We began our last blog entry with the sentence, “We’ve had quite a year “….Well we HAVE.
We’re two sisters. We don’t live particularly close to each other. My mom would call us “G.U.’s.” which means: “geographically undesirable”. I’m Laura, the oldest, the youngest is Christi. We are 15 1/2 years apart.
My kids are nearly grown: High school, college, and a college grad. Christi’s are still medium to bitty. When we first started this blog, I kid you not, we checked the stats every 10 minutes. We called each other jumping up and down like heroes when a new person logged on. I think we went to lunch when we had a hundred hits. Truly. Looking back on it now, it’s a little embarrassing. Now, hundreds of thousands of hits later we go to lunch on a regular basis to “plan” which really means “eat” and sorta-kinda make plans. But, like I said before, we’ve had quite a year. Today at our “planning” lunch, Christi mentioned that we’ve slacked off quite a bit and that our blog doesn’t seem personal enough. It’s true. Let me tell you why. Some parts are hard, and some are happy.
Last November I felt some pain under my armpit. It started to hurt enough to wake me during the night. I was a breast cancer survivor. 8 years. My husband made an appointment with a doctor in March. The doctor didn’t seem worried and said she could feel something, but was pretty sure it was my surgical ridge from the surgery 8 years earlier. We looked uneasy, and I had pain so we proceeded just to be safe. A week or so later I had a two-hour mammogram. Four days after that an ultrasound. By then I knew the drill. Lots of clicking around in the same place. No one said anything to alarm us, but… been there, done that. I have already had a mastectomy, hysterectomy, reconstruction and two pulmonary embolism that caused me to go “man down” out of the shower and bust my eyebrow open. “This ain’t my first rodeo”. My sweet sister died of a brain tumor almost 18 years ago. We understand cancer. We’ve been the recipients in this family.
Anyway, the next Friday, I had a biopsy that sent me through the ceiling. I shook all day. I’d never had such a painful procedure, (and I’ve HAD that very procedure). The doctor told me not to leave the office without selecting a surgeon, because no matter what was happening, my nerves were involved and I needed surgery. They weren’t kidding. They wouldn’t let us leave without a consult appointment. They handed us a pamphlet with names, faces and bio’s so my appointment could be scheduled that Monday. Names and faces of people I knew nothing about. They asked me who I wanted. I said, ” An Ivy leaguer who didn’t cheat on the tests”. My husband scanned the pamphlet and knew a surgeon. He’d grown up on his street as a boy. Done. Selection made.
My husband picked me up at work the day of the appointment. I could tell by the look on his face he had already called for the result. I asked him if my cancer was back and he said, “Yes”. Yes. I was numb. Not again. The bald head, the sickness and vomiting, pain, the sores in my mouth, feeling sooo tired all the time, trying to act brave so your family isn’t terrified. We won’t talk about expense, that’s a given. I’m 8 years older. 8 years whimpier. I didn’t know if it would be easier because I knew what to expect or more difficult because I did.
How would it turn out this time? Was I filled with cancer because it had been growing for 8 years? Was it too much to ask to be spared again? Was I praying harder when I needed something? That’s what I was thinking. What would I tell my kids, my family, my friends? I was quietly panicking as I thought to myself: “Good job girl, you did it again, you’re officially a professional service project.”
I had surgery the last day of March. They removed two tumors. One the size of a racquetball and the other, half the size of a hotdog bun. That’s how I can justify my fat arms. (However, I do have ANOTHER fat arm with no Cancer). My chemo would start in a week or so. Six times with two weeks in between. They had to leave a bit of cancer in my arm so it wouldn’t lose abilities, so there would be 6 weeks of radiation 5 times a week after that. Okay. Armor on.
It sucks. It does. I’m not brave all the time. I cry and get grumpy. I rag to my poor husband who never complains and takes me to every appointment and chemo. He listens to me bellyache. The whole family does. I do my best, but I am tired of it. I hate the way I look because I’m bald and a bit chubby. I use false eyelashes so I can slap a hat or wig on and push trough the day without too much pity.
Yet, even with everything I am grateful. So grateful. I’m grateful because all that cancer stayed in the same place. It grew for 8 years and didn’t metastasize. Thank you Heavenly Father. I’m grateful because I have it in me to fight, to straighten my crown and walk like a boss the heck out of that infusion room. I’m grateful for family. I’m grateful for friends who are like family who have helped us in so many ways and means we couldn’t list it and get it right. We won’t forget though. Not ever. These good people have touched us to the depths. August 16th, 2013 was my last chemo. TADA! I’m half way through radiation, it’s just now starting to feel pretty miserable.
A week or so after the surgery to remove my cancer, my dad and mom were on a walk together when a neighbor backed out of the driveway, and hit my mother. She was knocked backwards and received a head wound that took her life. She was probably killed then instantly. My dad tried mouth-to-mouth and CPR. A neighbor called an ambulance and firefighters who all tried tirelessly to revive her. She was rushed to the hospital with my father following behind them in the car. He called me and asked me to call all my brothers and sisters and their spouses and told us where we should meet. We were put in a room together. She was taken to an emergency brain surgery, but she didn’t survive. We were, are, and will always be devastated. She is such a part of all we are as a family. An accomplished artist, with beautiful paintings permanently displayed In Colleges, libraries and homes. She was a tireless volunteer. She taught children to read for over twenty years. She is an incredible person. She was a giver of all she had, to all she knew, all the time. She even gave in the end as an organ donor. Still giving as others live on.
Life isn’t easy. We have and then we don’t. People, healthy bodies, life, things… It’s a lot. Everyone behind every door, is suffering somehow, maybe not out in the open or in ways that are obvious, but they are. It’s devastating to lose someone you love. But it does give you a perspective you can’t get any other way. It can help you grieve for others and empathize in a way you couldn’t before. It’s a perspective that can help you along in life as you remember the things in life that matter the most. The little things, that are really the big things. You know what and who they are. Sickness does the same thing. Perspective.
In your life if you are struggling, if the people around you are too, straighten your crown, walk like a boss, and keep going. You can do it. You can.
Before any of the hard stuff happened, and then during it all, these two sisters started working on an App together. It is called: “Tic Tac You” by lovezilla.net. THAT was fun and happy. THAT was another reason to go to lunch. It’s a family friendly App that’s available in iTunes. Because we take fighting personally, we will donate 20% of all sales during the month of October to Huntsman Cancer Institute for cancer research. We would love to make a dent in this world. We know and love the fighters, we are in their corner. We will win!