Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memoriam

Another Memorial Day is coming to a close. We had our usual round of backyard barbecues and a relaxing day off from work and school. I want to thank those of you, particularly in social media, who remind us that this day isn't just "the unofficial start of summer." We do not wish each other a "Happy Memorial Day," rather this day is solemn, respectful. We remember our war dead.

Sadly, our family has experienced the loss of someone in uniform.

Edward Eugene Hennessay was my mother's older brother. A tall, lanky red-head who had a gift for math and numbers, he was highly regarded by everyone. He was a considerate and loving brother and son. As the only boy in the family he was not obligated to serve overseas in World War II. My grandmother had hoped he would serve by defending their island, Bermuda. But the Nazi threat was too great, he said. He needed to fight.

Edward was a corporal in the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, attached to the Lincolnshire Regiment. He was sent for training in Europe, eventually landing in Belgium. There, he was billeted with a local baker and his family. He wrote home about how lovely it was, after living in primitive conditions, to sleep in a bed with fresh lavender-scented sheets and to awaken to the tempting aromas wafting from the bakery downstairs. It was there that he fell in love with the baker's daughter, Julia, who became his fiancee before he was shipped out to combat.

Julia immediately began corresponding with my grandmother, her future mother-in-law, always addressing her letters Dear Mother. But Julia was never to become an official part of our family.

Edward was killed in combat in March 1945 at the Battle of Winnekendonk in Germany. It was part of Operation Veritable, which was designed to clear German forces between the Maas and the Rhine. Records describe fierce hand-to-hand combat between Edward's regiment and the Nazi forces. The family was told that he died trying to save a fallen comrade.
Edward's gravesite

Despite efforts by my family to bring his body home to the island, he is buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

His death resonated through the family. My grandmother was heartbroken, She never visited his grave in Germany. A family friend placed flowers there, bringing my grandmother one of the blooms from the bouquet. My mother, just 11 years old, was devastated. Julia continued to be in contact with our family. She eventually married a man who understood about this love and loss she experienced. Their first son is named for my uncle.

I'm sorry I never knew him, but I am proud that he was a part of keeping our world safe from a terrible threat. When I married my husband, I didn't carry a bouquet of flowers. I carried my grandmother's Book of Common Prayer. Pressed in its pages, a dry and flat blossom, labeled simply in my grandmother's handwriting,  "flower from Edward's grave."

A Brief Update

The big part of my breast reconstruction has been accomplished.

I had surgery April 23 to remove the tissue expanders, which had been in place since my mastectomy on October 20, and insert the permanent silicone implants. I love the results. I am about a C-cup now (I had been a D verging on DD pre-surgery). I like how they look, and I especially like how they feel. It was a painful process, but one I feel is worth it.

For those who may be reading this because they are exploring their own options for #breastcancer treatment, I have a few words of advice:

  • The decision is yours. You are not required to have reconstruction surgery. For some, it may be necessary for their mental health. For others, further surgery is unacceptable.
  • Know your options. I was fortunate that I had a plastic surgeon who took a great deal of time with me to discuss the various techniques for reconstruction - yes, there are a lot of them. He also made sure that I knew one option was to do nothing. In the end, I chose how to rebuild my breasts and I have been happy with my decision.
  • Don't discount the rigors of surgery. Placement of the new implants required day surgery. But my body was still under general anesthesia, and it takes time for the body to process those chemicals. Plan extra time for rest and recovery. I was surprised by an allergic reaction to the surgical tape used. It developed a few days after the surgery. It was minor, but uncomfortable.
  • Talk to other women. Just as breast cancer treatment is individualized, so is reconstruction. We all have different reasons, different experiences, and different viewpoints. Reading blogs can be helpful. I've read several posts recently about reconstruction by fellow breast cancer bloggers. Chloe Messanges talks about her decision against reconstruction at here. Em Callaghan talks about her cancer experiences, including reconstructive surgery,.here. Both are thoughtful reads.
The bottom line is we are all working toward health and wellness