My message: Letting go of what lies behind.
Metaphor: With a journey, there are times when the paths are unswerving and times when they twist and turn. There are uncertainties, bumps and craters along the way. There are also often glorious surprises and exciting revelations along the way that I may never have savored if it had not been for the pathway that was laid-out before me on the afternoon of Friday, November 18, 2022; When I heard the words, “you have cancer”.
After receiving the diagnosis, I felt overwhelmed and was in disbelief. As my doctor continued to speak, like the verse from the song Comfortably Numb, by the English rock band, Pink Floyd, I could see his lips moving, but I could not hear a word he was saying. I immediately called my husband Robert to share the news. I returned home a short while after where he was waiting for me. We embraced, cried, talked about our fears, concerns, this dreaded journey we were about to embark upon and then we decided we must eat! So, off to Pappadeaux we went. As I delighted over the picture of the dish on the cover of the menu, I immediately opened it to review the price, as I typically do, $39.95, oh my goodness, no way, that is too expensive. I sat back, paused, then looked at my husband and said, “if this is how my life is going to end, I am going to start eating well!” Not only did I ordered that dish, I had dessert too! A NEW WAY TO EAT!
My surgery for bilateral inguinal lymphadenectomy, was scheduled on Thursday, December 8, 2022. We shared the news with our children and small circle of friends. They were all extremely compassionate and supportive. In trying to show every sign of strength we assured them we were optimistic and hopeful as well. However, the few weeks leading up to it were filled with fear, anxiety, despair, stress, regrets and a multitude of other emotions.
Now to speak about death, I died and buried myself at least a thousand times leading up to that day. Although the thought of dying does not scare me, my thoughts were; I don’t want this to be part of my story. This cannot be how it ends. I have so much life left to live! I’m ONLY 60 years old! It was in these moments where I felt the heaviness and smothering of regret.
My surgery went well and now it was time to return home only a few four hours later. After a brief review of my discharge summary with the post-op nurse, we were out the door and on our way home. Now, having worked in the healthcare industry for over 40 years, I felt somewhat equipped to navigate these waters along with my husband. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the level of dependency, loss of modesty and limited mobility that was suddenly my new reality. Things such as standing up, sitting down, using the facilities, showering, changing bandages, dressing, undressing, and more left me with overwhelming feelings of vulnerability and violation. Seeing my physical body was daunting, cumbersome and sent me into a state of panic and sadness. What felt shameful and humiliating for me was a feeling of a new level of intimacy for my husband Robert, my rock. It took me some time to come around to this, but on purpose, choosing to acknowledge my blessings by seeing the light instead of darkness, what once was shattered, GOD then used it in remolding us to make our marriage stronger and even more beautiful. A NEW WAY TO SEE.
On December 21, 2022, twelve days post-op, we received the news from Dr. Szender. The surgical pathology report showed that all lymph nodes were negative for metastatic carcinoma. My drainage tubes and bulbs were removed that day as well, what a relief! Back to Pappadeaux’s we went to celebrate this wonderful news! And yes, I indulged once again. No menu needed this time.
I didn’t want to have cancer and I realize my life will never be the same. There is no part of my human brain that thinks cancer is fair for any precious person who receives this diagnosis. I had to decide I didn’t want this reality to be a broken piece of pottery wasted on the ground or something I kept in my hand that hurt me more. I had to take it and entrust it to the Lord. I am working diligently on letting go of what lies behind; fear, anxiety, despair, stress, insecurities, regrets, negativity, busyness, confusion, doubt and unhealthy relationships. The more I purge the more I am able to breathe, the more weight I feel lifted, the more I am able to see a new life and the more joy I find.
I am so grateful for my small circle of family and friends. Their love, compassion, encouragement and presence has helped to sustain me for such a time as this. I am now on a journey to find out what makes me kinder, what opens me up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of myself and go after those things as if nothing else matters. This is where I turn my maybes into yeses and my somedays into today. A NEW WAY TO WALK.
I would like to say thank you to Methodist Cancer Care Rehabilitation Center and Curtain Up Cancer Foundation for the opportunity to participate in the Cancer Chronicles Writing Retreat. It has been an amazing experience. One I will never forget.