By Lori Slaven
My husband and I have a nightly ritual; after dinner, we drink a cup of coffee on
our deck. We relax while drinking the steamy brew, talk about our day and catch up with
all of the little details. Sometimes we just sit and listen to the wind and gaze at the stars.
Eventually, we go in where he watches TV and I clean the kitchen.
The next step in this ritual, I call “standing in the closet”. I go into my dressing room and stand staring into the closet. I wait for inspiration to strike. I try to decide what
to wear to work the next day. Lately, I have gained some weight and I‟m having
wardrobe issues. Nothing fits! I stare blankly into the closet and silently scold myself for
the seconds on pasta, pizza and pie. At some point, I stop my inner voice, and I remind
myself I am alive and healthy. I think back to what I went through.
It began one morning in my right eye-- like a lunar eclipse, darkness clouded my
eye. I lost sight-- then the smoky veil drifted, lifted and magically disappeared. I could
I feared, “Am I going blind?”
As soon as I reached my desk I phoned my optometrist. “Doctor, I am afraid that I‟m going blind. When can I see you?”
He replied, “As soon as you can get to my office.”
I saw the concern lines run across my optometrist face as I sat in the examination
chair. He explained, “This isn‟t a problem with your eyes and I think you should make
an appointment with your general practitioner as soon as possible.”
As I walked out of his office, I dialed my general practitioner. “I need an appointment ASAP.”
The office receptionist said, “May I put you on hold to get our appointment book.”
My heart pounded harder with each passing second. “How is tomorrow at two?” She chirped.
I wondered if the meaning of as soon as possible had changed but I kept my cool and my thoughts to myself and replied. “See you tomorrow at two.”
The next day after an exhaustive exam, my GP said, “Blood clots are climbing up behind your eye. You need to immediately cease taking birth control pills. I recommend
that you consider a tubal ligation if you are sure that you don‟t want any more children.”
That night‟s ritual was intense. On the deck, my husband and I talked in whispers.
“Honey, we‟re blessed with healthy twin teenage boys. I think we‟re past having babies. Do you want your tubes tied?”
I nodded my head in acquiescence.
The next week later I met with my surgeon. My visit went as I expected. She
asked about my medical history and then explained the tubal ligation procedure. As she
handed me the opaque plastic container, she said, “We need a urine sample.”
“No problem, I had my coffee and my orange juice this morning,” I replied.
Imagine my surprise when she walked in ten minutes later, looked me square in
the eyes and said, “Sorry, I can not perform the tubal ligation.
I almost hit the floor. I entered the shock zone. A few minutes later, I regained my
composure which allowed me to drive straight to my husband‟s job. This news had to be broken straight to his face. “Honey, I‟ve got some wonderful news!”
At first, my love looked astounded. Had he swallowed his tongue? When he
regained his speech he said, “WOW! Its okay honey, we‟re a team, we‟ll get through this.”
From that moment on we were hooked on baby. We bought a wicker rocking
chair, baby clothes, and teddy bears. We thought about and discussed baby names.
Life was good!
On sonogram day our bodies rocked with excitement. I lied belly up with cold
goop covering my belly. The tech rotated her electronic wand over my stomach as she
shot digital images of our baby. It tickled, and I giggled. This experience was surreal.
The only thing I remembered next were the tears cascading down the tech‟s face. Her voice cracked as she whispered, “Please lie still I have to get the doctor.”
She returned a few minutes later with the doctor in tow. As the physician focused
on my baby‟s images, I tried to avoid the tech‟s eyes, not wanting to see her cry. My heart ached in anticipation of the bad news.
An eternity later the doctor gazed at my husband and then at me. His voice
quivered as he said, “There is something terribly wrong with your baby; it isn‟t developing like it should. There‟s no chance that the baby is going to survive. I recommend you terminate the pregnancy.”
My husband‟s deep voice bellowed, “No, God gave us this baby and if he wants it back, he‟ll have to take it.”
Seeing how determined my husband was, the doctor focused on me, “You will
have to go to the hospital lab on a daily basis; they will draw some blood so that I can
monitor your baby‟s fetal activity.”
Every day I walked to the lab. Every day the numbers indicated fetal activity.
Every day we were more determined to have this blessing.
I heard that if I made it through my first trimester, the rest of my pregnancy would
be uneventful. So going into my fifth month I was feeling pretty good. I was sitting at
my desk trying to catch up on some paperwork and my sister, Trudy, stuck her head in
and said, “You‟re gonna be late for your medical appointment, it‟s almost one o‟clock.”
“I know. I just have to run to the bathroom then I‟m gone.” I replied.
I recalled sitting down on the toilet. I remembered the blood, so much blood!
Trudy shrieked, “Oh God!” Then she was in the bathroom with me. Trudy washed my clothes, found a couple of towels and cleaned me. She placed a towel inside
my shorts. Finally she phoned my physician.
As I walked into the doctor‟s office, the nurses wheelchaired me across the street to the hospital. My husband and mother, who had rushed over upon hearing the news,
tried to comfort me as I cried.
“I lost my baby!”
My heart broke into a thousand pieces. I laid in bed for days in the fetal position
curled up to a Gund teddy bear that we bought for the baby.
But, life went on. I healed. I returned to work.
I scheduled the tubal ligation. I couldn‟t handle another pregnancy. I needed to
get it over with it ASAP. On the day of the procedure, all went well. I woke in the
recovery room feeling sore. The worst was finally over; we could move on with our lives.
Boy, was I naïve.
Before I left the hospital, my doctor came into my room and said, “I am afraid I have some more bad news. We found a tumor in your uterus.”
“You found what in my uterus?” I screamed.
“A tumor. We don‟t know if it is cancerous. Since you had just lost the baby we
wanted to check for scarring in your uterus. That‟s when we found the tumor.” he replied. “We have biopsied the growth, and I will call you with the results as soon as I receive
The day my results came in I was shopping. My husband phoned, “Honey, the doctor‟s office called and requested that you call them back ASAP.” I immediately did.
The nurse advised me, “The doctor wants you to come in now to talk to you.”
I left the store and went straight to his office. Sitting in his office feeling scared
and alone, I listened to his words.
“The tumor is cancerous.”
My heart sank.
Before I recovered from the gut wrenching punch, the doctor recommended,
“With your permission, I„d like to schedule you for a hysterectomy.”
I left the medical office in a haze which finally lifted the following morning after
I scheduled my hysterectomy. I had the surgery in May.
The surgeon confidently advised me, “We have removed the tumor, and the cancer has
not spread outside your uterus.”
All is good, right? Not so fast! This was just the beginning of the journey.
Over the next couple of years I would be checked, poked and prodded. I would have my
kidneys scanned, my bladder biopsied, and monthly internal sonograms. Every time
something came back the least bit abnormal, I would be sent off for a battery of tests.
And the result of all this…
I am cancer free.
As darkness fell, my husband and I sat on our wooden bar stools on our deck, our
coffee mugs warming our hands and hearts. My husband stood up kissed his mug against
mine and toasted: “To our nightly ritual may it last forever; to your right eye for giving
you vision; for you remaining cancer free.”
I stood and we tapped our cups again. “Honey, I‟ve been tested, and I thank God I
am alive and healthy.
Life is good.
Lori Slavin is an accountant II with the Putnam County Health Department in Palatka,