Started far too early. The alarm rang at 4:30am, and as much as I wanted to turn it off, roll over and go back to sleep, ignoring all obligations, it was not an option.
Broder’s check-in time was 5:30am.
Surgery was scheduled for 7am.
It had been just six weeks since that weird lump on the ridge between his shoulder and neck had been removed. And less than 4 weeks since it was confirmed as cancer.
Everything had moved so fast. And none of it seemed quite real.
We knew that Broder’s cancer was a couple of things: very rare and very slow growing.
What we didn’t know was if there was any cancer lurking, if in the cleanup process of this second surgery if there would be nerve or bone involvement, if he would have feeling in his neck, if he would be able to move his arm, or (unlikely, but mentioned too many times to ignore completely) if his arm would be removed at the shoulder.
As Broder waited to be taken back into surgery: the regular vitals, surgery site and identity checks all happened as one expects. (It felt like every surgeon for miles was a part of this, as a number of people introduced themselves with “when I heard what kind of tumor you had, Broder, I asked if I could be a part of things, this is a once in a career kind of opportunity” but in reality, I think it was really only 6)
Each person: nurses, CNAs, medical assistants, MDs, asked Broder the same thing.
“How are you doing? Do you have any questions about what is going to happen today?”
And to each one he responded with exactly the same answer.
“I am great! Can I go home today? I really want to be home for Christmas”.
And every single person looked at me, with an almost imperceptible shake of the head and said to Broder.
“Well, we will just have to see”.
To which Broder replied.
“I really want to be home for Christmas”
Just before they took him back, his surgeon took me aside and told me she fully expected we would be admitted for a couple of days. This is what I figured I would hear, but decided I would wait to call Dave to let him know until after surgery was over. (Dave had stayed in Tulsa, as he had his own colonoscopy/cancer check up with the colorectal specialist on the 23rd as well). I just needed to wait. And pray.
The longest ever 3 hours passed (I swear it was really 4 days I sat in that family waiting room) and finally, the surgeon came out to talk to me.
And she said “surgery went well. Better than we could have ever hoped. I had to take some minor nerves, and some layers of bone off the scapula, as well as some muscle in his shoulder, neck and pectoral area, so he will have some loss of sensation and there will be significant pain, but the brachia plexus nerve is untouched and the surrounding muscles will learn to compensate, so I anticipate no permanent loss of function”.
“But”. She continued, “there is one thing I want to talk to you about”.
My heart sank. I just knew we were spending Christmas at MD Anderson
“The last thing he said, before going under, and the first thing upon coming out of anesthesia, was ‘can I go home today? I really want to be home for Christmas’.
So, I asked the anesthetist to give him a little extra. And I asked the medical assistants to round up a few extra pillows and blankets. The recovery room nurses are standing by to give you a quick lesson in wound care. The way I figure it, if you can leave by 2pm, and drive like hell, you can get home before the pain really kicks in.
You have quite the kid there, and I can’t wait to hear what he does what amazing adventures are in store for him. Merry Christmas!!”
And so, packed in like the priceless cargo he was (is), on a cloud of pillows and blankets, Broder slept in the passenger seat of my rental car.
And I drove like a bat out of hell. Across Houston. Past Waco. Beyond Dallas. And then, all the adrenaline left my body.
I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
All I could think of was getting home. Getting my arms around Dave, Kjell and Sunny. Having all my babies together. Being complete.
But each mile was a struggle. And I had to pull over.
After a 2 hour nap in a truck stop parking lot, it was back on the road. It became apparent, about 2 hours later, that my nap was not quite long enough, as I took the wrong exit on the toll road and headed west for 49 miles before I could turn around.
And by 5am, Christmas Eve morn, we pulled up to the house.
Home for Christmas<