A close friend assured me … send a message anytime.
Time was irrelevant … can’t breathe good … screw photos now … Lately I felt little relief to talk and write about it. I hid in my room for days.This was most difficult, took awhile to write, emotions rushed out. I had to stop, dry my eyes several times to regroup. And so with regained composure, several months later, I rewrote this segment, hopefully to make better sense of my challenges, uh or so I’ve heard. I digress, because now it’s become popular and ‘politically correct’ to say, my first month after a mastectomy was a ‘challenge’. That is a gross understatement. T’other word is journey. Two words overused in public these days that are such misnomers it perturbs me as so inept and extremely cliche’. Screw that. How the hell does ‘journey’ define living with breast cancer? The use of that word sure as hell is not the implication of a fun vacation, in essence what the word journey implies. Stupid society-talk. Having breast cancer I got no patience for goddamn society-talk.
Reading other stories of breast cancer I was aghast. Media has a way of circumventing the real agony. When the submerged iceberg is too deeply troubling, the fear that breast cancer evokes and the trauma the family must face learning the diagnosis, if it’s incurable that hope is lost out the window. The proverbial tip of the iceberg is her whole world came crashing in yet she feels hope in spite of it all. What hype. Only in the movies or an overambitious magazine writer does a breast cancer survivor brave it all unscathed, untraumatized, gorgeously fit and runs the marathon, wins a cruise or a televised hunt of a lifetime, and her newfound political agenda rakes in millions to win the social media shares she deserves.
However, the tip of the iceberg is why real women wear a pretty scarf to cover her patchy scalp, of her once lustrous hair falling out worse than a shedding Persian cat. And, why I wore swimsuit pads after my surgery in my own desperate attempt at some normalcy. It’s a far cry from vanity. The neighbors have no clue.
For a time, I denied that breast cancer forever changed the way I used to look. My facade was worse than a preteen girl’s first try with make up. ‘Oh I am fine.’ Liar. I yearned for my public apparel to look natural and attractive. Instead I felt like everyone stared at me like a freak. They weren’t. Nobody noticed.
I longed for my scars inside to heal as much as my chest. The real challenge is there is only one ultimatum, one option, to live with the choices you face. I had to open my mind to change, without the fear of falling, desperately crying “Bring Me To Life”.
I offer sincere empathy to any woman reading this who is enduring the same nightmare. Cancer cuts to the core of your being so I pray the good Lord bless you to recover as He blessed me. Okay, I know a blessing when I get one …
worst night in a long time…
Today my chest always hurt, couldn’t get comfortable. Chest muscles jabbed like a knife. Hot stabbing pain. Feel weak, wretched, self-centered. Hate it, can’t write either, too bottled up. Been home about a week; it’s such a blur. Can’t organize my thoughts…. feel soooo messed up… soooo tired… jotted down notes of it.
Everyone’s surely asleep. Hard to say, I couldn’t judge time well but soon after Ed left for work I had gone to bed so tired I literally crawled onto the bed without the strength to stretch out or pull the blankets around me for the onset of sleep. I fell into a heap, slumped on top of the blanket hanging half off the bed for extra warmth and Sasha hopped up too, wrapped in her little circling routine to curl up next to my feet. Our ritual. Several soft rumpled blankets covered the bed to ward off the winter drafts.
I felt so drained, my brain was mush. I reached out my hand as if to pull sleep over me but sleep was evasive. I grasped at thin air. I knew much of this agony was more emotional than physical — no little pill could cure it.
Even in the absence of logic, I knew I needed the dose of Valium I had forgotten to take to ease the spasmodic chest pains. I’d have to force my tired body back to the kitchen just as soon as I pulled the strength to walk. My damn inattentiveness, the Valium had completely worn off. I gritted my teeth, squelching stabbing agony in my chest to pull on my comfy college sweats that were also wadded on the bed and fumbled for the knit blanket next to my legs, yanked it over me. This wound is more obscure, I hurt like my mind’s in a Zombie world …
…. alone and sinking into the muck dying, dying …….
I tucked my knees up to my chin, huddled there in the dark. Sasha moved, resting her muzzle on her paws as usual. Self-wallowing pain was intense. Not a bad dream — my grief and surgical soreness swallowed me. I wanted my daughter … My throat tightened, I choked, lost all control. I cried bitterly till my head hurt too … I heard the clock … tick-tick … overhead next to the bed … I couldn’t hear the usual street traffic.
My sobs would not stop — it all hit me like a ton of bricks. All day I had hurt like a huge tree was jammed into my chest. Intense pain now swallowed me whole, swirled through my head. I needed those meds. I admitted to myself, with this pain, there was no such thing as ‘grin and bear it’. I strangled a furious scream, muffled by burying my face in the quilt. I pounded the pillow with my fist in a blur of furious outburst, the old metal bed frame squeaked from the force. That startled my little dog to move aside, shying away from her tormented master. I reached out and gently stroked her ear in repentance. She curled up, watching me in the dark. Through hot tears I saw her blink in the streetlight. Dim shadows along the wall …
No one was to blame. No enemy but an evil cancer. It stripped away my womanhood. Forever changed me … I hated my body — my life.
The cold February draft from the windowsill wafted into my teary face. I reached over and grasped the iron head rail, my hands shook like a 90 year old struggling to hold her cane. My arms trembled weakly under my weight, bracing my arms to shift my body, same as I’d done in the hospital bed. I feared I might collapse. I inched my legs over the side of the bed. Every muscle quivered with frailty. Every fiber of my chest hurt and my consciousness begged for relief.
Vehemently I hissed with teeth clenched, ‘Ohhh my God, why did I not take that pain pill?’ I strained my shoulders to sit up, stringy hair damp from tears, my chest labored in tight shallow breaths. Just a panic attack. Pushing that thought away, I mentally pictured myself working up the strength to walk as if I had Polio. My legs were too wobbly. Instead of standing, I steadied my body, pressed a quivering hand onto the pillow and buried my head, slathering nose-drool on my arm from sobbing. I didn’t care.
Whispering, I begged, ‘Jesus please get me through this,’ infant-like sobs bellowed from me again, the pulsating retching of crying straining my chest. Saliva strangled me, swallowing hard I feared I would vomit. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, the squeaky bed gave no comfort, my teeth rattled uncontrollably, dangling feet getting cold… In the dark so alone absolutely terrified. My face twitched. I shivered from the marrow of my bones. Raw, nervous, terror shivers — could hardly breathe.
I felt evil surround me in the shadows, waiting to devour me in irrepressible insanity. Eyes burning from tears I hadn’t wiped away. I blinked, blinded by my fear, I shook deep into my core. I sensed death, my destruction, the demon hovering over me ready to grab my weak body, and consume my soul to spite my prayers. I sat paralyzed and weak. I could barely see through my tear soaked hair glued to my face… unable to breathe. I’d fought demons before. Never did I feel so wretched, so vulnerable. My throat clenched in panic — I nearly screamed. I heard my voice crack, call out faintly, I gasped, “oh… my… God…dear Lord, I am-m so-o alone, SAVE me! Protect my daughter. I beg you let me live to be with my grandchildren and my husband now.” I prayed. I shut my eyes. My tears stopped — my demon dissolved. Vanished.
I gasped in cool night air and my shoulders collapsed. My mouth fell open, drinking in the utter relief, the feeling Jesus was next to me on the bed. His love filled me as a father comforting a child, my body went limp. I was safe. A tremor of solace spilled over me — His angel embraced me in a shroud of strength unlike any feeling I’d ever experienced. Enraptured. Time meant nothing in that second, in the dark on my bed those bitter waves of sobs quit and I began to feel warmth inside me, despite the cold draft from the window over my shoulder, despite my terror of seconds ago from the dark, formidable evil infiltrating my soul.
I felt my pain become intangible, unobtrusive. I sat in a sort of shock as, total quintessence washed over me, my face. He heard me — it was incredible. In that my fears were obliterated; I trusted my faith that God’s angels would keep me safe, guide me, I only had to believe. He gave me a fighting spirit I desperately needed to face down breast cancer. I saw His angel’s silky light fill evil shadows of my bedroom, I impulsively bowed my head in her sacred presence. Impenetrable. In my mind’s eye, my redemption was clear. I was no longer unforgiven — my hateful yearning evaporated. I have felt that purging before in my life, my humanity transfixed in the eye of a hurricane, calming the insanity that plagues my soul, that peace only comes from the Lord. Jesus.
Laying my hand against the wall. I stood up. Slowly steadying my trembly legs I slid along the wall for support. Fingers fumbling, I turned on the light. Blankly I saw my face in the mirror that hung by the doorway, cheeks tear-stained and ruddy, the last moment’s solace telltale in my eyes behind my tangled hair.
Like I was crippled, I trudged one foot in front of the other into the kitchen… a soothing hot cup of tea would ease me into dreamland. Sasha hopped off the bed, trotted at my heels, my little loyal friend.
Standing there wobbling in the wee hours of the night, I brewed hot chamomile tea. I sipped quietly after that freakish moment of terror, thinking. I miss my family, both my children. With that thought I knew how much their emotional support would help me recover to some semblance of norm, if that could ever be. I also knew I had to take the initiative to reach out to rebuild my relationship with my daughter. She is part of my soul, we’ve been to Hell and Hades and back, and I could not bear any longer to live without her near me. Forgiveness was in my grasp; it finally gave me peace, not to die, but to live passionately without fear. I smiled.
The doctors had tended to me with calm, competent seriousness that without the surgery, without diligent treatment, ‘Lord knows’ how many years it would have ultimately taken my life. I guess I can say unequivocally that wasn’t God’s plan. The pathology report was black and white proof. The report said it and I could not deny Stage 1 Ductal Carcinoma. I repeat. My diagnosis was Ductal Carcinoma. No less scary but my cancer was not aggressive, less urgent, nonetheless was still a threat to my survival. I was slowly accepting that fact I had had breast cancer. I braced for a full-on attack with a vengeance against the disease, sitting on the bed that night I had shaken with real terror all huddled inside my frail body. Now I readied my body for war. Now, my psyche knew what it truly meant to have doctors and God on my side.
I have always taken my strength for granted. Now I can’t. There’s always more trauma than mere words can convey. And more than any other faithful event in my life, I humbly acknowledged way beyond a casual “okay uh, thanks Lord” whence my strength cometh. This soulful introspection was truth, I knew in my heart the Lord did not induce my disease. Some people will question that. I’m stubborn. Yes, I have blind faith however irrational it seems. I don’t care. His strength is my comfort. I live for my Lord, not anyone else. He put me here for a purpose so I consider my life’s been in His hands more often than illness has taken it from me — I’m still kicking, therefore I will live for Him. He brings me peace in my heart when all else is destructive and I fail. I can’t imagine going through this nightmare without the Lord to steady me.
I drink my tea thinking: I cannot even fathom the miracles Jesus displayed in Biblical days, it’s too grandiose, but one of those miracles in my life was guiding me and my husband together. Ed understands my faith even through the fear and unknowns of breast cancer. My husband has been strong comfort, always with a steady hand to help me off the sofa and encourage me, assuring he loves me even with a fake boob because that’s what good husbands do … in sickness and in health …Tenderness beyond my hopes exude from him. A fleeting vision of our passion, I smile. We both laugh at silly, dirty jokes with a flirty pat on my rump he calls ‘yo little white butt.’
Then with a second cup of tea, I pondered: if I’d been dealt all of this to love my family for all their faults and accept my children’s uniqueness as a kind mom and gramma who deserves love too, in that moment standing there sipping tea, I accepted God’s plan as my own path to forgiveness. Family’s support is unconditional, intense and vital to survive through this ordeal.
This is the serious stuff. Blood is thick and it sustains me. Now the pain is relaxing and I need sleep bad. Even if … had the demon been just a nightmare? I forget …
My eyes teared up again editing all of this; three years passing has not diminished its power that permeates me being touched by Lord Jesus, giving me strength I could not presume to own. I still tremble with raw feeling to write of that night; however strong we think we are, being touched by Jesus in our pain is an indescribable blessing. I am so thankful and humbled. I’m beginning to smile more with renewed faith!
“Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak; O Lord heal me…” Psalm 6:2
Your words lives in my mind, and I shed tears as I read them. But you will recover. And be strong again —Bobby
 “Hades • Facts and Information on Greek God Hades.” 2014. 12 Feb. 2016 <http://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/gods/hades/>