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Walking alongside cancer: The unexpected journey
Walking alongside cancer, by Linda White

istock photography
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Date published: 5/3/2009

MAY IS the best sailing month, my husband says. The air is soft and sweet and the changing temperatures bring fine winds and few storms, and so the waters of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay beckon. There, egrets are nesting and herons are welcoming shad and herring with open mouths. Life is teeming, unhindered by the algae blooms and fish kills that are sure to come with the dead-hot, windless days of July. It's a good time to get the old sailboat back in the water, to feel her nodding and rolling with the waves while gulls shriek overhead.

This year, we are especially happy to see May arrive, even though the boat is still up on the hard, sitting on jack stands in a boatyard in Lewisetta, for we have been on an unexpected--and unwanted--journey.

It began with my husband's cough in November, a cough like so many other people seemed to have at that time. This one, though, turned out to be different, as an X-ray followed by a CT scan eventually showed. There was a mass "suggestive of, if not indicative of" lung cancer, my husband's report read.

At first it seemed improbable. Impossible, in fact. After all, neither of us had ever smoked. And for years Larry had joked that at least he knew what would kill him: the diabetes he'd been diagnosed with a decade ago. Now another ominous cloud was creeping over the horizon. How could it be?

Soon we began developing a new vocabulary: Needle biopsy. Mediastinoscopy. Interventional radiology. Staging. Adenocarcinoma.

And a new parade of people began streaming into our lives. Drs. Sherwood, Vaughn, and Chinault and their staffs populated our conversation and thoughts. December was full of appointments and procedures, and a gradual acceptance of the reality that had been so surreal to us at first.

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