We were leaving the leaving the GYN/Oncology clinic this morning, heading for the elevators to head home, when we spotted the woman in the waiting room, her shiny, bald head held high as she engaged in quiet conversation with her husband. We are quite familiar with this well-appointed corner of UNC Women’s Hospital, part of the University of North Carolina Hospitals complex in Chapel Hill. This is where my dear bride Betsy and I first learned of her cancer three years and three months ago.
Today, Betsy’s annual checkup there revealed that she remains cancer-free. What wonderful news. Since her surgery in 2013 to remove what we hope are all traces of cancer, we have returned to this place of healing to be examined alternately by her surgeon and her radiation oncologist. So far, every visit has delivered the good news we hope for. At first, these visits were three months apart. That has increased to six months. Her doctors are optimistic that they “got it all.” Gradually, cautiously, our confidence grows.
Two thoughts filled my mind as we drove away from the sprawling medical complex today. The first, how grateful we are to have access to such excellent medical care near our home. This is one of the reasons we chose Chapel Hill when we moved here from South Florida 40 years ago. The second, thoughts of our friends who are dealing with cancer in their lives. Three are members of our church, of whom one is recovering from surgery, one has just completed a round of chemotherapy, and one who is in the throes of chemo treatment. The father of our son in law is just beginning his chemotherapy.
Cancer touches so many of us. Invariably, it seems, it surprises us, arriving without warning. That’s the way it happened with Betsy. But no longer is it an automatic death sentence as ongoing research constantly refines and improves diagnosis and treatment. This year we will be able to celebrate another cancer-free Christmas thanks to the work of these dedicated people. We are grateful beyond words.