Today is a big anniversary for me. My story will explain.
Last week was the second session of our Stories Matter! Online Storytelling Workshop.
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Love, Care, and Compassion
When I woke up in the recovery room, I felt refreshed. There’s nothing like anesthesia to induce a sound nap. I’d been sitting there a few minutes when the young nurse pulled the curtain aside and eased into my “room”. “Mr. Turner…” she paused. She spoke as though she thought I was fragile. As if somehow, if she wasn’t careful she could break me.
I was 55-years old. Slightly gray at the temples, but otherwise the picture of vim and vigor. I was probably a little older than her parents, but certainly not some feeble old man who needed to be handled gently. Her tone scared the hell out of me.
I had just undergone my first colonoscopy. I was a Principal in an international consulting firm at the time and I had been just too busy for the past five years to take the time for a colonoscopy. A couple of weeks before I’d been seated next to an oncologist on a transcontinental flight who had made it clear I needed to make time.
Back to the terrifying young nurse. “They found a lesion.” I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking, ‘What the hell’s a lesion? What does that mean?’
She said, “The doctor will be in in a moment.” And she left.
Within a few days I was diagnosed with borderline Stage 3 Rectal cancer.
My wife, Stephanie, and I were estranged at the time. After nine months of my living in my office while she decided whether or not she wanted to be married and if so, did she want to be married to me; she had decided we should divorce. At the time she was an executive in the billing department for the physicians at the Medical College of Virginia. I reached out to her and said, “I need your help. You’re always telling me patients need an advocate. You’re the strongest advocate I could have.” She agreed to be my intercessor with the hospital. The first of many examples of kindness I experienced during my adventure with cancer. The ordeal was harder on her than on me.
My doctors decided on a plan of treatment. A pretty severe course of action that would have saved my life but would have seriously impacted the quality of the rest of my life. I’d already resigned myself to a new normal when Stephanie was in a meeting with the health system CEO and he asked, how I was doing? Steph told him. He said, “Fine young surgeon.” Then he said, “Let me tell you what I’m going to do.” And he subsequently changed my entire team. This was the second significant act of kindness.
I’d had several visits with my new oncology surgeon when I discovered we were not communicating. He kept talking about radical and conservative treatments. When it finally dawned on me that what he thought of as the conservative treatment was what I thought of as the radical solution and vice versa, we had an epiphany. We straightened out our confusion and decided to go with his idea of radical, which was my idea of conservative. The third act of kindness.
So, they began to poison me (chemo) and burn me (radiology) and finally they went in to cut away the remains and the surgeon said, “All we found were cinders. If we hadn’t known what we were looking for we might have missed it.”
There were many other acts of kindness. The staff at Massey Cancer Center were a delight from the valets who parked your car, to the admissions folks and the nurses and phlebotomist, to the X-ray techs and the chemo techs.
My colleagues who picked up the slack and chauffeured me to appointments, my partner, John, who visited every day even when I was too medicated to know it, and the parishioners of The Church of The Holy Comforter (Episcopal)in Richmond, VA and the nuns of the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Merion, PA who knitted me prayer shawls and prayed mass every day for my recovery.
The list is so long it would take a book to mention them all.
But there’s one more that stands at the head of the list.
Ten days before my diagnosis I’d had my first date with Marie McGranahan. We’d known each other since the 80’s. Her father and one of her brothers had worked for me as actors. We’d had dinner the night before Easter and had seen each other a couple of times since then for coffee and then I received my diagnosis.
I was still living in my office and thinking I’d move in with my 77-year old widowed mom when Marie said, “Come live with me. You can’t go through cancer living in your office and your mom’s place is too small.”
And that was that. Marie was positioned as my Caregiver, so Stephanie wouldn’t be dishonored at the hospital and Steph, Momma and Marie took care of me for the six months of my treatment.
Marie and I were married on September 10, 2011 aka 9.10.11. She’s now Marie McGranahan-Turner.
Cancer was an uplifting experience for me. I was the beneficiary of so much love, care, and compassion that I tear up in gratitude whenever I think about it.
I cannot thank enough Stephanie, my mom, Marie and the legion of people who cared for me. I can work to live by their example and pass on the love, care, and compassion they showed me whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I’m thankful to still be here, but nowhere near as thankful I am as for the people who made it possible.
I Want to Hear from You
I’d love to hear your stories.
Share with me stories that matter to you.
I’d love to hear stories of the blessings you’ve received during the pandemic.
Send them to email@example.com
Til next time,