Thursday, December 26, 2013

Speak the Unspeakable

I wonder if one should consider themselves a writer when different situations arise and they think..Hmmmm...maybe I should write this down. Or maybe I'm not a writer, myself, but a blogger of musings. Things that run through my head and tend to re-run until I actually do get them down on paper (or a blog). I'm not sure. All I know is that I have not felt ok in my own skin and I have had no idea why. Well, I mean, I know WHY but it seems like it should have been getting better, not worse. And then a friend who is a cancer fighter herself described how she was feeling and that her doctor told her it was normal. Normal. Let me explain....

Since before Thanksgiving I have felt itchy in my own skin. Almost like I am anxious but have no reason to be. Things need to be planned. I need to be in control. People need to comply. I flip from that side to the exact opposite...Oh, let them do what they want. Whatever works. I don't mind. I'm like a charlatan only no one knows which way the wind blows. Especially me. And constantly, this itching inside of me. This jumpiness that will not be calmed. I can't name it. And I can't figure out why no one else sees it. I feel like I am twitching from the inside out.

As Christmas approached, it got worse. My stomach was upset, my sleep interrupted. My days were found doing who knows what, cleaning the same thing, doing the same laundry, rearranging the same toys, moving things from here to there, all the while this jumpiness was going on inside me and starting to ooze out of me. I was short tempered. Intolerant. Seriously, could people have been any more stupid? Could the check out lady take any longer? Could people not drive? I thought I was going insane. I thought all of the sudden everyone had taken an ignorance pill and I was having no more of it. Then Dave reminded me that my medicine will make me short tempered and to be aware.....I tried to pull myself back under control. Even though the words weren't coming out of my mouth, they were running through my mind.

And yet, I still feel this itchiness. This jumping inside me. This desire to curl up in a fetal position and cry, or to hit someone, hard. Twice. Maybe to a pulp. I vacillate between the two so quickly I almost can't trust my own judgement. Am I going crazy? I think I'm going crazy. Only no one seems to notice. How can they not notice? I'm about ready to jump out of my skin!

It all comes to a head on Christmas Eve Eve at church. I sit there listening to this amazing performance, holding my antsy daughter who is feeding off my ping ponging emotions and I want to cry. I realize I am afraid I am going to die. That I have been given this wonderful life with this loving man and four outstanding children and I am going to die. I finally hold in my arms one of the biggest dreams come true in my life and I am going to miss her growing up.

In my mind, I always saw myself as an old, old lady when I die. At least in my 90's. I'll have lived a full life, still be sane of mind (yeah, right) and physically able to make it to Bingo in my assisted living home. And now, I feel cheated. I feel like my life has been cut short. BAM! The door on watching my children grow up is creaking shut. High school graduation. College graduation. Car buying. Drivers licenses. Buying a dress that my future daughter in laws like. Watching my daughter walk down the isle on her Daddy's arm, seeing Grandchildren, even great Grandchildren! Gone. Most of that feels far, far away, and unobtainable. Catastrophe in my own mind? Probably, but there it is.

The healing comes not after I tell not one, but four friends that I am losing my mind. My first friend is compassionate. She knows my journey and is there for me. But this is Christmas Eve one has time and I've decided I'm having a break down! The next two friends flit on about their nights and who can blame them? It's freaking CHRISTMAS! My fourth friend gets my tears. She holds me tight and then she does it. She puts to words what I am feeling. "Are you afraid you are going to die?" Oh.My.Goodness! Someone said it out loud. As tears stream down my face, I acknowledge it. Yes. I am afraid my days are numbered. That my Christmas's are limited. And I think back on when we adopted Elliana and I bought everything under the sun I could for her. To make up for the 10 years I didn't have her. Maybe I was really buying things because I wouldn't be here to give them to her. My sweet friend grasps my hands and my mind is running 1000 miles an hour. She looks me straight in the face as if she can read my mind. "God did not give you that baby girl just to take you away from her. You are going to live!" Later that night, another friend texts me out of the blue those same exact words. Unsolicited. As if she can see my soul in turmoil. "Our eyes will meet at your daughter's wedding and you will know I have spoken the truth. You will watch your children grow and you will dance at their weddings." Oh be still my soul. Find peace.

I know I have no reason to feel this way. I know that as I sit here, the cancer in my right breast is gone.  I sit here cancer free, as far as I know. But three months ago I was walking through life without a worry that I had cancer in the first place. So, there is that running through my mind. I also know that I have a second surgery on Monday and I am afraid when they sample my breast tissue that they will tell me it is lobular as well and I will have to have another mastectomy. I know that God will carry me through, but for awhile, I felt like a hamster in a cage just running in circles.

Which brings me to what my friend's Dr told her. That feeling like this from Thanksgiving to Christmas is normal for cancer patients. That I will feel like this on some other dates too. And special anniversaries. This crawling out of my skin itchy-jumping-twitching will come and go through the years. That most cancer patients describe it. Anxiety. Anxious. Fear that the cancer is back. Or spreading. Or out of control. Because cancer is never IN our control. And that is still a hard topic to swallow. But hearing the word "die" out loud made it less scary and now I'm employing my friend's advice. "What's the worst thing that could happen?"

Yes, I could have a reoccurrence and die. But there are other things that are worse in this world to me. I could not know God as my savior and live a lonely life with no hope for salvation. I could not have a loving husband and four caring children. I could not have a wonderful extended family that loves me. I could not have a house or friends or money in the bank or I could lose a child. There are much worse things than dying and hopefully going to live in Heaven. To not rest in peace, but to live for eternity with Jesus.

I think I'm on the back side of this crazy loop. One I did not foresee. But I guess I will travel again. Until then I will put my trust and faith back in God. I know that each trial he gives me becomes a testimony for someone else to hear. So I'm speaking loud and clear1 This road is tricky! I will sometimes falter and fall. I'm scared a lot. And angry some. And even though my breast is gone and I'm back to normal activities, Cancer is still very much a part of my life. That, and the itchy-jumping-twitching.............

Onward! Stagger stepping, but moving forward such as it is.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Tonight I rocked my baby girl. That in itself is not an uncommon event. We frequently rock before bed while I sing to her or tell her stories of her tiny life. Her short life. Her 22 months that are filled with wonder and joy. She is our dream come true. We tell her so often that she is pretty that she marches down the stairs saying "Pretty Girl....Pretty Girl...." She greets strangers by saying "Hi, Baby!" And when someone hands her something she replies "Thank you, Honey." Listening to her tell me that she is going upstairs with Daddy to change her diaper and get in jammies hit me in the gut tonight. Her tiny voice coming out of her sweet tiny body with her little smiles and her joy that just doesn't stop. It brought me to tears.

Today, a friend of mine said good bye to her little girl. Her tiny girl. Her not yet three little girl. Who had brain cancer and fought a long, hard fight. And although she is lost here on Earth, she won wings with Jesus in Heaven. My heart aches for her beautiful mother. Her strong, courageous parents who have never faltered in their walk of faith. Ellie's kind mother who before Ellie was sick knit Elliana shawls, purses, hats, and hair flowers. A woman who's life I by chance came into contact with, but who's life has changed mine. I once asked God that if I were ever met with such a trial, that I could be like Carly and walk with such utter acceptance and grace of God's love of me. I'm not sure I could continue that walk if I had to say goodbye to one of my children.

Facing the passing of Ellie then reminds me of how God sent his only son to Earth. To live, and yet to die. For me. I'm selfish. I don't want to outlive my children.

Which then brings me to my own mortality. If my breast cancer comes back. If my left breast is compromised. If it metastasizes. If I leave my family too soon. I always thought I would live a long life. I'd be an old woman when I finally died. But the reality is, we never know. I don't know. No one knows.

So tonight I rocked my darling daughter. wanting to soak up every moment with her as if it were our last, but thankful that we will more than likely wake up tomorrow. Taking time to remind myself to be patient with my jumping little boy who is so excited that Christmas is in three days! Finding joy in the annoyances. And peace in the quiet. And time to say special prayers to the newest angel of God's choir. Sweet Ellie. She will always be Princess Strong.

Love those around you. Find ways to help. Reach out and offer your skills. Stop and listen when people talk. Look them in the eye. Hear their stories. Be the light in the darkness, the encouragement others need. Be gentle with yourself. Say Thank You. Count your blessings. And rock your babies to sleep every night you can.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Feeding through Caring

Tonight for dinner I fixed a meal that was left over from when I had my mastectomy. It was a lasagna that we had only eaten half of so my mom wrapped up the rest and put it in the deep freezer for later. I pulled it out without a second thought tonight to feed my family on a cold winter's night.

As I looked around at my brood eating heartily I began to think more deeply about the meal they were eating. How it had been prepared in love for me. For my family. For those who were caring for me during a dreary and sad time. But also a time of hope. A lasagna has so many layers and ingredients that go in it. Each layer has to be laid and then another layer put upon it. It is a long process, not an easy meal to make.

I remembered how every day for two weeks food showed up at my home. EVERY DAY! Without fail. Food came through my home to nourish my healing body. Women I did not even know well took it upon themselves to provide one of the most basic needs of humans. And yet it did so much more.

Through feeding my family and myself, meals meant we were being thought of, cared for, prayed over. As tears filled my eyes, I thanked God again for the special woman who made this meal for me. I asked for His blessings over all of my friends who sent food or gift cards for food. And for my friend Amy who orchestrated it all. I am reminded once again, out of the blue, of my blessings.

Never take for granted those small gestures you do for someone. Although they may not be able to thank you in the moment, each action has a reaction within them. I have always thought of myself as a giving person, but I know I have not put a lot of thought into the act of giving. Trust me, every tiny thing is appreciated. I will think more about my acts of giving.

I can never repay those women who fed me and my family, and continue to do so. But I can let them know I will never forget their kindness. Their quiet support even when I didn't know who it was bringing the meal in the seclusion of my room. I am reminded again tonight of the love that surrounded me every moment. So if you were one that fed my family, Thank You. From the bottom of my heart. I will never forget it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Here Again......

It's been seven weeks since my surgery. Seven weeks, yet a lifetime. Last night, I slept on my right side for the first time. It was fitful sleep, cognizant of the fact I didn't want to go too far forward and squish the non boob, but it wasn't painful and that was a first. I'm slowly losing grip on the pillow I clutch under Ariel (doesn't everyone name their body parts?) when I sleep on my left side. For the most part, she no longer feels like she is going to rip out of my skin when I lay on my side. It's been an adjustment. I hear women tell me that have augmented their breasts, that the feeling is similar. And normal. And goes away, eventually. Good to know!

This week I am supposed to go and see my plastic's doctor (again) and have my final meeting before my next surgery on the 30th. I will also get to have 3D pictures taken for the blood flow study. I'm still really excited that I am a part of that study. With it, the breast surgeons and plastic surgeons are studying which type of two incisions have the best patient satisfaction with nipple sparing, skin saving mastectomies, and if they can do certain things to support the blood flow to the skin in order for more women who are candidates, can have this procedure. There are guidelines that a patient has to meet, of course, tumor size, positioning of the tumor from skin, non smoking, and a few others. I am eternally grateful that I met the requirements and I hope this study helps bring to the forefront a procedure that other women will benefit from as well. Emotionally, it has been better for me to have my same outsides. I know other women would benefit from it as well, if it's possible.

At the time of my next surgery I will also have a sample of my healthy breast tissue tested. I am hopeful it is not full of lobular tissue like my other breast was. If it is, even though there is no tumor present, there will be and that will mean further meetings and discussions on whether I should have a mastectomy on the left side as well. Hopefully, shortly after the New Year begins, I will know what that route will look like.

I once scoffed at someone who told me this journey would take a year. That next year, in October, my life would be different. I thought, no way will this take a year! Well, I believe that healing will take around that long. Not so much my physical healing, but my emotional healing. This bout with cancer has thrown me for a loop for sure.

On the outside, I am healing. My body is becoming more used to my new normal. My energy level is increasing. In a few short months I can get back into exercising. I am able to take care of my family again. I can lift things and move furniture. I am careful to ask for help. Or to put things off if it strains Ariel too much. I feel it if I have pushed myself too far and I am heeding my body's cues for once in my life.

But on the inside, I think I'm fine.....and then something will come up and I am not fine. I will hear of someone else's diagnosis and I want to crawl into a hole. Someone will complain about something that I consider trivial and I want to slap them upside the head. I see people treating those they love hurtfully and I want to go into lecture mode. Mostly I do a lot of talking to myself. That its ok to cry. It's ok to still be in wonderment that this happened. It's ok to be in awe of God that He healed me. It's ok, well, to not be ok sometimes.

Life is the same, but it is different. I do the same things. I still get irritated at 6th grade math. I still get frustrated with my teen's behavior. Whining from my 1 year old and 7 year old still make my teeth clench. But even though I still get angry, I am quicker to calm down. Less likely to harbor a grudge.  More likely to walk away, or ignore conversations I would have jumped into head first a mere 3 months ago. I am grateful for those changes. A softening of sorts. A wanting to linger with friends to soak up those last few moments of their essence to keep with me always. It's a reflective time and I am learning a lot more about myself, and those around me.

Moving onward is the only thing I know to do. Muddling through this middle ground continues. The 9 years, 11 months, and 1 week of medication I have left to take. And as I tread water here, getting ready for the next step, I wonder.....when will I feel like I have come through the other side? Or will the rest of my life feel like this middle ground??? I'm hoping that one day, before my one year mark, that thoughts surrounding my breasts, fear over new aches and pains, doctor appointments, and constant behind the scenes worry won't mar every day. Maybe then, that will be considered the other side.

Until then, Onward!