has drawn us closer together. I couldn’t put my finger on any single feeling that has changed but I do feel closer to her than ever.

    I also differ on my opinion as to what to pray for. Yes, praying for good health is good thing. Praying that G-d’s will be done is always a good thing. I believe that he has a much bigger picture and that He may allow these things to happen to get our attention.

    I find that I am closer to him during tougher times. It’s like driving – no one gets into an accident because they weren’t paying attention during a rainy foggy night – it happens when it is a sunny day and you are fooling with the radio.

    While it would be great to be healthy 100% of the time- it’s just not going to happen in our present form. Even the best physical specimens among us eventually succumb to the inevitable.

    He wants that we would look to him for strength and not to avoid situations where we would need his strength.

    She is starting chemo as I write this. I just got the call to pick her up in an hour.

    As always I pray that Sophia would get better and that the pain would go away. But mostly I pray that you and Sophia find the strength and peace that only He can give.

  22. Great news, Neil! I was very concerned about Sophia, and checked all of your posts that I had missed while I was away when I returned home on Wednesday.

    I also appreciated your thoughts about how illness can bring a couple closer or tear it apart. Mike’s comment was also extremely touching, and I hope that his wife recovers fully very soon.

  23. YAY for Sophia!! Great news!

  24. I am jumping up and down too!!

  25. Doing a little happy dance all the way in Saskatchewan!!

  26. yeah!!! *jumping up and down too!*

    Is it my imagination, or do some medications just make you sick in new ways, so you have to take a second medication to cure your new ailments?

    the answer is YES ~ and it is part of the situation i have been dealing w/ for the past year myself

  27. I am so happy there is some relief on the horizon! I think like your mom, and always have: Having your health is the most important thing!

  28. Mike F — I was very touched by your response. I wish I had as much faith in God as you do. I’m glad to hear that you have grown closer.

    I have found it a little sad to meet so many other bloggers who have some health situation going on, like with your wife, or with Schmutzie. I don’t find myself completely happy about Sophia, knowing that others have to go through various treatments and struggles.

    In fact, here’s another blogger who’s on a similar health roller-coaster, since his wife just found out she has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I don’t know this guy at all, other than a friend, Richard, mentioned him to me, but he is another blogger — and I send my prayers, and I hope you will too!

  29. That’s fantastic to hear! I think jumping up and down brings couples closer together.

  30. I thought maybe I was feeling tremors. It must have been everyone jumping up and down with you and Sophia!! I’m joining in!

  31. So, So very happy for you both!

  32. Yeah, illnesses aren’t like they are in the movies where caretakers and patients are all saintly and tireless and the doctors deliver conclusive diagnoses and comfort the family.

    Hang in there.

  33. Okay, now both of you, breathe!

    Good news. Am so happy to have read it was good news.

  34. That’s wonderful news! I hope life gets better in the days ahead.

  35. The good news is that you still have lots of learning to do. That’s good news, otherwise life would be so boring I guess.

    May you both recover speedily and completely.

  36. Awesome news indeed!!

  37. Yay! Jumping up and down with you! Yay!

  38. Sophia, what wonderful news. Neil, your honesty is refreshing and inspiring. Thanks

  39. Doing a wild ass happy dance for the two of you. But most assuredly not to ABBA.

  40. I am so so SO happy and relieved for both of you with this good news!!!
    Revel in it now. The rest can be dealt with later.
    xo

  41. YAY!!! yay! YYAAYYY!!!!

  42. Geez. Your words hit me deep, I’m teary.

    I’m glad things are moving forward Neil.

  43. Such good news!!!

  44. Great news! See, mom IS always right.

  45. You both deserve some sunshine. Being brave and nobel while being sick sucks and we have so many made for TV movies we think that is the way we are supposed to take this on. Enjoy the news.

  46. that is wonderful news!!!
    you might not feel like it brought you closer, but you have been there for her, maybe not your best moments at times, but she will remember you were there. it would have been alot easier to just walk away, some would, to me it just confirms your committment to her. you deserve some sunshine in your lives.

  47. Congrats on the good news!

  48. Regards to your beautiful wife, Neil. Sorry for no card, but postage went up and I hate USPS.
    Lucky for all of us, tephilot don’t need a stamp.

  49. That is fantastic news!

  50. I’m so happy for you guys. You two truly deserve good news.

  51. that’ great. did either of you read about eliminating all meat and refined sugars from a cancer patient’s diet? there have been amazing recoveries from this type of diet. take care & good thoughts to you both

  52. Hooray for Sophia!!! It’s ok to be a selfish and resentful caretaker. That’s human nature. Don’t worry, maybe you’ll get a nice boil on your butt or something and she can take care of you!!

  53. Ah, wonderful news! I am so glad for you both. 🙂

    Also? My father once told me to “only marry someone you love enough to take care of when they get sick”.

  54. This is the most beautiful and honest entry I have ever read by you.
    And I am jumping up and down (well okay, I will when I get this laptop off my lap) and shedding a tear. Blessings on you both.

  55. It’s 8:45 p.m. here on the East Coast, but after reading your post, I swear I’m feeling a little bit of that sunshine you talk about. So happy for you both. And yes, onward.

  56. Hooray! Finally a break for you both. So glad to hear it 🙂

  57. Yippeee! Glad to read your good news.

  58. Whoohoo… Now go off and have some pizza, sex, and Disneyland. I am so happy for you both. I hope the tests go just right and Sophia never has to have another surgery.

  59. That’s fantastic news! I’m happy for both of you. Now take Marilyn’s advice and go get some pizza, sex & Disneyland…

  60. Hey – I haven’t been reading anything much lately, so this is the first I read about Sophia. I’m really glad the news is good.

  61. Just catching up Neil & I’m SO excited for you both … no surgery & no radiation! Whoo hoo. You two deserve a break. xx, JP

  62. I’m really, really glad to hear this, Neil.

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