Couple holding hands toward the sun

Holding hands, they comfort one another.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Clark Anthony, the well-known San Diego radio and television news reporter and weather forecaster, is the announcer for Monitor Mondays and Talk Ten Tuesdays. In this piece, Clark reflects on how he and his wife are facing a unwelcomed journey together.

In 2007, I beat colon cancer. Credit goes to my daughter-in-law whose father died of it and who nudged me to my first colonoscopy. Without her wisdom and firm command, I might have checked out at age 60. My cancerous tumor was confined to the walls of the colon. As I understand it, the doctor snipped, snipped and spliced, like repairing a ruptured irrigation pipe. Call me Rain Bird.

Eleven years ago, breast cancer grabbed the love of my life. Two days after hearing results of a routine mammogram, my wife Kaye went from reassurance that, “it’s probably nothing” to, “after further review, the call on the field is reversed.” You have a malignant tumor! Please reset the game clock.

We got that news on a Friday afternoon at Disneyland while holding hands with our grandchildren. As we stood in line for “Small World”, my wife was on the phone with her oncologist scheduling appointments.

Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hair loss led to recovery.

For more than a decade Kaye was in remission, cancer free. The theory was, “if no cancer for five years, little chance of recurrence.” Dodging it for ten years should bring a big sigh of relief. Olly, Olly oxen free!

Optimism is a wonderful thing.

Then, last fall, the disarming words came again. “It’s probably nothing, but we need to do further tests.” My wife knew instantly that tests would be redundant.

Indeed, an MRI confirmed she had a small tumor in the same breast as before. It was not a recurrence, rather a different cancer. Oncologist considered that good news. Our jury is still out.

We consulted with her oncology surgeon – a longtime family friend – and Kaye made the choice to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction, although tests showed cancer in only one breast.

Regaining her sense of humor, she joked about a pink T-shirt she’d seen on a curvaceous woman. It read, “Of course they’re fake. My real ones were killing me.”

My wife’s surgery was a success! However, for weeks after, she was in Never, Neverland. (Better than Small World). She lost her sense of taste and humor, and appetite. Her bones ached. She felt light-headed. Her temporary “expanders” hung like bags of flour on her chest. Sleep was restless. She was depressed as much as uncomfortable.

Gradually, she rallied.

At the first post-surgery appointment, her doctors revealed that the tiny tumor in her right breast was overshadowed by a much larger malignant lesion in her left – something not detected by one mammogram, two MRIs and a PET scan! Really? This is modern medicine? Paging Dr. Kildare.

Considering Kaye had already chosen double surgery, that news was affirming yet devastating! How can it be?

The oncologist’s conclusion: “stuff happens.” Seriously? That’s all you got?

The oncology surgeon revisits every test and promises to initiate a clinical peer review to determine what happened. Paging Dr. House.

After that, Kaye is more depressed than sore. “How can this be?”

Gradually, life resumes. Appetite returns. Friends and family bring good cheer, food and flowers. Lots of flowers. The worst is behind us. There will be a new season of Yellowstone.

Kaye’s doctor decrees, no radiation is needed. Big exhale.

However, compared with doing nothing further, Tamoxifen and chemotherapy could reduce the risk of cancer returning in the next decade from about 35 to 8 percent.

Kaye says, let’s do it, and orders an expensive wardrobe of fashionable chapeaus for the bald days ahead.

Recently she had chemo treatment #1 of 4, to be spaced three weeks apart. Based on her experience 11 years ago, she scheduled treatments for Thursday mornings, knowing the aftereffects should not kick in until after the work week.

True.

However, at age 75, aftereffects can kick you harder than a decade earlier. Antsy, itchy, wired, dizzy, restless, sleep deprived, bone achy. She has endured that and more.

As of today, Kaye has three more treatments ahead and many new hats to model.

How do “we” feel?

Thankful for early detection, professional treatment and oncology and plastic surgeons working seamlessly in tandem.

Blessed for not being delayed or turned away at an overburdened hospital. Or catching COVID!

Joyous for the timely removal of an undetected cancer. Shocked and depressed by the post-surgery discovery of that invisible killer.

Kaye and I are a team. I support her as she does me. Family lifts our spirits. Good friends keep us company. They bring smiles, food and flowers – lots of flowers. And way too much food.

This journey is just beginning. It’s an adventure. Please let no one write it ended with a courageous battle. Whenever it ends, it will be with love, faith and appreciation.

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