Sunday, July 28, 2013

Not What I Expected

I never, ever thought I would get cancer.  Not in a million years.  But if I did, in my dreams I would be cool and dignified, tragically elegant, wan and heartbreakingly beautiful, facing my fate with courage and decorum.

Snort.  So much for dreams.

In reality, I am a blubbing, hysterical, terrified blob of a mess.  Instead of tissues, I have a roll of paper towels at my bedside to sop up my endless weeping.  The cancer diagnosis is bad enough, but the complications related to MS have me in a panic, mostly because my physicians are in a panic.  Panicky physicians do not inspire a tremendous amount of confidence.

Right now, though, the hardest challenge of all involves my children, who I adore beyond my own life.   For a variety of reasons, some logistical, some personal, at this point in time they cannot be together with me through this.  Of course, we always want what we can’t have and all I want is them.  ALL.  I.  WANT.  IS.  THEM.  My oldest daughter is doing what she can, but, in typical perverse fashion, the situation is too much for her and she alone is not enough for me.  We need to be together as a family.   Their being here would give me the confidence and assurance I need right now.  My courage, my strength, my reason for being, it all comes from them.   I want them here with me, I want to hold their precious hands.  I want their presence, I just want to look at them.  I simply want them.

But even typing those words feels like the most churlish dismissal of what I DO have, which is the most incredible network of support from friends and even people I don’t know.  My friends are the ones who drive me to appointments, listen to me cry, who show up at my back door with frozen drink treats, who tell me everything is going to be all right.  They are the ones who are storming heaven, sending me cards, calling me to tell me they love me.  I do count some family in there, especially my beloved cousin Steve, whose unconditional love has been a constant for my entire life. But for the most part it is friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, virtual friends from our blogs, these are the people who are here for me every minute of the day, radiating caring and hope.

Their campaign of love and optimism is irresistible and I am joining in.  I have never felt worthy before of asking for healing.  But I have been utterly inspired by the confidence that is enveloping me.  I am praying that the cancer has not spread, that the surgery will successfully remove it all, that my care givers will be skilled enough to get me safely through the surgery without needing a vent. 

In January 2004 I teasingly said to my kids “I am turning 50 in September.  I better be getting a pretty darn big party!”  And I did!  My sister and the four of them gave me a wonderful, fun surprise party.  My oldest son delivered a touching toast, stating his pride and love for me.  I was surrounded that day by love and laughter and joy.  It is inexplicable to me that things have gone so terribly wrong. While I am praying for a good outcome and future, more than anything I am praying for my children, that they may also be healed and strengthened and that we can come together as a family once again. 

I listen to meditations written by Belleruth Naparstek, a renowned psychotherapist who was a groundbreaker in the field of guided imagery.  I am focusing on two affirmations in particular to get me through this:

I can feel around me a protective cushion of energy containing all the kindness, good wishes, prayers, gentle smiles, and sweet gestures that have ever been sent my way.


I know that I am held in the hands of God and I am perfectly, utterly safe.

And so I am.


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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When Bad Things Keep Happening to Sort of Good People

Perhaps I am stretching it by putting myself in the Good People category.  I know so, so many people who are far stronger, braver, charitable and admirable than I am.  That is why I qualified it a bit, I am sort of good.  Pretty good.  Relatively good.   I do try.  However, those Bad Things, they just keep on a-comin’.

I found a lump in my breast several months ago, but with all my health problems and hospitalizations, following up on it took a back seat.  I finally had a biopsy last week and within a few days the results came back.  I have ductal carcinoma in situ, or, in lay terms, breast cancer.  It is the most common type and the chances are high for a complete cure after surgery, chemo and radiation. 

The problem is that the treatment protocol takes a tremendous toll on the healthiest of people.  And me?  I am not the healthiest of people.  Multiple sclerosis has sucked all the ‘life’ out of my life.  Secondary to MS I have developed crippling lymphedema in my legs, causing relentless, excruciating pain and severely limiting my ability to take more than a few steps, essentially confining me to a wheelchair and to my home.  Getting out of the house is simply too darn hard. 

Limited mobility means no exercise.  I carry the genes of Irish peasants who survived an Gorta Mór (the Great Potato Famine).  So no exercise means horrific, depressing weight gain by just sitting here and breathing.  Oh, and breathing?  Yeah, that would be an issue too, as MS has caused a partial paralysis of my diaphragm which has compromised my ability to take deep breaths.  Surgery to remove the lump will require anesthesia.  There is considerable concern that my lungs would not be strong enough to recover from the anesthesia.  I might end up with a tube in my throat attached to a machine that would breathe for me for the remainder of my days.

What on earth did I do in a previous life?!?!  Holy mackerel, it must have been really, really bad.

I am trying hard to keep a positive outlook, but it is very tough.  I’m awfully scared.  On the plus side, I have a great team of health care providers who are truly skilled, concerned and compassionate.  I have found someone who might be able to help treat my lymphedema at home.  I trust my oncologist, who I will meet with on Thursday to discuss plans and realistic expectations.   My respiratory therapist has referred me to a physician who specializes in preventing post-op vents.  

My friends have rallied around me with a tornado of caring and love.  It is my children I am the most concerned about though.  I do not want them to be burdened or to watch me suffer.  I am praying for them, that they find solace in each other and that we can be a happy family once again.

So, I soldier on.  I believe things always work out one way or another.  They may not work out the way you want or the way you intended, but they do work out.  I have always rolled with the punches, dusting myself off and reinventing myself as I’ve needed to.  Even when I didn’t want to.  I am not ready for it, but ready or not, it is time for a new adventure.

Wish me luck.


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