We are sitting in the office of the cancer surgeon, who intimidates me. The first time we met my cell phone went off during the appointment, and the cancer surgeon gave me a cold look that said very clearly “Don’t you realize how important this is?”* Today, however, we are post-surgery, and everyone is smiles. The surgery went well, the cancer surgeon says. There were no problems, and no complications. Then the cancer surgeon gives us a surprise gift – the biopsy report is back.
There is no cancer detected in the lymph nodes.
There is no cancer detected in the chest wall.
It appears that Lump did not metastasize.
We were not expecting the biopsy report back for another several days, so we are surprised and overjoyed by the news – I am almost giddy with happiness that we have tangible proof now that the things that she went through, that I watched her go through, had an effect, that they worked, that Lump was beaten by chemo and on the ropes, that surgery removed what was left of Lump, and that no baby Lumps were found anywhere. This is not the end of course – there may still be micro-Lumps of cancer cells hiding in the tissue of her breast. She will have to undergo radiation treatment, and continued hormone therapy.
Examination rooms, I note, are way too small to run around in circles waving my arms and yelling “WOO HOO!” at the top of my lungs. And the cancer surgeon does not look like the sort of person who would enjoy a big sloppy kiss. So I sit there and am quietly happy.
The cancer surgeon talks about post-operative care of the two surgical incisions, therapy, and what to expect for the future. In passing she mentions that the sites where blue dye was injected to help locate Lump “may disappear over the next few years, or may be permanent.”
And suddenly I am transported back more than twenty years. We were in that giddy, heady, getting-to-know-you period of our relationship. We were still learning about one another. I cannot remember the exact context, but at some point in a conversation the subject of tattoos came up. I mentioned offhandedly that I thought tattoos were kind of sexy. She mentioned in response that she had no desire and no interest in getting tattooed. And that was pretty much the end of the conversation about tattoos and we moved on to other things. Just a few moments in another day of chatting as we explored one another the way people do.
The next time we were intimate, I discovered not one but several tattoos in various places.
I was horrified. I was ashamed. I felt by turns flattered and horrified that she had gone to the trouble and discomfort of having tattoos done just for me.
The look on my face in that moment, was, apparently, priceless.
She laughed and laughed, and only with difficulty managed to gasp out that the tattoos were temporary, that they would wash right off, and that she would always, always remember my reaction. We both laughed then, the way lovers do at a joke that only we two shared.
“Well,” I say to her. “You finally got that tattoo.”
She smiles at me, radiant with relief at the good news, and fond memories of the past. And for the first time in a long while I really feel that everything is going to be all right.
*Irony. The ringer of my cell phone is almost never on. I only turn it on for special occasions. I had turned it on that day because D. was texting me and wanting updates, and I forgot to turn it off again.