Badj Genato’s Journey to Healing – Part 1
“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.” – Oscar Wilde
It was an overcast and blustery day on January 11, 2021. Badj put on her mask and face shield, got into the car and headed to St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City. She held my hand and I could feel her fingers were as cold as midnight’s rain. She looked at me with worry. I said that things will turn out as they should. Let’s deal with them as they come. She winced a smile, turned her head and looked out the window at moving cars and seemingly unrecognizable streets she’d passed a thousand times over.
The scheduled ultrasound and mammogram at the Breast Center didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Though the 45 minutes that had passed seemed like hours while I sat outside waiting for her. Cascading thoughts of what ifs and denials of what could be pounding like madman’s drumbeat. I heard the door open and looked on as she walked towards me. Let’s go home, she said. And we did.
The next day we got The email.
Interpretations. Findings. Heterogeneously dense. Obscure. Spiculated. Tissue Correlation. As I am reading the email I’m wondering, this all seems like it’s in English but somehow I don’t really seem to understand it. Benign. That sounds like a good word. No abnormality. Sounds even better! Birads Category 5. Highly suggestive for malignancy. Wait hold on, isn’t that the opposite of benign?
I forwarded the results to our godmother, who luckily just so happens to be a pretty popular anesthesiologist around these parts. The calm, kind, caring, collected, ever present yet non-ubiquitous Dr. Adelina Lim gave us a call and told us that she’d consult her colleagues about this. An hour later she called us to expect a call from one Dr. Samuel D. Ang. And so we waited. Patiently whilst suppressing the stress and anxiety.
Around 10pm that night the phone rang. It was Dr. Ang’s secretary. She asked us to stay on the line as Dr. Ang was about to join the videoconference. The display lit up as a kindly looking older gentleman was consolidated into the rectangles on the screen. After brief introductions, he said in clear tones, we have to take it out as soon as possible. When are you free? Let’s do it this Friday. Badj looked at me with worry. I held her hand as we said yes, yes, and yes again. After confirmations and scheduling were finalized, we ended the call with sighs of despair and optimism as well as hope and anguish.
The morning of January 15 was sunny and warm as we headed towards Chinese General Hospital. Badj made a halfhearted laugh as we passed by the flower markets and lechon alley (where rows of roasted pigs are on display) saying we would probably never have seen these if not for… then she looked away as she held my hand tighter.
The surgical biopsy was about an hour long. Dr. Ang came out of the operating room and called to me. I noticed he held something in his left hand. He said that I needed to take a look at it. It was small, bulbous and red. He cut into it with the scalpel in his right hand and opened it up. Inside was this white mass that unwrapped like a flower. No not really, more like a star that had gone supernova. He said, we need further testing but from what it looks like it seems like CA stage 1. Somehow after that every sound I heard seemed muffled. I think he said words like treatable, not a problem, more tests and so on. Next thing I knew he patted me on the back saying the definite words, “trust me, she will live a long life.”
Another hour passed before Badj was able to walk out of the operating room. Dr. Ang came out in his covid-proof gear with a huge smile. Warm, reassuring words came from him that this was totally treatable, especially with the technology today. Don’t worry about it, he says. The results will come out tomorrow but we’ll talk about it next Friday. He hands us some prescriptions for antibiotics and tells Badj to relax and not to worry. Eat anything you want. No restrictions. As we slowly walk out of the hospital, Badj and I have the same lingering twisting confounding thoughts… Are we going to tell the kids about this and how are we going to do that?
The week passes at a snail’s pace, thoughts of gloom and doom and hope and promise meander every waking moment. Thankfully the kids seem occupied by zoom classes amidst the pandemic.
Koji, our bright boy, our firstborn son now 13 years old…
Azumi, our witty 7-year old daughter, the child of surprise after the one we had lost…
How will we tell them?
As we individually told select family and friends of the situation, infinite variations of the same empathy and comfort came streaming forth. For example, Mama and Papa always at the ready; Achi May suggests and supports; Ate Belle empathizes and consoles; Doc Marlon listens and gives solace. Suggestions for diets and therapies and oils and dozens of links to a multitude of websites and videos that says that This is the Way if you want to be rid of this. That things were going to be alright. And the most healing salve of all would be prayer. Honestly, it was not the best of times.
Friday once again, it’s the 22nd of January. We are in the office of Dr. Ang. I hear words I have never heard in fiction before but feel that they should. Invasive carcinoma. Sounds like some event that the X-Men or Justice League should handle. I hold Badj’s hand as the options are laid out upon her. What to cut. How much to cut out. What to put back in if you like. We got what you need because we’ve done this a thousand times before (I exaggerate). The most cognitive action we were able to do that day was order the breast panel exam on the excised tissue to determine the course of action for the future.
Another grueling week of exhausting stress constantly countered by hope and prayers. And on January 30 the results from the breast panel arrive: ER+ PR+ HER2-. What does that mean?
About an hour of Google results later, seems like Badj’s CA is the best one can possibly have since historically it’s the most treatable. WooHoo! Sounds like a win! Not really but let’s go with it anyway…
So now, duly scheduled and with much consultation, it has been decided that on February 8, 2021 (Monday), Badj will have a Mastectomy.
May the odds be ever in her favor, because I love her.
To be continued…