"My goal," said the friendly oncologist, "is to minimize your toxicity and keep you productive."
I think we can all agree that this is an admirable goal. Toxicity, after all, is not something I seek more of in my life, and I'm always happiest when my productivity is at a maximum. But as much as I approve of the friendly oncologist's goal, I'm not 100 percent thrilled with the methods he proposes for achieving it.
First I'll have to recover from my surgery, and then there will be a battery of tests (but why is the word "battery" inexorably linked in my mind with "assault"?), and then there will be chemotherapy, and then there will be radiation, and then we'll see what happens and play it by ear.
This is really not the way I had planned to spend the rest of my summer break. The plan was to have a routine hysterectomy to remove what everyone believed was a benign tumor, and then to spend the month of July recovering. But surprise! From the moment my surgeon opened me up, he knew there was a problem. (That's the phrase he used: "opened you up." As if I were a Christmas gift or Pandora's box.) After some exploration and tests and consultation with experts, the problem was given a name: endometrial cancer. That's right: the C word. It's a toxic word, worthy of being minimized.
The C word has introduced a whole host of highly competent people into my life (the friendly oncologist, the radiation dude, the helpful folks at the hospital's billing office) and has thrown my fall plans into some confusion. Will I be able to teach in the fall, fulfill my new administrative duties, pick my tomatoes? Nobody knows. All the current answers seem to be cliches: take it one day at a time, keep a positive mental attitude, play it by ear.
Unfortunately, that's a game I'm not particularly good at playing. At least my oncologist has given me a goal and a purpose. So here I sit, home from the hospital, feeling pretty good and focusing all my energies on minimizing toxicity, maximizing productivity, and playing it by ear. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.