Friday, January 30, 2015

This Blog Has Been Temporarily Hijacked by Toxic Chemicals

Alternate title: I Might Have Written Something Here That Was Entertaining If I Hadn't Contracted Breast Cancer

The third week of October, 2014.

I am visiting my daughter, grandson, and son-in-law in College Station, TX.
We are sitting around watching TV while Case is napping. It’s a show I probably never would've watched had the TV not already been tuned to this channel. However, the three of us were mesmerized by the story.  This was not a sensational news event, a titillating drama, or a satirical comedy that usually sucks us in. It was a cancer documentary.  An interview with cancer survivors. 

After we watched Giuliana Rancic interview several women in broadcasting as they told their stories of cancer diagnosis and their fight to beat the disease, the question was asked me,
“Mom, do you have regular mammograms?”

“No. I've never had one.”

Dramatic Silence.


Cue justified defensive noises.

I wasn’t AGAINST might hurt....always too busy to schedule it....etc. I promised them that I would get one aAnd I meant it.

When I got home I decided to give myself a cursory self-exam.


There it was.
A marble size knot. Not like the little marble that you can buy in bulk. But one of the bigger ones that you use to hit the smaller ones. But to me, it felt like a walnut. Or a golf ball. Or a bowling ball.

What happened next in a nutshell:

Primary Care doc called.
Appointment made.
Exam done.
Mammo and Ultrasound scheduled.
First trip to Women’s Center.
Easy as Pie.
Radiologist schedules biopsy.
Not quite as “pie- easy” but not bad.
“It’s cancer.”
Surgical team called in.
Lumpectomy performed.
Margins clear.
Nodes clear.
Genomic Oncotype test performed.
Risk of Recurrence: 21%.
Chemo plus 40 radiation treatments recommended.
Decision made. we are.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear before we go any further:

I am not an expert on cancer survival.
I am not the voice of all breast cancer victims.
I am concurrently, NOT strong, and NOT a victim.

When something like this happens, your little shoulder angels flutter down and land. I have three. I will introduce them to you (by name):

Glinda. The Good Angel.
Glinda would tell me things like: “You are gonna sail right through this!”
“You’re not going to need chemo!”
“Women all over the world are made stronger by this.”

I’ll call the more realistic one Diane Sawyer.
Diane tells me, “This is going to require a lot of time off.”
“You’re going to have to start doing some research.”
"How many opinions are you going to get?"
“You should've taken better care of yourself.”

And then there’s the noisy one.
Al Sharpton. (You know....all angels aren't good ones...#rememberthefall)
Al is warning me that I’m going to be sick. I’m going to have to depend on people. I’m going to be bald. I’m going to have to start wearing pink tutus to breast cancer walkathons, and go to support meetings, and my poor frail mother is going to freak out and need me more than ever (which actually fits into any scenario) and my kids and husband are going to get tired of me being tired and that I don’t have enough sick days to cover this “illness” and treatment. AND I’M NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO FLY TO TENNESSEE AND TEXAS TO VISIT MY GRANDBABIES.

Dangit, Al.

The very truth of the matter is that all of the angel voices were right....except the part about the tutus. But I’m living with it and learning from it. 

And my family.....

My. family.

The truth about my family is that I have nurtured them and loved them enough. They have learned how to give back. I have been given the gift of never having felt more love in my life. Not everyone gets that gift. I am learning how to accept it.

And my family is a lot larger than I originally imagined.

You can feel sorry for me if you would like. You can pity my dehydrated mouth and throat, my chronic upset stomach, my pitiful supply of red blood cells as they fight for survival, my sleep deprivation and nausea, and even perhaps the loss of hair. But the ones who actually deserve the pity are the ones who have no family or friends to step up and help them through this. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to go through EVEN ONE DAY without a text or call or card or gift of support. People I don’t even know have prayed for me.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

I’m not through this yet and I know there are many lessons to be learned.
So IF I were to try and make a point prematurely, it might be this:

Don’t wait until you’re the person that needs help, only to find that you've never given it.

Y'all this is not the hardest thing I've ever been through.
This is not the worst thing I will ever live through.
This will be one of the best learning experiences I will ever have.
This will give me the best gift one could ever have in this life...strength, perspective, compassion and the value of family.

Don't hate me because I'm a cheesy cancer survivor. Hate me because I'm obnoxious as hell about it. 

My first "outing" after coming out of the chemo cloud was to walk on the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier.

What has helped you through your battle with cancer and it's demon treatments?

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