God had some really funny timing with my pregnancy. He timed it just before my 30th birthday, which was my prayer. Then He gave me an extra gift (because, of course, my view is it is all about me). The gift he gave me was that my dear friend managed to conceive her first child just five weeks after I conceived. Not only do I get the baby my heart so desired, but I get to be pregnant with my best friend. Then we will both have newborns at the same time! That’s more exciting than I ever thought it would be!
My friend, let’s call her Adrienne (her name has been changed to protect her privacy), has always been there for me and Eva. I couldn’t be more excited for her and her husband. They will be great parents! As she nears the second trimester of her pregnancy, life has thrown her a curve ball, though. She visited the dermatologist last week, and a spot on her skin was deemed suspicious. The doctor immediately removed this spot and sent it to a lab to be analyzed.
Adrienne has skin cancer, and she has to have surgery while she’s pregnant.
Mixed histology basal and squamous cell carcinoma. That’s the technical, medical terminology for her brand of skin cancer, and apparently it is aggressive. There will be no waiting until after the baby has arrived to perform a long, tedious surgery for her. Adrienne has a consultation this week and surgery next week. There will be no good drugs for her for the surgery, either. She is going to have to cope through Mohs surgery (cut off a layer, check for clear borders in the lab, then maybe continue to cut another layer in an ever-widening circle until there are clear cancer-free borders) which can be a couple hours or last until dinner time. Until her consultation, she isn’t sure just exactly what her options are for coping during surgery. She know she will be completely awake, and she knows they can inject lidocaine. Beyond that, she has planned for a stress ball and a portable DVD player with some of her favorite movies and some earphones. Being in the first trimester of pregnancy, she can’t be completely put under without worrisome risk to the baby. Also being in the first trimester of pregnancy, I would be concerned about being able to snack and eat lunch while I’m sitting in a sterile environment waiting for the lab to determine if I’m done or not. There is just no way that this can be made pleasant, or moderately not awful.
I have tried to put myself in her shoes. I really can’t. At such a happy time in her life, she now has to be worried about skin cancer. There doesn’t appear to be a risk to her life at this point, but there is obviously the potential for repeated, painful, disfiguring surgeries. She now has to worry about the stress this is causing on her body, and her baby as a result. The worst part, it seems, is the not knowing. Until the surgery, it won’t be clear just how severe the skin cancer may be. I’m such an awful friend at moments, and I forget that she just doesn’t have any answers yet as I ask yet another question that she can’t possibly answer at this point. I’m not the only person in her life asking for more information, I’m sure. Not knowing what stage/how severe the cancer is means not knowing how involved getting rid of the cancer may be.
I don’t know how, but Adrienne does seem to be holding it all together pretty well. She has gotten floods of unsolicited advice from well-meaning family and friends alike. She has received non-reactions, like those that think if they don’t say anything about it or pretend it isn’t happening that somehow that is a better way to go. I doubt out of sight out of mind applies to any form of cancer for anyone, anywhere. Even me, I’m trying not to treat her any differently, but I cringe every time I complain about something to her. She is my shoulder, my one person from whom I don’t hold back any of the poor-pitiful-me whinings in my rather blessed world. Now I feel like it is unfair of me to expect her to sympathize with my minor complaints.
I hope she knows (which she will once I hit publish) that I admire her ability to roll with the punches. I always feel like every set back is the end of the world, at least initially. She seemed to take it in stride, and admitted to crying only a little over the weekend. There hasn’t been a week-long pity party (totally the route I would have taken), or melodramatic Facebook announcements (not my style, or her style, but it happens), or a sudden trip to the lawyer to fill out a living will, or the urge to start a blog to chronicle her suffering (totally me!), or any change at all in her normal routine it seems. She bought a hat and some extra sunscreen to protect against further sun damage, and went on with life.
I admire you, my friend, and I’m proud to call you my friend.
I will definitely be saying some prayers for her, her husband, and her precious baby over the next few weeks. I know she would welcome more prayers from anywhere she can get them.