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Florence in Words

Blog on Surgery to Come Tomorrow

No, it’s not for the Parkinson’s. And the blog is also an attempt at apology---for not writing more often, for not writing to good friends (Toni McNaron, for example), for not writing of the death of a beloved colleague and friend (Nancy Porter) who I should have celebrated for her ten years of slogging and imagination at work on The Feminist Press’s Women’s Studies Journal. Yes, it was the first, and it still lives on as a scholarly work at CUNY and published still by FP. And now I must apologize for these long, unwieldy, unpolished sentences.

Back to the surgery for a paragraph or two: it’s on my right cheek, a blobby mass, missed by the first skin doctor I saw, who didn’t send a deep enough piece of flesh off to be evaluated for cancer. So the first report was negative. But it kept growing and so I saw another doctor who sent off a larger piece of my cheek, this time reported clearly as cancerous and a rapid-growing sort. So, finally, I’m scheduled, tomorrow at noon, for surgery, with two pairs of hands: a male surgeon and a female plastic surgeon. Together, they expect to get it all (or perhaps check out where it is headed, if that is possible). And of course, minimize the scar.

I’m pretty calm, given that I need to arrive at NYU’s Medical Center for the surgery in 24 hours, at noon tomorrow, the 24th of October. Yes, I’ve seen all my doctors, who, when you are close to 90, are suddenly a little group. All were reassuring, though of course none of them deals with cancer. And because my family history of horrors does not include cancer, I have assumed myself free of that worry. Lessons: no one is free and worry is probably useless.

I pause to look for an emery board and to wisk away at a piece of uneven nail on my cooperating fingers (yes, I can type today). Blessings on my hands. One of the instructions for surgery I immediately attended to was the removal of all nail polish, which left rough and crumbling edges to my shaking fingers, attesting daily to my Parkinsonian state.

Recently, my beloved former student, Ellen Bass, now a famous poet, organized a celebration of No More Masks at Poets House here in New York City. I was able to attend, to talk a bit and even to read a poem. Moreover, Robin Morgan was there, seemingly having conquered her own siege of Parkinson’s. We did not talk directly of illness, not even as seeming to be a possible source of creativity.

Yes, dear friends, I need more courage than I have demonstrated thus far. I need to write more, even about the formidable Parkinson’s. I complain that I cannot find good essays or books by and about people who have suffered the disease. But I have not stopped to write, or even to think about writing. I have one book my daughter-in-law, the indomitable AnnJ Gumbinner, found for me and perhaps I should begin by writing about it and what I found that was helpful in it.

Enough for now?
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