Go-Don’t Go

The day I was informed I had cancer, I had just left the dentist’s office in Tampa.  I was down there caring for my mother who had experienced a terrible set back with her osteoporosis.  She was bed ridden.  I was her caregiver.  I exited the office and my cell phone rang.  “Is this Ellen?”  “It is.”  “Has anyone phoned you yet about your results?”  “No” “Oh dear!”  “Ok, well you’re on the phone now why don’t you tell me.”  “You’re results are positive.”

For the remainder of that call, all I could think was – I must tell Bobby.  This was going to be bad.  He was at home and would need to be told over the phone as well.  I drove for a bit and then decided to pull over and call him. 

I told him that a nurse called me with the results – and that they were positive.  The phone went dead silent.  NOTHING.  I asked him, “Are you still there?”  He could barely respond.  I was frightened.  He was devastated.

From that moment on, a plan was put in a place and quickly executed for him to come down to help however he could.  I felt fine; almost to the point where I did not believe it. 

That weekend Bobby arrived.  Our project was to landscape my mother’s home to prepare it for impending sale.  There was a spot in the back yard that I wanted to plant a flower bed in but could not because of an exceptionally large overhanging tree that belonged to the neighbor.  I asked if it would be alright if we limbed a few larger limbs to clear an opening for sun to come through and she was delighted to have it done at no cost.  We were in business.

This flower bed had one very mature hibiscus bush surrounded by nothing.  It was quite easy for Bobby to place a ladder on its side to access the tree limbs that were to be removed.  I stayed back a bit to avoid the dropping limbs.  During this process, he leaned a bit too far and the ladder wobbled.  Bobby, while cutting the branch, lost his balance and he, the chainsaw and ladder all toppled over.  Bobby landed on that old hibiscus – the trunk of it.  I screamed as he fell.  He gasped when he landed.  He then moaned from side to side writhing in pain.  I felt horrible that this happened.  I tried to help him up, but he insisted I not touch him and give him time to regain himself.  It took much longer than normal.  Bobby was a tough guy.  I had seen him survive other profoundly serious injuries.  This was bad!

When he finally got to his feet, he tried walking it off.  I suggested going to the emergency room to be checked out.  But he said no.  He would not have it.  He continued to walk around the yard until he felt better and then got back up on the ladder and finished the job.

We worked all weekend.  The project came out beautifully.  All that remained was a huge bruise on his back where he landed on that stem.

About nine weeks later – June 9, 2015, I had my bi-lateral mastectomy removing both breasts.  The reconstruction had to wait until the lab results came back to see if radiation would be deemed necessary.  If so, the reconstruction would be postponed until six months after my last radiation treatment.  When the results came back, I was told the reconstruction was a “go” – radiation would not be needed. 

My second surgery – the reconstruction – was scheduled for twelves hours but lasted 9 hours and 45 minutes.  They allow six hours per side.  I was told they had never done one that had gone so smoothly.  Good news there.  The recovery was arduous.  But after three weeks Bobby returned home to work, and I remained in Florida under the doctor’s care via weekly check-ups.  By August I was able to come home.  One final surgery was scheduled for December 9th – and outpatient surgery in Tampa.  We drove down and back in three days’ time.  It was a nice little get away. 

There is much more to all of this but not necessary for this writing.  After the final surgery and being home for one week, Bobby had a regular appointment for his check-up.  At that appointment, a 4 cm mass of cancer was found on his right lower lobe of his lung.  Coincidentally, this was the exact spot that he bruised when he fell from the ladder in May.  Had he gone to the hospital; it would have been found 7 months earlier!

Bobby helped me beat my cancer but was unable to defeat his own.  He died one year later.

To all of you out there who for whatever reason decide to not go to the doctor because it is no big deal or you can walk It off, I would like you to go.  Think of Bobby.  Think of me.  Think of the people who love you and go get checked.  If it is nothing – you will be way ahead.  If it is – you will be way ahead!


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  1. Helen Downey on June 9, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    Beautifully written.

  2. Colleen on June 12, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Oh my friend, message received loud and clear!?