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GP8Jun05: Day by Day

Solid as Rock.  Ms. Stephanie, a corporate marketing executive, has worked in Silicon Valley for years, patiently and loyally and ethically serving a host of corporate executives whose performance has not been equal to her own.  She is a Rock of Gibraltar in a Valley of Quicksand, where many know how to build a chip but few know how to build a community.  Today California is still making sparks fly, but it is stagnating from government and corporate mismanagement in almost in every hill and dale.  As we like to say, Californians have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  Which makes Ms. Day all the more unusual. 

A Wonderful Writer.  She’s a wonderful writer as well.  Even if the snippets of her work we provide here add up to a rather tragic way of learning about her wonderful talent.  She has come down with breast cancer, and here below are just her first thoughts on discovering and battling it. 

Houston, We Have a Problem. 

“Your life flashes before your very eyes,” so goes the saying, when confronted with life-altering news.  For me, my body registered the news with the sensation that all thoughts had congealed in my head, hardened into a mass the size of a bowling ball, careened down the center of my body, ripped out my heart along the way and plummeted to a thunderous stop in the pit of my stomach.  The ball then reversed course, screeched back up to my brain, which by then had acknowledged the information being disseminated by the Breast Center biopsy doctor: “Mrs. Day, we found cancer cells in your right breast. Do you have a surgeon?”  

All this sensation occurred in the space of approximately two seconds, after which my irreverent mind went into kill the #!!%*-ing messenger mode: “Why the hell would I have a surgeon?  Do people keep them on retainer?  Like having a gardener or a housekeeper?  I am tall, slender, athletic, a healthy eater, a young 54 (50 being the new 30 and all) and have been a successful Silicon Valley marketing executive for years.  People like me do not get cancer!  Furthermore, no one in my family has ever had cancer.”  (Was I harboring a bit of animosity towards this doctor?  The one who performed the ultrasound biopsy exam, which was administered with only a topical or skin numbing agent?  At the point I screamed an obscenity, he casually inquired, “Did anyone ever mention to you that you have a problem getting numb with Novocain?”  I responded sarcastically, “Yeah, my dentist.  Why didn’t anyone ask?  Isn’t there any other way to perform this barbaric procedure?”) 

The dialogue that transpired when he casually delivered the news (never looking me in the eye) actually went as follows.  Appearing to read from a script, he said:  

Mrs. Day, we found cancer cells in your right breast. Do you have a
Would you like me to recommend one?
We work with a group of very competent surgeons.  I can suggest five.
Here they are (written on a slip of paper).
Is anyone here with you?
Yes, my husband.  (Wonderful, managed to utter more than one word.)
I’ll walk you out.  Good luck; you’ll be fine. 

Yeah, right. I was not fine.  My world had just changed forever; but I could not know to what degree.  I walked into the waiting room and everything looked different.  Colors were brighter, objects were in sharp focus, and people stared as if they knew I was harboring a secret (or so I imagined).  I felt like an alien. Fortunately, years of crisis communications management experience collided with my brain and I knew I had a task to perform.  My soul mate partner and love of my life for 32 years was scared s--tless (as I was) and was waiting impatiently outside for the results.  

What signal do I send him?  If I prance out in my usual sunny demeanor, he’ll be unjustifiably jubilant.  If I hang my head like a hound dog, he’ll fear the worst, which would have been a premature conclusion.  So, I strolled over to the car, head held high, face as bland as a poker player and got in.  In the silence that followed, I could think of only one neutral-sounding phrase, “Houston, we have a problem.  They found cancer cells.”  Since I was driving, I could get away with fumbling for my keys, thereby avoiding looking at his reaction.  He calmly replied, “I could tell by your stance that something was wrong.  What’s next?”

For a full script of her affecting remarks, kindly visit our Stitch in Time section, where we have a link to a fuller transcript of  “My First Year of Living with Cancer.”

Rick Smith.  Our good friend Rick Smith, family man and a gifted technology writer, has just had to rise to a new challenge.  He’s got a pretty good case of colon cancer, and he lays out the course of his treatment and the wide swathe this disease cuts in “The Dreaded ‘C’ Word’ Strikes Home: ‘It’s Cancer,’” Metro Magazine

Malraux.  To paraphrase Malraux very badly, “We live in the face of danger with death lurking just behind.  That’s what makes life worthwhile.  But nothing justifies death, especially for the brave, when it comes.”  Cancer amongst friends makes us think such thoughts.

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