Sometime over the next few days, we mark an anniversary in my family. Twenty years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Had this been in her mother’s time, or even earlier in her own life, my mom would have died. It is a medical miracle that my mom and so many other women are breast cancer survivors¹.
That’s not to say it was easy or not without consequences. This was a life changing experience for her. But, twenty years later, my mom is healthy and happy and incredibly active.
I will be forever grateful to the medical community that developed these miracles of modern science – because they really are nothing short of miracles.
It was an emotional time for us for a number of reasons. My parents had just moved to Connecticut from Queens. They were strangers out of their comfort zone in a life threatening situation. And, Helaine was pregnant, expecting in June.
The surgery had been successfully performed a few days earlier, but my mom was still at Yale/New Haven Hospital around this time, the week before Christmas.
Christmas is a quiet week in the hospital. Most elective surgery is postponed. If you’re there, you’re there because time is of the essence.
One night, while my mom was still recuperating, Helaine and I headed to the hospital to visit. While we were there, our friend and neighbor Ron Feinberg walked into the room.
He was finishing his medical training at Yale, and he too was stuck in the hospital on Christmas Eve (along with every other berg, stein, man and witz).
Things were quiet and he had an offer. Would we like to take a peek at our child? This was about the last possible thing we could have expected, but Helaine and I were game, so we followed Ron through the nearly deserted hospital and into an examining room.
As Ron passed the ultrasound transducer over Helaine’s belly, a video screen showed random noise… and then… Oh my God, it was a child.
We both stared at the screen silently.
Most people look at an ultrasound picture and try to figure out whether their child will be a boy or a girl. Silently, we did too… except Steffie’s body ended at the waist. Whether she had her legs tucked under her, or was in some contorted position, all we could see was we had a “stump baby!”
We actually both came to that conclusion independently, but never told Ron. He looked at the video as an OB/GYN, not a parent, and pronounced our unborn child healthy. And, she was.
Seeing our child for the first time, even with the less than perfect imagery of an ultrasound machine, was an amazing experience we’ll never forget. Getting that sneak peek and realizing my mom would live to cherish her grandchild, made it the most amazing gift ever.
In early June, Steffie was born right there at Yale/New Haven. She was not a stump.
¹ Because the breast is composed of identical tissues in males and females, breast cancer can also occur in males, although cases of male breast cancer account for less than one percent of the total.