The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Yeah, it pretty much sucks…

Sandra Pullencancer, that is.

Things I learned from Cancer 101 (4)

by Sandra Pullen on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 7:19am

Yeah, cancer pretty much sucks. It has rotten timing too.  It came between the two best holidays of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  How is that for a gift?

I had just found out that I would need the lumpectomy, and of course no Doctors work on the holidays, so I had to get through Thanksgiving with a “happy” face. Minutes dragged by. That was the longest period of time in my life. So, the lumpectomy was done on a Monday. Fast forward the mastectomy on Wednesday. Thanksgiving was a blur. I was scared. I am not ashamed to admit it. I was terrified.The fear that is clearly seen on the face of every cancer patient I have ever seen.

One day after I finished a chemo treatment, I had to reschedule another appointment for the next week. As I waited at the front desk for the receptionist, I noticed at my right a young man. And then I noticed his face. And I saw it.  FEAR.

I knew that look…………I’ve lived that look.  It was the same throat clenching fear that I had become so familiar with.

I’ll be honest with you , I have no idea how to explain what happened next.  I felt the need to help him. To try to ease his fear in some way, or something, I just knew I had to do something, anything.

Before I thought about it or analyzed it, or tried to talk myself out of it, I found myself leaning over to the young man.  In a whisper,  I asked…”what you got?” His head jerked up and his eyes were startled.  “Excuse me?”   I sort of grinned and said ” I got breast cancer, what you got?”  I can still see his dark hair as he dropped his head and said quietly “testicular cancer”  I could barely hear his whisper.   To this very day, I don’t know how I found the courage to say it , but out of my mouth came “dude, it’s just cancer. It can only take your life. It can’t steal your joy, happiness and it will never take salvation if you have it. Don’t give it any more power than it has.”

As I made my appointment and turned to leave, an older woman whom I assume was his Mother, touched my arm.

“Thank you” she said softly, “he needed to hear that”  Her eyes were filled with tears. I just smiled and walked away before I turned into a puddle of mush.

I never knew his name or how his cancer story played out.  But for that moment, for a brief time,  even though cancer was all we knew about each other, we were kin.

Christmas was celebrated, just in an abbreviated style. You really can’t do much cooking or decorating when you are recovering from 2 surgeries. How ever I have the most amazing brothers and sisters ever! They all pitched in and we had food and good times as if cancer had never entered our world. I spent most of the holiday season in the recliner, propped up with pillows, but, all in all it was not a bad way to spend Christmas. The babies were my “get well ticket”.  Their visits were the best part of recovery for me.

On a particularly difficult day for me emotionally, my then 2 year old grand daughter, Ryleigh Katherine and her mom were over, and Ryleigh being the very observant child that she is, noticed that I had bandages.

“Nana, do you have a boo boo?”  I had to tell her the truth, but wanted to do it so as not to frighten her or let her think I was “hurt” so I carefully explained that I did have a boo boo, but that it was all right and did not hurt. She quickly scrambled down off my lap and left the room.

  I just figured she was off to play, really not thinking much about it. After a bit, she came back into the room and climbed back up into my lap and ever so gently she touched my cheek with her little hand and said, “when I have a boo boo, my mommy puts lotion on it” and proceeded to rub baby lotion on my face with the most determined look on her small face. It was the sweetest touch I have ever experienced. Her little hand with a blob of lotion on my left cheek was the most precious moment I have felt in my life and if I live to be 90, I’ll never forget that moment. MY moment, the moment, I savored and  knew, that everything was OK, whether I lived or died she loved me NOW! and NOW was all that mattered. Not tomorrow, not yesterday but now!  Oh the healing touch of a child! 

I cry now remembering how I felt that day. As soon as I had gotten back to work, one of the first things I did was get her into the office and make a photo copy of that little hand next to mine and had if framed. If you are one of my patients, you have seen it.  Now you know the rest of the story.It hangs in a place of honor and if the building ever catches on fire, that is the first thing I’m grabbing on my way out! Precious memories amidst a storm. I can vaguely recall some of the pain but I vividly remember the joy, oh  the precious joy of a child’s touch, I will always remember and cherish.

To view cancer through the eyes of a child was an emotion I never expected to experience in my life time. Our approach to all things should be with the faith and trust of a child. Easier said than done.  The faith of a child, the blind trust of a child is a wonder to see. Not because it is so sweet, but because that is the way HE tells us to be. HE wants us to trust him like a child trusts his parents. To love him without question as a child does his parents. When we are afraid, to take his reassurances to heart, like a child. Faith is so easy to say but not so easy to PRACTICE. One has to make your faith work, and by that I mean, to exercise it. How does one exercise faith?

Let me explain how I did it. When my children started driving, my prayer life expanded. I spent a lot of time praying for their safety. I would not stop until I saw headlights coming up the drive. This was done out of fear (that word again) as Doug and I had lost a niece in a car accident when she was 18, many years before. So when our children started to drive to school, I would pray, Dear Lord,  let them have traveling grace, just keep them safe and from harm’s way, then just to make sure God was doing his job,  I would drive past the school parking lot on my way to work.  Now how is that faith?? 

Oh, don’t get me wrong, by no means am I claiming to have the answers or to know it all, heck, I’m not even claiming to be a good person. I just claim to be a child of the king who has learned a lot of tough lessons from an illness that I wish no one had to suffer from.

No, sweet friends, I have no magic words of wisdom, no special phrases of wit, just a heart filled with knowledge that no matter how rich you are………cancer doesn’t care.  No matter who you love…….cancer doesn’t care. No matter who loves you….cancer doesn’t care, and there in lies the secret.

No one is exempt. It could just as easily have been you writing this story of lessons. The fear is the same for all of us. I feel safe in assuming that every one with a diagnosis of cancer has fear. The defining moment comes when you decide what to do with that fear. Do you carry it around and nurse it so it grows and takes over the time you have left?  Or, like myself, do you decide to stick your tongue out at it and fight!!!  

  With a cancer diagnosis, faith grew. I had no where else to go. I had no control over who would be the winner in this breast cancer battle, only HE knew the answer to that.  So the next thing I learned from cancer was………..FAITH and how to make it work.  Hey, that sounds like another book!  ;  )

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Things I Learned From Cancer 101 (7) « Remembering the Shoals

  2. Pingback: Things I Learned from Cancer 101 (9) « Remembering the Shoals

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