The lead up to my cancer surgery in April of 2014 was brief. As I was being rolled into the operating room for the biopsy the previous January, one of the attending physicians at Lahey Burlington mentioned, almost casually, that they had seen a dark area in the corner of my bladder. They weren’t kidding. The malignant tumor had penetrated the wall of the bladder, requiring the removal of the bladder and (“while we’re at it”), the prostate. It was stage 3 bladder cancer.
By the time April came around, I had switched doctors and hospitals, having lost confidence in Lahey over a fairly long period of benign neglect. The two surgeons who worked together on my ileostomy at Brigham and Women’s, one a surgical oncologist, the other a urologist, had done a large number of these procedures over many years. Once the surgery was completed, what remained was to hear the results of the post-surgery biopsies. As I lay in bed on Holy Thursday morning in the hospital, I received a call from one of the surgeons who said, “the margins are clear and the prospects for a complete recovery are excellent.” I sobbed. Never had I felt such a release of pent up emotion.
I began calling family, friends and some brothers in community that morning, never quite getting out the words without my voice breaking and tears flowing. I was given a new lease on life when I had reason to fear the worst. I recalled Assumptionist Fr. Yvon Dubois’ prayers for the patients at the VA hospital where he was chaplain, asking that God guide the hands of the surgeon to be an instrument of healing. But the doctors themselves have to know that some things are outside of their control. That’s how I understand the warmth, even a sound of gratitude in that telephone voice…. the margins are clear and the prospects for a complete recovery are excellent.
The funny thing is that the second surgeon called around the same time the next morning, Good Friday, unaware that his colleague had already communicated the news. I could have told him that immediately, but I couldn’t get enough of “the margins are clear and the prospects for a complete recovery are excellent.” So I let him say it, and with a voice still quivering, I thanked him for calling.