Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Road Of Transformation

You know the nurse I mentioned earlier? She had been a classmate of Dearest One's twenty years ago. What I remember about her is her hard as a rock countenance. The kind that says she'd seen a lot of life and it hadn't been kind to her.

When she was helping to transfer me to my bed back in my hospital room, a ladder of arms in my line of vision, I picked out hers and reached up with my good arm to grasp it. When I had her attention I thanked her for her kindness. I wanted her to know what a difference she had made in my journey.  I couldn't help but think as she left my room of her being a recovery room nurse and how she must have faced her own recovery from a hard life to have such a changed countenance that I hadn't recognized her until she and Dearest One talked. And even then I had to peer to see a faint recognition around her eyes. It made me want to sit and visit with her and ask her what had happened in the intervening twenty years.

Looking at my scar, and the place where my breast used to be, is not for the faint of heart I wrote to some friends the other day. People want me to see it through eyes that are not my own. With the beauty, the hope, and all the potential it could hold but doesn't at this point. It starts as a hollow and then rises up gently like a bunny hill at a ski slope until it curves downward again so abruptly that you'd get some air, if you truly were on skis, across a winding train track until you landed on the other side and came to a stop on my belly. It's especially brutal where the tumour was, scraped down to the bone.

[On a funny note I gasped in horror at my belly in the hospital asking Dearest One when did my belly get so big? How could it? I'd had no appetite since surgery. How unfair. I haven't thought of my journey as unfair at all except when I thought I lost a breast and it's dimensions had slid southward. It took me days to realize that all that had changed was I now had an unobstructed view of my belly. I was just seeing it from a different viewpoint now. We laughed and laughed about that one.]

There is profound sadness when I look in the mirror at my train track like wound. I named it the Road of Transformation the other day. Needing to attach some kind of significance to it, something to be hopeful about. I know it has the power to transform me if I let it. But first I must look long and hard at the reality of it. Not unlike I imagine the recovery room nurse had to do in order to change from rock hard countenance to Christ like kindness.

A few days after I posted about Jesus being a boob man, I got up the courage to sit in stillness and face him, to see what he did after cupping my breast in his hand. And startlingly, or not, he leaned down and kissed my breast and then stood back up and blessed it. And in every conversation since, when a visual has come to mind, he is making the sign of the cross in front of me. Blessing me on my journey. On the road of transformation.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Rivulet of Tears

I wake up as my head is thrashing from side to side like wind shield wipers going full speed. Vaguely I hear a nurse call my name and the taste of anaesthetic is so thick in my throat that it's hard to breathe. It takes all the concentration I can muster to slow my thrashing from warp speed to intermittent. It's like this every time I wake up from surgery.

Eventually my head stills. And as it does the reality that my breast is gone hits me so hard that I arch my back as a sob rises from the very core of my being.  One single sob then I'm gasping for breath. Over and over again.

The nurse leans her head close to mine and says, "I can't do anything for your emotional pain but I can dry your tears." Then as gently as a lover she takes a tissue and dabs the rivulet of tears as they fall towards my ears.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Am home and coping as well as can be expected. Thank you for praying. Will post more as able.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Surgery Day

Surgery is at 10 AM (mountain daylight time). Prayers appreciated!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jesus Is A Boob Man

I know because he cupped my breast in his hand.

I was in the shower cupping it myself while trying to wrap my head around the reality that soon my breast was going to be replaced with a train track like wound running diagonally across the right side of my chest. I tried to flatten my breast and imagine what flatness would look like. I traced my fingers around the orange sized crater left by the lumpectomy. All the while I was talking to God about it, because, well, that's just what I do. And into my head came a picture of Jesus standing in front of me cradling my breast in his hand and staring into my eyes. If only I could lift my head and stare back. But I couldn't. The thought of Jesus affirming not only the whole of who I am but this part of me, too, left me feeling vulnerable to the core.

So I stood there and let my tears and the shower water mingle reminded that all my grief and gut wrenching pain is being held in hands much bigger than my own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reaching Through The Darkness

He reaches for my hand through the darkness, turns on his side and whispers, "Are you worried?"  "Yes."
We talk about our fears, saying them out loud to one another. Many have told us to not go there but we know that going there, especially going there together is not something to fear but to embrace.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Keeping The Tears At Bay

Warning - dark humour ahead.

Tonight I wore a brand new dress to a community function. I felt pretty. I felt fantastic. I've lost a lot of weight without trying - a bizarre experience in itself -  the doctors haven't  been able to confirm if it's a result of having cancer or not. I'll be having a chat with a specialist about that on Monday.

A friend walked in the door of the reception area where we were standing tonight, took one look at me and said, "You look fabulous." She hadn't seen me in months and the last time she saw me I was wearing clothes that didn't fit very well - they were pretty baggy which unintentionally hid my weight loss. I'd phoned her last week to tell her of my cancer diagnosis and because of that and because of our 30 year history of friendship, when we hugged I whispered in her ear, "That's what having cancer will do for you."

And then we laughed and laughed until our sides were sore.

Sometimes laughter is the only thing that keeps the tears at bay.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Comforted Down The Road Of What Ifs

Today, while pouring out my heart to God, I heard a question inside me that asked, "Can you be present to what is? That's all you need to do."  After I had a good cry I said, "Yes, I can do that." It helped bring me back from running way down the road of what ifs.

A little while later Yoga Pug started barking at something invisible in the room. I'm used to him barking at unknown things out the window but this time it was definitely something in the room. Normally I tell him to be quiet and to hush up. Out of my mouth popped the words, "It's okay. They're not an enemy."  Half an hour later my phone rings and it's a dear friend. She tells me that she had prayed earlier that Archangels Michael and Raphael would come visit me. We compared notes and she prayed and Yoga Pug barked at the same time.

I like to think that a visit was indeed what happened. Either way I was comforted.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fear Not

It's been a really difficult day after several days of feeling happy. I caught myself thinking "how can you be happy when you have cancer?" and I know it's due in large part to the prayers of others.

Today we found out that the pathology report said the cancer has probably gone into my bloodstream. I just got off the phone with my sponsor and we talked about acceptance. Neither of us knows what that looks like at the moment. We both kind of want to run around and scream that the sky is falling.

More will be revealed with more surgery. In the meantime I am on a steep learning curve when it comes to staying in the day.

Fucking, fucking cancer.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Big Little Things

I had my drain tube out the other day at the hospital and was visiting with the surgeon afterwards who had a surgical intern with him. He was standing with his back just slightly to her and when he realized this he moved graciously and slowly to include her fully in what was going on.

It reminded me of the time a homeless man walked into our meeting. It was a rainy, cold day outside and he paused slightly to wipe first one and then the other of his boots on the welcome mat before coming further into the room.

Those little actions in life are really big things.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Waving The White Flag

I open one eye and look at the red glow of the clock - 5:39 a.m. I think to myself if I start now I can do twenty minutes of Centering Prayer before six o'clock. Always one to like round numbers I close my eyes and open up within myself to God. I watch as thoughts flit through my mind. A stray line of a song "you can let go now..." floats through and I watch it pass.

I last 10 minutes before I open my eyes again. I call it good enough and start talking to God.

I think back over the past few months, most recently to my temper tantrum about how I am sure they took out the lump that was already declared benign which made the orange sized hole in my breast totally unnecessary. I had ranted to Dearest One about it on the weekend and then, when he refused to get all wound up about it, to a friend on the phone. She pointed out that if I kept at it that I would simply be rehashing it again and again. In the midst of talking to her I got tired of hearing my own voice bitch about the same thing yet one more time. And in that moment I turned a corner emotionally.

I think about all this and say to God, "I surrender all of it to you." Then I wait as I let that surrender go from head to heart to feeling it in my very bones. I am finally tired of fighting what is.

This morning will be the first time I have been out of my pyjamas since I came home from the hospital. I carefully arrange the drain tube so that my clothes cover it as Dearest One and I talk about my appointment. He expresses regret that his schedule won't allow him to be with me. I come close to telling him it's no big deal - just an appointment to get the drain out but resist. The last time I told him something of that sort it didn't go very well.

It feels good to be doing errands, being a part of the flow of life. I stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things and go on to my next stop. When I get there I turn the key off and dig in my bag for lunch. I see my wallet on the seat but no purse. It takes me a few minutes to realize I've left it behind in the grocery store and the realization undoes me. I am not as fine as I think I am. Not as present as I'd believed. The tears rise from my core and I am immediately overwhelmed. I admit that I'd had to remind myself of basic traffic rules all morning in order to drive decently because I'd found it hard to concentrate.

By the time I get to the surgeon's office I know I've over done it. My incision is throbbing and I am worn out. I regret not taking up a friend on her offer to drive me to town and to my appointment.

I get ushered into a new to me examining room. I look at my options and quickly concede to sit in the chair right next to the doctor's desk. Today is the day I hope to get the drain out, put a bra back on, and continue the healing journey.

I have a great library book to occupy myself while waiting for the doctor to come in.

When he does comes in it's to look at my incision and then at the drain. We decide to leave it a few more days to be on the cautious side. I can live with that. I get ready to gather my purse and my book when he looks at me and says, "There is a glitch in all this."

I meet his steady gaze and know what's going to come next.

"There's some cancer in there."

I breathe in and out and then tell him of my prayer of surrender from this morning. A deep gut feeling that I will be okay however the next part of this journey goes. You know that okayness that comes not from circumstances being okay but from somewhere beyond that.

He tells me that had the pathologist not got the initial report mixed up and had not the next bits of the process played out the way they did that they wouldn't have caught this cancer for another year, possibly two. And me, who hates connecting dot conversations that other people dream up, accepts the mind boggling truth of his statement.

We make plans for what comes next. Lymph node biopsy. Radiation or mastectomy. My choice.  No chemotherapy if the node biopsy is clear.  Before all that can happen my sutures need to come out so we make an appointment for a week from today.

I drive to where Dearest One works and wait for his class to end. It's a long 45 minute wait. He emerges from his classroom with one of his students. She's someone I've wanted to meet and we smile at each other as we shake hands. Then somehow we manage to make small talk about my day. I lie about it and do the round about dance of how it was instead of how it really was. There's no charity in Dearest One finding out my diagnosis in front of a student.

We say our goodbyes to her and Dearest One and I entwine our fingers and walk towards his office. I can see by his bright face that he is unprepared for what I'm going to tell him. I stop as we walk and make a face that tells everything and his shoulders drop in recognition.

This morning I listened to this day's offering. While I am not bent towards thinking that I have been hard done by or that God is testing me - I had thought that my  hard time was behind me.