Thursday, April 21, 2011

One Year Cancer-versary

From this time last year -

I called my doctor and asked if I could get in for my mammogram, like soon. Don't usually do this stuff till around my birthday. In November. Just being cautious, right? Couple days later, there I was. No biggie, I've had them before. No problem. Here, put this boob on this tray. Squish. Like a flapjack. Ok, now flip the tray the other way, squish. Ok, now lets see if we can squish them like a crepe so we can fill them with coconut custard and Silverado Trail strawberries and drizzle orange Grand Marnier sauce on them. Flop. Squish. Next. Usually a couple a pictures on both girls. In then out. No biggie. Hey, give me a couple swigs a that sauce while you're at it.

When the mammogram technician took my pics out to show the radiologist she was gone for awhile. H-m-m I tried to tell myself. They are just busy. My gut was saying oh Jesus. Oh Lord. Not taking his name in vain. Dialing 911.

When she came back in the room, she didn't make eye contact with me. Shit. I am in deep shit. I notice this stuff. I notice when people are looking me straight in the eyes, I notice their body language. I would a made a great poker player. I am great at reading somebody's tell. 

Ok she says, just a few more pictures. She didn't touch my left again. Lots and lots more pictures squeezing and flipping and torturing my right side. Nothing more on the left. Oh jeez, gut whispered. They already see what they see on the left. Now they are just checkin the right to see if it's there too. This is what I thought. I was right.

I usually got my mammogram results in the mail. I got a call back from my primary care doctor that day. "Well" she says, "looks like something we need to get a better look at on the left. We are going to schedule you for an ultrasound, and probably a biopsy." I hung up the phone. I called back. "Doc, give it to me straight. What else they say? I need to know worst case scenario and then I'll work my way back from there."

Quiet. Quiet. Like when the universe gets super quiet right before an earthquake. No sounds. No birds. Everything is still and eerie.

"The radiologist said in his years of looking at these, he will be very surprised if this is not cancer. Your ultrasound is next Monday. Your biopsy on Wednesday. I will pray for you."

Oh no, don't say it, don't say that word, the "c" word. Don't say it. Why'd you tell me that? Oh man, that's gotta be a bad sign when your doctor says "I will pray for you."

Panic. Panic. Panic. Sh-h-h. I hear a voice say. Sh-h-h. I get quiet. Yeah, I said all kinds of prayers. I focused on white light. I tried to bargain with God. I talked to my boob. I told myself the good ol don't worry about what you don't know until you have somethin to worry about. You know like when you were little and your Dad says for the millionth time to your brother "Don't cry or I'll give you somethin to cry about."

It would be another two weeks of diagnostics before I would get my somethin to cry about.

But I already knew.

The voice told me.

Now it has been one year.
I survived hearing the words "You have breast cancer Debbie."
I survived having to look my kids in the eye and tell them "Mom has cancer."
I survived having to tell my family and friends and coworkers.
I survived having to leave my job, when I have always worked, since I got my work permit at 15 1/2.
I survived a port that got tangled up in my chest like Christmas lights before it ever got to be used, delaying the start of chemo.
I survived a second failed port.
I survived a failed PICC line.
I survived months and months of getting poked and poked and poked looking for a good vein and having to talk myself down from the ceiling.
I survived five months of chemotherapy.
I survived losing all my hair and eyelashes and brows and muffy hair, and had to live with the irony of leg hair that would not die.
I survived countless CT scans, nuclear medicine, biopsies, and every test imaginable.
I survived having to wear a wig, and even wearing one to work.
I survived a bilateral mastectomy and partial axillary dissection of my left arm lymph nodes.
I survived waking up to a chest as flat as a kitchen counter and grieved the loss of my precious fat bunnies.
I survived almost seven weeks of radiation treatment.
I survived the collateral damage of chemo, the stuff I live with now that never went away.
I survived a month long scare, where a secondary cancer diagnosis loomed, had my uterus blown up like a puffer fish, only to find out I'm a quirky little girl with a heart shaped uterus.
I survived the toughest blow to my courage, long after my cancer treatment was done - an insensitive anesthesiologist stabbing me in the neck to find a vein, but not before finding the depths of my woundedness first.
I survived getting fitted for a mastectomy bra, and learning how to wear one, and that it feels better if I powder flattened Flopsy and Mopsy before I tuck them in behind fake boobs.
I survived having to wear fake boobs to work.
I survived being in the most pain I have ever been in.
I survived being the sickest I have ever been.
I survived being the saddest I have ever been.
I survived being the scaredest I have ever been.
I survived the ones who walked away, loved even more the ones who stayed, and was immensely blessed by all the Angels that arrived.
I survived the biggest challenge of my life, and had my endurance, hopefulness and faith tested beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
I survived living with what I thought I could not live without.

And except for a few days when I was in the hospital after my bilateral mastectomy, I faithfully showed up and wrote this blog every single day, and the year is almost up.

I feel so many things tonight, proud of myself, melancholy, missing Flopsy and Mopsy, noticing my hair looks cute, and in my mind unpacking after Cancer Camp.

I don't know what happens from here.
I guess I'm gonna find out.


Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

And I found a wonderful, incredible, beautiful, brave, articulate new friend whom I will always be grateful God brought into my life to help me change my life for the better and show me my sacred ordinary. Thank you Debbie, I love you and will continue to pray for you and your family. Just remember, "it's a new season, it's a new day, fresh anointing coming your way", from a song by Israel Houston. Naniglenda

Anonymous said...

Dear Sweet Lady ~
"Congratulations" on being so very, very strong! You are such a wonderful inspirations to the people who are blessed enough to know you. Hugs and Kisses to you and your family. Have a "blessed" Easter!

kim said...

You are beautiful. You have taught so many of us things we will never forget. I agree with Naniglenda, it is a new day. I love you.

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