A Heart-Warming, Mind-Stretching Reunion
It has been 15 years since the most difficult summer of my life: My Cosmic Hammer—my experience with ovarian cancer when I was 21 years young.
Today marks the anniversary of the day, 15 years ago, when I was set free from the Saskatoon Cancer Centre after 9 weeks of intensive chemotherapy to fly back to the States to finish my fourth year of university. I’ve been all clear ever since, of course. And, thus, it had been about 13 years since the last time I saw my oncologist.
At my two-year post-chemo checkup, he gave me a high five, and said, “If it hasn’t come back by now, it won’t.” And that was it.
Fully discharged from followup appointments at the Saskatoon Cancer Centre.
So when my mom told me she wanted to gift a copy of my memoir titled My Cosmic Hammer about my experience with ovarian cancer to my oncologist, I had a mind freak out that sounded a bit like…
“Holy shit! What is he going to think about my book? He’s going to think I’m absolutely crazy.”
“What if I didn’t remember the technical details correctly?”
“What if I didn’t know what I was talking about?”
And lastly, "I guess he's going to find out that dad drank some of my clean-out juice." LOL
Well, shit, I already published the damn thing almost two years ago, so what the hell does it matter now, right?!
It’s wild how the mind still throws us those fear curveballs when we feel vulnerable. The things our mind chucks at us are pretty mind-blowing. Like, come on. It was MY experience that I wrote about. Of course my oncologist is going to have a different memory and perspective of the experience if he even remembers at all.
Anyways, in order to gift him the book, my mom invited him and his wife to my parents’ house for a visit. Ballsy, I thought, but that’s my mom. And to my surprise, they agreed. So I cleared my schedule to be there as well.
Now for a backstory, we had literally never had a conversation with my oncologist unless it was in hospital, at the cancer centre, or in his medical office as an appointment focused on my health.
My mom is very conversational, so she would ask him personal questions during his checkups while I was in hospital. And 21 year old me was like, “Mommmmm, stoppppp. 🙈 He doesn’t need to answer that.” Nevertheless, she persisted.
Fast forward to July 2022, and we anxiously awaited his arrival at my parents’ house. I wasn’t sure how to feel. So many memories flooded my mind. The fear of sitting in the cancer clinic, the feel of warmed hospital blankets, the beeping of chemo machines, the hospital wallpaper, the high five he gave me at my two year checkup.
Finally, they arrived, and he had hardly changed. His voice sounded exactly as I’d remembered it. It was as if we hadn’t skipped over a decade.
It was such a special visit. We got to know the person behind the doctor role. We met his wife for the first time ever. We learned about his family, his hobbies, pets, and more. And my husband got to meet the doctor he has heard so much about over the years.
As our conversation went on, it was neat what memories came to the surface:
He vividly remembered details about my surgery, my case, my treatment. From 15 years ago. Of course, I remember everything. But to be a doctor who sees many patients every week and still remember one case from 15 years prior was mind boggling for me.
My mom recalled how Dr Giede checked on me frequently after my surgery, then called again later that night after he left the hospital, and came in first thing in the morning again. He nodded and agreed that he remembered that then stated that because it was such a huge surgery that he wanted to keep a close eye on me.
It was hard not to have some tears well up in my eyes after hearing that. I didn't know my surgery was huge. I didn't know that at the time nor did I know that it when he said that. Sure, it was major surgery, but people have major surgeries all the time. I didn't think it was the most important thing for my oncologist to be worried about. Apparently, I was wrong.
I remembered one checkup of him where he’d had his arm in a cast, which he was surprised I remembered.
I mentioned how he was going to find out that dad drank the clean-out juice before my surgery when I couldn't get it down, and we all had a good laugh.
He told us about the time when he had a message passed on from his receptionist years later that “Kristin Peterson is pregnant.” This may sound weird, but I had an ovary removed due to ovarian cancer, then had chemotherapy. So while he’d always said I’d be able to have kids, it’s one of those confirmations that you kind of hold your breath for.
It was pretty neat to get to discuss these memories, and be surprised that everyone remembered the experiences so vividly so many years later.
Explaining who Dr Giede was to the kids took a few attempts, but it was pretty special to have them there to introduce to him, even if they didn’t fully understand why they were such an important part of this story yet.
We had the most wonderful visit, then my mom brought out my memoir along with a set of my six children’s books to gift to him and his wife. I felt so nervous.
I guess I was judging myself and their reaction before it even occurred.