Tag: doctor

Just Breathe

He smiled in the doorway. My surgeon looked proud. He was on his way out… stopping by as promised. I felt the warmth. I held back the emotion. The vulnerability. Piercing. But I… would be still.

I tried to use my words. I peered down at myself… a faded, jelly bean gown stained with betadine from surgery. My hair in complete disarray. I could feel it. I knew I didn’t look good. I pushed my shoulders back trying to sit a bit more upright.. if only for a moment.

He had cared for my facial nerve like a newborn baby as he carved.

“Raise your eyebrows.”

“Bite your upper lip with your bottom teeth.”

“Smile.”

I knew the drill. I did what he said… not knowing if I was passing the test. I could not feel some of my face. He had a good poker face, I thought. I looked around at my family… tired eyes. They looked relieved. That was enough.

He moved onto the next patient.  We would see one another next week. He disappeared down the hallway.

The drainage tube in my neck. tugged out. I looked away. The nurse would remove the wires next.  Cords. Machines. One by one. Freedom with each tug. Unclip. Beep. I took a gentle breath each time. Staying quiet. I had told myself the night prior. Don’t move. Let it all happen. My job….Was to. Just. be. Let the medicine and my body do what they were designed to do. I would be patient and smart.

I knew the power of anasthesia and the pain medicine. I knew what they did .. every cell on a roller coaster ride by the second. minute. hour.

Breathe. Just breathe.

This Is just now.

My diagnosis had hit me like a mack truck. At first. Nothing. I didn’t move. I had a hair and makeup trial for my wedding two hours from then. Should I keep it and dig in? I had plans. A busy day for a bride-to-be like all of the others that were sprinkled with doctors appointments. I had so little time to take care of me already. Work .. kept calling on my days off. It was never enough. Who I was supposed to be for everyone else reigned. The doer and worker bee in me…frozen. I was puzzledy by the ambiguity of a diagnosis that meant so many things. Soon, I needed to walk out of there, but how?

They handed me a box of tissues.

I thought of the baby that Tim and I wanted soon after we were married. Was this still possible? I asked.

It was why I was there. sitting  listening. That sterile room in Sylvester. The Nurses. The doctor. I had questions I had not gotten answers to about my health. I needed closure for a new beginning. A life with my husband. A family. We were getting ready.

I was weeks away from having the life I had dreamed of… but never thought possible. I had spent years renegotiating with myself. Settling for so much less, and then, I nearly had it all with Tim. We had a plan, and I could almost touch it.

It was all too much.

My family, and I had said goodbye to a beautiful man the day before. His grave beside the water. The wind whistled the trees. He was a father. A husband. A real man. A fighter. He lived with immeasurable grace and for 10 years…He told cancer. F*#@ YOU! He lived. He lived until he was ready to go, but he deserved more time.

Selfishly, we wanted him forever.

It hurt. I heard the word again.

My doctor was still talking.

I pushed the images away. I came back to myself. Cancer. We were talking about me. We needed to go over what’s next. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to give it life by giving it a name, but I would need to use it to tell Tim. My mother. My father. The list would grow of heartbreaks I’d be responsible for that day and the days following.

I took a deep breath. Our conversation honest and raw as I liked it. There was no sugar-coating. There was just truth in that room.

Truth that takes everything from you, but like anything else… anything traumatic… you start to set it aside. You teach yourself to do so so that it doesn’t infect everything that you are and will be. I did that, and when my wedding day came, I was ready. I dressed delicately in white. I walked towards strength… holding on tight to my father. My Rock.

Closer and closer we flowed towards my mother who had just sat down at the edge of the palm grove. I could feel her arms around me. Kindred spirits. We have always spoken without any words. I look away to keep it together.

All of those eyes and smiles. Love. So much love in every seat. My heart full. Tim was waiting for me. We locked eyes. I felt the wind on my face as it dazzled my veil. There was real magic in the air.

We said, ‘I do’ as if we had said it a thousand times before.

We Laughed. We danced. We ate and drank.

Unforgettable moments.

Far deep inside it went. The sadness. The fear. The struggle with the invisible, unwanted ghost inside my body. A body… weakened by the life I had led, but replenished just before a battle that was fast approaching.

Surgery and recovery.

…choosing a bed pan over a restroom fearful I couldn’t make it that far in the fluorescent lights after surgery. My 3-year-old nephews plastic spoon for Jell-O. Paper cups with straws. Glass far too heavy.

Each day… a new opportunity. A fresh start. Fewer clouds. Deeper breaths.

Less medicine. More sleep…  More strength from within thanks to the love that beams out of those dearest to me. They have held my hand. Cleaned my wounds and reminded me that there is always a better tomorrow.

My eyes may water. I may feel the hurt. The ache. The pain. But I will not allow a full cry because I am not defeated.

Not this time.

Not now.

Not by this.

Armor on.

Let that pink ribbon fly.

Pink

Sometimes we all need to just stop talking, and instead, listen… learn… and love harder.

I walked in honor of my grandmother and aunt, two beautiful survivors; Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k Walk, Fox59 team, Indianapolis, October 20.

An email from my aunt, JoAnn Forster…

I was 39 years old, no history of breast cancer in my family, a mother of a 13-year-old, single, committed to exercise and healthy eating, and my life was about to forever change. I had my yearly gynecological and breast exam two weeks before.  I had no issues or concerns. My Doctor went thru the motions, and I happily breezed out of the office after having been pronounced healthy and good to go. Two weeks later I was doing a self-breast exam in the shower and felt something that sent an immediate rush of fear to my brain…. Fear, to no worries, to fear, to denial, to fast forward to what if, to fear, and to death.

I have always been very sensitive to my body and never had the comfort of youth of feeling invincible. Quite the contrary.  Some of my earliest memories are warnings of vulnerability, and they have stayed with me, as I grow older.

I called my Doctor’s office and requested an appointment and was adamant that I did not want to wait for weeks.  I saw him a few days later, and I was escorted to his office, not an exam room. I told him I felt a small lump in my breast. He smiled and assured me that he had done a thorough breast exam. I assured him in my normal, calm, assertive way that my 39 years of knowing my body and feeling this lump was worth his attention. He stood up and walked to me and asked me if he could he could feel it. To my shock, he did a quick exam over my clothes and once again assured me of my good health. I asked him for a proper exam, which he did.  He said he felt nothing and tried very hard to be accommodating and caring. I told him that even if he could not feel it, I knew something was there, and I wanted to do all I could do to find out what was happening in my body. He reluctantly agreed to order a mammogram.

I owe so much to the young doctor who listened to me, even after the mammogram did not detect any growth.  She would not give up, and to this day, she uses my case to demonstrate to her students the smallest tumor any patient found and was not initially detected thru standard tests. I had Stage 1 intraductal breast cancer in one breast. I opted for a mastectomy on that breast, and, a year later, on a prophylactic mastectomy on the other.  I knew I would never have another day of peace for my son and myself if I didn’t do all I could do.

I am 64 years old with a wonderful husband, 3 kids, 3 grandkids, family I love, a great career, and daily reminders about how blessed I am. 25 years ago I fired that gynecologist and now work very hard to only have doctors that listen, are proactive, and don’t treat me in a condescending way. 

Listen to your body.

Listen to your own instincts.

The message always comes. 

Don’t be afraid to fight for yourself and for your own life.  You are your own best advocate.  If there are times when you cannot, make sure to have someone who can be and can speak for you. Fear is not a fact. 

And… I asked my grandmother if she felt lucky… looking back.
Here’s a short clip.

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