Friday, May 1, 2009

Discovery

You know, I've been reading a lot of blogs about people who have dealt with cancer. It's been interesting, and I know that everyone deals with catastrophe quite differently. I've never understood it when people have talked about my strength or my bravery. Point blank and simple, I felt as if I was playing the hand that life had dealt me the very best way that I knew how. I hope that no one takes this as a criticism, because it is not meant to be, not at all, merely an observation.

I've heard people talk about the indignity of cancer. I suppose. I never really thought about it. I'm a private person, and having my breasts on display was a bit embarrassing at first, but I had breast cancer. I figured that I had better get used to flashing my boob and a half. And so I did.

Other people go on about their fear of needles. I never liked shots. Who does? But between chemos, and daily neupogen shots, blood work, radiactive contrast medium, etc. I got used to it. I told a nurse that I really felt as if I did not have the luxury of indulging my fears. Simply put. I was focused on bigger issues, and at the end, I was giving myself my own shots in the stomach.

I've heard talk about all the horrible tests, and the agony of mammograms. The tests were not fun. Being in a tube listening to banging and clanging as you listen to Vivaldi through headphones was not my idea of a really good time, but I also learned that I can 'put myself', mentally speaking, somewhere else. It sounds strange, but Hal's quote from Madeline L'Engle - 'You never lose the other ages you've been' was a huge comfort to me. During long tests, I was able to put myself in some of those other ages and it was a very gratifying (and wondrous) discovery for me. The 'agony' of mammograms seemed like small potatoes compared to the other stuff that was going on. It's uncomfortable, but it has a beginning and it has an end, and really, the two points are not far removed. It was simply something that I endured, and in the big picture, was a very minor thing.

There are many who get teary eyed at the idea that their cancer might return. They are very fearful about that. I would be a liar if I said that this thing did not concern me, as well. Finding out that my tumor was inclined to 'break off' and enter the blood stream, metasticizing in other parts of the body was a shock. A big shock. Reading that the average life expectancy of a person with metatastic breast cancer is 2 years was also very shocking. I reeled from the news. After about a week of pondering it, I came to this conclusion. I have the comfort of a good husband. That relationship has been strengthened by this ordeal. I have children who are learning about life, and wisdom during this time. I have a job that I love, something that gets me outside every single day, giving me 8 hours of solitary contemplation and hard work. I write, and that has made me a local celebrity of sorts. Since the cancer, people have reached out in a very wonderful way. I have a good church family. I have an intact faith. All these things, I have. What a treasure this is. Some people never have these things in their lives. I am blessed. Whatever happens, happens. I have to trust that my life is unfolding just as it is meant to unfold. I think about it. Sometimes, in the dark, I worry, but mostly, I have used this as motivation to really see the world around me, really 'be in the moment', savor relationships. It is what it is.

I'm an emotional person. I am a sap. My children will laugh hysterically about the fact that I cried during 'Ice Age'. I will tell you that the wooly mammoth had suffered great loss. Although I had some really disconcerting mood swings at the end of the chemos, it seemed to be more of a drug reaction thing. As those drugs left my system, I got a handle on my emotions, and I settled down again. For the most part, I felt as if I were facing something very large and very scary, and I put all my efforts into fighting my best fight. Nothing else mattered but that. Nothing. Reading other people's blogs, I see that other people handled things differently. That is not to say that they are wrong. Not at all. For the first time, though, it occurred to me. I am strong. I am brave. I hadn't noticed before. I have come through a hard time. I've no idea what the future holds, but I know that I am strong enough to handle it, that I am brave enough to look it in the face.

15 comments:

Daria said...

Good post!

You are strong and brave and by sharing your thoughts, you are helping others too.

A Novel Woman said...

Man, you does write good. REAL good. (wink)

That post was as close to perfection as it gets, my dear. I cried, I laughed, I cried. Seriously, who else could pull off a woolly mammoth in a beautiful piece about life and death? You are profound, both in spirit and as a writer. It's been a real privilege to follow your journey. Thank you for that.

Pam

Dean said...

My eyes started to water watching Grey's last night. Suz, my wife, asked me why I went to bed early. I couldn't say for sure - I just knew that i didn't want to see any sick kids or have to explain my feelings.

I read your posts and I'm at a loss for words most of the time. You are a stranger to me, in many ways even stranger than a sick fictional character on Greys. Yet I still feel something for you. Unfortunately, like any truth, words just mess it up.

Mrs. Spit said...

You know - one of the things that angered me most as a dead baby mum is the people who said "you must be so strong, I could never cope". It always made me feel as if they loved their child more than I loved Gabe, and they would get a bye on coping with life.

It has been a great priveledge to watch you go through this journey- to see your joy and hope.

Debby said...

Mrs. Spit - Reading your words, it made me think that they wanted you to know that they loved their child more, that you were, in their mind, not grieving properly. I also dealt with that sort of thing. People assumed that I was 'in denial' or that I wasn't really that sick. There are ghoulish people who really get their jollies by 'talking' about medical procedures. You learn to spot them coming. You coped. I coped. Our pain was not less because we did not break into pieces and fall apart.

Dean. I 'get' what you are saying. There was a period of time when I could not watch the news. It just hurt too much to see how ugly the world was. There was no way to explain that. I can't watch Grey's anymore. Medical dramas? No longer all that intriguing.

Daria, I worried about this being perceived as a criticism of other patients. It's not meant to be. Your response made me feel better.

Pam, dear, really, you is jest tooo kind.

Bush Babe said...

That post was quite a journey in itself... glad you conclude (as do we) that you have strength others admire. It's not about choosing your battles - we rarely get that luxury. Not the real battles. I know this from personal experience.

Our battle was the last thing I wanted to ever face... but we had no choice. And people told us we were soooo brave. And it made me cranky at the time - I didn't want to have to be brave. But now, in retrospect, I see. We held firm, we broke down in private, we hung on grimly to sanity, and we came through. We survived. But you Deb, shared, so others may understand and see the light through that tunnel.

To Mrs Spit, my heart hurts for you. As (I suspect) most who have struggled to find the words to help you... they probably thought they were passing a compliment to you. In their own 'I don't really want to have to think about' kinda way... I have a dear friend in your position and I struggle every day to not say the wrong thing. I pray that my words help and not hurt.

Hugs
BB

PaintedPromise said...

yeah, what Pam said...

and once again you have tears in my eyes. i talk about you a lot to people. one of the "best friends i never met" in PA who has breast cancer and how, if i ever get cancer, i could only HOPE to be HALF as brave and strong as you... could only HOPE to be HALF as much an inspiration to people as you are to those who read your blog...

i gotta say, as i think about it now, what got me hooked on you when i popped over from Mikey's blog was the story of the goose in the road... and i thank my lucky stars that the goose grabbed me hook, line and sinker so that i added you to my list and began checking in regularly.

you. have. made. such. an. impact. on. my. life.

and i don't know where that comes from, a period after every word, but i've seen it in other blogs {That Chick mostly comes to mind lol} and it does seem to make you think about what is said... so there it is. with a period after every word!

and...

you. are. strong.

you. are. brave.

you. are. a. wondeful. inspiration.

gotta go find a tissue now :)

PaintedPromise said...

AARRGGHH i hate when i hit post and i am not really done...

Mrs. Spit: please. take your left arm and wrap it around to your right. take your right arm and wrap it around to your left. squeeze. this is a hug from me. because reall? there are no words...

Caroline said...

A positively wonderful post. You have such a way with words. I cry at all movies. My husband rolls his eyes. But yes we all deal differently. We do what we need to do. But for me radiation was the end of any remaining shred of modesty I had left. Someone once said to me that if she started charge a quarter every time someone wanted to feel her breasts when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she would have been able to pay all her medical bills.

jeanie said...

Hey there Deb - long time.

What I most love is that we know that you have bad times and sometimes you may stumble - but you always, always, always find sunshine and blessings.

Bob said...

So much good stuff here; so much inspiration. So much of who you are coming through. Thanks so much.

New Mary said...

Deb,

Having gone through the same journey, you just put all my thoughts that are scattered in my head and put them in some kind of order. I am not a "wordy" person but you expressed all of my feelings in ways I would never be able too.

I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all who prayed, sent well-wishes, had thoughts and concerns and sent your strength my way. I go to my Surgeon in a few hours and hopefully will find out the pathology after my mastectomy. (How much was involved) If it was just localized hopefully I won't have to go through Chemo again. I'm doing very well and hope to get out and about within a few days.

But let me tell you about this wonderful girl Deb. After my surgery later in the evening, she came to visit me in the hospital. In the weeks leading up to my surgery I knew my parents, especially my Mom was having a really hard time. Not able to sleep at night and just filled with worry. Within a few minutes of being in the room together, my shy, quieter parents, and me were laughing and giggling at her stories. She speaks just like she writes.

So I just wanted to say Thanks Deb for bringing your humor to my parents on that day. Again THANKS to all for all you've did.

PaintedPromise said...

Mary thanks for sharing - Deb you are awesome! aw, happy tears...

Beth said...

That is nothing short of an amazing post! I know you don't look at yourself as inspirational, however, most people look how you LIVE your life everyday as a huge source of strength. I loved this post, because I have a tendency to think the worst which is a terrible way to live. I needed some life lessons from someone like you to learn how to LIVE my life without fearing the "worst." Thank you so much for sharing with us.

Hal Johnson said...

This was indeed a wonderful post, Debby.

"My children will laugh hysterically about the fact that I cried during 'Ice Age'."

We must have watched that movie fifty times when Dylan was three and four years old. That scene put a lump in my throat every time. When your kids have kids, they'll understand.