The Drama of Outrunning a Glacier

Friends and Family,

My “Alice in Wonderland Does Cancer” adventure story took a minor detour through a puny basal cell skin cancer over the past few weeks. In cancer terms, basal cell cancer is the equivalent of being chased by a glacier: As long as you move in the right direction, you can out-walk it.

The challenges had nothing (directly) to do with scheduling the procedure to remove the little sucker on Friday the 13th. It had a lot to do with the biggest snowstorm I can remember in my lifetime, which landed a couple of days before the procedure. To understand the impact, you need context. Oregon does not have the road equipment, or the common sense that comes with experience, to handle the snow. This is the state where an inch or two can cause six-hour traffic jams, and sometimes schools close because of threat of snow. Having 13 inches of the stuff at my house, and living on a hillside, ups the ante. Here’s the picture:

Nevertheless, I was prepared to slap on my chains and take Genevieve with me down to the doctor’s office for a Friday morning exorcism of the little critter. It’s just that I hadn’t accounted for another force of nature: Genevieve.

Genevieve was having none of it. What if I wasn’t feeling up to driving home after the procedure? What if we got stuck in the snow on the way home, and I couldn’t help dig us out? Much as I hated to, I had to relent.

However, that’s not the end of the story. If you are really, really blessed in your life, you have a friend who is not only there to help, but anticipates your needs and volunteers to help when you need it most. Let me introduce you to that blessing in my life, which is my brother-in-law and closest friend, Lorin.

Lorin is the guy who called to ask if he could come with me to my first radiation treatment appointment when Genevieve was going to be out of town. He’s the guy you have to argue with to let you pay your fair share of the bill. He’s the one who spends more time in Hawaii working on beach house repairs than swimming in the ocean. Although I had only known him for a little over a year, at the time, he was also my best man 20 years ago.  

Lorin called us the day before the procedure and volunteered to pick us up in his Jeep, take us to his (and Genevieve’s twin Charlotte’s) house to spend the night. He could then take us to the appointment in the morning, and be assured that no nasty snow-blanketed hill was going to get in the way.

We gratefully accepted his offer, which resulted in our own little slumber party.

Ah, the best-laid plans. As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say: “It’s always something.”

At 8:00 the night before the procedure, the doctor’s office called: The procedure was cancelled, since the surgical nurse couldn’t make it in to assist. “How about next Tuesday afternoon?”

“No problem,” I said. Lorin, of course, volunteered on the spot to take us to the doctor a second time.

And there was no problem, until Monday, when we saw the forecast for a half-inch to an inch of freezing rain. We decided to act as if everything would happen according to plan anyway.

I got another call from the doctor’s office at 8:15 Tuesday morning. “We’re closed this afternoon because of the freezing rain. It’s not supposed to arrive until this afternoon. Can you come now?”

Now, if I had been a regular, non-lung cancer person, I would have asked him if he was nuts, and told him I’d wait another month if necessary. I can outrun a glacier. However, this is cancer, and I already filled my quota, so getting this little intruder out in a hurry became a priority. So guess who I called next?

Lorin arrived 45 minutes later, undaunted by the gamble that we would be off the roads before the ice storm hit.

The procedure went off without a hitch, and the cancer (that cancer) is now gone. Lorin dropped us off, then got back home a couple of hours before the freezing rain arrived.

Thank you, Lorin, for helping us outrun a glacier.