Updated: Jan 21
My Concoction (Read: Pellegrino w/lime, this blog took sobriety to a whole new level)
The Winery: My Kitchen
The W(H)ine: Margins Matter
“I cannot leave clean margins by resecting the liver and removing the tumor,” his surgeon stated seriously.
We met doc’s statement with stunted silence. And confusion.
In this cancer fight, nothing has gone as predicted.
When the surgeon called last week and asked us to appear for a consult, we speculated that due to recent negative biopsies, doc would be scheduling surgery stat to take that beast of a tumor OUT. We were ready.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he explained with this rare, aggressive tumor, the only path towards a “curative” treatment involves transplanting the diseased organ for another, altogether (there is no known cure, no intermittent remission with this Beast).
And the path to that end is fraught with its own perils…
Followed by an anti-rejection regimen hitherto, hereafter, forevermore…
All because: Margins Matter.
When up against unexpected trials (I’ve had a few million in my forty-something years), we oft look for an out, easy or otherwise. How do I avoid the pain? Fix the problem? Save the day? Move on? Heal?
We want answers.
If you’re follower of this blog, you know I’ve previously proposed asking a question other than, “Why???” I, and other wise ones who’ve gone before, recommend asking an entirely other question, “To What End?????”
But, we want answers, still. We want to understand why margins matter. We want to know what exactly the CT scan showed that made doc change his plan. WE want another test to confirm. We want to win the cancer fight. Sooner, rather than later. We are young. We have much life to live. We matter.
Here’s the reality. Though the few month of cantankerous chemo shrunk the tumor some, this Beast extended a new direction, INTO the liver. Shit.
Did you know one can live with just a small percentage of your liver? Like 35-40%!!! It’s the only organ that regenerates itself. However, to make a liver resection surgery worthwhile, where over half of the liver, all of the bile ducts and (in theory) the entire tumor, are removed, what the surgeon leaves behind must be absolutely cancer-free, or there’s no point in the precarious procedure. The edges of what remains must be wholly normal. No sign of the Beast.
But, his tumor took a terrible turn. This Beast is putting us both on the Edge.
In the last month, after returning to work following a three-month leave of absence during which I supported my partner in his/our cancer-learning-living-with-journey; I implemented intentional, significant, specific self-care. Up at 4:45 am daily, prioritizing prayer, meditation, exercise, and healthy eating. In so doing, finding a form of acceptance in newly arranged personal and professional priorities.
But, for those damn margins.
I played out his resection surgery and recovery. I calculated my time off work. We worked out a work-life balance to prepare for what we believed was inevitable.
But transplant? In none of my scenarios did I make room for that. Damn margins.
So while my regular routines kept me sane on a daily basis, my internal expectations and mindful machinations served as a setup. In all my prideful, albeit planful, preparedness, I did not extend my expectations to the degree the Beast took us. I lacked clean margins. I filled every possibility with something other than transplant. I miscalculated.
Because I calculated. When WILL I learn?
Maybe, more than anything.
In this delicate deliberation, as I pondered next moves, I recalled a conversation had years ago with my dear and closest-in-age sister, Joanna. Now a very successful business partner, wonderful wife, awesome aunt (truly) and beloved sister (all my six sisters are, but Joanna and I slept together or in the same room for nearly two decades, so there are just some spiritual spaces we share that none will ever compare), Joanna started her career as a middle-school teacher. The best one, ever. Joanna loved this challenging, hormonally charged population better than anyone I know. She worked her ass off in a tiny, private school, giving every ounce of her body, soul, time and money to her precious students. Little did they know (or probably care) how much she supported their education, their well being, their little lives. But for something like $13,000/year salary, she gave it all.
Until her husband looked at her presenting insanity and said something like, “Joanna, I love you but this isn’t working. You don’t MARGIN well.”
In other words, you leave no space for anything but teaching. You give too much. Your expectations are off. I want something more for you, for us. Please stop.
She did. They’re still (happily) married today. Joanna learned a lot about herself in that journey, a lot about all of us sisters. We suck at making margins matter. We were raised to fill (flood) every ounce of existence with movement, with doing, with activity. Our high intellects and expanded aptitudes allowed for this, without boundary. What we didn’t count on as we forged ourselves forcefully into whatever realm welcomed our advancement, was potential disappointment in a plethora of arenas, including relationship.
Do you know you cannot outTHINK cancer? You cannot outWORK love. You cannot outPLAN fate. You cannot outMANUEVER madness.
What we ought to do is just BE.
Expect the unexpected.
Accept the unaccepted.
Manage the manageable.
Leave all else alone.
Make sure your MARGINS are clean.