I’ve been trying to write this story for months, but the time and the motivation have not been there.
Two things tipped me off that something was wrong. First, I looked at my cell phone and realized that too much time had passed. Dr. Rettenmaier had promised a quick surgery — twenty five minutes — and now an hour and fifteen minutes had passed. Laparascopic hysterectomies were his specialties. The grin on his face had been confident and true. It was just a cyst. He did this all the time.
The disappearance of that grin when he came out to see me was the second clue. He led me into a small consultation room. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the gist of it was that there was a malignant mass on Lynn’s ovary. He’d cut her open and removed the entire uterus including the cervix. He showed me a picture of a pile of bloody organs that he said was what he had removed. They looked like meat from a butcher.
His tone was grave. He made an effort to underscore that he hadn’t photo-shopped anything, that he had followed procedure, and that we were dealing with cancer. I’m sure the fact that I was bipolar danced in the back of his mind. I understand. He had probably dealt with plenty of husbands who, on hearing the news, wanted to shake him and tell him that he had made a mistake. My calm must have surprised him. I accepted fate and asked what questions my shaken consciousness allowed.
He let me call my mother-in-law so she could ask her questions of him. I don’t think she was any more thorough and coherent than I was. “How could this happen to Lynn,” her mother said to me after he returned the phone to me. Who had an answer for great matters of the universe as trivial in the greater scheme of things as this was. Dr. Rettenmaier told me to wait for the pathology report. He couldn’t tell me what kind of cancer it was without it.
Kay Redfield Jamison says that there is a big difference between bipolar depression and grief. I was feeling the latter now. I could walk, talk, see colors. Most distinctly, I could cry.
People in the waiting area who heard my news told me that this was the worst day, the day where you found out the fact and didn’t know the reality. The receptionist took pity on me and told me I could visit Lynn in the recovery room.
I stood by Lynn’s gurney. Her eyes flickered open. Had she heard the news. “What happened?” she asked. “You have cancer,” I whimpered.
“I have cancer?” she said, groggily.
“Yes,” I replied.
The nurse did not let me stay very long. They sent me up to the sixth floor of Hoag Hospital where I waited until they told me that I could go in. I used the time to call friends and family to tell them the news. Ovarian cancer, I kept murmuring to myself. The prognosis would not be good.