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Ringing phones, a big dog that needs to be walked, a lot of good friends coming and going.

Dear Kim:

My sister was very snappish on the phone last night. Abrupt, ill tempered and impatient with me for not remembering the particulars of my conversation with her surgeon regarding my upcoming surgery.

I need to have my ovaries removed as I am at increased risk for ovarian cancer since I have a sibling with ovarian cancer and I have had breast cancer.

Double whammy.

Although I am dreading (yet) another surgery, it does not make sense for me to prolong having this done.

(Kim: Do you know that saying, "embrace the enemy to conquer him"? Suppose you thought of your surgery as an exciting opportunity and a gift. As fodder for writing. As fodder for learning more about yourself. As a match (the life game) between you and the obstacles course of life.)

I want to have the surgery in Chicago as I have confidence in my sister's oncologist and this is a procedure he has done many times. So now the question becomes when, complicated by my parent's impending move to New York, possibly as soon as the end of April.

My sister thinks I should stay with her so she can nurse me through whatever convalescence there is.

I delicately said I didn't want to cramp her style. That it might not be the optimal environment because of all of the activity at her place. Ringing phones, a big dog that needs to be walked, a lot of good friends coming and going. Wonderful signs of life and a life well lived but hardly restful.

I suggested that it might be a better idea for me to to stay with my folks. But that is not a good option since their place is on the market and it has to be spotless and people-less much of the time.

She got irritated so suggested that perhaps it wasn't a good time to talk, that I would figure it out.

When I got home there was an email from her, apologizing for her tone and saying that she loved me.

I immediately picked up the phone and asked what was going on. How she was.

She said, "Joannie, you know what a doer I am. What a list maker. For the past two weeks my apartment has been completely torn up with tiling and painting and that gave me something to focus on. Now, I am feeling impatient. Like, what's next. I'm ready to get on with my life. Ready for something good to happen."

She reminded me that it was a year since her surgery. That this nightmare of the diagnosis and surgery and chemo all began around March 1 of last year. And that she was sorry she had been difficult on the phone.

I told her I understood and that I could handle any difficulty if I knew its origins and that it wasn't in someway tied to me.

In recounting the story to a friend tonight, I found myself in tears. How I wish I could do something to alleviate her suffering (Kim: or is it your suffering that you want to alleviate?), the suffering that comes from the fear of the unknown and from the desire to have her life look differently than it does. How I wish I could somehow will the right man into existence who would look at her for the gem that she is and give her the companionship that she deserves.

But I can't. So I promised to come in soon to help pack my folks some more and we discussed going to Mexico over Christmas next year.

Later,

Joan

Tuesday, March 7, 2006