October has been designated as breast cancer awareness month. Before the month is over I wanted to share my all time favorite story about a victory over the disease.
For many years I was a nurse in a big family practice clinic. It was a great job. Over time I became very close with our long-time patients. One of my favorites was Heidi, the fifty year old mother of one college age daughter. Heidi was a delightful, funny lady.
One day Heidi came in to see the doctor about a lump she had just discovered. She was concerned. Tests were done and the results were not good. After the doctor told her the results indicated cancer she came to me. I held her while she cried. She was afraid she would die and never her see her daughter graduate and marry. She would never know if she had grandchildren. Cancer is a very scary diagnosis. After a good cry Heidi pulled herself together, told her daughter, and arranged to be treated for the disease. She had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. The treatment was difficult, but after a year she was declared cancer free. Heidi was there to celebrate when her daughter graduated, married and gave birth to Heidi's first grandchild.
On the five year anniversary of being cancer free, Heidi and her daughter celebrated with a trip to mardi gras in New Orleans. There is custom at mardi gras about beads involving the showing of your boobies. A man with an armload of beads approached Heidi and her daughter, offering their choice of his beads in exchange for a quick peek. Heidi asked if he was sure he wanted to see her boobies. When he assured her that he did, she reached inside her blouse and removed both her prostheses and placed them in his hands. He starred at them for a moment before he realized what she had done and then started laughing. He told her that she was one brave woman and returned them to her and then placed everyone of his beads around her neck. He thought she deserved them for her great courage and humor.
Heidi came into the doctor's office when she returned and brought us all beads from New Orleans. She said to share her story of victory. She wanted women everywhere to know that victory over cancer is possible and that life can still be full of joy.
I saw the doctor this morning for a follow appointment. He is quite pleased with my recovery. After eleven weeks the bones have healed and are now in alignment as they should be. I was expecting to be referred to a physical therapist and be walking again in the near future. It will be a little longer than I expected, but I will walk again. I can start walking now with my orthopedic boot on and using crutches until I am strong enough to not need them. This will take six to eight weeks. In the office today he manipulated my foot an toes to break up the adhesions and scars that have formed during my recovery. I'm sure most of the people in the hospital heard me scream. It hurt a lot. I will have to massage my foot three times a day and stretch the toes back to prevent the adhesions from reforming. I will not be seeing a physical therapist now. I should be walking without the boot before Christmas. He said it would be spring before I would be walking without being aware of foot. Looks like it may be next summer before I can take dancing lessons.
Today is my daughter's birthday, or as I often tell her, it is the anniversary of my suffering. It is fortunate that women are able to pretty much block out all memory of labor and delivery or none of us would ever have a second child.
The day before giving birth I woke up before dawn aware of intermittent back pains and cramps. I got up and walked around trying to decide if this was really labor. If this was it was it wasn't so bad. I had fixed myself some coffee when my husband came out ready for work. He asked why I was up so early and I told him that I was in labor. He went pale, sat done and asked what he should do. I told him it was going to be a long process and to go on to work. He did, but he was home before noon, saying there was no way he could concentrate. He wanted to be home. I thought things were progressing nicely and we left for the hospital later in the afternoon.
I had worked in labor and delivery until hospital policy required me to resign after my second trimester. I knew the staff and the routines well. I was excited, but not too nervous as we went through the admission process. The hospital was a big, modern teaching facility. It was a very progressive place allowing fathers in the labor area. It was a long labor. The pain was far greater than I had expected. At one point a young nurse came in and told me that if I just took long, slow breaths it wouldn't hurt so much. I was tempted to hit her, except I could remember saying the same thing to patients I had cared for when I had worked there. At one point my husband assured me he would do everything else if I had the babies instead of him. Finally the next afternoon it was time for delivery. My husband was sent to the waiting room. Fathers were not permitted in the delivery room. I was given an epidural that brought sweet relief from the pain. As the nurses moved me from the gurney to the delivery table my leg slipped down and prevented me from getting where I needed to be. I remember seeing my leg hanging there and thinking how strange it was that I could neither feel nor move my leg. Finally I was on the delivery table. Then a miracle happened and my beautiful, perfect baby girl was placed in my arms.
The baby and I were checked out, pronounced healthy, cleaned up and placed in my hospital bed to be transported to my room. My husband met us as we rolled down the hallway. He kissed me and then just stared at the little face staring back at him. Finally he said that he had never seen such big beautiful eyes in a baby. Then he asked if this beautiful creature was a boy or a girl. He was thrilled to be the father of a daughter.
The lifetime of joy and love that little girl and her sister and brothers have brought us far outweigh any of the pain of childbirth.
There are two inventions that have made my life immensely better.
The first is the mute button on my TV remote control. The airwaves have been totally polluted with obnoxious advertisements. During this election season whenever a political ad begins I happily hit my mute button. The lies, innuendos and half truths are silenced. An ad begins that extols the wonder of a pill that enhances a man's erectile function and I hit my mute button. I just don't want to hear it. I also hate ads for feminine hygiene products. It just seems some things should not be shouted into my living room. My mute button is a great stress reducer in my life.
What advertisements make you hit the mute button?
The other invention that improves my life and reduces it's irritations is the caller ID on my phone. I think ninety percent of calls made to our house are junk calls. If you call from an 800 number or the ID shows up as an unknown caller I don't answer. I miss lots of pushy salesmen and lots of politicians that way. I figure if it is important the caller will leave a message. The fact that I own a phone does not mean I have to talk to you. I love my caller ID.
1.Feel sorry for myself. This is depressing so I try to limit this activity, but I have managed to have a couple of very good pity parties. 2.Take naps. This was much easier when I was taking the good drugs. 3.Play free cell. This is a big waste of time but it is better than number one. 4.Watch daytime TV. I can only do this if I am taking the good drugs which prevent me from thinking. 5.Tour the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I have been watching a series of illustrated lectures by an art historian about the great works in these two museums. I am learning a lot about art history. It really is interesting. Someday I plan to go see both theses museums. 6.Eat. I wonder if I will be able to fit into an of my clothes after three months of boredom and inactivity. 7.Read. Since I quit taking the good drugs I have been able to enjoy reading again. Currently I am enjoying “Peace Like a River,” by Leif Enger. It is a sweet story about family, love and faith with delightful characters. I tried to read “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” but found it just too boring. I didn't like any of the characters and didn't care what happened to any of them. 8.Try to think of something interesting to post on my blog. My life has not been very exciting recently. 9.Visit with friends and family when they come to visit. I love to listen to stories about the people in my world. 10.My very favorite thing is to get out of the house and go anyplace else. Since I travel by wheelchair I have really come to appreciate handicap accessible places. I am grateful that our church, the senior center and several restaurants are all wheelchair friendly.
Thirteen years ago today I had the honor of being present at the birth of my seventh grandchild. What a breath-taking moment that was! After a long labor, suddenly there she was, a beautiful, perfect baby girl. As the doctor handed this new baby, fresh from heaven, to my daughter a feeling of amazing joy filled my heart. My daughter then looked at me and said that her name was Alexandra Susan. This child's middle name is in honor of me. I felt overwhelmed at such an honor.
I love this wonderful girl who today begins the exciting adventure of being a teenager.