Missing Pieces

I apologize for being delayed in writing to those anxious to hear how the surgery went. It took a good 3 days for the anesthesia to wear off this time, so I was away from the computer for a record time! But the good news is, I didn’t get sick at all. I think my begging the anesthesiologist before hand helped!

So, I’m still fighting tiredness, but my brain isn’t as foggy as it was last week. Al and I watched a program on Discovery Health channel about anesthesia, and we learned that some people are not adequately affected by it. Apparently there is a small percentage of people who become paralyzed and unable to respond from the drugs, but remain conscious and can feel throughout the procedure. I cannot even imagine the trauma that would cause- and here I am complaining that it makes me sick! The interesting part of the program was that they used a woman lying still in a hospital gown, floating down beneath the surface of a large body of water as an example of the desired effect the anesthesia should have.

Boy, that evoked all sorts of images for me. Dr. Sales didn’t come to talk to me before the procedure, but after the muscle relaxants in the OR, he stroked my arm and told me “sweet dreams”. I remember thinking how kind he is, but how I just wanted to jerk up out of the overwhelming sleepiness and tell him “no one dreams under anesthesia, DOCTOR!” I know he knows this medically, but obviously he has had no experience personally. No matter how many times you have to experience it, it doesn’t get any easier. This surgery reminded me again of exactly why I don’t want to go through reconstruction. But Dr. Sales is a good guy. One of the most compassionate doctors I have met………..

Amanda and I were watching a program also on DH about plastic surgery, and the topic of breast reconstruction came up. She asked why I wasn’t going to do that, and I think she understood after watching the gruesomeness of the surgery room. Then she wanted to know why I don’t wear my prosthesis. Again, I had to dose her with reality- I just got done with radiation and had badly burned skin, followed by surgery with resultant trauma to my chest and abdomen- now is just not a good time to be concerned about strapping on 10 pounds of silicone enhancements. She kindly told me I look like Santa Claus without breasts. I guess tact is not something my 11 year old daughter values much? This breast issue became apparent again to me this past weekend, as I wore the cross that has been in my family for generations for the first time since my surgery. It is large, and so hangs from a long chain. Not having any breasts to contain it to the middle of my chest, I kept finding it creep over to the left, to the right……..I guess I’m still struggling with reclaiming a feminine grace with my new body……

…which is now minus a gall bladder too. The surgery itself was uneventful, other than the fact that Dr. Sales removed a “piece” of my previous port. All this time I had been telling him he left some in there. And all this time he had been insisting that it’s all one piece, and that had to be scar tissue. It turned out I was right- that hard little well defined bump was a connector piece that got left behind somehow. Well, at least it’s out now. And the new one is in. It sits on the right side now, far closer to my armpit than I’d like. It really inhibits my movement. But it is temporary. Two more cycles of chemo, and I am done. I figure I will delay these until June since I’m going back to work in May and don’t want to take off again right after I come back, seeing as they were gracious enough to hold my caseload for me. So by the end of June I should be officially done with treatment, and will keep the port in until December. I told Al that is my Christmas present to myself, even though against Dr. Patel’s advice to have it in for 12 months. But one thing I have learned- in my heart I may plan my course, but it is the Lord who determines my steps. December is a long time off still.

So here I sit with four small incisions in my abdomen and two in my chest. I feel like the innocent victim of gang war crossfire, surgical tape hanging from too many spots of my body. But, this too shall pass. It’s amazing that I have endured every single event that could possibly increase my risk for developing lymphedema, and yet the swelling has been minimal. It seems to be at its worst when I am on my feet for too long or walking for long periods. Gearing up again for chemotherapy, I have pondered on all the things that the human body can endure- that my body has endured. I mentioned last letter that I needed dental work. My ignorance in thinking that I had to have tooth pain to have a cavity showed itself when my first check-up in several years revealed nine cavities. So I had all those drilled and filled the Monday before my surgery. And would you believe- I had no Novocain! Not one shot. “Why?”, people ask me in horror. Well, I don’t like shots. And I definitely don’t like them in my gums. So the dentist suggested we try it without first, and to signal if it got too overwhelming, and he’d stop and shoot me up. We obviously got through the entire thing. My secret was that I sang Third Day praise songs in my head……if only that would’ve worked so effectively through all those scans!

So, Dr. Sales said he got a look at my liver and it looks good. He could not see the spot that is thought to be a hemangioma. He said that sometimes these are deep, and can only be seen through imaging and/or exploration/dissection. He was not concerned about it, though. So I guess my fears are relieved. For once something has actually turned out benign! I’m sure that isn’t the last scare I’ll have………

So, how are my spirits holding up? Better than some days, and not as good as others. I’m definitely closer to the “good” end of the spectrum than I am the middle, though. The Spring sunshine and blooms are medicine for the soul for sure. I’d agree with Solomon- the season of singing has come (which doesn’t last long in Bakers-field)! But even still, I am not out of the battlefield yet. And the sound of the distant blasts haunt me. I praised God in church this Easter, as I always do with great joy at Easter, but in the back of my mind was the sobering remembrance of last Easter. I was biting my lip through the whole Easter weekend last year, anticipating my upcoming appointment with Dr. Sales (whom I had yet to meet). It sure is something to consider that Easter will probably always hold an even greater significance for me than it ever did before- my grandfather died on Thanksgiving, and it has never really been the same since. Not that it’s shadowed by sadness. And it’s not that anyone on the outside could really even know the shift of my mind on the inside. It’s just that the thankfulness I ponder over on Thanksgiving seems that much more sobering. And I expect that the Passover/Good Friday/Easter week will also provide a deeper reflection for me in the years to come.

We went to the Franklin Graham crusade a couple weeks ago (to see Jars of Clay), and I felt compelled, as I always do, to go to the prayer tent to request prayer. So many people are praying for me. And I am so blessed. In those anxious moments, like right before getting wheeled in to the operating room, my thoughts are too fleeting to pray for myself. But just nailing my mind down enough to even consider for a brief second the prayers of all my family and friends, and even those who don’t know me, brings me immediate comfort. I have two prayer blankets, and I always cuddle up under one of them when things are rough. And yet, even with so many people praying for me, I continue to find that the number of people who pray with me is so small it is practically nonexistent. So, I approached those prayer warriors in the tent to lay hands on me and pray. I always leave those situations crying. There’s just so much more to healing from cancer than just the physical part of it………..

We’re looking forward to some big things happening in the next month. Al and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary on Easter. Like Mom said in the card from her and dad, “if you can make it through this past year, you can make it through anything”. That’s another thing that has deepened through all of this. And yet, I don’t even remember off-hand what we did last year for our anniversary. This year, the very first year we have our own motorcycle, we are carrying on the tradition, and are taking a ride up to Three Rivers for the weekend. We are renewing our vows on Saturday. Then the week after that, we are expecting that my Dad is driving down from Oregon to spend a few days with us. Last time I saw him was a couple weeks after I found out I was pregnant with Jared (who will be 9 next month). So it’s been a long time, and I am cautiously excited. We have a wedding to attend the following weekend, and weddings are always such a joy to attend. Then I return to work, and have a pretty full month in May, with Amanda and Jared both celebrating their birthdays. We’re going to see Third Day live again in Fresno too. So, lot’s of stuff happening. I’m definitely too busy for chemo, don’t you think?

~Love in Jesus,


P.S. My creativity is stirring, and I’ve been saving bags of cancer related junk for lack of proper disposal. So I’m ready to say good-bye to it all now, and before I did that, I decided to record my experiences with the various cancer paraphernalia I’ve had to become so intimate with. At first look it does look like just a pile of trash. But I carefully placed each item in the photo, and each represents some significant aspect of my cancer experience. The truth is, these photos do not even do justice, as so many things are missing from them (bulbs, scissors, medications, x-ray films, etc). But I could not get a wide enough angle to include it all! So this is a small representation (a microcosm) of my world of cancer (and those of you in the medical field will recognize all this junk).

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