• A blog about a smidgen of time each day and the hope you spend it with me

My Breast Cancer Story



  
O is for~~~ Operation



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           In December of 2007 I found out I had Breast Cancer. One month later I was in the hospital waiting area getting ready for my operation. The waiting area was void of movement or sound it seemed.  Only the occasional whisper was heard. It was very early in the morning and I was wearing the very "telling" robe and slipper socks. Wearing that meant you were sick...very sick and it also meant that soon it would be your turn to go into the operating room.

There in the waiting room you also knew that the people who didn't wear the robe would be left behind to worry. My Husband would soon join that group.  My attention went instantly to a dollhouse that was on display. It was beautiful donation from a family that appreciated the good work being done at the hospital. It was a welcomed sight for me,  I love miniatures.  I had an I.V.  in my arm as I went into yet another waiting room. My husband and I chose to sit near the corner and we held hands and prayed. I don't remember being scared. I just wanted it over with. I wanted the Cancer out of me and thrown away. I didn't know if I would need chemo or how far the cancer had gone. I felt good that something was going to be done to get rid of it.

The nurse called my name. She smiled and commented on my hair clip. I had to take it off.

My Husband instinctively walked with me and I know if they had let him he would have held my hand all through the whole operation.

"OK you'll have to say goodbye here." she smiled some more.

My husband gave me a big hug and kiss and one more hug for good measure.
 He said " I love you, God bless you" ( something we always say when we say good bye).

As I let go of his hand I realized that the next time I saw him I would be changed forever. I looked back one more time and waved. If it weren't for the robe and goofy socks that scene could have taken place at an airport terminal. As I walked  without my Hubby I thought...Funny,  I thought I would be wheeled in to the operating room, but no I walked in. The doors opened and a flash of white surrounded me. The entire room was crystal clean with a crisp whiteness that I had never seen before. It was freezing there and I wasn't sure if it was the cold or the fact that I was getting nervous that made me shiver. My doctor turned to me and said

"Well, Joanne we are finally here." she wore her pristine white surgical mask but her eyes smiled at me and I smiled back. They lead me to the table where they covered me in a thin bubbly plastic inflatable blanket. The air that flowed through it felt warm and comforting. I looked around and realized I was surrounded by women. There was not one man in the room.

                                  They knew how I felt. They had to.

"Some must have kids at home." I thought.  "They know how much I love my family and how much being a Mom means to me...they know because I am surrounded by Mothers, Daughters, Sisters and even maybe a Grandmother." I sighed.  They knew and I felt safe.

The anesthesiologist asked " Have you ever been on a cruise?" Odd question that made me giggle nervously as I said no. The doctor, remembering my love of Disney said " I think she'd prefer a Disney cruise." I smiled at her.

The anesthesiologist then said "Well, just think sweet thoughts because I'm going to send you on that cruise" She placed the mask over my face and the last thing I remember were the faces of the women that would save my life.


P is for ~~~~a Pause






First, I want to thank you all for all the sweet thoughtful comments to my last post. I was moved to tears. They really touched my heart.



OK this might be considered cheating. I am supposed to write something with the letter P. So I'm Pausing the A to Z to continue the Operation story. Which will be followed tomorrow with posting for Q~~ Quiet wait~~


After the operation

 I was aware that I was awake, but my eyes felt so heavy I couldn't open them. I could hear what was going on around me. Footsteps and beeping of machines. I heard the rustling of clean uniforms and even heard the opening and closing of curtains that separated one patient from another.  My nose felt weird and I realized I was on oxygen. I tried to speak , but only a raspy whisper was all I could muster. a nurse answered "Whats that Sweetie?"


"Is my Husband here?" My words felt heavy and labored.

"She wants her Husband." she told someone else.
The other person answered "Oh he was just here. I'll go get him."
I must have fallen asleep again because it felt like merely seconds passed before  I felt  my husband's hand on my head and a soft kiss on my forehead.


I whispered "I love you." and he kissed my face and said the same to me.

I fell asleep again.

Later on nurses wheeled me out of recovery. It felt so strange being wheeled around in that gurney. Even weirder was the ride upstairs where I shared the elevator with residents and other hospital workers. I was lying down and I closed my eyes because I was strangely embarrassed. We reached my room where I passed my roommate (a young looking woman in her late thirties). After visits from family and a few friends it was just her and I.  My roommate seemed to have no interest in talking to me and quite frankly I was kind of glad. My roommate "Rachel" and I heard a beeping coming from another room or hallway. Rachel pressed a button that called the nurses station.



"Um Hi this is Rachel in room blah blah blah what is that beeping sound?"

"We are taking care of it don't worry, is there anything else that I can do for you?

"No thanks" Rachel answered.

beeping continued

Rachel pressed the call button again.

"Yes? Can I help you?

"Yeah, is that a fire alarm or something, because it's still beeping."

"It's OK, don't worry we have it all under control. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"No."

Beeping continues

Rachel hits the call button AGAIN

"Yes? can I help you?"

"If there was a fire what's the plan for the rest of us...just burn?"

Click

"Great" I thought this woman has pissed off the nurses and now they'll never come in here and I have to go to the bathroom! I was mad. Later Rachel's Mother stopped by and she seemed like a very well off socialite. Put together in simple elegant attire she was gracious and quiet, while her daughter yelled at her and used  curse words.  The next day I woke up in the worst pain I had ever felt. The nurse told me that I was going to feel like a truck rolled over me and she was  right. I was hunched over and could only take shuffly steps. It affected every muscle and bone in my body.

The nurse offered me pain medication and I was red faced when I told her that I could not swallow pills...especially huge ones like the one she was offering me. She was such a doll that from then on she crushed them and put them in apple sauce for me...yep I'm a big baby! 

 Going to the bathroom was an ordeal, but when I was able to go I actually felt like I had accomplished something! It was in the bathroom mirror however, that I caught a quick glimpse of my new silhouette. The gown neckline was pulled a bit low and I could see that there was a sort of crevasse where the very top of my breast should be. I was scared. terrified. I quickly washed my hands and avoided my image  I looked at my face and nothing more.  I shuffled like a little old lady back to my bed and five minutes later my kids and husband came to see me.


As soon as my kids saw me (J was 9 and D was 6) They both became teary...I guess nothing can prepare a young child to see Mommy in a hospital bed  hooked up to an IV. They asked questions about the machine that I was hooked up to and I answered them in my own Mommy way. When it was time for them to leave my son cried and said

"Momma, I want you to come home."

It took everything in me not to cry. I simply answered " In just a few days Baby."

I felt an over whelming wave of guilt. Maybe they should not have come. I felt responsible for everything. Why didn't I get my mammo done sooner? Am I going to leave my children? How could I do this to them? My roommate heard me sniffle a bit.

"You have beautiful children." She said quietly.

She and I started to talk after that, she told me that she had uterine cancer and that all her "girlie parts" (her words) were taken out. She was a lawyer, unmarried and had no children. I felt sad for her.We talked about family and she said " I guess you heard how I talk to my mom...I don't why I'm treating her like that."

I realized why and I said "I'm a mom and so I know she can take it and not hold it against you. there is nothing that you can say to a mom that will make her not love you anymore... friends are not that forgiving.  This is a maddening unnatural situation you are in. If anyone can take that frustration is your mom."


When a resident doctor palpated my chest and I cried out in pain, Rachel suggested that the next time he did that I should grab a hold of him in an area that would cause HIM pain. I laughed. She turned out to be not a ogre but just another woman like me with cancer. It was this great equalizer that brought a city born /suburban mom and a slick hot shot lawyer together to talk about life for two days. I liked her.  She was no-holds-barred kind of Girl. When I was leaving to go home. (She had to stay a bit longer) Rachel said "Hey take care of yourself." I said "You too." she looked pensive. She didn't offer her number, but I offered her mine. She never called. I mean who wants to be reminded of the worst time of their lives right? I thought and still think of Rachel often and pray she made it. My Husband took me home where we spent the next two weeks quietly wondering what would be next. Was this it or would there be more for us?  were we looking at the first of many battles we'd have to fight?   
 

  These three posts appeared originally as part of the A to Z challenge back in April 2011.               

Q is for ~~the Quiet wait

continued from last post
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                                                     Quiet Wait                 

At home my Husband took charge and he was my nurse. (A cute one at that!) when it was time to empty drain pumps for the first time I was terrified. These pumps were connected by tubes that were connected to me. The very first session took forever because I could not quell the tears. I couldn't look at my chest and I worried that he would be scared of what he would see. I sat on the edge of the bed and he patiently waited until I was ready.

He bent down to open my robe and carefully removed the very tight surgical bra I was to wear day and night. I looked deep into his eyes for any sign of fear or repulsion. His beautiful blue eyes would be my mirror and my gauge of how bad it really was. All I saw reflected back was the love he had for me.

 He saw what I didn't have the strength to see and he was OK. I fell in love with him all over again. It was a few days before I could look in the mirror. There was a scar across were my breast should of been and it continued under my arm pit. We quietly continued our daily routines.

This was out of my hands.

I placed this burden in God's hands. I was too over whelmed to carry it myself. So you see when I am called brave I wasn't really. I just gave my fears to HIM and  his grace got me through I know and believe that with all my heart.


Two weeks later My husband and I sat quietly in another waiting room waiting for my appointment. I sat nervously pretending to read a magazine. The words on the page made no sense and my mouth was dry with anticipation. I would find out that day what stage my cancer was in and if I needed to have further treatment. During the operation they had  also removed lymph nodes . It was those lymph nodes that would determine my next step.  My stomach was in huge twisting ever tighter knots.

My Hubby pretended to be calm but I could see the  clenching in his jaw that signified his fear for me. In this waiting room there were women starting  their Journey and woman who were experts in this life. They all wore the same facial expression. It's a look I cannot describe, But I know too well because I saw it every time I entered those rooms. I saw it in the mirror. It is the look behind the eyes. It is a deep solemn fear questioning and wondering...why, how. and What IF. Every cancer patient and family member has it. It is truly a family disease.

But there was another look that I saw ...This was a surprise to me...it was the feeling of strength. It was amazing to witness and be a part of it. People from all walks together giving each other strength and encouragement. At every appointment there were people sharing comfort.There were even some smiles and laughs.

 Finally my name was called. My husband and I nervously walked in. In the exam room I could feel the nausea trying to overtake me. The doctor walked in and after pleasantries she opened my chart.


"OK, as you know the cancer was in a larger area than we originally thought. The test that were done on the lymph nodes that were removed came back.... clear." she stopped.

It didn't register in my brain

"Clear?" my Husband asked

"No cancer in the Lymph node?" I asked

"That's right" she smiled. "No Chemo for you young lady. Now technically even though you've  had a mastectomy you are stage zero. "

Stage ZERO. How could that be? I found out that if I had waited just a bit longer my situation would have been completely different. The cancer invaded the whole entire breast but had not reached the Lymph nodes. It had not touched the Lymph nodes. Even when I go to my regular doctor she cannot believe that they were able to get all the cancer.

My Surgeon explained that I would have to be monitored closely for the next few years. I would have numerous regular Contrast MRIs and Mammograms. It would be a while before I would be considered a survivor, but that moment, that day I felt  FREE.  I cried and hugged her and hugged my husband we thanked God right there in that exam room and my Doctor was delighted. I left smiling and could hardly contain myself. 

 When we got in the car I screamed with the joy that I could only describe as Heaven Sent Euphoria. I felt  REBORN!!!!  Later that year I had plastic surgery and now if you saw me you'd never know. Though at times I catch people that know staring...I guess they are trying to guess which one!

Did this experience change me? YES!!! I am closer to God. I feel like I am a better Mom and Wife.   I was left with a feeling that I was a witness to many miracles. I was left with a joyous contentment with life and a greater appreciation of EVERYTHING around me.  

This year I was told that I am officially a survivor and as much as that thrilled me there is still that little cancer voice inside my head that says "Hey I can come back anytime." I feel an odd guilt for surviving this when so many do not. I was very lucky....it began with a strange pain that had nothing to do with my cancer that  prompted my doctor to remind me

"Hey, you are over due for your mammo"  it was as simple as that.


My journey was by no means extraordinary or even harder than others. I know I got off easy. I'm alive and healthy. I know it could have been worse. As I write this I think of all my new blogger world friends who are going through horrendous trials in their lives. People that have lost children, who have diseases that are insidiously trying to take over. There are friends that have lost their spouses. I am humbled at their courage to keep going and write joyfully of life. Everyday they put a smile on my face.

 Thank you for being so patient and sweet as my words were like a runaway train out of my brain into this blog.  Tomorrow I promise it'll be short and sweet.


But just one more question..."When was your last Mammo? Is it over-due?" You are so important to people that love you. They want you to be healthy too.


 Blessings and Health to you all ,  Joanne


These three posts were originally posted as part of the A to Z challenge in April 2011. I combined them and have posted them as a separate page. Please feel free to post a comment here or in the original posts.
                                          

8 comments:

  1. Hi Joanne,

    I clicked on your breast cancer story because I am also a survivor. You told your story so eloquently. I am also grateful and a lucky one. After three biopsy's without clear margins, my surgeon wanted to do a mastectomy, but my oncologist wanted me to try radiation. I ended up opting for the radiation. That was in September 2004. I always get my mammo's on time, and I'm still clear, thank God.

    Blessings to you and your family.

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    1. Hi Sandi! I thank God you are healthy! Thank you for your sweet comment and for following my little blog!

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  2. My last mammo was in Oct, actually on the official "PINK" day that we have here in NZ. My mum has been through exactly what you have been and she is a survivor of 25yrs, she had no chemo or lymph node problems. Yes it is always in your head for the rest of your life but it gets easier so mum says. Beautiful story, I had tears as I read it and I was sat at work at the time!

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  3. Just came across your blog today but had to read this--wow--what a touching story! You are a great writer. I hope you are still FREE!

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  4. I read your story after reading the comment you left on my blog. I am so excited to hear you are a survivor! I was smiling while reading this post a lot of the time because even before I read the good news, I KNEW you would survive by your faith alone. Even if you had to have chemo or whatever else, you have the mentality of a survivor, so that's what you are! And your husband, sheesh! The part where you were waiting for him to look disgusted or repulsed was better than any romance novel.
    I'm blessed to have read your story and I'm so happy that you are cancer free! God bless you! :)

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    1. Thank you so much Amber. I see that you wrote this back in 2012. I am sorry I didn't write a reply earlier. You wrote such a sweet comment and I am so grateful you read and liked my post.

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  5. Wow you have a great story! It is so scary to face Cancer. When they were 90% sure I had breast cancer in 2000....and I didn't. I never miss my mammograms. My sister has went through the double mastectomy after stage 3.

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