A New Beginning… and Lucky… and still going strong 13 years later… so 13 IS a lucky number…
13 years ago I’d been struggling with a way to get back into the swing of things here in blogland.
You see I’d been struck with those words that we all fear hearing from our doctor. You know, any phrase that includes the words cancer, chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. For me it was the worst Christmas present imaginable so I persevered and didn’t really let on to most of the family in the beginning – no sense ruining anyone else’s holidays since no further testing could be scheduled until after Christmas.
You do truly go through the 5 stages of grief augmented with periods of disbelief and a lack of comprehension when you get news like that. It doesn’t matter how well schooled you are or how intelligent you are, those words hit you like a ton of bricks.
Just before my diagnosis I had begun my food blog, Always Eat On The Good China, I developed the name after reading a letter that Erma Bombeck wrote when she knew she was dying from cancer. I even put a quote from her on my side bar that I found extremely poignant. At the time I had no idea how apropos it would be. I have since combined the many blogs, but it worked to set my attitude.
It was around that same time that I had an appendicitis attack – I still had my appendix and it had been chronic since I was 9 years old. Or at least I thought I was having an appendicitis attack. We now know that I was having pain from my ovary that was growing into what was being described as a baseball to small cantaloupe sized mass.
Fortunately for me at my well woman exam that year the nurse practitioner noticed what she thought was an enlarged uterus and she ordered an ultrasound because she feared uterine cancer.
The ultrasound was on the Tuesday after Christmas. The words changed, but stayed the same, cancer was still in the phrase, but now it was ovarian cancer. To it they added terms like tumor and oncologist.
My brand new doctor (I’d never met him prior to the ultrasound tech calling him into the exam) in a brand new town thought I was in shock because I didn’t cry and react hysterically. He just didn’t know me well enough to know I was really okay. But, I’m a fixer, so my next phrase is always, what next?
What next turned out to be a referral to MD Anderson Cancer Center and a surgical oncologist, Dr. Diane Bodurka, whom I adore by the way! She and her team made it possible for me to stay both positive and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Their Motto is “making cancer history” which struck me as the right positive note for me.
The next 2 weeks and 5 days were a whirlwind of blood draws, X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s, chemical stress tests, consultations, clearances and…
I underwent surgery on February 1st knowing full well all the fine print, legal jargon and potential pitfalls of this diagnosis. I also knew that because of the size, I would awake to only a possible pathology. Instead I awoke to hear things like “self-contained”, “experimental chemo pelvic wash and expensive shots”, ”no metastasis” and “surveillance” as well as that the cantaloupe was actually a volleyball with a balloon twist.
While we waited for the final pathology I was home after a week in the hospital and catering to the whims of a 10 inch zipper through multiple layers of muscle that posed their own issues due to my Systemic Lupus and getting my energy back while regenerating the tissue.
Honestly when I was able to think straight again all I started hearing was dollar signs when I thought about what the insurance would and would not cover. I cannot tell you or ever express how thankful I am to have been in the right place at the right time, even if it was for a bad thing like the BIG C. MD Anderson went above and beyond to find benefactors to cover the experimental procedures that the insurance would not cover.
Because of my family history (maternal grams had breast cancer twice and her sister died of it 🙁 ) I did require more testing including the BRCA testing which at the time took a lot for the insurance to cover. Fortunately, the test was negative. I tell you I would have had the surgery in a heartbeat had the test been positive.
Before it was all over I had signed about a million forms (only a slight exaggeration) so that the tumor could be sliced up and sent to various research facilities as it was now classified as a “RARE and UNCOMMON” gynecological tumor.
With that I’ll leave you with this email story that crossed my desk a while back. True or not, it’s heart warming and endearing and worth the read. It struck me a bit close to home because I had my own Lucky back at home named Whiskey. My uncle said all she would do was lay on my bed and hang her head sadly.
I choose to believe in the bright and positive. I have had quite a few other health scares since that day, but it taught me NOT to take anything for granted! EVER!
Mary and her husband Jim had a dog named ‘Lucky.’
Lucky was a real character. Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably, someone would forget and something would come up missing.
Mary or Jim would go to Lucky’s toy box in the basement and there the treasure would be, amid all of Lucky’s other favorite toys Lucky always stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys stay in the box.
It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer. Something told her she was going to die of this disease….in fact; she was just sure it was fatal. She scheduled the double mastectomy, fear riding her shoulders. The night before she was to go to the hospital she cuddled with Lucky. A thought struck her…what would happen to Lucky? Although the three-year-old dog liked Jim, he was Mary’s dog through and through. If I die, Lucky will be abandoned, Mary thought. He won’t understand that I didn’t want to leave him! The thought made her sadder than thinking of her own death.
The double mastectomy was harder on Mary than her doctors had anticipated and Mary was hospitalized for over two weeks. Jim took Lucky for his evening walk faithfully, but the little dog just drooped, whining and miserable. Finally the day came for Mary to leave the hospital. When she arrived home, Mary was so exhausted she couldn’t even make it up the steps to her bedroom. Jim made his wife comfortable on the couch and left her to nap. Lucky stood watching Mary but he didn’t come to her when she called. It made Mary sad, but sleep soon overcame her and she dozed.
When Mary woke for a second she couldn’t understand what was wrong. She couldn’t move her head and her body felt heavy and hot. But panic soon gave way to laughter when Mary realized the problem. She was covered, literally blanketed, with every treasure Lucky owned! While she had slept, the sorrowing dog had made trip after trip to the basement bringing his beloved mistress all his favorite things in life.
He had covered her with his love.
Mary forgot about dying. Instead she and Lucky began living again, walking further and further together every day. It’s been 12 years now and Mary is still cancer-free.
Lucky… He still steals treasures and stashes them in his toy box but Mary remains his greatest treasure.
Remember….live every day to the fullest. Each minute is a blessing from God. And never forget….the people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the most Credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care for us.
If you see someone without a smile today give them one of yours! Live simply. Love seriously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.