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February 26, 2009

This Wonderful Life

That’s not a bruise on my forehead

Five years ago, on Fat Tuesday, a Florida doctor who was not particularly good and not particularly nice saved my life.

Whether through an abundance of caution or an abundance of pressure to schedule pricey procedures (I know — that kind of thing NEVER happens), he had looked at my history of childhood kidney troubles and ordered a CT scan just to be sure my UTI wasn’t significant of something more ominous.

On Mardi Gras, as the costumed revelers were gathering in bourbonsoaked living rooms across town to prepare for the evenings festivities, I sat in his office as he read the results, which described a grapefruit- sized mass in the general area where my right ovary should have been.

``What is it?’’ I asked.

He looked at me as though I were an idiot, ``Well I can’t tell you THAT.’’

``How will I know?’’

``Obviously you have to have surgery as soon as possible.’’

It’s funny, but I do not remember this story in terms of calendar dates, but rather the dates of the church calendar.

I got my test results on Mardi Gras, I had my surgery the day after the fifth Sunday in Lent. I left the hospital on Palm Sunday. My mother died on Maundy Thursday. It was the worst Good Friday I had ever experienced (with apologies to everyone who went through, you know, THE FIRST Good Friday).

On Easter, my house was full of mourners.

It is impossible for me to resist the urge to observe this season as anything but a prayer of gratitude for the wilderness I had the good fortune to traverse then.

To be sure, I was not grateful at the time. When you are 34 and hearing that you may have metastatic ovarian cancer (not the most sunny diagnosis), but that you’ll have to wait until surgery to know for sure, every moment that ticks by is crushing.

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