Thursday, February 13, 2020. First and foremost, surgery was a success. No missteps. No delays. I am sore today, but it’s great to be home and recovering. All is good.
Here’s a “just before surgery, waving hello/see ya later” photo in my puffed up, lavender, self-heating (via warm air blowing through attached hose) tent gown, topped by an extremely attractive and oh so flattering hair covering.
Followed by an after surgery “in recovery eating blueberry yogurt and a lemon-poppyseed mini-muffin pose” that I barely remember Steve taking.
What I can say, after looking at these two digitally-captured moments, is that in both images I look like I feel safe. This surgery reminded me how fortunate we all are to be living at a time when surgeries, like mine, are such a miracle. The miracle of a small incision in which an even smaller scope and probe are inserted and are being led to the precise location of my cancer by a tiny, implanted magnet. That tumor with its magnet is snipped out and the affected tissue is cauterized by this mini-miracle device. Wow! Would that have been the case 20 years ago? Would I have looked as alert and fully present so soon after surgery? Miraculous.
And the care that I received from the moment we arrived was warm and welcoming all the way from Lisa who checked me in, to the RN who walked me to my room, to the nurse who confirmed that I knew what was about to happen, to the RN who put in my IV, to the surgical assistants, to the anesthesiology team, to my ever-smiling and confident surgeon Dr. Ewing, and finally to RN Brook who was with me in recovery and made sure I was warm and had plenty of water and had conversations with me that I was incapable of recalling and likely repeated once I was more fully alert. Not only did each and every one of them greet me with smiles and handshakes, but they also treated Steve in an equally kind and welcoming way. They lifted me up with their graciousness and stellar care.
One last observation. As I’ve mentioned many times before, traveling to San Francisco is an exhausting endeavor…the three-hour drive down, the incredible amount of traffic migrating at frustratingly slow speeds through the by-now predictable congested corridors along Highway 101, and finally navigating across the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco itself. We used to go to the USCF Mt. Zion complex on Divisadero which is on the northwest side of the city. The Breast Cancer facility has since relocated to UCSF Mission Bay which is all the way across town and adds a half an hour to our drive. We’ve found the easiest route is Lombard to Van Ness/S. Van Ness to 16th to 4th. Van Ness/S. Van Ness is a 2-1/2 mile stretch through different sections of town. On Van Ness, you drive past luxury indoor car dealerships for Tesla, Jaguar, Range Rover and Bentley. You pass iconic landmarks like the Holy Trinity Cathedral and San Francisco City Hall. There are multiple high-end coffee shops, restaurants and fitness facilities.
Then you get to S. Van Ness. It’s seems dirtier and grittier. On the east side of the street, at the transition from Van Ness to S. Van Ness, is a taqueria with indoor and outdoor seating. As we approached the intersection yesterday, I noticed what looked to be three homeless men standing at one of the outdoor picnic tables. One had his head down looking at something in his hands, his dark hair covering his face. As we passed by, I saw he was heating something in a spoon with his lighter. The contrast of our lives on that day, in that moment in time, really struck me. He appeared to be living his life for whatever relief he could find in the contents of that spoon, whereas I was on my way to get the help I needed to live my life as long as possible. He was only 20 feet away, but we were a million miles apart.
Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. —Robert Brault