Friday, September 25, 2009

The C Word

There are some words that can never be taken back. Forbidden, illicit, verboten. Speak them, and you've crossed a line - you're done.

There aren't many bad words left in English, most so overused they have become little more than verbally redundant adjectives. But there is still one word that is still a pure verbal vomit conversation killer. The C word.


My sister has breast cancer.
She's 35.
It's malignant.

I know something is wrong when I check my messages and hear my mother's panicked voice. "Brian, call Christos."

Christos is my sister's husband. A successful bio-tech recruiter, he has a house in Malibu overlooking the ocean, drives a porsche, and was a former restauranteur and photographer. He sings, plays guitar, scuba dives, speaks three languages, has a wine collection that surpasses most restaurants, a connoisseur of the arts.

I'd date him.

I call, but can't get ahold of him. I try his cell and his home phone, then I try my sisters. Nothing. I breathe out a heavy sigh.

I have no recourse, I'm going to have to call my Mom.

My mother is borderline hysterical with fear. She doesn't want to tell me at first, but finally blurts, "Dana has cancer!" Her terror washes over me, envelopes me over the phone and drags me into a world of doom where the cancer could possibly masticate and transform into the blob, devouring civilization.

The next morning I get a call from Christos. His worry leadens every word, but he has it under control. He explains:

1. The cancer is most likely in stage 1, which is 100% curable. (Stage 2 is 92% curable.)
2. Dana will need a lumpectomy, or excisional biopsy to remove the lump and some of the surrounding tissue to determine if there is any spread of cancerous tissue.
3. She will need radiation, but chemotherapy is unlikely unless the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes.

Christos has used all of his contacts in the bio medical field, his business savvy, and his indomitable will to put together the dream team of breast cancer experts. He has the head of oncology at UCLA and a lumpectomy specialist who is considered the best in the world.

This surgeon is so good he only operates on Tuesday's and Thursday's, and he doesn't bother with insurance. You want his services, cash only, 75% up front. People fly from Japan and China to hire his services. Dana and Christos hope the surgeon will be able to squeeze them in sometime in the next 5 weeks.

Dana and Christos meet with him on Monday.
He agrees to perform the surgery on Thursday.

Say one thing for the Count, he gets it done.
Say one thing for my sister, she knows how to turn on the charm.

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