grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day One

on July 1, 2015

rise again

July 2010.

When it started – quietly (as if ‘quietly’ is a thing in a house peopled by four teenaged girls…humor me) and inauspiciously, like any other July in my life – who could have guessed (would I even have believed you if you told me) that it would end dramatically and terrifyingly and life-alteringly?

I think not.

Because who ever guesses that cancer – in any of its varied, kaleidoscope of types and sub-types – is going to show up and try to become the boss of things? Is going to coming around and try to knock the wind out of any sense of stability or normalcy or constancy one may have been fooled into thinking had been achieved?

Let me just stand here, tall and proud and scarred, and say ‘Not I.’

I did not guess it.

I could not have imagined it.

I never, ever, ever expected it.

That’s the thing about cancer, though, I’ve learned.

It sneaks up, puts its crawly, tricksy hands over your eyes and whispers, ‘Guess who.’

And even now, FIVE WHOLE YEARS LATER, there are some days I can still feel those creepy hands. That eerie whisper still sometimes echoes through my mind and up my spine.

It’s then that I take a big, brave, bold deep breath and remind myself that TODAY, I AM CANCER-FREE.

And to celebrate that stunning, miraculous, wondrous, magical fact – and the fact that my oncologist told me last month that I can now consider myself CURED because I’ve reached that amazing, thrilling, death-defying FIVE YEAR MARK – I’ve decided to spend the next 23 days looking back at where I’ve been in this Crazy Cancer Journey so that I can better know and understand where I’m going…and who I’ve become.

I’m grateful that I kept a CaringBridge journal (and I’m wildly thankful for each precious soul who dared to walk alongside of me on this path via the entries that I wrote there). I have to admit I was terrified to start that dang thing. I was so worried about what people would think. I was afraid that I would come across as whiny and wimpy. I was certain others would view the updates as some weird flavor of narcissism. But, in spite of all those fears and all those nasty, lying voices in my head that told me not to do it, I did it. I showed up as best I could as often as I could as honest as I could. And sometimes it was magic and sometimes it was…well, less than that. But it was all me…the good, the bad, and even the ugly. (Remember the picture I shared of my bald head, puffy eyes and face, and an Eeyore-sort-of-look?!)

Each of the next 23 days (hopefully the coming days won’t find me sitting at my computer quite so late!), I’m going to spend some time revisiting my Caring Bridge journal and then curate some pieces to share here (in part or in whole) along with current musings. It’s my hope that, if you decide to buckle in next to me, this will be a ride like no other…one filled with the ups and downs of the best, scariest roller coaster as well as the smoothest, most relaxing lazy river and everything in between.

Today, I’m starting at the beginning.
With the day the cancer was found.
July 23, 2010.

~~~~~

{from the Overview on my CaringBridge site}

On July 23, 2010, as I prepared to leave the dressing room at St A’s Radiology Department and make my way to the mammogram room for my regular screening, I heard God tell me, ‘They are going to find something, but don’t worry. You’ll be okay.’ It was a bit surreal, but, oddly, it didn’t rattle me to be given such a clear impression and I didn’t question it.

By 1:30 that afternoon, I got a call from my nurse practitioner’s office stating that they had ‘found something’ and that I needed to be scheduled for a more in-depth mammogram. That magnified view with compression mammogram was scheduled for July 26. The sweet, funny radiology tech was more than helpful as she explained every step in the procedure and then had the radiologist read the results while I waited. The tech told me to expect to be referred to a surgeon because the microcalcifications found didn’t move around under the compression like they would have in a classically benign case.

She was right. I got another call from the nurse practitioner’s office and was told that I would need to meet with a surgeon. The appointment was originally set for August 18 due to the surgeon’s busy schedule. I called a couple days later to see if there was a possibility of getting in to a different surgeon any earlier and was told that there was an opening on August 3.

After that initial meeting, it was decided that I would have a stereotactic biopsy on August 13. It was a fascinating procedure that I am proud to say I survived with my humor and reputation as The Greatest Patient (dubbed so by the sweet, funny radiology tech) intact. I was told to expect the Call with the Results the following Tuesday or Wednesday.

When Wednesday came and went with no news, I called the surgeon’s nurse and left a message on Thursday afternoon. No word as of Thursday night. On Friday, I left a message for the nurse asking her to see if the doctor would let her call me with the results if he was too busy and then I could visit with him later. I could feel myself getting kind of fed up and a bit agitated having to wait to hear. As I waited for a return call, God spoke to me again. This time He said, ‘Why are you so worked up about not hearing from that doctor. I am your Doctor. And you already know the answer.’ Again, I felt oddly at peace and grateful for the clear answer to my heart’s unsettled state.

Forty minutes later, the surgeon called and told me that yes, they found cancer. I think I surprised him by how calm and accepting of the news I was. I know that, because God had been whispering to me throughout the weeks leading up to that life-changing call, my heart and mind were held in the gentle grip of the peace that passes understanding. I am so grateful for that!

My official diagnosis as it stands now is Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 1, Grade 3, ER-/PR- with surrounding Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. (I am acquiring quite an impressive sounding new lexicon, huh?) I have a lumpectomy with sentinel node biopsy scheduled for September 9. That procedure will either confirm the diagnosis (if the cancer is as small as they believe it is and there is no node involvement) or serve as the basis for re-staging the cancer. Of course, we are all praying for the former! **The cancer they found actually ended up being much more aggressive and higher-staged than originally thought, due in part to its HER-2neu positive status and the fact that it had spread to the sentinel node. After not achieving clear margins in the Sept 9 lumpectomy, I underwent a mastectomy on Sept 30, 2010.**

I’m expecting this new chapter in my life – and the life of my precious family – will be one that refines, defines and shines with God’s grace, faithfulness, protection, provision, mercy and strength. I am already so humbled by all that He has put in place – and cleared away – so that I can see and feel His hand without question. He loves me, this I know.

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2 responses to “July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day One

  1. Allie Moon says:

    Hi Laura, congrats on your five year milestone!! I read with interest your blog and look forward to the bits of your journal you re-post xx

    • LauraK says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Allie – and for the good wishes. It’s so nice to know you are along for the ride the next few weeks. 🙂

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