Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Anniversary of surgery is one to forget

I can't say that this anniversary seems like yesterday. In fact, I seldom remember it or even think about it. But for some reason, when I wrote the date on this column, Feb. 24, it sent up a flare. Is it someone's birthday, am I supposed to be someplace? Is a bill due?

None of the above, today is the anniversary of my cancer surgery and I am debating with myself. Is it good to forget, or almost forget, such milestones in your life? Am I fortunate to have the disposition to file that frightening day away and concentrate on brighter spots? Or should I make my cancer survivorship a subject of conversation that would either interest people, bore them, or make them sad if someone in their circle of friends or family had not been as fortunate as I am?

I knew such grief. My mother had died from cancer eight years before.

Please don't think that I took the diagnosis lightly or that I faced surgery with anything less than uncontrollable tears, a broken heart, and fear.

There are times when you can ask your doctor, "Are you sure?" But not this time. The disappointment on my doctor's face was sufficient confirmation. He was sure. He was very sorry.

Arrangements would be made for the surgery and I would have to make plans to be off work. I don't know who was more confident that surgery would rid me of the disease, me or my dedicated, kind doctor. Death was not a consideration.

That confidence had to last longer than either of us expected. On my scheduled surgery day I waited and waited in my hospital room to be taken to the operating room, but no one came. Friends and family called to learn my condition after surgery and much to their surprise, I answered the phone. Somehow my name and room number, or both, were overlooked and I was sent home to wait six weeks for a new surgery date.

That was a very long six weeks and the weeks that followed surgery, when it finally could be done, gave me plenty of time to think.

Apparently that's when I began to think about a lot of things other than cancer. I must have figured it was gone, so let's move on. I decided I didn't want to be a marked woman singled out for having had cancer. If someone wanted to talk about it, that would be fine. I would be happy to share the experience and encourage confidence if they faced a similar medical crisis. Otherwise, it was a private thing that I just wouldn't think about or dwell on.

That's when my home became especially appreciated. The daffodils and tulips that spring took on new meaning as symbols of beginnings. Easter Sunday was a day of thanksgiving as well as rebirth.

Thirty-nine years later it has all come back, but only for one day. I am prepared to forget about Feb. 24 again.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.

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