||Blessings On the Road
It's late one night, just before bedtime when Laura quietly admits to me "Shugs, I'm
"What?" I ask, only half hearing her.
"I'm scared" she says again.
Alarmed and confused, I look up from my keyboard and ask "Of what? What's
"I just found a big lump in my breast" she tells me with an absolutely
horrified look on her face.
"What?! What?! Are you sure? Wh . . wh . . where?" I stammer.
A few moments pass, the initial shock subsides, and we talk about it a
little bit more. "Oh my God," I think to myself, "what do I say, how do I
act?" Although I'm scared beyond words, I do my best to be strong and console her,
making a real effort to try to convey a confidence that everything's going to be alright -
that she's definitely going to be O.K.
It's easy to tell by her tossing and turning that neither one of us are
sleeping much. I've no idea what time it is, but it seems like the night has lasted
forever. I'm doing my best not to let myself think directly about what just happened, but
I'm sure that it's her words, playing over and over again in my sub-conscience, that's
keeping me from any sort of restful sleep.
Laura: I know that probably 90% of
women who find a lump in their breasts, must eventually find out that it is, in fact, a
cancer of some sort. Questions pop into my head as fast as I can chase them back out
again. 'What should we do? Should we just ignore it until we get home? Maybe we should
jump on the next plane back to Atlanta to have it checked? What then?' And then, the
probable answers. 'Chemotherapy? Having children? Who knows what else it'll all mean.'
After briefly allowing myself these, as well as a few other unpleasant thoughts, I somehow
calmly just let myself ease into the situation. I just simply deal with it.
Scott and I haven't talked much about it this
morning, getting up at 6:30 with the alarm, and walking down to the park for a Tai Chi
class that we'd made plans to attend a few days ago. Since this ancient exercise
emphasizes concentration and relaxation, along with some pretty coordinated movements, it
takes most of my effort to mimic the instructors. The lesson proves to be a much needed
distraction for me.
Scott: Laura and I walk hand in hand back to our room. I hop in
the shower, and for the first time, let myself consider the stark reality of my wife
finding a lump in her chest. 'This just can't be. There's just no way it's happening to
her, to us. What if . . what will I do without her? Just be strong. Just think positively.
There's nothing else to do until we have it checked' I think to myself. 'Just deal with
Laura: Exhausted from the
combination of very little sleep last night, and our early start this morning, we lay down
for a nap, and cuddle together. There are no words, we just hold each other close as we
try to relax and rest. We continue to talk about the remaining month and a half of the
trip, as if we're certain everything's going to turn out O.K.. For some reason, I feel
like an American style lunch today, so we head for a Friday's a few blocks away. Maybe
it's for comfort, maybe it's just because I need to feel closer to home.
Scott: I'm trying to remain strong, as we talk about things other
than the obvious. Almost like nothing has changed, we continue to plan the rest of our
trip over salads and sandwiches. All the while, I'm listening for any hint that Laura
might want to talk about 'it'. Here and there I push without being pushy, gently
suggesting once or twice that we get her checked out as soon as possible.
Laura: It's after lunch as we drop
into the Hong Kong tourism office. We're here to get the addresses and phone numbers of
the local American Express office and U.S. consulate, as these are probably our best bets
for finding any English speaking doctors in the city. Then, with plans to continue our day
as normal, we also casually inquire about internet cafes and travel agencies. Info in
hand, we begin our walk back up Nathan Road, determined to stick to our original plans for
the day, and use the morning to find a tour operator to help us review our options and
gather information on our next destination. Along the way to the American Express office,
I spot a sign for a medical and diagnostic center and, just for the heck of it, suggest to
Scott that we go up to see what services they provide. We walk aimlessly around the
parking lot, unable to find the offices listed on the sign by the street. Just when we're
about to give up, some guy walking down the hill stops us with a friendly offer, in
English no less, of "Can I help you?"
Scott: With a friendly stranger's help, we do manage
to find the medical building. And even though the directory is written only in kanji
symbols, we reason through elimination that the diagnostic center is probably on the third
floor. We pop out of the elevator, and stand here sort of mulling around the hall in
hesitation. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an English voice. It's a friendly Indian
doctor asking us "May I help you?" I wait in the elevator lobby, while Laura
steps in and explains her situation to the doctor and the nurses.
Laura: "I can help you. I'll
recommend a doctor to do a mammogram for you. Please come into my office." He makes a
few phone calls and sets things up for me at 4:30. "O.K.. thank you. I'll be there at
4:30 tomorrow then." I say, standing up to let myself out. "No, no, you go now"
Coincidentally, the office is only two blocks
away. Scott and I walk over holding hands. Still somehow very calm, we find the waiting
room and sit patiently while a dozen or so names are announced over the intercom, all in
Cantonese. It all seems so strange and surreal, almost like we're in a dream. Finally, I
hear what sounds like 'Laura'. I step up to the window, and am quickly lead back to an
examination room. I lay on the table, while the female nurse performs what must be a
sonogram. I notice that she looks very serious, and acts very professional, through the
entire procedure, saying little beyond quick instructions to "roll over this
way", or "lay still" as she administers the sonogram. In contrast, the
cheerful Dr. Peter English soon appears, rechecking the spots that the nurse had just
Realizing how nervous I am, he wastes no time with
his explanation "you have a very large cyst in your right breast, and a small one on
the left, they're not tumors, just cysts, nothing to be too concerned about. If you only
have one month of traveling left, you can certainly tend to them when you get home."
"Oh, that's wonderful news. Thank you so, so much" I sigh with relief. I get
dressed and thank each and every God who ever was, and walk out through the Chinese maze
of hallways back to Scott in the waiting room - saying 'thank you God' over and over and
over again. 'Thank God for allowing me to stay calm. Thank God for giving me this
Scott: We've decided to celebrate. Celebrate with dinner aboard
Hong Kong's fanciest floating restaurant. Here we are, two days after getting the
relieving news that everything is, in fact, going to be O.K.; just now letting ourselves
relax and slowly beginning to realize what we've gone through over the last few days.
We're just now really recovering from the incredible feelings of stress and uncertainty.
Feelings of stress probably far stronger than we let ourselves realize. It's funny how,
now that we've gotten through it, we can start to share with each other the thoughts and
scenarios - scripts that we each silently played out in our minds, over those tense 20
hours. Thoughts that we tried to hide, both from ourselves and each other, as we did our
best to be 'strong'. We talk about how we each would've handled frightening news like this
before we left home, and how we actually did deal with it after 11 months of travels
around the planet - seeing what we've seen and experiencing what we've experienced. And
how that now we're here, able to enjoy our most extraordinary experience yet - the
unbelievable feeling of really sharing with each other. Sharing our relief, our love, and
our absolute joy at how blessed we truly are.