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Wake-up Call

By Olivia Clarke, founder of Humor Beats Cancer

One reason I started Humor Beats Cancer was because I kept having these odd experiences and I wondered if I was alone. I would think, “Maybe I’m the only one seeing this dark comedy play out in front of me.” But what I’ve learned from the amazing response to this blog — I’m most definitely not alone. We all are or have been in this weird alternate universe that is sometimes sad, sometimes funny and all the time real.

When I decided to get reconstruction surgery done I had no idea that it would involve multiple surgeries and be such a long experience. But I’m happy with the results and would recommend it to anyone going through breast cancer. With each reconstruction surgery I got more and more used to the process. I knew I couldn’t eat after midnight and could only drink water or black coffee in the morning. Making my appointment first thing in the morning became key so that I would not be hangry all day.

For one of my surgeries, as I went through the pre-surgery ritual at the hospital of putting on my gown, placing my clothes and purse in a plastic bag, sending my last text messages and getting my vitals taken the anesthesiologist came into the room.

He had a very common last name but as he started talking we quickly realized that I actually went to school with his sister and worked on the school newspaper with her. We continue to be social media friends today because she lives overseas. But we often hung out at the same parties in college and knew each other back in the day. I remember thinking what a small world. The anesthesiologist mentioned that he just played phone tag with his sister and would mention that we met next time he reached her. I thought nothing more of it because I assumed we had a plan and we were done discussing it and could return to the business of “putting me under.”

Flash forward an hour or so (truthfully I have no idea how long I was in surgery because I blissfully slept) and just as I woke up in my hospital room all groggy and a little out of it that same anesthesiologist came back into the room and pushed his iPhone in my face because his sister was FaceTiming him. Before I knew it I too was FaceTiming his sister, several short minutes after coming out of surgery. Talk about an awkward conversation for me and his sister. We both were a little stunned to be talking with each other — particularly so soon after surgery. Her brother thought it was the most awesome thing. Oh technology.

We exchanged pleasantries — I think she wished me luck and I asked her how she was doing. I’m not sure if I remember the conversation because I HAD JUST COME OUT OF SURGERY. I sometimes wonder what his sister thought of that conversation and if she yelled at him for the call or if she thought it was perfectly normal to be FaceTiming at that exact moment. Maybe if she reads this blog piece she can weigh in on it.

Just one more example of the strange shit that happens on the road to fighting cancer and regaining normalcy.

(As an aside, the photo is of me after one of my surgeries when my hair was growing back and I was reminded why I color my hair -- because it's actually very, very gray.)

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