Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Life Itself

I just watched that movie.  Sitting here in my hotel room, attached to MD Anderson, alone.  And, while I wouldn't recommend that movie to just anyone without strong caveats,  strong caveats, it has a profound message, and one which deepens one's empathy.  And, in that setting, I write.

So, I have to back up.  To a month ago.  To this...

...sitting for family photos knowing I had a mammogram in two days that very few knew about.  Knowing that this might be our last "normal" photo for awhile.

I didn't want to believe the lump I noticed a few months before would be a problem.  The lump that since Agnes' birth I had forgotten about.  The one which I was reminded of with a phone call from my grandmother just a week or so before this.

My granddad (who had suffered greatly from a stroke almost two years before), woke up angry with my grandmother.  Apparently he believed I had called him in the night to tell him something was wrong.  Even after texting that I was fine, he wasn't convinced.  So, Jeremy stayed home with everyone but Agnes, and I drove out with her to see him.  When I arrived, he looked at my grandmother and said, "See!  She did call."  I tried to convince him otherwise without any success, and he said, "You said something was wrong, and you had something to show me."  So I introduced him to Agnes, and said I was fine.

But, that night, I remembered the lump I felt months before.

And, I got in touch with my OBGYN the next day to schedule a mammogram for after we returned from Agnes' appointments in Denver the next week.

I didn't tell anyone (well, except for my husband, mom, sister and a couple friends), because part of me was sure I had just made something out of nothing...like a clogged milk duct.  And, another part didn't want anyone to worry until they had a reason to worry.  But, when I told my mom a couple days before the appointment, she was determined to come with me (or at least drive me there).

When at the appointment they "saw something suspicious," part of me just knew.  They biopsied two sites and told me that it could be 200 other things but that they needed to rule out the one "bad" thing.  I got back in the car with my mom, and all I could think was, "Dear God please don't let my kids grow up without a mom."  I didn't want to start thinking of all of the what ifs, but I was somewhat worried, and I knew those I told were, too.

That night as I laid in bed thinking of the year we had had, I so vividly was reminded of Jesus being fully man and thus knowing the hurt of hard times, yet with He and His momma, part of me thought, "Yes, you became like us to know us and to feel everything with us - to be fully human - yet You never lost your mom."  

Two days later, as I was washing dishes after lunch, I had a call on my cell from an unknown number.  I picked it up, and after the lady on the other end asked me how my biopsied sites were doing, she asked if I "had a minute."  For the record, I'm no longer answering yes to that question ;)

I sat on my bed, grabbed a pen and opened up the nearest thing to me (a book called He and I), and began to write down everything she said.  It was a blur, but I came away knowing I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Grade 3, with a 3.5 cm mass and at least one affected lymph node.  I would wait five more days to hear reports on the staging and receptor status.

I walked out of my room, made eye contact with Jeremy, and he followed me out our back door to sit on the steps, take a deep breath, cry and decide what to do next.  I had cancer.


I knew I needed to call my mom and sister, then one of my best childhood friends who had just been through a cancer diagnosis and treatment, and finally send a mass message to my friends and family who had no clue what was coming.

In the meantime, Jeremy called his parents and told our kids...the kids who haven't seen much death, but that which they have has almost always been tied to cancer.

After all of the communication, and the loving on my babies, I went to talk to my parents.  There is not much worse than seeing those you love most suffer...yet seeing them helplessly hurt for you, I've discovered, ranks right up there with it.

I came home to Jeremy driving his truck, with the kids behind in all of their run down, battery-operated vehicles...chained together, pulled by Dad...offering me what they termed, "The Love Parade."

I made the corner after watching their tear-stained faces wanting to lift my spirits and sobbed like I never have before.

And after that, I went back to those dishes.

Because what does one do after receiving a cancer diagnosis, with 8 sets of little eyes watching?

Only the very next thing that needs to be done.  Life itself.