Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer will be available on October 3rd! It is a memoir of a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year with breast cancer treatment. Ultimately courage was found with the help of writing and the love of family and friends. It is not a cancer warrior story wrapped in a pretty pink ribbon.
The cover design is complete, and the initial proofs are ready for the Advanced Readers Copy. Amazon and Barnes and Noble have it listed for pre-order sales. If Amazon has it, then it’s really real. This entry is an excerpt from the first chapter.
Chapter 1: And So It Begins
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Matt dragged me back to New York University Clinical “C” Center. We took a morning rush-hour train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station. I wanted to walk the remaining six blocks to quell my anxiety.
It was so much colder this day than it had been the previous week when we ventured into the Clinical “C” Center. That day, the breast surgeon over-kneaded my right breast, unable to feel the deep mass the mammogram had promised. Her sonographer pushed and poked a slippery wand deep into my breast while I struggled to remain still and conscious. When the technician asked me to hum, a gray shadow thickened as the drone reverberated off a rib. A biopsy was ordered for the following week. Ever since I’d been hoping that this was all a big waste of time for a benign lump.
Frigid winds blew down 34th Street. I wrapped my wool coat tighter and adjusted my hat. Matt held my hand, pulling me behind him, as he weaved through the crowds. The red earflaps on the alpaca hat that Sara, the eldest of our three daughters, had knitted for him danced behind his broad shoulders. Sara worked in Manhattan and planned to meet us for lunch. Matt had the address of a bar with an incredible beer list; we thought it would be a good place to go to celebrate the probable good news after the appointment. I hadn’t told Sara the reason for the appointment; I didn’t want to worry her, and besides, after a week of thinking myself into it, I believed the lump to be benign.
My anxiety heightened in the waiting room and then even more so in the next room, where they left me to wait once again after having me don a seersucker robe. Thankfully there was plenty of space to pace.
Finally, the doctors arrived. I was instructed to lie on a hard table. A pathologist, radiologist, nurse, and technician surrounded me. As soon as the poking for the just-right spot started, I faded from consciousness.
I expected this. My squeamish nature has always allowed me to escape discomfort through fainting. I felt my body lighten and fall limp. I could not see but heard distant voices calling my name, debating if they should stop. I mumbled for them just to finish. I passed out again as the pressure mounted and the needle plunged deep into my breast.
Once I was upright, still wrapped in the shapeless robe, I was escorted to a small lab to chat with the pathologist. He asked for my medical history. It was boring. My history was clear of memorable injuries, illnesses, or surgeries. By my thirty-first birthday, I had given birth, without anesthesia, to three healthy baby girls. Presently I struggled with blood pressure and weight issues, but I assured the pathologist that I would seriously work on that.
The pathologist reviewed his decades of experience and expertise in studying this insidious disease. Wow, I thought as he rambled, this ancient scientist must have invented the microscope and staining protocols that initially identified pathological cells.
He was giving me way too much of his résumé.
Finally, he came around to the biopsy. Positive. Absolutely positive.
I was speechless. How could this be?
He rattled on as to the depth of the tumor, the size, the need for surgery, and how he admired the skill and manner of my surgeon, Dr. Axelrod. My eyes welled up with tears. I needed to sit down. He patted my shoulder and said, “I will get your mister.”
Matt walked into the room, arms laden with coats, hats, and my oversized pocketbook. He took one look at me and said, “Oh, Christ, this doesn’t look good.”