It is now early May 2002 and my life is quickly changing by the minute. Forget days. Even hours. I suddenly find myself thinking in terms of seconds.
Each test I’ve had -- Bone scan, MRI, PET and CT scans -- all are factored into the seconds. As an individual who is math illiterate, I cannot begin to comprehend all the numbers I’ve been dealing with over the past couple of weeks. Blood work. More tests. Now, it’s time to meet the surgeon.
I’m not scared of doctors, but having to meet with a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon is quite intimidating. Dr. Nayer Khouzam, M.D., (Go to: is fortunately not only a top-notch surgeon in his field but has a pleasant personality along with the ability to demonstrate empathy. Both Edward and I would come to appreciate this later trait.
When we first met Dr. Khouzam, he carefully reviewed my records and examined the scans he had before him. I hand carried all my information with me, per Dr. Shah. This expedited the process and for that, I was most grateful. Dr. Khouzam thoroughly reviewed the scans -- and although he spoke to me, most of his conversation was directed at Edward. I must admit, I was not totally there. Physically I sat in the room with both of these men, but mentally, I was somewhere else. As the saying goes: “I was out to lunch.” I was in complete denial and Ed was now my caregiver and the person I needed to help me through this experience. I was having a difficult time just making it through the moment. There were decisions to make and I had to have someone available to listen for options, hear all the alternatives, and then guide me through the process of making the right decision based on all the information and facts. Ed had his work cut out for him and trust me, he rose to the occasion. I am forever grateful to him for being with me during this time.
Dr. Khouzam was telling Ed that “if it was his wife, he would be begging the doctor not to do the surgery.” He told “us” that it would be extremely painful and the surgery would be very invasive. Major lung surgery. My tumors, he explained, were deep within the lungs and close to the aorta, a section of the heart. I would be in the hospital for at least a week, depending upon the actual procedure. Again, was the surgery necessary?
Dr. Shah, my oncologist, had told us that “yes” the surgery was necessary. There wasn’t any other alternative. She needed certain information and it could only be found during a biopsy. Unfortunately, this wasn’t just a simple biopsy -- outpatient and easy. I had to have major surgery to find out what type of cancer I had. That was the real question being asked. Did I have lung cancer? Or, was this metastasized breast cancer? Or, was there another cancer that had spread to the lungs? Without the right facts, Dr. Shah could not select the right follow up treatment. If I needed chemotherapy, what drugs would she pick? That decision could only be made after a biopsy.
Dr. Khouzam reiterated the challenges of the surgery and the post-operative pain. He left out nothing, explaining in great detail what he would do. Edward and the doctor were busy reviewing the scans and actually drawing pictures of what the surgery would entail.
Me - - I was in la la land. I saw them drawing and looking at the scans. I heard them speaking, but comprehended very little of what was being said. I knew this .. on May 9, 2002, I would undergo lung surgery at Florida Hospital Orlando. My last day of work at the reservation center would be May 8. I also had some pre-admission testing that still needed to be done. And, I would head off to Disney’s EPCOT Center (Go to: a few days prior to surgery to see Davy Jones, former member of the Monkee’s, (Go to: http://www.davyjones.net/ a popular “boy band” group from my early teen years. I needed a diversion from all this medical stuff and watching this fast-paced musical performance was just what the “doctor ordered.” Before this major life changing surgery, I relished in a moment of nostalgia. I laughed. I sang along. I even had the amazing opportunity to “dance” with Davy Jones, who took me by the hand and whirled me around a few times while singing a tune. (I don’t even recall what he was singing.)