Monday, October 13, 2014

A Tribute to My Husband

This is dedicated to all the caregivers.

No one expects bad things to happen. That is why on our wedding day, the happiest of days, we are reminded of the sad ones to come. There will be worse times. There may be poorer times. There will be sickness. Stick together, and you'll make it.

I am fortunate to have married a man I love, and one who takes our marriage vows seriously. We are in one of those sickness times now - I am facing a double mastectomy to treat cancer. Dan has risen to fulfill his vow.

We met almost 25 years ago in a Connecticut newspaper newsroom. I was a 30-year-old reporter and editor in the middle of a fairly successful writing career. He was a newly-minted college graduate, 21 years old and in an entry-level reporting position. On paper, maybe he wasn't the best choice. But I saw a person who was open and honest and loving. He treated women well, especially me. Oh, and did I mention he's drop-dead handsome? 

Our wedding day
We married in June 1992. Since then, we've experienced the better and the worse of our vows. He's supported me after the death of my beloved stepfather. He coached me through a days-long labor that culminated with the birth of our son. He encourages me in my writing career (he's a big fan of this blog) and supported me when I tried out a new career as a reading support tutor in our local schools. 

He makes me laugh on a daily basis. He is the smartest person I know. He is the one editor I really trust. If my writing needs improvement, he shows me how to fix it. If he says it's good, it really is good. Did I mention the handsome part?

He now finds himself in the role of caregiver. While he is going through this experience with me, his is unique.He has been the voice of calm when I have been afraid. He has made the phone calls to help me get the care I need. He has been the extra eyes and ears during sometimes overwhelming tests and doctor appointments. 

He is the very definition of a cock-eyed optimist, a mix of Annie and Pollyanna. But when we got word of a second cancerous area, it hit him hard. He is now helping me face surgery that will change me. He will be the one caring for me in the difficult post-operative days. He has been relentlessly on-message: "After this you will be healthy."

It is the storms that make us appreciate the days of smooth sailing. We know the storm clouds have been gathering in the distance. The sky is darkening. Soon the rain will be lashing the windows and the waves will be crashing.

Please hold Dan up in your thoughts and prayers next Monday during my surgery. For me, the time will pass in the blink of an eye. He will be the one watching the clock tick.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Breathe and Reset

"If you've met one person with breast cancer, you've met ... one person with breast cancer. For although there are certain aspects of the experience that are seemingly universal - the initial terror, a reckoning with mortality, and initiation into the bewildering world of treatment - breast cancer changes the lives of those it confronts in ways that are unique in every case." - Judith Newman, Allure Magazine October 2014

That is how the wonderful writer, Judith Newman begins her article, Live to Tell, in this month's Allure magazine. She goes on to interview six women whose lives have been touched in different ways by
#breastcancer. The truth of the words in her introduction resonated with me and my experience. It is truly unique and each woman must navigate it in her own way.

I am still awaiting surgery. Several truly upsetting snafus forced me to change doctors, hospitals, and ultimately my decision about what kind of surgery I'm having. I'll detail that nonsense in another post, but suffice it to say, I'm with the medical team I need to be with having the surgery I want and need. 

The change forced me to take time to reflect on what was happening to me. I have found a few truths of my own to pass on.

  • Decisions. They are yours to make. At my first meeting with my new surgeon (a breast specialist), she told me the type of surgery I have is my choice. "But I won't let you make a bad one," she said. I realize now the first surgeon I was with was steering me toward what was easy for him at a time that was convenient for him. It really had little to do with me and my treatment.
  • Fear. Deal with it. Don't ignore it as I did. Fear is a way of informing our experience. I was so filled with dread as my first surgery date approached that I was afraid I wouldn't survive the operation. I realize this fear was grounded in the fact that I didn't trust the doctors I was with and had ignored several red flags that should have made me put the brakes on this whole procedure. A paperwork problem made the decision for me and I am truly grateful to be where I am now.
  • Prayer. Yes, it matters. No, I can't prove it. But there is something buoying in knowing that people you care about are praying for you. There is also great power in the knowledge that people who do not know me are praying. A colleague I don't know very well asked if she could put me on her church's prayer chain.Absolutely, I replied.  In my darkest moments in the past two weeks when I didn't know where to turn, I prayed to God to deliver me. In His tender mercy, He did. He put angels in my path who knew what to do. . 
I still have breast cancer, and I know I am facing trying days ahead, but a weight has been lifted from me. I have control back. I am ready to be healed.