Dumb Luck

I have never wanted to use connections. As an adolescent and young adult, I stupidly refused my parents’ help at every turn. “I want to do it myself!” I lived in China in the 80s, where “pulling connections” is ingrained in the culture, yet it didn’t rub off. “That’s fine for you, a nation of one billion, but I want to do it myself.” Breast cancer has a way knocking the arrogance out of you, and also of making you marvel at how one thing leads to another.

I have a friend from Grace Chruch Brooklyn Heights. She unfortunately had breast cancer a couple years ago, she led me to my doc at NYU.

I had a pal when I was studying at Peking University in the mid 1980s. She went on to become a liver transplant surgeon, to write a wonderful book, “Final Exam,” about how doctors deal with mortality. She knew some surgeons at Sloan Kettering, which is, with NYU, one of the preeminent cancer centers in the world. They knew some other surgeons, who recommended the breast surgeon at Sloan Kettering who’s seeing me for a second opinon tomorrow.

My oldest and dearest childhood friend has an old pal, who worked for years at the University of California San Francisco Breast Center. Since I’m moving to San Francisco in the middle of all this, her friend offered to recommend a doctor at the UCSF Breast Center. That surgeon, it turns out, trained with the Sloan Kettering surgeon. She also read my liver surgeon friend’s book and loved it. She called this afternoon, to tell me that she had already heard from the NYU doc, and that she would schedule an OR for me as soon as I meet with her old Sloan Kettering attending tomorrow.

I am stunned, and so grateful. Everything is connected. How could I have missed that for all these years?

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About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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One Response to Dumb Luck

  1. Debbie Wiegmann says:

    My motto is ” Never ever give up” See that you have an Australian Shepherd to? I have 3 of them. Best dogs in the world. Looks like you will have the best medical care with all these great connections.

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