When Lisha Perry Fink was told she had cancer – a “good” cancer – all she asked God for was to grow old. We think, nine years later, that the name of her blog, The Lucky Mom, is perfect. October can be overwhelming with breast cancer awareness messages, but we think this personal story is one of the small moments that should be read.
I studied the painting on the wall of the cold exam room. A jazz musician playing a shiny saxophone. I’d seen it before, but never paid it much attention. Today, though, I needed my thoughts to be focused on something other than my reason for this visit.
My mind flashed back to a day nine years ago. I sat in the same room, paying no attention to the artwork. Probably planning the rest of my afternoon. Not knowing what would come next.
That day, when the doctor entered the room with a serious face, I didn’t notice. When she sat across from me, I thought nothing of it. Not until she spoke the word “cancer” did I have the faintest idea there was anything wrong.
“But this is the good kind of cancer,” she said in response to my shocked expression. I had no concept of good or bad at that moment. All I heard was “cancer.”
She said a few things I don’t remember. The words “surgeon” and “pathology” were the only ones that stuck. Her assistant would call me with more details. I figured I would ask questions then.
I just wanted to leave.
In the stillness of my car I cried. “Good cancer,” she said. I’ll focus on that. She didn’t have a sense of urgency getting me to the surgeon. That was another good sign. I’ve heard stories of people being sent straight to the hospital. I was going to wait for a phone call. I tried to convince myself that it really was “good.”
I don’t remember how long I sat there. My husband was out-of-town, so I picked up the phone and called one of my nurse friends. She repeated what the doctor said, that it was the good kind of cancer, and that I was going to be OK. But isn’t that what anyone would say to a sobbing friend?
My mind raced through so many different scenarios. What would happen to my four-year old son if I died before he grew up? He didn’t yet know what cancer was, so he wouldn’t understand what was happening. But at ten and thirteen, my other boys would. I would have to hold myself together, even though what I wanted to do was to curl up in a ball and cry.
“Please, God, let this be a mistake,” was the first stage of processing the news. But my conscience intervened. “Lisha, people get cancer diagnoses every day. Why should you be spared?”
“Then please, God, don’t let it be bad. No chemo, no disfiguring scars on my face.” My conscience again piped in. “Lisha, people have to go through chemo every day. Why should you be different? As for scars, vanity has no place here. This is about your life.”
I hung my head a little lower.
“Then God, just please don’t let me die. I want to grow old. I want to grow old with my husband, watching our sons grow up, playing with the grandchildren I dream about.”
I decided at that moment that I would not ask God for terms. I would pray to grow old. An old woman with scars to tell her tale.
My mind returned to the present as I heard footsteps approaching. I had time for one quick prayer before the doctor entered the room to deliver the results of yet another biopsy.
No terms this time. No conditions. Just please, God, let me grow old.