I first met Dr. Jonathan Berek in January, 1997, just after my first tumor was found during a hysterectomy, so nestled in fibroids that, despite tests before the surgery, including internal ultra-sound, it had not been detected.
Dr. Berek moved from UCLA to Stanford between my third and fourth surgeries. Obviously, we’ve gotten to know each other well over the past decade. Two years ago when they found another tumor in October of 2006, he let me put the surgery off for three months. I had a trip to China planned in November, he was unavailable in early December and I was going to Bermuda and South Africa in January. So I had the surgery on February 13, 2007.
This time I got a two-month delay. I had plans to take my daughter to President Obama’s inauguration in late January and Dr. Berek did not want me to cancel. I also was scheduled to leave February 26 to speak at a the World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 1 and that did not leave enough recovery time in-between. This speaking engagement was an opportunity I did not want to miss. (I am in Indonesia now)
I’m glad I have a surgeon who agrees that I can’t stop my life just because I have cancer. Yes, that last line was supposed to be somewhat sarcastic, yet it’s true. To me, it’s not about the big “C” diagnosis and “am I going to die?” but — I have a life to live and let me figure out when/how I can fit this in.
I was amazed when John and Elizabeth Edwards were so criticized when they decided to continue campaigning for the Presidency after she found out about her cancer re-occurrence. I totally got it—another diagnosis is more about life than it is about death. They had worked towards a dream, and she was not going to let this get in the way of that family dream. Plus, who are we to judge anyone’s private decisions like this?
Of course, both times my surgeries were delayed, the tumors were small and not spreading, so I had that luxury. Not everyone does. But this is one example of taking charge of your health care. If the surgery is not an emergency, then your schedule is just as important, or even more so, than the doctor’s.