First There is a Cancer, Then There is no Cancer, Then There Is—Part 13 of "My Right Eye"

First There is a Cancer, Then There is no Cancer, Then There Is.
So here we are: part 13 of the series. How's that for timing? I thought about making like a hotel and skipping over to the 14th floor, so to speak, but how silly is that? I mean, up to this point in the narrative, I've received two cancer diagnoses. I should care about luck now?

M, my dinner partner in the Chinese restaurant, looked at me in amazement. "That was the Clinic?" I nodded. "And you have thyroid cancer?" I nodded.

"My God, you're taking it well."

Strange as it must have seemed to M, I suppose I was. What was I going to do? Why wasn't I falling apart? I was about to have surgery for eye cancer, and after a clear biopsy on my thyroid, was told—there was no question—that I actually did have thyroid cancer. Why was I so calm? I suppose I was numb, for one thing. Stunned. I suppose I felt as though there were something inevitable about it all.

Years ago, a psychology professor in one of my night classes told a story about a woman who had won the lottery. All her family, friends, and co-workers were thrilled for her—she threw a big party, and they all came to congratulate her. Against all odds, months later she won the lottery again. This time no one congratulated her. Every reaction was muted. The point of his story (and his theoretical interpretation) was that people are psychologically primed to communicate an appropriate response to something the first time it happens. But they never expect the exact same thing to happen again. When it does (if it does), they're unsure how to respond.

I was told I had eye cancer. Then I was told I had thyroid cancer. I felt unsure how to respond.

The server brought our dinners. I don't know how I managed to eat, but I did. Perhaps a part of me knew (rightly) that I needed to keep up my strength.

I called my endocrinologist the first thing Monday morning, before leaving the house with my son for my eye surgery. I could hear the concern in her voice. "The problem with a fine-needle biopsy," she told me, "is that it will only extract cells from one area; the area we studied was clear. But with the entire thyroid in the lab, of course, we have a different story. Try not to think about any of this now. Concentrate on getting through your eye surgery. We'll schedule you for an appointment as soon as you've recovered enough to come in. We'll need to determine what course of treatment you'll need."

God, this was exhausting. Of that much, I was sure.

To be continued …

Part 1: The Baby's Nightmare
Part 2: The Nightmare Returns
Part 3: Room 101 and the Masquerading Marauder
Part 4: The Eye as Metaphor
Part 5: The Back Story
Part 6: It's Nature's Way
Part 7: Help From the Man on the Street
Part 8: A DES Daughter?
Part 9: Speak, Memory
Part 10: The Needle and the Damage Done
Part 11: Can I Get a Discount?
Part 12: A Call During Dinner



Marci Rich
Richmond, Virginia
The Midlife Second Wife


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