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

Muscle Shoals

Little Miss Perfect…

was a contestant in the Little Miss Trojan Pageant. Isn’t she just p-e-r-f-e-c-t???

Kaitlyn Rochelle Berry

Little Miss Perfect: Kaitlyn Rochelle Berry


Things I Learned From Cancer 101 (7)

by Sandra Pullen on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 8:08pm

What has gone so terribly wrong in this world that newborn babies in their mother’s arms, get cancer?

How does that happen?

The types of cancer are many and varied.  Osteosarcomas, Neuroblastomas, Lymphomas, and so many other technical names that are too difficult to pronounce and impossible to spell. 

I simply call “it” the Beast.

The word beast is defined as a cruelly rapacious animal. A living organism.  Fits cancer perfectly.  A cruel beast.

The damage done by the beast is visible and sometimes, obvious.  Austins’ precious little bald head is something I will never forget.  Nor will I forget the first time, his Aunt Shelley saw him as his hair was beginning to fall out.   Her face crumpled as she got out of her car and came around to hold him. We all felt the same way.  The pictures tell the story much better than I can.  They are put away.  Out of sight, out of mind.   So we hope.

When the cancer beast entered my life and world, I never looked at it as a punishment.  It never occurred to me to feel “picked on” or  singled out.

It did however make me more determined to live my life in such a way that others would know, the beast can be beaten.

Now, having said that, never think that for one second,   all stories have the “happily ever after” ending. 

Sometimes the beast wins, and that is what breaks my heart.

When Austin was diagnosed, I admit, I did question…….Why my baby?  Why Austin?

The Pullen Grandchildren

Doug and Sandra Pullen's Grandchildren

One trip to St. Jude and I assure you,  you will not be the same person you were before. It’s one of those places that should be sad, and sometimes it is……..very!

  I will never forget the first visit we had with our Austin there. 

We were so happy to see him!  It had been three weeks.  I was so excited that I ran in and grabbed him up, leaving my purse sitting on a table in the common living room. 

He wanted Papa and I to take him outside to the playground, and of course, we did.  He played on the slide and ran around like he had never met the beast.  The only indication that he was sick was his pallor.

After about an hour, I realized that I had left my purse inside.  Oh no!   Inside were my credit cards,  check book and money.

Doug hurried inside, hopefully it had not been stolen. 

When he came back to the playground, he had the strangest look on his face and my purse in his hands.  

“What’s the matter?”  I asked. 

I will never forget his words.

“It was right where you left it.  Sandra, down here, I don’t think it’s about money. What these kids need, money can’t buy”

You’re right, more tears.

The leaving was torture.  I remember sobbing as he stood in the doorway of the Ronald McDonald house, his little arm waving bye bye to Nana and Papa.  I left my heart there. 

On the interstate, traveling home, all I could feel was heartbreak.  I cried until I couldn’t see. And all at once, I remembered, I had left my purse!

We turned around and went back. 

This time when I had to leave my baby, he was sleeping so peacefully.  It wasn’t easier, but it wasn’t quite as painful to leave him this time.

Yes, you would expect St. Jude to be a sad place.

But with so many little children gathered there, it is filled with giggles and smiles. The play room is awesome, the playground  is a wonderful place for them to explore and just be…………..NORMAL

Cancer patients have only one need, and that is a cure.  We know logically, that the beast can rear it’s ugly head at any moment in time.   After  nine years, it’s still the first thing I think of when I open my eyes, every morning. 

For a split second, I question.  It only lasts for a second, then I’m up and off to start my day.

With the talent and money in this country, why are we still trying to find a cure for this disease?  Jonas Salk did it. But so many  diseases have NO cure.  Oh, they  have treatments, Alzheimers, Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma, and the list is endless.

There are only treatments.   Why? 

I have no answers.   Only questions. 

The beast is not pretty, and it’s painful. It’s after effects never go away. To this very day, I can’t drink from an aluminum can. Chemotherapy makes your mouth taste like you have been sucking on copper pennies.   The metallic taste is very fresh in my memory. 

Some times, I smell a scent and am immediately transported back to the Cancer Center.   It’s funny how a scent can trigger a memory. 

Austin wont eat anything that smells like grape. So much of his medicine was grape flavored.

The beast causes a chain reaction. Not only does it affect the patient.  It affects the parents, the siblings, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles and on and on.

Austin’s big brother was only 4 when the beast entered.   He wasn’t old enough to understand why his mommy was away.

I can never forget how my heart broke for him.  He woke up one night, crying with an ear ache, and all he wanted was his mommy.

How do you explain cancer to a four year old?   He did not understand that it was not his fault.  He asked, “Aunt Shelley, if I’m a good boy tomorrow, can I see my mommy?”

How can the human heart deal with such hurt? How will I ever over come so much heart break?  How could I watch Austin suffer? How could I watch his parents go through this???? My heart HURT!   How could my heart survive this much pain?

Now I know….

Just as easily as it can love unconditionally.

Just as it accepts and loves with out question.

Just as easily as it bears your hurts and pain.

Just like Jesus did for us.

Without a doubt.

With unconditional LOVE

And that is another gift of cancer…………To LOVE

 *************************************************************************************************


Oh how I am loving all this…

family and history of the Shoals! A cousin in Campobello, South Carolina shared this photo with me. His name is Greg Vandiver. He descends from John Henry Vandiver, who is his grandfather. His great-grandfather’s name is Thomas Jasper Vandiver. John Henry Vandiver lived in the LaGrange community in Colbert County, Alabama. Greg’s father is Edward Keith (Punk) Vandiver and Punk was one of 12 children by John Henry Vandiver and Virginia Sue McCluskey.

It is through Greg’s father that we are able to enjoy this absolutely stunning historical photo.

John Henry Vandiver Family

John Henry Vandiver Family at the Houston Plantation on Wilson Dam Road in 1911


The Pullen grandchildren…

form the circle of life.

The Pullen Grandchildren

Doug and Sandra Pullen's Grandchildren


An Alabama girl kicks cancer’s butt…

The Things I Learned From Cancer 101 (6)

by Sandra Pullen on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 6:08pm

Lessons you learn from cancer are ones that change your life. The changes are sudden and permanent.

It begins by shifting your priorities, and the funny thing about priorities, you think you have them all arranged.  Got them just like you like them. Then………….bam!

I liked my life.  I loved my job. Had wonderful friends. A husband who loves me, awesome children and grandchildren.

Was  fortunate enough to still have both parents to love. Yeah, my life was pretty much the way I liked it. There was nothing  more I could ask for, well maybe to win the lottery, but I’ve given up hope of that ever happening.

I lived life in days.  Now, what does that mean, you may ask? Well,  I would get up, go to work, come home, fix dinner, go to bed.  That is basically how I existed. Routine was a comfort to me. Doug was always there. 

After all this time, it is still difficult for me to admit, but , yes, I took it all for granted.  I just assumed things would stay the same and that life would continue to be exactly as I wanted it to be.  Day in and day out. 

You see, that was the problem.  Cancer came into my world and suddenly, I found out how to start living! 

When one is faced with a life threatening illness,  there are stages you go through in order to arrive at a place that allows you to deal with all of the changes and shifts that come along with it.

But the one thing that nagged at me from the moment I first heard the word, cancer.  What if I die?   What if this cancer beats me?   What will I do??

Looking back, I realize what silly questions those were!

You see, it was never up to me.  The choices I have to make and the decisions that affect my life are limited. I can only do so much on my own, and in this frail human body. The decision to get up every morning is one that is easy to make. Not rocket science that. 

But whether or not I would live or die was never the issue!   I am going to die!   Now here is the kicker…………..So are you!!!

You see how silly that is?  We all are only given temporary passes. This is not our home. 

I have always said, “I am ready to go, just not today”  If I die to day, just know that I was happy yesterday.  Now that is easy for me to say…..about myself. 

I could not say that about my two year old grandson with Leukemia.  It was no less true for him, but it was not easy for me to say.

In my heart, I could not bear the thought of losing him to the beast. The battle was not an easy one to win, and I know how hard it is to fight the cancer, but he was just a baby, only two years old. How in this world would he ever be able to with stand the chemo monster?  How would his little body be strong enough to battle the pain this beast could cause?

Watching this brave warrior in the fight of his little life was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I wished so many times that I could take his place.  I knew how to fight the beast but my baby didn’t.

My little Austin showed us that it can be done.  Cancer can be beaten.

Every time I see this child smile, I am amazed at how much he has endured.  For six years, he has been cancer free. Now at the age of eight he has blossomed into the little boy that I had always hoped he would be, and I can’t wait to see the man, I know he will one day become.

I love all of my grandchildren with my whole heart. But Austin and I have a kinship that was not of our choosing. We are related by more than just blood. We are kindred hearts in a fight that is lost by so many people every day.

Babies are not supposed to get cancer.  How does that happen????   What has gone so terribly wrong in this world that tiny babies in their mothers arms get cancer?? 

Of one thing, I am certain… I have been given an opportunity to share, and let others know that, cancer doesn’t win every time!

After all of these years of learning these lessons,  I have finally come to realize, that I am still learning!! 

Every day there is a new revelation in my life.  It is like a light bulb goes off in my head, and I want to slap myself and say “Oh, yeah!  I get it now” 

There is no secret, no special remedies in the life of a cancer survivor because we know, it’s not up to us. All we have to do is grab onto the moments!! 

Stop living day by day, in an endless rut and start SAVORING THE MOMENTS! 

The older I get, the more I realize how very little I know about a lot of things, but of one thing I am more certain of now than at any other time in my life is this……………..There is a GOD that loves us. He loves us so much that he even takes pleasure in our slumber.

How many times have you tip toed into your child’s room at night and just gazed at that precious, sleeping face?  What an absolute joy it was to know that little person was safe and sound and peacefully at rest!

Our heavenly father loves us so much that he enjoys watching us sleep!

Can you really grasp that?  Just like an earthly father, he loves to see us at peace and rest.

When I question, WHY?  It’s not for the reason you might think.

I never ask, ” why me?  or why Austin?”  Instead my question is a little more complex.

I say”  Why do other children not get the same wonderful outcome as Austin?  Why do other breast cancer patients not win the battle against their beast?

It makes no sense that babies die from this disease, but it happens every day. I have lost count of the precious little friends that Austin has lost over the years we have spent at St. Jude’s.

Brave little people who face death with the un waverable courage of child like innocence. You see, they don’t know that they are as  sick as they are.

Oh their parents know, you can tell by their faces. The fear, the worry, it’s all there, in every blink, smile and tear.

But the children have no idea how sick they really are.

That is the gift of innocence. You and I had it once, but lost it as time passed. But the children, how unafraid they are of what they face.

I can’t think of anything more painful than the loss of a child.

I have always said that St. Jude is where GOD sends his angels to help sick children.

My family and I love St. Jude!!

It is a place that offers hope to a family who came to them with so much despair. Our lives will never be the same since cancer entered. It is better because now we take NOTHING for granted, Not one second or moment goes by without a thankful prayer for the gift that we have been given.

It may sound crazy, but I wouldn’t trade my experience with cancer for anything in this world, because it taught me how to truly live!!!

And there you have it! The next lesson learned from cancer is …. how to live!  Celebrate the moments!!!


The funny thing about cancer is…

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart

NOTHING!

Things I learned from Cancer 101 (5)

by Sandra Pullen on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 12:40pm

 The funny thing about cancer is….oh wait……..there is nothing funny about cancer! But, there is no rule that says one can’t laugh AT it!

And that is what I did.

Humor is a wonderful way to feed the spirit.  There is a rule at Nana’s house, if Nana thinks it’s funny, nobody is in trouble.

The problem with that is ….I think everything is funny.

Humor is found in circumstances that sometimes seem difficult to face, whether you believe it or not.  It just made dealing with my situation easier. I knew that if I did OK, then so would my family. They were watching me.

So, if I smiled, they smiled. It was a learning process.  I had never dealt with this before, so I just took it breathe by breathe. Some days I couldn’t even see day by day, it had to be one breathe at a time.

After surgery, the hospital sent a counselor or a helper or a busy body, I’m not really sure what to call her, but my friendly “counselor” came by my room just to discuss recovery options and prosthesis.  She brought me an attachment to wear home.

It never entered my mind that I would need something like that to look “normal” on my way home. 

It was just a small cushion that fit under my arm so that the front of my body resembled a normal female’s. Now I have always been blessed with curves, shall we say, so when I put the little cushion on , Doug and I both burst out laughing!

It was so obvious that this little cushion was not my size!  I looked at Doug and said ” they brought me 32 petite instead of a 34 long”   I still have that “little” (little being the key word here) cushion.

Laughter truly is the best medicine! To smile when you are concentrating on NOT throwing up is a real gift!

I used to tell my oncologist that I am the only person I know, who for six months, twice a week took chemo treatments and threw up on a regular basis and STILL gained forty pounds! 

Now, I don’t care who ya are, that right there is funny!

Steroids will do that to you, so they tell me.

The chemo room, or family room setting where our infusions took place was a huge, sunny room filled with recliners all around the room.

Some were big lazy boy types and others were small, petite ones.  So I made it a point to always find the small ones, because I could let my feet actually touch the floor.

While getting my labs done, (blood drawn) I asked Doug to go ahead of me and “reserve” my chair.

When I finished and got to the room, I saw an older man who was small in stature like myself.

I had seen him many times before but he always had a scowl on his face that made him unapproachable.

On this day, I determined that I would introduce myself and just see what happened.

Boldly I walked right up to  where he was sitting with his wife and said ‘hello, my name is Sandra, how are you today?”

Still scowling he looked at his wife and said ” Yeah, this is the lady that always steals my chair”

Now I just told you , that I find humor in strange places, so instead of being offended, I just smiled sweetly in return and said  ”  OK, you big baby, if you want your silly old chair, you can have it!”

Wait for it………………………………………..

The biggest grin spread across his face and I honestly thought he was going to laugh out loud!!

From that day on we enjoyed prodding each other with good natured insults. As it turns out, he was not such an ogre after all. He just wanted to be talked to and have fun.

In his own way, he was coping with the “beast”.

It is true, you really never know the things a person is dealing with or how they feel unless you actually get involved.

His is gone now, as are so many faces that sat in that room at that time.

I wish somehow he could know what an impression he made on me that day.

I had one of the sweetest nurses. Her name is Kim. I have lots of wonderful people in my life named KIM! Go figure!

On the first day of my first infusion, she was explaining how the chemo worked.

In an off hand way, she explained that it would make me sterile. Now at the age of 46, being sterile was not the tragedy that it might have been for some one else, so I just looked her in the eye and said with a grin……”Sweetie, you better hope it does, because if I get pregnant, somebody is gonna go broke around here!”

She still laughs about it to this day!

Laughter is defined as … the display of merriment through sound.  I love that!! 

I usually don’t wake up every morning with the intentions of being an ass that day, how ever circumstances often cause that result. But by nature, I am not generally in a bad mood.  I try very hard not to  project my moods onto others, and I hope that I have been successful.

Oh wait, except for that one time in Walmart to that lady who broke in the check out lane if front of me. Now that was a circumstance beyond my control. I had an out of body experience and while I was gone my evil twin, Julie took over and well, let’s just say…..even the cashier was apologizing by the time she left.

BUT, I did smile at her as she was leaving and told her to have a nice day.

Now that counts for something, right?

Oh, well maybe not.

My poor oncologist….poor Dr. Patel!

Not even he was spared my humor!  It didn’t help that my sister works for him. That only made him more vulnerable because we tag teamed him!

She would tell him that there was a lady in room two that just could not wait to see him, so of course when he came in I would take over.

I told him that he was the only man other than my husband who could get me to take my shirt off!  Being of Indian ancestry, I could never be sure, but I think he blushed!!

 I know that some of you may think it odd that I find humor in a life threatening situation, but let me tell you, each of us has the ability to see the silver lining!

It may take a while, but it’s there. Sometimes you have to look really hard to find it.

My diagnosis came right after September 11, 2001. The whole country was shocked. Every one was in a  state of disbelief.

You can imagine how, after all that had happened, how frightened I was.

I had to deal with the beast in my own way.

I discovered that laughter heals the spirit. A body is simply a house, but your SPIRIT is where you LIVE.

A sick body is sad to see, but a sick spirit is heartbreaking. The defeated attitude can sneak in before you know it, so one has to always be on guard.

It would have been so easy to sit and cry. To just give up and give in. Oh, trust me, I tried that. Not the way I wanted to live the rest of my life, but had I done that, I feel like I would have been letting down every person who loved me. My husband, my parents, my children. All the people who loved me and that I loved right back and more!

So, I just decided one day after my hair started to fall out that I would just stick my tongue out at cancer and get on with living.

The lessons I have learned from cancer are so valuable! How else would I have known how strong I am, or how much my body can endure without quitting?

How else would I have obtained the gift of compassion for others who are suffering, or the ability to show others that cancer is just a word, not a sentence?

How else would I have become who I am today without the tough schooling by cancer?

No, cancer is not what I would have chosen for myself, but without it, I would not be the ME, that I am today!

And the me that I am is not perfect but I’m not done yet.

I am not what I was yesterday, and not what I will be tomorrow, but I am me today! and the one thing I want all of my friend to know, without a doubt is this…………………..

If I die today, you are to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was HAPPY today!!!!  That is how I want to be remembered.

My children have been informed that I want a “drive-by” funeral.  Every body is to drive my  grave side and blow me a kiss then go home  and …………..LAUGH !

The next thing I learned from cancer is to laugh in the face of fear. I love to laugh. I believe even GOD  has a sense of humor.

If you don’t believe me just look at some of the animals he created. A hammer head shark?  Are you kidding me???

How funny looking is that?

A squid????? An octopus???  Come now, you gotta admit, that’s funny!!!!!!!!!!!!

LAUGHTER…..The display of merriment through sound!!!!!!!!!!!  ENJOY YOUR MOMENTS!  Even the ones tainted by cancer. I believe it pleases God, much like it would any parent to hear the joy in their child’s laughter!


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!  ;  )


Savor your moments…

and make them last.

Things I learned from Cancer 101 (3)

by Sandra Pullen on Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 6:28am

To savor means to enjoy something with unhurried appreciation.  My diagnosis came at the age of 46. I know, not so young but I was still reveling in the joy of being a Nana.  My grand daughter Ryleigh had just turned two and my grandson, Trey was only 9 months old.  His giggle echos to this day in my head as  I remember how he loved to jump in my lap as I sang “Five Little Monkeys” Such a happy time.

The night before my mastectomy, I sat in the floor and played with them, crying and “savoring” them. I knew it would be a while before I could hold them so I “savored” them in my arms. They were so unaware. The blessed innocence of

Pullen Grands

The Circle of Life

childhood. The un-knowing-ness  (If that’s not a word, it should be) of their play was so sweet.

Not one of us knew with certainty what the outcome of the next day would be.  Had the cancer spread? Were the lymph nodes involved?  Was there other cancer?  Would these two precious little wonders remember me if I should die?  Who would tell them how very much they were loved by their Nana?  Would they really ever know how much I loved them?  I was  afraid, not of dying, that is the one certainty in life, but of being forgotten. To just be one of the faces that disappeared and was no more. I could not bear the thought of being forgotten. I knew how special a grandmother was, I had mine until I was 55 years old, and , oh how I loved her! I so wanted to be here for them.

  The grand babies were going to be fine, but what of my children?  My daughter and two sons were scared. It showed on their faces, but they were young.  My Mother and my little Daddy were another story. I was supposed to be around to help take care of them.  What if I wasn’t able to do that?  My daddy cried every time I looked at him. My precious mother had a shell shocked expression. She doesn’t handle fear well at all. I just wanted to take care of them all, and I was terrified that I was not going to be around to do it.  My husband, my sweet Doug, never missed a treatment. Would go and bring back burgers for anybody who needed one. In sickness and in health and he proved himself to be faithful. He is truly my better half.  But what if????   What would he do without me?  Who would tell him to pick up his dirty clothes?  Who would remind him to cap the toothpaste, or remind him to take his medicine?  The little things became so much more important and the big things that we used to worry about faded away.

  What were we going to do about cancer? So many thoughts, emotions, fears to face.  Talk about emotional overload, I was eat up with it!!

So surgery the next morning. I don’t remember much about that time, this is the part that gets a little fuzzy, thank heaven for good drugs. I had an incision from the center of my chest ,across and under my left arm.   And drain tubes, oh my goodness, THE  DRAIN TUBES!!!

People let me tell you………..drain tubes are created by Satan, straight from the bowels of Hell!!!

For those of you blissfully unaware of what those evil things are, allow me to enlighten you……..picture this….two small plastic bottles with caps, from which a tube extends. Now this tube travels into my body, up my chest and into the front part of my arm, a good foot and a half of tubing.  The way this works is like this..  The bottle is compressed and capped while collapsed, so as it expands the suction pulls fluid from the chest which allows the muscle to reattach itself to the chest wall.  I know sounds gross, but you should of been there! So the fluid drains. Now you get to keep these nifty little gadgets until no fluid is collected.  For me that was about 8 weeks for one tube and 10 weeks for the other.  After that amount of time, the incision that holds the tubing in has healed.  So has everything else, which means the tubing is stuck in my chest wall and guess how the Dr. takes it out????????????  Oh yeah,  he says “take a deep breathe”  and proceeds to PULL it out.  Oh yes!! with a mighty yank, out it comes. I could have sworn it was wrapped around a wisdom tooth, it hurt so bad!!

   I have never had to have another person tell me to breathe, but on that day, Doug had to shake me and yell breathe!!!  Not fun, and not something I ever want to do again. 

So, the healing began. Long days of ignoring the left side of my chest. Just pretending that if I didn’t look at it, it was OK. The longer I ignored it, I could delay the inevitable.  I knew I had to face the fact that my body was different, but I was not ready. When the time came, after drain tubes were out, the bandages came off.  Reality would not be ignored any longer.  I had decided to take a bath. So with the tub filled with a wonderful scented bubble powder and refusing to look in the mirror, I stepped in.  I took a deep breathe…….and looked down.  I remember putting the wash cloth over my mouth so Doug would not hear me cry….but he did.   This giant man knelt down beside the tub and said ” Mama, it’s not so bad, really it’s not.  It’s OK!  I knew, I finally knew,  I could do this. The first step in reconciling my heart and my head to deal with cancer had been taken. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS!   And I have. Cancer may win in the end, but I’ll die trying to kick it’s butt!

The days of waiting for results was agonizing.  The tests to see if I had lymph node involvement was agonizing.  Patience, hurry up and wait. Not my strongest attribute.  I hate waiting.  The news was good. Thank you GOD!  Finally, something was going in my favor!!  No involvement. Now onward to chemo!!  I figured, the sooner I got started, the sooner I would be finished.  I learned this about myself……….I am a fighter!   Now let’s get this show on the road!

The next thing cancer taught me was……I am strong!  I am a much stronger person than I ever believed it possible to be. I know where I get it, it comes from my Father.  Without his strength, I have no power. I am woman, hear me roar.  Patience, strength and courage, that became my prayer.  When I knew something was going to be particularly painful,  I said my mantra over and over in my head.  Never once did HE fail me.  Not one time when I asked did HE say no.  I am such a lucky child that my Father loves me so much.  This I know!!   I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  

   The next lesson cancer taught me was   I AM STRONG  IN HIM!   Fear, to Savor each day,  and where my strength is found, just the beginning of lessons learned.


Muscle Shoals High School…

prom night 2010.

This photo of  Rebecca Brocato and Cole Baker on their prom night was just so beautiful that it was captured to show here. They still grow the young ones to be gorgeous and handsome in the Shoals. These two could be in the movies. Perhaps they could be Cinderella and Prince Charming?

Post your prom photos of you or your children here. Just be sure to name who is in the photo.

Rebecca Brocato and Cole Baker at 2010 prom

Rebecca Brocato and Cole Baker at 2010 prom


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