Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life Returns

I know the exact day it happened.  It was April 11, 2015 when I finally felt a little like myself again.   My friend (and breast cancer survivor) Jo Ann said it happened for her a year after her last radiation treatment.  For me, it was exactly 14 months and 14 days after mine. It could have been the beautiful crisp sunny day, the green that finally began to sprout from the trees, or maybe it was my first trip to Lowe’s this spring to buy some Gerbera daisies. On second thought….no. It was my ponytail, or a semblance of one.  It was about an inch long and I had to sweat a little to cram it in the elastic band, but it was a joyous occasion.  I ran into the living room and squealed, “Look honey (queue the twirl)!  A ponytail!!!”   He smiled, kissed me and said, “I’m so happy for you.  I know how long you’ve waited for this moment.”  It sounds silly, but when you spend 18 months either bald or having some kind of hair crisis, it’s such a relief to finally have a little hair on your head.

My ponytail stub.  :)

  Lauren and Jordan help me through one of the most difficult moments of cancer treatment.

My annual mammogram was April 20.  It’s always a day of dread for me. April 20, that is.  That’s the day my dad died.  A few days later would have been my mom’s birthday and I just felt really sad those few days.  Why in the world would I schedule a mammogram that week?  I’m on edge a few days before, imagining myself walking into that same office where just 22 months ago, they dropped a nuclear bomb on my little world.  
I walked into the waiting room and counted the women sitting there.  There were eight of us.  I thought, “One in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer.”   I said a silent prayer that I had been the only one in THOSE eight women who was diagnosed with breast cancer and that none of us would get called into that dreadful little consultation room today. 
The technician was very kind and respectful.  I’m sure she’s seen it all.  She placed wire tape over my scars so that the radiologist could easily determine where the tumors were removed.   The technicians, the way they pick up and contort your breasts and manipulate them into the perfect place between the two sheets of plexiglass, resemble a baker with a slab of dough squeezing it into a pie pan.  “How are you doing…emotionally, I mean?”   I felt my throat tighten up and swore I wasn’t going to cry today.  “I’m terrified.  With every headache I think it has spread to my brain.  If I’m aching, I’m sure it’s in my bones. What is this organ? My liver?  I feel twinges sometimes….”  She nodded like she understood.  “I was diagnosed with melanoma a few years ago.  I’ve had several surgeries since then, but I’m here.  And you are too…and we have to live each day to the fullest and put it in God’s hands. Hold your breath…(the machine whirs)……..You can breathe now.  All done.  Have a seat in this room and I’ll come back and get you if we need more pictures.”      I waited for about 20 minutes. The sweet technician with the big brown eyes said, “Everything looks great. You don’t need to come back for a year.” 
“You mean the radiologist already read it?”  She nodded, hugged me, and said she would pray for me.   I wanted to say that I would do the same for her but my throat was burning and I felt the tears coming and I really didn’t want to cry.  So, I nodded and mouthed, “Thank you.” 

I have an appointment soon with a plastic surgeon.  If he can spackle this hole in my breast, or better yet- transfer some fat from my belly into that hole- I’ll be a happy camper.  If he can do it outpatient so I can get back to work in a day or two, even better.  I’m just now beginning to have a little energy and can’t imagine wanting to start from square one with an extensive reconstruction surgery. My body has been through enough these past two years.

When Jeff was two years old, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She was a very religious woman and prayed that God would let her live long enough to see Jeff graduate from college.  He graduated in May 1984 and she died two months later.

My dad always told everyone that he’s always somehow known that he wouldn’t live to see 53.   He was in his 20’s when I first heard him say it.   I was 7 or 8 and didn’t worry about it much because 50 seemed really old to me.  He was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer at 52 years and 7 months old and died four months later.   Does our brain have that much power over our bodies?   Just in case, I’m telling myself and everyone else that I’m living to be 100!