I realized it was cancer, long before I got confirmation. Seriously, how many lumps are simply benign? My first reaction was, ‘OK, that’s the way it is (God), but I’m not doing this’. I’m been prepared to die, knowing heaven was my reward and destiny…. but I’m not prepared to do chemo.
Cancer didn’t scare me — chemo and losing my hair, that was another story.
“But that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.” 1 Corinthians 11:15 This doesn’t just mean “long” hair on a woman, but her hair… it is her covering (not a lace doily, ladies), so women are not to have shaved heads as some primitive civilizations accepted . . . as well as some female ‘rock singers’. But this scripture does show that the female of our species, have an inborn reason for adoring and primping their hair, so men, get over it.
It’s also a fact that men can look good, as well as acceptable, bald. Not so the women.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
My 2nd thought was for my daughter, who I did not want to be filled with concern for inheriting such a disease. No parent wants to put that worry on their child, but I would have no choice but to have to tell my wonderful, grown daughter and my son, about what was going on and pray for their well being and peace about it. That wouldn’t happened until I learned more than various physicians.
It took a while to get the scans and mammograms done and an official diagnose from an official doctor. And when that came, yes there was another moment of anger… disgust?, that no, it wasn’t going to be benign — no matter how you prepare yourself you have cancer. As I said though, cancer wasn’t scary — it was the treatment.
So now I told the kids, grown with their own. And tried to prepare them that they might need to accept my decision if I chose not to do chemo. The son was more, “but you have too!” and my daughter was more “OK, just see what all the doctors say”.
I didn’t get the oncologist I had wanted (I had rather thrown up my hands and said, “OK, Lord, I don’t really care. You do this (you know I’m annoyed anyway)”.
Then I was told by Texas Oncology that I could have my first choice! She would be out on maternity leave eventually — but I could see her until then and then Dr. Second choice would fill then for a few weeks. “Great!” I thought; how nice!
Before my appointment, 5 days later, I got a call from Methodist Hospital to say Dr. First Choice was out on maternity leave and would I like to see Dr. Second Choice. “Sure, fine”.
Well gosh, God sure moved her out of the way fast (I had wanted a woman doctor). Oh well….
Oddly, strangely, when I met Dr. S. C., I liked him. Quiet manner, direct, nice all around, pulled out of piece of paper and wrote (scrawled?) my diagnosis out, for me to see and understand. And after he went over ‘triple negative’ and other terms, I told him I wasn’t really wanting to do chemo. He said that was an option, lumpectomy and some radiation… but not the best choice. I understood.
Then I saw Dr. Surgeon. With this type of cancer, they prefer to do lumpectomy surgery last, after the tumor has been shrunk (almost out of existence) by chemo. Nice doctor and staff . . . I and my husband listened. And then I told him, sitting inches away, that I didn’t want to do chemo and got the usual, kind lecture of that is ‘best thing’, blah, blah. I also so his still face and frozen eyes, knowing he must be thinking, “Lady, you’re nuts”. I told them “yes, I would see Dr. S.C. tomorrow and would listen to him before deciding definitely”. But, I had my mind made up.
My husband and I met again with Dr. S.C.. He went over it all again so hubby would get all the details (and for the first time in 40 years, he remembered more than I… but in my defense, I did have a lot on my mind.)
I again mentioned to Dr. S.C. that I didn’t want chemo. He was close by. I looked directly into his face and eyes. There was no hint of ‘foolish woman’; “I know better than you”… nothing like that. He was compassionate, understanding, calm and showed respect for MY feelings and views.
He said, “R.P., no one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. I’m here to work with you in your treatment”, he said in a kind, sincere voice. He said more but my memory recorder didn’t quite capture it precisely, but it was along the lines of, ‘if you do two chemo treatments, the tumor with shirk some. If that’s all you can do, then we can stop”.
He had listened to me and my fears -- no criticism but respect. I found myself respecting him and saying out loud, “OK, I’ll do it”.
As we went to another room, I fought back tears. “I don’t want to DO this!”, I said to myself. But my husband was there and gave me comfort. We eventually drove home, me in tears the entire 15 minutes.
The next day I had decided I was calling my Dr. S.C. and telling him, “I can’t.. won’t do this”. Because I CAN’T DO THIS. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS. Chemo, sickness, radiation, surgery, blah, blah blah…. I could do. NOT losing my hair. (really it must be more than vanity… it’s demeaning to me. And you’re wearing a big sign that says, “I have Cancer!” ick).
A day later I was feeling better, looking at wigs, etc…. then a couple of more days and I was back to saying, I’m calling, I WON’T DO THIS. That was right after my ‘chemo consultation’ when I learned of ALL the possible side effects. Good mercy!
But it was now time for the 1st surgery, to insert a ‘medi port’ to transmit chemo and do a lymph node check. No food from midnight on….. oh moan. I get hungry. How would I get through that Wednesday! We were at the Day Surgery by 8 am. All they left me with was a hospital gown and a book — no phone. At least the TV was helpful …… and distracting.
The book, which I had previously read, was “It Is Well With My Soul” by Shelly Beach. About her horrendous medial journey, where Dr.’s didn’t know what was even wrong with her. The hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul” was buzzing through my head too, couldn’t get it out of my mind and didn’t really want to. You see, I knew, regardless of what I was going through or how it might end up — it WAS “well with my soul” which is safely and securely with the Lord Jesus Christ. My Final Destination being heaven and eternity life with no pain, no sickness, no fear.
I was rolled around the hospital for a couple of hours, during “procedures”, but at least I was busy… and everyone I came in contact with was so very nice. For someone used to shopping Walmart and finding no ‘customer service’ all most anyway, this was very impressive. By noon I was back in my ‘holding area’. I realized I wasn’t hungry. I was also calm, peaceful and had no fear or worry. I also realized it was God’s grace… more of that later.
Finally, an hour late I might add, they took me to surgery at 3:30… as I was looking at the surgery ceiling and all the lights, 5 seconds later ( 2 1/2 hr in real time) I was awaking in Recovery, nauseated. Finally at 8 pm they let me go home, where I collapsed in bed asap.
A few days later I was cleaning in the kitchen. A scripture ‘came’ to mind out of the blue — “My grace is sufficient….”!!! I stopped dead. I had read that scripture dozens, hundreds of time — and knew I never really understood it’s depth of meaning. There were plenty of times I needed help, ‘grace’, strength or peace and felt empty of it. But now I understood that scripture (2 Corinthians 12:9) I understood it because I had experienced it! That day in the hospital was beyond me — my mind was “stayed” on Him, a hymn, scripture in a book, reading how He intervened and guided this woman, friends, family acquaintance. My mind was on Him and he gave me all the ‘grace’ I needed for that day. Such peace, it was. It was a revelation I wouldn’t change for anything.
This is how the Lord works. He was never harsh or pushy (just like the Dr. He chose for me), but gentle and there, waiting on me, wanting to teach me to trust in this journey. One I was angry about, interrupting my time, (possibly) scary to my daughter and certainly an inconvenience for everyone around me. Didn’t want to be a sick burden to my husband either. And I didn’t like the idea of wearing that “cancer sign” every day.
It also became clear that it was time to tell more friends, family and church friends. I’m rather private and don’t like attention… but this had to be done, so it was.
Ah, the kindness and concern. My church family were so ind, outreaching with blessing and good thoughts and just letting me know, they would be praying. Sweat notes in the mail. What else can one ask?!! I have really experience God’s grace. One church member said the kindness thing about me — for I had said that day in church that my only real wish was to be able to show God’s grace and peace to other people — not my fear or anger. He said he thought I was “brave,” having come to church days after surgery. I KNEW I’m not brave, but he was kind and sincere…. and maybe God’s glorious grace was showing through?
So chemo began. My husband and lovely daughter were with me for those 3 hours. I was fine; it was nice they were there, taking time from their day and work.
Forty eight hours later, it hit. Sick, sick sick… like a bad case of the flue. Nauseated, cramps, misery. It came and went, I finally got hungry, would get something down… and eat, but an hour later, not feeling so hot. By the following Tuesday I had decided, NO MORE. I’m stopping this if this is the way it is. I was really horribly sick. But the next day I had a visit set to see Dr. S.C. I was so weak and miserable I don’t know how I got there (besides my husband taking me)… I put on eye liner and that was it (certainly not me!)
Dr. Second Choice listened, made an “adjustment” in the dosage of drugs I’d get next treatment, gave me fluids and some ‘magic potion’ (which took over an hour and I was so sick I just wanted to go home!) — but when the magic started to drip into my weak body, I could tell — relief! The next day I felt good. The day after I felt normal. No more laying in bed from weakness, tiredness and nausea. Praise the Lord.
Second treatment went well …. much better after effects. Still some sickness and tire easily, but I wasn’t expecting a rose garden. This was an improvement.
Three plus weeks and I ran a brush through my hair…………. so much came out. I cried last Sunday as the troops were certainly on deployment. It’s hard to see this happening to your hair.
I’ve cut it shorter and layered it; I actually liked it. Although I know it won’t be around much longer. The Lord will get me through this next stage of “I don’t want to even look at myself, much else anyone else’. I know He will. I just know don’t know how yet. I do know, His grace is sufficient.