I will never forget the phone call that day in June of 1993. It seems like yesterday when Toni Lagunoff, Carol's dearest friend, called me with the news. Carol and I had just started to date in February of 1993 and Toni was telling me that the doctors had discovered a tumor in Carol's ovaries. It hit me like a ton of bricks. We had just begun dating and yet I was already convinced that Carol was the "one for me" and now that was threatened by cancer.
I cried and cried and apologized to Toni for my tears while talking to her on the phone. Toni told me she was happy to hear my reaction as she had sensed my great interest in Carol.
The operation was to take place the following week and it was successful in getting the entire tumor out of Carol. Her surgeon, Dr. Cynthia Bergman, is a delight and she did an excellent job along with many follow-up visits. Dr. Bergman's skill as a surgeon is only overshadowed by her great compassion for her patients and their family.
We were then directed to the oncologist -- Dr. Christopher Perkins. Like other doctors who must deal with life and death issues with every patient, they must walk into the examination rooms and look into the eyes of people who are scared to death because that is what they are facing. Like the others, Dr. Perkins must meet that head-on and determine the treatments that will allow for healing or an easier and more merciful ending of life.
Chris Perkins is a man I would do anything for at any time, without question. He was reassuring, truthful, very capable, and compassionate. He was, and is, an answered prayer to many, and most assuredly was an answered prayer to Carol and I.
Ten months of chemotherapy was what Carol had to endure. The nausea, the weakness, the nausea, the blood tests, the medicine, the nausea, the fear, and the unknown.
I never really asked Carol to marry me but I suggested that since Toni was available to attend the nuptials on Saturday, Aug. 21, it seemed like a great idea. Carol was worried about straddling me with a dieing wife but I assured her that it would be easier to get rid of the tumor than to get rid of me. Twenty years later we are still married and Carol is doing a great deal better. The tumor was easier.
Getting back to dealing with the cancer. We decided that the cancer had to live with us and not us living with the cancer. We laughed and we took short trips to Yosemite or Fresno. We visited friends who understood that I would take Carol home at the first sign of Carol getting tired. We made sure to avoid folks with colds or the flu and we avoided wearing gray and black clothing. I also did my best to keep life as normal as possible. I tell other caregivers to not let the patient "cheat at cards." You wouldn't allow it if they were well, so make their life normal.
We have attended Relay for Life events and celebrated the anniversaries of surgeries, ends of treatments and mostly being alive. We learned two rules during the cancer treatments: 1. Don't sweat the small stuff. And 2. Most of it is small stuff.
During scares like going through cancer, people reach out for religion. We already were connected to our church and had the prayerful support of our church family. We had her sister, Donna, and Donna's children, Michelle and Michael, who were always ready to help when called upon. Many friends were at the ready when we needed a helping hand or understanding ear.
Carol's treatments resulted in side effects that have required many stays in the hospital and many trips to Stanford Medical Center. Carol is vigilant about her condition and participated in a BRCA test which showed an 87% chance of developing breast cancer in the next couple of years. A year ahead of Angelina Jolie, Carol opted for the double mastectomy as a preventative measure. Complications developed, but the reduction of the risk out weighs the threat of the possibility the cancer could develop.
It hasn't been easy for her. Not only dealing with cancer, but having to be married to me is a double whammy to be sure. But, by the grace of God and with the skills of Dr. Bergmann and the watchful care of Dr. Perkins, Carol and I get to celebrate 20 years since the cancer was removed from her body.
She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I cherish her. I forget at times to do the things women want husbands to do, but taking her for granted is not one of my faults.
If there is to be any good that comes from this column, it would be that ladies take seriously the need to have those uncomfortable exams. Men and women need to self-examine and then to follow-up with a doctor at the earliest signs.
Thank you Drs. Bergman and Perkins and happy anniversary honey.