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Interesting Case: Do Not Discard
by Natalie Smith Parra
May, 2002
Originally posted at: http://www.cancerguide.org/nparra_story.html

Published in Creative NonFiction - #21 - Rage and Reconciliation:Inspiring a Health Care Revolution 2003

My cancer started five and a half years ago with a barely noticed mass on a routine chest x-ray. I'm in Target buying paper towels and bathroom hooks when the nurse pages me. I leave my shopping cart near the check stand and go outside to call her from a payphone.

"There's a mass on your left lung," she says. " Can you come in for a CT-scan this afternoon? Anytime before 5:30?" "Yes, yes," I tell her, "of course." I don't really know what a mass on the lung means, exactly how a CT-scan works or what it will show.

The first of my many CT-scans takes place in a windowless room of the hospital basement. I lie on the table while a doctor injects dye into the bulging vein in the crook of my arm. Above my head to the left the word Siemens is inscribed in black on a silver metal plate attached to the machine. I think of Judy Chicago's "Holocaust Project," and I see the gaunt shaved head slave laborers shuffle into the Siemens factory. The thought occurs to me to jump up, to demand a different machine, a boycott of Siemens, but although at the time I don't realize it I'm entering a parallel world now, one in which I will learn to be quiet. I will learn to comply, to submit. I will learn to live outside the tumultuous world as if watching a windstorm from the inside of a car. I haven't yet crossed the border into this new world, but I am definitely in the border region.

Afterward the radiologist comes out from behind an enclosure. His eyes are puffy and brown, his hair gunmetal gray. He speaks to me softly, his eyes trained on his shoe.

"What are you here for?" he asks.

"I'm not sure," I say, swinging my legs off the table. "Something about something on my lung."

He nods. As I leave he wishes me good luck. I smile and shrug. I am thirty- eight years old. I still feel the invincibility of my youth. I'm not yet too worried about this "mass" which I figure will be cleared up with some kind of pill.

The next time the nurse calls me I am at home after work, exhausted after teaching five periods of high school English. I am sitting and staring at last night's dirty dinner dishes and wondering why neither my son nor daughter has managed too wash them after school. "Natalie," She says, there's definitely a mass there. It looks pretty small, about 2x2 cm."

"That's good," I say. When she doesn't answer quickly enough I ask, "Isn't it?" I want to know what it could be, the range of possibility. "Is it cancer?"

"It could be," her voice is cautious, "but it could be something else, some kind of infection. There are some enlarged lymph nodes in the area" My ignorance of cancer is so thorough that I think enlarged lymph nodes in the area are a good thing. Don't you get enlarged lymph nodes when you have a sore throat? A cold? In my new world, a whole other body of knowledge with its own vocabulary is necessary. The nurse makes me an appointment with the thoracic surgeon for Thursday.

In the surgeon's waiting room, my mother sits under the window, her black bag clutched to her chest, ankles crossed. She will be my constant shadow now, she tells me. Whenever I go to an appointment, she will go too. Despite her maternal posturing, she seems diminished, shrunken against that sea green wall. 

First the resident, a tall young Russian wearing green scrubs and black felt clogs introduces himself. He asks a lot of questions, jots down my answers. Then the door pushes open and silence descends on the room as the surgeon enters; watery eyes, thin gray hair hangs over the collar of his surgeon's coat. His gray beard could use a trim. Gold-rimmed glasses push down on his nose. He flips his calendar open to December. "How will the 12th be?" he asks.

"Wait, wait," I hold up my hand. "Aren't we here to talk about options? Tests? Biopsies? Or something? The nurse told me that you can take a sputum sample with a bronchoscope. How about that?" Dr. Glatleider shakes his head, "Bronchoscopies are for people I don't want to operate on. You have a small mass; we'll remove it. Simple."

"Excuse me, Doctor," my diffident polite mother speaks. "If this were your daughter would you recommend going outside of Kaiser if we could get the operation done a month earlier? Would that give her a better chance?" She twists the straps of her bag. For the first time my mother looks like a very old woman.

The surgeon presses his lips together, shakes his head: "What are you saying?" His gaze falls on my mother who shrinks deeper into her chair. "Are you suggesting that I would risk your daughter's life? If that's what you think, maybe you should try another surgeon. Here. I'll give you a referral." He reaches for his pocket. I jump off the table sliding my feet into backless shoes.

"Yea. Good idea. Go ahead; write it," I say. The resident jerks his head up. Glatleider and I lock eyes for a moment. I glance at my mother who is squeezing a wad of tissue in one hand.

"No, no, no," my mother says, " Please, Natalie. Doctor, we want you to do the operation. We've heard you were a good surgeon." I glare at my mother then start to speak, but I can't, my mouth is filled with sand.

A small, satisfied smile crosses Glatleider's face. My mother wipes her nose. "Good, Okay then," he says. "Would it make you feel better if we move it up a week? Say, to December fifth?" He turns and leaves the room.

The resident explains the surgery to me. Three weeks from now they will perform a thoracotomy, where they open the thorax by cutting through the rib cage. Pneumonectomy is removal of the lung, but what will happen once my chest is opened will depend on what the surgeon sees inside. "Now," the residents says, "I'll get you set up for your pre-op blood work." I can hear my ribs crack, dry twigs breaking.

The operation is supposed to last four or five hours, so when my family - husband, mother, two oldest kids, sister, ex-husband - sees Glatleider step out of the elevator with a tie hanging down the inside of a clean white coat, his hair wet and combed, they think I'm dead. It has only been two hours, maybe a little less. They think that with surgery, you either survive it or not. Glatleider motions for them to sit in an alcove in the corner of the waiting room. They leave their take-out Chinese food picnic on top of outdated copies of worn magazines, chow mein noodles dripping down the sides of white cardboard cartons.

"It is cancer," Glatleider tells them, "and it's spread all over her chest. I couldn't take out the lung. I immediately closed her back up. I'll refer her to an oncologist, maybe there's some chemotherapy for her, but I doubt it. We just couldn't get it. It's much worse than we thought." He tells them he is going home; he'll be back to talk to me in the morning, but in the meantime he suggests that my family doesn't discuss the situation with me. 

My oldest son Jonathon remembers watching the elevator come and go, filled with medical staff, walk-in patients headed for their cars, visitors, arms loaded with balloon bouquets, flowers, stuffed animals. "It wasn't even a private thing," he said.

Later my mother remembers, "Dr. Glatleider said 'I'm very sorry.'" 

"He did?" I ask. "It doesn't sound like him."

She tilts her head, wondering. "Well, yes, wouldn't he say something like that after he tells you your daughter is going to die?"

I wake up in the recovery room, my bed the last in a row of seven or eight. I look down the row and feel some relief that the stiff white sheets are pulled only to the patients' chins so I know I'm not in the morgue At first the lights are too bright for me to open my eyes. My body feels is a dry leaf, parched and I beg for water. A young nurse with thick dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and clear skin feeds me ice chips against Glatleider's orders. We talk about our kids. She has two. She says that without her union Glatleider would have had her fired. "He's an asshole," she says, and I smile. "I know," I say, "I hate him."

My head is heavy and thick with morphine and my lips feel as if they've been pulled around a rubber ball. My eyes strain to focus and finally land on the surgeon, Glatleider, sitting next to my mother on a hard chair against the wall. My mother's arms are crossed and her lips are pressed tight. Her face betrays exhaustion. The doctor and my mother aren't talking. Why is he here in the middle of the night, I want to know. But it's not night anymore. It's my first morning in the parallel world. On the hospital tray next to a mustard colored pitcher of water lies a brochure about hospice care - a fifty-something woman with stylish salt and pepper hair smiles and gazes up into a younger man's face, her son most likely. They are both happy with their decision about end-of-life care. When Dr. Glatleider sees me trying to focus on the brochure, he ignores me and talks to my mother. "She could go to hospice for pain," he says. My mother's eyes meet mine.

"I didn't have any pain until this operation," I say. He lets out a short laugh.

I draw my veil of denial tight around me. I won't accept his prognosis. I can't. I have a four-year-old child to raise, eleventh grade students to teach, a world to change. I am supposed to die an old woman, happy, sitting in front of my window watching a revolution in the streets.

Kaiser says wait until after the holidays to start chemotherapy. So I do.

On Christmas Eve, cold and cheerless and gray, my mother, my sister and I drive across town to an appointment with Dr. Valerie Israel at the Norris Cancer Center. She is their expert on lung cancer and cancers of unknown origin. She will act as a second opinion in terms of which chemotherapy Kaiser should be giving me and in which doses. Norris Cancer Hospital has free valet parking and an art deco interior with flagstone walkways; their television advertising is directed at an upscale clientele. But despite the wreaths and Santa faces hanging on the walls and doors, the Norris Cancer Center is a quiet and grim place on Christmas Eve.

In one of the billing cubicles a polyester-pant-suited woman with orange lipstick and a beehive hairdo clicks away at a computer. No doubt her mind is filled with all the things that need to be done: her unwrapped Christmas presents, the turkey waiting to be stuffed and roasted. She dispenses with niceties. No merry Christmas, good afternoon, how are you feeling. She cuts to the chase. "How will you be paying today?"

"Check," I say. I write the check for $500.00 and slide it across the desk, letting my fingers rest on it for just a second, long enough to make her look up, then I say, "Where do I go now?"

"Sit there. Someone will call you."

Across the big desk from us Dr. Israel flips through my file, pauses where something interests her and then flips some more.

My sister pulls a bouquet of tootsie pops, orange purple, yellow, red, brown from her bag and offers one to the doctor.

"Oh, yea, thanks," Dr. Israel says, reaching across the desk. "Sugar is my weakness." She chooses the red one, unwraps it and swirls it around inside her mouth as she talks.

She wields the red tootsie pop like a pointer. "Well," she says aiming it at me now. "Your cancer is Stage Three."

I nod.

She catches my eyes with her own. "B. Stage Three B," she says with authority.

"I know," I say, but I'm lying so I can get home and rest. The truth is I have no idea that my cancer is Stage Three B, never operable, instead of Three A, which often is. So far no one has bothered to explain it to me. I am too tired and hopelessly uninformed to formulate the question that seems so simple now: Why 3B instead of 3A?

Months later I learn that Stage Three is divided into A and B. In A the lymph nodes on the same side as the tumor are involved. This is considered operable, depending, as I would soon learn on the skill level and attitude of the attending surgeon.

Stage Three B is inoperable. The cancer has spread to the contralateral lymph nodes. The difference between Three A and Three B is determined at diagnosis by a mediastinoscopy, taking a sample of lymph node tissue on both sides of the trachea, the test Glatleider didn't bother with, instead sawing me open, taking a disgusted look inside and stapling me back together. Dr. Israel now makes me a Stage Three B to fit me into the medical model that Glatleider has constructed. Stage Three B becomes an established fact of my medical diagnosis, completely without scientific data.

Dr. Israel recommends chemotherapy, taxol and carboplatin, and my lawyer sister pops a chocolate sucker into her mouth. "Listen, I've been thinking," she says, and points her Tootsie Pop at the doctor. "I say if that's the recommended amount, we double it. The more the better the way I see it. Let's be aggressive here."

Dr. Israel's eyes grow wide and her cheeks suck in to hold the red tootsie pop in place. "I don't want to kill your sister," she says, and smiles. But she never suggests any further tests or a need for further data.

The chemo nurse rubs her thumb over the back of my hand. "You have good veins," she says. Cathy, is short and chubby with a pinkish face and blond hair wisping around her neck. My mother stands at the door and watches the nurse hang the first slick bag: taxol, made from the bark of the Pacific Yew Tree.

Later in the afternoon my mother browses the newspaper. I lean back in my reclining chair, tethered to an IV pole by a plastic tube now dripping carbo- platin into the crook of my arm. I'm still drowsy and thick-tongued from the benadryl they gave me with the taxol to prevent allergic shock. Outside it rains without stopping. The month since my diagnosis has been the coldest month ever. Some days the water comes down in ropes, sometimes in cascading lead sheets. Rubber trashcans wash down Baxter and Fargo hills in Echo Park. The sky stays dead and heavy and gray, the same gray as the ocean, the gray of the streets.

The oncologist comes in wearing her white coat with the name patch and the ink stains on the pocket. She presses my thick file chart to her chest.

"How many people with this disease have you cured?" I ask. The doctor looks down, lets out breath. Her knuckles whiten on the edges of the folder. "No one," she says.

I shouldn't have asked. I already know the answer. I've known it for a month now, since I woke up in the greenish gray glow of hospital lights.

After eighteen weeks of chemotherapy I start radiation treatments. You can receive up to 5,000 rads of radiation to the chest before things start to fall apart. Tissue doesn't hold together well and there is the danger of bleeding to death during surgery, so halfway through my eight week course of radiation I call Glatleider.

"How are you?" He asks.

"Alive," I say. "I think the chemo is working. I'm feeling good and I want an appointment with you to reassess my potential for surgery." By now I know more. I know that without an operation I have between a one and five percent chance of living out the year.

I hear him let out breath on the other end of the phone. He agrees to see me. Call the receptionist to make an appointment, he says.

On Friday morning Glatleider is surprised by my good health. He barks at the nurse to order an emergent CT scan and tells me to come back on Monday afternoon to review the results with him. I go home full of hope. I even think that I may have it all wrong about Glatleider. Maybe I misunderstood him.

"He didn't seem so bad today," I tell my family. My mother and my sister shoot each other a look that I pretend not to see. I call everyone I know and tell them the good news.

On Monday my mother, sister and I cram into the tiny examining room. I lie on the table anxious and excited. I breathe in, count the seconds, breathe out, do it again, the way they showed me in the visualization and relaxation classes. We're waiting too long, I think. The news must be bad; otherwise wouldn't he rush in, all smiles? When he finally pushes through the door his expression is neutral.

"I have bad news," he says. "There's been no change. An operation is out of the question."

"But you said I'd be dead by now and I'm fine."

"I don't know how to explain that."

"What about the chemo? Are you saying it's had no effect?"

"Completely ineffective."

"Has the cancer spread? Is it any bigger?"

"No, no, I really can't say that it's any bigger." Later I find out there's no way to determine whether tumor tissue is dead or alive without a biopsy. He should have ordered a biopsy but he didn't.

I leave the examining room and start down the long hall toward the exit. A rush of tears chokes me. A receptionist sees me and turns away.

"I'm sorry." I hear Glatleider's voice and turn around. He is standing in the hall flanked by my sister and mother.

"It's not your fault," I whimper and for the first time since December I think that maybe he has done all that he can.

"You can stay in my office if you want, until you feel better."

When will I feel better? When my lungs fill quietly with fluid and I die in my sleep as another doctor recently told me. Or maybe, if I sit in his office, I'll feel better in just a few minutes about dying. I almost smile. I shake my head. No, it's not necessary. I'm not worried about any embarrassment I might feel making my way through his crowded waiting room crying like a small child. I keep walking, threading my way around chairs filled with patients watching me with quizzical and sympathetic eyes. My sister and my mother follow a short distance behind me, stunned and silent into the elevator and out of the cool of C Building into the bright summer sun, the heat, the horns bleating, the fumes. All those people and me. I feel as though a clear cylinder has been dropped over me, separating me, finally and fully from the world I know.

This is what I remember of the next three days: The two oldest of my three children, Jon and Sara, are waiting when I get home. When they realize what is happening they run out of the room in tears. I sit, elbows propped on the rough pine table reviewing insurance forms. I take a tranquilizer and sleep. Death is certain now. A few months ago I had contacted Virginia Veach the coordinator of the Ting Sha Institute, a retreat for cancer patients. Now she calls to see if I plan to attend. I wrap the black phone cord around my finger and tell her I can't decide right now. I don't know when I'll be able to tell her. I take more ativan and sleep. I leave three messages on Glatleider's voice mail before I finally catch him at his desk.

"I need to know exactly why surgery can't work for me," I say.

A long frustrated exhalation.

"Has the cancer spread too far or is it because of the tumor's proximity to my aorta?"

"What do you want me to do?" His voice is barely restrained anger. "Cut you open and staple you back up like I did before?

"No, no, I just want to understand. I'm sorry. What do you think my chances are now of surviving a year?" "Less than one percent. Is that what you wanted to hear?" he says.

"Okay, thank you. Good-bye."

"Okay, Good-bye."

Virginia Veach calls again. I order my kids to tell her I'm not home. Once I pick up the phone, not thinking and it's her.

"Listen," she says. "I don't want you to take that surgical opinion as a death sentence."

"Uh. Okay. Whatever."

"I have the phone number of a very good lung surgeon at UCLA. Maybe you should make an appointment."

"Okay. Thank you."

I take more ativan and go back to sleep. She calls the next morning and I shake my head.

"Tell her I'm not here," I motion to my son.

The only tolerable position is stoned on ativan, curled into a fetal position in a dark room with my face buried in a cool pillow. No sight, no sound, no light. I'm like an infant that twists and twitches itself into the birth position, readying itself for life, except that I am preparing for death. 

Now that all hope is gone I am not accepting death well. There is nothing left to rage against, nothing to fight. My own body has betrayed me and it will win. I feel none of the peace associated with the so-called other side. There is just me, then not me, the world without me in it. I want to buy my four- year- old daughter a winter coat for every year I won't be with her, but that won't do. She will need so much more.

Virginia Veach calls again. I tell her I'm sick of doctors poking me and looking at me like I'm already dead. I have run out of energy for doctors.

"Please, Natalie," she implores. "What can one more appointment hurt? I think about her question. I would have to uncurl myself, leave my bedroom and go out into the light. I would have to make polite conversation with a receptionist and a nurse.

"No," I say. "I appreciate your concern, but I don't think I can do it."

The next day she calls three times before she reaches me.

My mother says, "We might as well go. That way, if he says no too, we'll know we did all we could.

At UCLA the doctor finally orders my first mediastinoscopy. A week after the procedure-a small incision above the breastbone and insertion of a tiny scope enabling the surgeon to biopsy lymph nodes that line the trachea- I wait for results. If the nodes on the left are the only ones positive I will be able to have surgery. My chances of surviving until the end of the year will then jump from less than five percent to somewhere around thirty five percent. It's my best hope, my last real chance. If the cancer has spread to the contra lateral nodes, surgery is not an option. A mediastinoscopy is the test Glatleider should have done first. Instead it has taken from early December until now, late July for me to know about this test.

The UCLA doctor, Cameron, is unhappy with the CT films I've brought from Kaiser. He clucks his tongue, " They didn't even use contrast." In addition to a suitable CT scan, Cameron also has me have an MRI of the brain, a bone scan and a pet scan to rule out distant metastasis. I have passed all the tests. The mediastinoscopy is the final obstacle to surgery.

I drive west on Temple past Alvarado on the way to my youngest daughter Sasha's swimming lesson. The amber light of summer casts shadows on sidewalks and the air begins to cool from another scorching day. In the distance the sky glows gold and pink. I watch pigeons, puffs in shades of gray and white, burst from an abandoned brick building and fly in an perfect arc toward the sunset. How could these birds that scrape flattened crumbs of bread off the asphalt of the school playground and bathe in the fetid water of Los Angeles gutters choreograph a flight so fragile, so perfect. For an instant I believe anything is possible. I sit on a wood bench next to the pool at Los Angeles City College running my finger over its scarred surface, the years of initials and proclamations of love and profanities scraped into the old wood. Sasha is the best swimmer in her class of four year olds. She is kicking up sparkling shards of water, oblivious to my tortured waiting. I step outside the gate to check my messages. Dr. Cameron's voice is excited. He has good news. We can schedule the surgery. Tears stream down my face as my fingers fumble to dial his number on the cell phone.

"Oh good, It's you," his secretary says, "He wants to talk to you."

"The pathology report shows no evidence of disease in any of your lymph nodes," he says, "not even on the left side. What Glatleider saw on the films was totally dead tissue." As an afterthought Cameron says, "Oh yea, and Kaiser has to pay for the operation. They already admitted they were incapable of doing it."

Kaiser pays for lots of procedures at other medical centers: bone marrow and liver transplants, heart lung transplants.

The trick, though, is that the Kaiser surgeon must refer the patient and authorize the payment. I leave messages with everyone I can think of: Heads of departments, membership services, six or seven a day on Glatleider's voicemail. My oncologist is out of town.

The day before my scheduled surgery at UCLA, an old friend, Terri, who works as Kaiser's radiation oncology department's secretary, and I meet outside her building on her lunch break and together we walk in silence the few blocks to Building C. We pass the unmarked side entrance to the basement where the CT scan machines are kept and stop for a moment in front of a vase of orange chrysanthemums on the stone steps of the main hospital building. Terri had introduced me to David Lu's mother who put the flowers there. She makes this pilgrimage with orange chrysanthemums everyday in memory of her son who died in that building of leukemia at ten years old, diagnosed finally after a year of various anti-biotic therapies failed to cure his stomach pains and general malaise, too late for a life-saving bone marrow transplant. I've seen her leaflet in front of Kaiser. In the leaflet she talks about the mistreatment her son received at Kaiser, the doctor who had tried to insert an adult-sized catheter in David's tiny penis, then laughed at her when she complained about his pain. "You better get used to that. He has leukemia now," he said.

Stepping out of the elevator we hear a distant voice and follow it to Kim, a surgery department secretary speaking into a headset and sipping diet coke. Terri and Kim acknowledge each other with a nod.

"I need to see Dr. Glatleider," I say.

Kim looks confused. "Do you have an appointment?"

"No, but my surgery's scheduled for tomorrow at UCLA and he should have left me an authorization form."

"Well, he's not here and he didn't leave anything with me." She raises an eyebrow and slurps the rest of her Diet Coke.

"I don't know how to help you, ma'am." She turns away.

"Come on, Kim," Terri says, " Who's the chief of surgery here? Let's locate him, okay?" The tone of Terri's voice goes from the easy banter of co-workers to impatient, irritated.

Kim disappears for a couple of minutes, and then returns, "Dr. Dorazio's on a phone conference. He says he'll come out to see you in a few minutes." We sit in the orange plastic chairs and thumb through wrinkled copies of Business Week and Golf Digest.

We wait another ten minutes for Dr. Dorazio, Chief of Surgery, to finish his telephone conference but when he emerges from an office dressed in street clothes and carrying a briefcase he begins to hurry by us to the elevator.

"Uh..Excuse me." Terri says and motions to me. I step in front of him and one more time plead my case. Dr. Dorazio looks away, checks his watch and looks back. The skin under his eyes looks smudged "There's nothing I can do about that. It's a case I know nothing about."

"Can't you get in touch with Glatleider?" I ask " Can't you call my doctor at UCLA? Can you even look in my chart so you will know something about my case?"

"I'm in a hurry now. I'm on my way to a meeting." He glances at his watch again and lifts his briefcase as proof. "Maybe if you call me tomorrow." He tries to thread his way past us but we stay with him. He can't move without pushing one of us out of the way.

Terri takes a step closer to Dr. Dorazio, "You're the chief of surgery." She points an accusing finger. "You didn't get that title for nothing and we're not leaving until you do something. What happened to all that bullshit about patient care?"

"No, we're not leaving," Terri says. "We'll stand here until you give us the form or until security drags us away, and that won't look very good, will it? And even if that does happen, we'll be back, and we'll bring friends, lots of friends."

Dr. Dorazio sighs and sets his briefcase on a counter. He pulls his wallet from his back pocket and thumbs for a card. "Here," He hands it to me. "Have your surgeon at UCLA page me and if the story makes sense, I'll approve it."

"Thanks," I take the card and wipe at my tears with the back of my hand.

"Well," Terri says smiling, "I'd better get back to work so I'm not late from lunch."

My surgery at UCLA is scheduled for six a.m. At that early hour, before the heat of this hot end of July begins to broil the city, Dr. Cameron will open my chest and remove my whole left lung. Then he will gently slice my pericardium, the thin membrane under which lies my beating heart, and scrape away any tumor that has attached itself to my aorta. I'm not a bit nervous. I feel a vague anticipation, like I feel when I have to get to the airport.

When I arrive at UCLA the receptionist tells me that Kaiser hasn't notified them of the approval to pay. Other patients look up and shake their heads. A mother holds and rocks her small daughter, strokes her hair, kisses the top of her head. The girl will have a kidney transplant today. An old couple holds hands. Infuriated, I punch Glatleider's number on the payphone hanging next to the waiting room door. Of course there is no answer. I call back several times leaving a series of messages. "I'm standing here waiting to go into the O.R.," I say. Now you're holding up the whole surgery schedule for UCLA. I hope you're happy." The receptionist smiles and shakes her head.

"Will you call Dr. Cameron," I ask. "Maybe he's heard something." A few minutes later she summons me to her desk. "He wants me to send you in," she says. She doesn't say whether Kaiser has approved the payment or not. I have the operation without knowing.

The next morning Dr. Cameron pulls a chair to the side of my bed. "The operation was a success," he says. We sit and smile at each other for a few minutes both sort of shaking our heads in disbelief. He tells me that he removed my left lung and that when he started to work on the tumor around the aorta it was already hard and dead, like dry clay.

"I touched it with a scalpel," he says, "and it fell right off. Dead Tissue."

"Why did Glatleider tell me nothing had changed?" I ask

"He just looked at the CT films which can show live or dead tissue. That's why in cases like this you definitely need a biologic sample. You had an excellent if not complete response to the chemotherapy."

"It isn't a cure," he reminds me. Cancer's tricky, but he's hopefully optimistic. He will watch me closely for the next five years. Five years five years five years like an incantation. The words dance in my head.
 

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You can Email Natalie at nsmithparra@hotmail.com
 

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This CancerGuide Page By Natalie Smith Parra.
Copyright 2002 Natalie Smith Parra. Last Updated May 13, 2002 
 
 



 

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