November 30, 2017 marked my ninth year cancer-free since my brain tumor went into remission in January of 2009. It was my first MRI since my “hero,” Dr. Andrew Norden, left his post for a job outside the hospital, leaving me in the hands of the capable, but unfamiliar Dr. Eudocia Lee. As I waited in her office after the scan to hear the results, I was more nervous than usual. No smiling Andrew Norden would be walking down the hall with a thumbs up sign to indicate even before the words could escape his mouth that all was well. He had learned early on that unless he was grinning and extending one thumb in the air as he made his entrance, I would hyperventilate, so he took no chances.
As my husband Al and I sat on two hard-backed chairs in the sterile environment of the exam room, a tall, young doctor with a thick head of hair and a beard suddenly appeared in the doorway. “Why are you here? Is something wrong?” I asked, immediately panicking at the sight of this 6 ft. 4 inch man when a petite female doctor had been expected. “No, everything’s fine, Mrs. Fricker,” he said. “Dr. Lee just asked me to go over your results with you before she comes in to see you.”
The words “everything’s fine” flooded my body with relief, and, as always, I touched the spot on my neck where I had rubbed St. Jude oil before entering the darkened tunnel of the MRI. In October of 2008, a man named Joe Cunningham, a survivor of my rare brain tumor—primary central nervous system lymphoma—had sent me a tiny bottle of the yellow liquid, and I had used it faithfully ever since, even to the point of making a mad dash back to the house once or twice when I forgot to bring it with me.
So here I was, nine years after a time in my life when I didn’t think I’d live to see another birthday, being told that my brain once again showed no evidence of disease. Whether it was the intervention of St. Jude, a world-class hospital, or a brilliant young neuro-oncologist that has granted me this phenomenal second chance at life, I will never know, but I am eternally grateful for it.
Dr. Lee soon joined us in her office, and she and her tall resident posed with me for a victory photo in the hallway as was my annual custom with Dr. Norden after my MRIs.
Things change, but life goes on. Thank God.