in sickness and in health

Season 2 Episode 1

6 (enam) April 2017 (dua ribu tujuh belas) pukul 9 (sembilan) pagi. 

David memegang tanganku dengan erat, kami duduk berhadapan dengan seorang dokter sesaat hening- Ketika sang Dokter menjatuhkan diagnosa bahwa aku mengidap kanker payudara, tangis David pecah. 

Semua berlangsung cepat, serangkaian pertemuan dan tes harus kujalani. Sejujurnya ruangan yang agak ramai dengan dua orang dokter dan satu orang perawat seperti kosong. Aku tidak mendengar percakapan diantara mereka, otakku seperti masih sibuk berpacu, tetapi tidak jelas berpacu karena apa dan mengapa. Aku hanya senyum apabila norma mengharuskan senyum dan aku lebih banyak diam, sesekali menyimak pada saat topik yang dibicarakan menyangkut di otakku. David lebih banyak mendominasi dan aktif bertanya sekaligus membuat catatan di tabletnya. Aku tidak pernah melihatnya sangat fokus seperti ini.

Selanjutnya yang kuingat, kami jalan menuju tempat parkir, dan ketika Aku duduk didalam mobil, memakai sabuk pengaman, air mataku mulai mengalir deras tak terbendung. Kulihat David di sebelahku kembali memegang tanganku dan tak berkata apa-apa. “Ayo, tolong antar saya ke kantor” pintaku, dan David berhenti sejenak, kemudian menyalakan mesin mobil, dan melajulah kami menuju tempat kerjaku.

Sesampainya di kantorku, aku menyampaikan ke Unagi, bahwa hidupku akan berubah. Menyatakan kepada sahabat yang sudah kuanggap seperti adikku sendiri sangat berat, karena aku menyadari bahwa ini adalah kenyataan yang baru. Bukan hanya hidupku yang akan berubah tetapi hidup orang-orang yang mengasihi aku juga akan berubah. Unagi memeluk aku, aku melihat air mata mengalir di matanya.

Hari itu serasa sangat panjang, syukurnya berakhir juga. Sesampainya dirumah, aku membahas bersama David untuk memberitahukan kepada anak-anak kami, Joshua usianya hampir 8 (delapan) tahun dan Rafael 4 (empat) tahun. David agak ragu, apakah tepat keputusan untuk memberitahukan ini kepada anak-anak. Aku pikir sangat penting untuk mereka tahu, supaya pada saat mungkin aku mati, anak-anak tidak akan merasa dibohongi, sebaliknya mereka akan melihat perjuangan ibunya berpetualang dengan kanker payudara. 

David berlutut dihadapanku, kembali menangis. Aku paham yang dirasakannya, ketakutan kehilangan karena kanker payudara juga merengut nyawa ibunya, sehingga ini semua seperti menjalani kembali masa dimana ibunya kalah berjuang melawan kanker. 

Membicarakan kematian diusia 38 (tiga puluh delapan) sepertinya tidak lazim, menakutkan dan tidak nyaman. Dan hari itu, keputusan kami memberitahukan kepada anak-anakku. 

“Mom, apakah kamu akan mati?”  Pertanyaan Joshua kepadaku.

Kupeluk anakku… jangan takut Joshua kalaupun aku mati, itu bukan sebuah perpisahan. Semoga kenangan yang dia ingat akan aku ibunya adalah bagaimana pandanganku terhadap kematian tidak akan membuatnya trauma dan takut, tapi jadi bagian dari proses kehidupan. Masih banyak pertanyaan dari Joshua yang keluar dari pikiran seorang anak kecil untuk mencoba mengerti ini semua, dan aku dengan sabar menjawab pertanyaannya tersebut.

Salah satu ingatanku yang paling kuat menyentuh batinku adalah pada saat aku harus menjalani pemeriksaan MRI untuk seluruh tubuhku. 45 (empat puluh lima) menit di dalam mesin besar dengan suara yang sangat keras, aku harus telungkup dengan wajah menghadap ke lantai, tidak boleh bergerak. 

Pertemuan selanjutnya, David membawa semua hasil penelitiannya berupa 6 (enam) paket ringkasan lengkap mengenai kondisiku yang masing-masing paketnya berisi 11 (sebelas) lembar, yang isinya sampai sekarangpun aku tidak tahu. Para dokter tertegun dan kaget melihat pasangan seorang pasien membuat ringkasan. Melihat dokumen yang sangat berbobot dan lengkap dengan informasi yang para dokter harus tahu dari keadaanku, mereka mengira, David memiliki latar belakang kedokteran. David bahkan mengetahui penelitian yang terkini mengenai kanker payudara, dari pandangan dokter hingga apa yang bisa pasien lakukan. Pikirannya campur aduk, antara ketakutan dan harapan, tapi David tidak pernah menunjukan kepadaku, aku kawatir mengenai ini.

Dengan konsultasi dokter akhirnya keputusan kami sampai kepada prosedur yang akan kami lakukan adalah double mastectomy. Meskipun hanya satu payudaraku yang terkontaminasi dengan kanker, tapi setelah konsultasi yang panjang dengan dokter kami, disarankan aku melakukan prosedur ini agar kemungkinan kanker kembali lebih kecil. Dalam proses ini setelah kedua payudaraku diangkat, mereka akan meneliti tumor yang tumbuh untuk melihat sampai sejauh mana oncotype ku.

Operasi pertama memakan waktu hampir 7 (tujuh) jam dan ditemukan se-per-sekian inci ada kanker yang menyebar di lymph nodeku (nodus limfa). Dokter Teal memintal operasi kedua dilakukan untuk memeriksa lymp nodesku di ketiak sebelah kiri, dan 2 minggu kemudian operasi kedua dilaksanakan. Diberitahukan, kanker belum menyebar ke bagian tubuhku yang lain dan hasil pemeriksaan tumorku; tahap kankerku stage (stadium) 2b artinya aku tidak membutuhkan kemo maupun radiasi. 

Setelah operasi rekontruksi payudara dan hasilnya memuaskan, David dengan hasil penelitiannya memohon kepada kepala tim onkologiku, dokter Rebecca Kaltman untuk menyertakan aku kepada studi obat baru yang dikenal dengan nama Pallas Trial. Peserta studi ini harus memenuhi beberapa kriteria, dan aku memenuhi persyaratan yang ditentukan. Untuk mengikuti studi ini, pemohon harus diundi karena peminatnya sangat tinggi. Dr. Kaltman gembira aku mendapatkanya. Obat yang harus kukonsumsi selama 21 (dua puluh satu) hari dan 7 hari istirahat setiap bulan ini akan membuat daya tahanku melemah dikarenakan sel darah putihku akan terkompromi dan ini harus kujalani selama 2 (dua) tahun.

Oktober 2019 (dua ribu sembilan belas).

Studi trial terakhir berjalan dengan baik dan keadaanku terbilang stabil. Hari demi hari kujalani, dan David masih dengan setia selalu mengikuti perkembangan dunia kanker payudara. Joshua 10 (sepuluh) tahun cita-citanya ingin menjadi ahli mikrobiologi, dan Rafael, hampir 7 (tujuh) tahun, yang sangat atletis ingin menjadi ahli arkeologi. Aku semakin mencintai David dan kulihat matanya selalu memandangku dengan cinta kasih. Melalui aku, David merasa berterima kasih kepada Tuhan, para tim dokter, para peneliti yang semakin dekat menemukan obat kanker, dari penyakit yang mematikan, menjadi penyakit kronis yang bisa dikendalikan. 

Setiap hari aku jalani dengan mengucap syukur, aku mungkin ada hari ini, mungkin tidak ada besok, tapi yang aku tahu, aku hidup untuk Kristus dan mati adalah untung.

English Version.

April 6, 2017, 9AM

That was the day and time at the quiet doctor’s office when the doctor informed Diana and her husband David that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. David cried while Diana was left stunned. 

It all went by fast; the two doctors, a nurse and David continued talking about appointments and tests to be taken while Diana did not hear anything, her brain racing to catch up with no rhyme and reason. She smiled when she had to but she mostly stayed quiet, once in a while listening into the conversation when her brain caught the words. David was the one actively asking questions while jotting down notes in his tablet. Diana never saw him as focussed as that. 

The next thing Diana remembered was that when they walked to the parking lot and when they had settled inside the car, her tears started to fall uncontrollably. David sitting next to her held her hand and did not say anything. She asked him to drive her to her office. After staying quiet for awhile, David started the car and drove Diana to her office.

At the office, Diana shared her news with Unagi, that her life was about to change. Realizing that this was her new reality, made it even harder for her to share the news with her best friend who was already like a sister to her. It was not only her life that was about to change, but also the lives of those who love her. Unagi hugged her and Diana saw her tears falling.

That day felt very long, but thankfully it eventually ended. When she reached home, Diana discussed with David on how to break the news to their children, Joshua who was almost 8 years old and Rafael who was 4 years old. David initially was unsure on whether that was the right decision to share the news with their children. Diana insisted that it was very important to talk to their kids about this as in the event that she did not make it through, she did not want her boys to feel like they were lied to but instead saw how their mother fought fearlessly against breast cancer.

David knelt in front of her and started crying. Diana fully understood his feelings as he lost his own mother to the same disease and how for him this must have felt like reliving those times where his mother lost her battle.

Talking about death at the age of 38 years old did not seem real; it was scary and uncomfortable. That was the day they both decided to tell their children. Joshua asked Diana whether she was going to die.

Diana hugged her child, as she told him not to be afraid as even if she died, it would not be a goodbye. She hoped that his memories about her would be about how her views on death did not traumatized or scared him but taught him that it was part of life itself. There were still many questions from Joshua, sprouting from a young child’s mind trying to grasp the understanding of all of that and Diana patiently answered all of the questions. 

One of the experiences that was etched in Diana’s memory was that of her whole-body MRI check. Forty five minutes in the huge machine and the loud noise with her laying face down while not being allowed to move for the scan.

In the next appointment, David brought with him all of his research results, all 6 sets of complete summaries of Diana’s condition where each set consisted of 11 pages which contents until even now Diana has no idea of. The doctors were stunned and surprised that the spouse of a patient took the effort to create a summary based on research. Going through the complete and comprehensive documents, with detailed information about Diana’s condition on which to be updated to the doctors, the doctors thought that David had a medical background. David was even updated on the latest research being done on breast cancer, from the medical world’s point of view to what the patient can initiate and try for themselves. David’s mind was running in all directions, alternating between fear and hope, but he never showed it to her and Diana was worried about this.

After consulting with the doctors, their decision was that the procedure to be done was the double mastectomy. Although only one breast was cancer-ridden, after a long consultation with their doctor, it was advised to undergo that procedure to minimize the possibility of the cancer from reappearing. In this process, after both her breasts were removed, the doctors would do a biopsy on them to determine what stage was her oncotype.

The first operation lasted almost 7 hours and the doctors found a fraction of an inch of cancer in Diana’s lymph node. Doctor Teal asked for a second operation to be done to check her lymph nodes in her left underarm and that operation was conducted two weeks later.  She was informed later that the cancer thankfully had not spread to other parts of her body and the oncotype check results indicated that what she had was a stadium 2 cancer which meant she would not require chemo or radiation.

After the satisfactory results from the breast-reconstruction surgery, armed with his research, David asked the head of Diana’s oncologist team, Doctor Rebecca Kaltman, to submit a request to include Diana in a new medical study called the Pallas Trial. The participants of this study had to fulfill a few criteria and Diana ticked all the marks. Participation in this study was determined by lottery as many were highly interested in joining. Doctor Kaltman was very happy when Diana was chosen to be one of the participants. The medication that needed to be consumed for 21 days with a 7 day rest period every month would weaken Diana’s immune system by compromising her white blood cells, and this would need to be consumed for 2 whole years.

October 2019

The trial study went well and Diana’s condition was considered stable. She went through life day by day and David faithfully followed all the progress that were made in the world of breast cancer research. Joshua, 10 years old, wanted to become a microbiologist, and very athletic Rafael, almost 7 years old, wanted to become an archaeologist. Diana loved David more and more and she saw how his eyes always shone with love for her. Through her, David was grateful to God, the team of doctors and researchers who were getting closer to finding a cure to cancer, from a deadly disease to a controllable chronic disease.

Diana went through her days filled with gratitude; she may be here today and she might not be here tomorrow but she knew that to live and die in Christ is a blessing.

This is a story from Diana Daulima Dunham, she’s originally from Jakarta, Indonesia and she is currently working as the Assistant Director for Member Service at American Council of Engineering Companies, Washington DC

The Indonesian language used here is in the daily-conversation format, that has influences from the local culture and custom. Should you have questions on the more formal version, please consult with your guru Bahasa Indonesia.