Today we received phone calls from both the primary care and internal medicine physicians. They want to see us today. The pathology report came back in one day.
Marie and I first visit the primary care physician, who says that they may have found something of concern in the pathology report. He said that if they have found something, to let him talk to the pathologist directly.
I arrived at the internal medicine physician’s office at 2 PM today. “Where’s your wife? Will she be here?” he asked. “Yes, but she’s doing an errand now and will get here soon.”
“Let me know when your wife arrives and we’ll talk then” he said.
After Marie arrived we sat together as the doctor explained, “We found some bad tissue, a positive test for cancer.”
I asked, “What the name of this cancer?”
“Esophageal cancer,” he replied.
“How serious is that kind?’
He said, “It’s not a good one. Survival rates vary depending on the stage and other factors. But, we need two more tests in order to determine a plan of treatment.”
He asked his assistant to make appointments with an oncologist and a surgeon, right away.
He then offered some encouragement, “I have a friend with this kind of cancer and he has no symptoms after three years now. But, the important thing for you is to take care of yourself and don’t lose any more weight. Keep yourself strong physically and spiritually, and you can do this!”
As we drove home silently, Marie finally asked me, “What are you thinking?”
I said, “I’m thinking of the path Delores was on years before, and now I’m a player rather than an observer. I’m also thinking of the book by Jerome Groopman, Anatomy of Hope, that I read 7 years before. Remember how we used to talk about it?”
Groopman was a Harvard trained oncologist with the best of technical tools and skills — chemo, surgery, etc. But, he had found in his more than 30 years of practice that some patients lived through cancer, yet felt hopeless in their lives. Still others, who had a fatal prognosis, died with a sense of authentic hope. He learned in his practice to instill hope (High Touch) as well as medical treatment (High Tech) with his patients.
I told Marie, “I’m glad that I read his book. I want to have authentic hope, regardless of the outcome.”
She reached over from the passenger side, placed her left hand on my knee and looked at me with a silent assurance as we continued home.