… is not as tough as it appears. Just like the stamp on some car side view mirrors, there are times in life when we distort our exterior reflection to hide what is going on inside. It’s a skill I mastered at the moment Gary’s surgeon shared his diagnosis with me.
“It’ll be quick,” his surgeon had explained, “Twenty minutes at most. Gary will be a bit groggy afterward. We won’t know anything until next Monday when we get the results back. He’ll have a couple of small scars here,” he said pointing to the largest nodule, “and here,” he said pointing to that tender spot just above the collarbone.
Monday was three days plus a weekend away. I gave Gary a kiss before they wheeled him away and tried to console myself with knowing we’d have answers soon. I bounced between positive thinking – he’s young, we work out, we eat well, it couldn’t be cancer – and the fear that lodged in my chest that day in the car when the sunlight pointed to the golf ball sized lump I didn’t want to see.
I hadn’t even made it through the first article in People Magazine when I saw the surgeon striding confidently toward me. His long legs tried to fold up enough to sit on the low waiting room bench but he ended up in more of a kneel. It didn’t matter. He wouldn’t be there long.
“It’s Hodgkin’s,” he announced. “I mean, I won’t know for sure until I get the pathology report. So I wouldn’t tell Gary yet. Just in case I’m wrong. Give him the weekend to heal, okay?”
My brain spun like a reel-to-reel tape recorder ripping back and forth, back and forth. No one had said I’d be told anything today. Why was he telling me now? Why was he asking me to lie to Gary, to betray the trust we had for always telling each other the truth?
“Any questions?” he asked.
Yes. A million, I thought. What is Hodgkin’s Disease? How do you treat it? This can’t be happening to us, can it? What do we do now? How will Gary work if he has cancer? What questions should I be asking that I am not? What do we need to know? And how am I supposed to lie to the man I love for four days? How can I keep this kind of news from him? Wouldn’t I want to know if it was me?
“No. Not right now.”
I sat completely alone. No one for support. No one to share my fears that were pushing me toward panic. Damn it. I would have had someone come with us if I’d known they were going to tell me. I picked up the phone and dialed my best friend. She was the person who could talk me through this. Numb gave way to sobs as I blurted out the news for the first time.
“Oh, Tambre, I’m so sorry. But maybe the results will come back negative.”
“He was pretty sure. I don’t know how to lie to Gary but I don’t want to tell him just in case.”
Whether or not it was true, my rock solid friend got me to a place of agreeing that omitting suspect information was not lying, especially if I had Gary’s best interests at heart. I stepped behind my mask of everything-is-okay-and-my world-is not-crumbling, wiped my tears and headed off to sign Gary out of recovery. We headed home where I would spend the next four days researching Hodgkin’s Disease in secret, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Cliffhanger. Check back in tomorrow for Part 2.