and make them last.
Things I learned from Cancer 101 (3)
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
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.