cleopatraby Ayesha Hakki

“Cancer is a rascal,” were the words Payal said when we met for drinks a few weeks ago. “You need to get your surgery scheduled.”

Before she said those words, I was taking things lightly. It was a sultry mid-August night and the only thing I was really thinking about was heading to the beach on the weekend. I could have surgery and begin treatment once my workload cleared up, I thought, and the weather cooled..somewhere around late October, perhaps.

Bad Idea.

As I later found out from the good doctor, waiting when it comes to cancer, is a really bad idea. Cancer cells want to multiply and spread until they have trashed your whole body just as quickly as Justin Beiber goes through a carton of eggs. Waiting was not an option, it was time to get this show on the road.

The next morning, I called the good doctor and set the date for mid-September and that’s when the party truly began. A few days later, his office called and said that after reviewing my reports, they found a small lump on my other breast and would I be able to come in for a second biopsy on Tuesday? And while I was there, they would also like to biopsy my left lymph nodes.

For those of you who have never had a breast biopsy, let me recreate the situation for you. Imagine having your breast smushed between two plastic plates connected to a giant mechanical machine and then pricked with needles, one of which is a vacuum that, when you don’t know what exactly it is, sounds and feels like a tiny drill burrowing through your tissue. (Yes I had my eyes scared shut.) That’s what I had on my right side. The second biopsy on the left side was ultrasound-guided, a less frightening option, but still very uncomfortable. Basically you lay in a darkened room with an arm raised above your head Cleopatra-style while three people fondle your breasts. To be honest, if it weren’t for the needles and the dang vacuum again, it wouldn’t have been an overall unpleasant experience, but that’s another story. The lymph node biopsy, on the other hand, clinically called a fine needle aspiration though there is nothing ‘fine’ about it, consists of ramming your lymph node repeatedly with a needle until they collect enough of a specimen. Yes, this is truly a fun party and it’s only just beginning.

As I make my way through all the various tests, procedures and surgery ahead, and as the doctor’s calls, lab reports and the RSVPs for the bills start to roll in, I realize that I am going to need to gather my own welcoming committee, a support team, because this party is going to be more overwhelming than I expected. With all of the information, terms, appointments, paperwork, procedures and insurance details swirling around like confetti in a ticker tape parade, I will have to rely upon my support team to navigate this commotion. Most importantly, however, as strong as I am, there are moments of utter darkness when I’m not sure how I am going to get through all of this.

So, as any smart party planner would do, I’ve sent out my support invitations and for the most part, my calls have been received with acceptance and love. I am truly lucky to be surrounded by family, framily, friends and in some cases acquaintances, each of whom are surprising me with their support. Yes, some invitations have been returned with a decline or indifference, and that was to be expected, but for the most part, I have my team in place, and it’s these people, these angels that will get me through to the light on the other side.

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