Obon for Mrs. Edwards

December 8, 2010

 

I’m sitting here in my cubicle, watching the cars drive by; watching our IT manager brave the rain in a noble attempt to get some winter exercise.

 And I marvel at the ordinariness of their driving and walking. I wonder how, knowing that Elizabeth Edwards died from breast cancer yesterday and that millions of women will die from the same disease, they can drive and walk with what seems like naive oblivion.

 I wondered the same thing, when as a mom who had just returned to full-time work two months prior, I listened to my radiologist gently tell me on the phone at work that my ultrasound/biopsy revealed the fact that I had 10 lumps in my right breast. “Infiltrating lobular cancer,” she said. Not, “Infiltrating lobular carcinoma.”  I listened as I stood in the corner of the stairwell by the elevator. I listened as I watched someone drop a pat of butter on the carpeted floor as they walked back to their cubicle with their lunch. I listened as I watched the receptionist answer the phone and route calls. I listened as I heard my own terrified voice ask Dr. Borofsky questions.

 When I walked back to my desk, I wondered how everyone else could go on with their lives with this devastating news hanging in the air.

 Two months later, I had a bi-lateral mastectomy, followed by chemo and radiation.

 It is now almost five years since my surgery.

 What I’ve discovered in that time is that there are people feeling with the same depth of concern, compassion and sadness that I am feeling. The world may look normal, even oblivious, but there is a community of women who have experienced what I have experienced; who know what it feels like to have had and to live with cancer; who understand that terror management and practicality and faith is what keeps us looking normal while we learn a new job in a swingy brunette wig with a chest as flat as a prairie under our prosthetic breasts; who understand that every new milestone of our children’s lives (the braces coming off, the first day of college) fills us with inexplicable joy and gratitude.

As I drove in the rain to work today, I listened to the radio with a heavy heart as Elizabeth Edwards’ voice filled my 2000 Toyota Sienna. It was an interview in which she talked about the lasting impression of seeing an Obon ritual in Japan, where little boats with lighted candles in them float down a river, symbolizing the souls of the dead finding their way to “the other side of the river.” It was a stunningly beautiful image. Tears welled in my eyes. And no one in the cars around me noticed. I wiped my eyes and smiled. Because I knew there were people on I-280 south who were listening to the same radio interview, who had a mother or a sister or a daughter or a wife who had had breast cancer. Who themselves had or have breast cancer. And I knew, as they drove looking straight ahead, that they were feeling what I was feeling.


A mother with cancer

December 8, 2010

Even though I don’t live in the USA – the news of Elizabeth Edwards saddened me. 

With living in New Zealand, who John Edwards was – what his politics or personal problems were, didnt really interest me at all.  But when I heard his wife had recurrent breast cancer that is who I took notice of.  

I didn’t know Elizabeth other through what I read on the internet and through magazine articles but  whenever you hear of another mother with cancer it resonates within you on  a very deep level.  We all love our children and fear leaving them. I have already had one recurrence, since initial diagnosis in August 2008, and although I am back in remission as one of the other MWC mums so eloquently put it there is an elephant in the room.  At 47 I still want to live long enough to see my children married and my grandchildren but both my children and I know its a possibility that I might not.

Everytime we hear of someone making the decision to end treatment we know it could so easily be us in the future and the fact is most of us have already contemplated how and when we would make this decision.  Only another mother with cancer understands.

Elizabeth Edwards used her time left to educate with grace and strength what it is like to be a mother with cancer and for that all of us other mothers thank her. 

Rest in Peace


missed milestones (by Laurie)

December 3, 2009

This  year, two dates -  November 24th (the anniversary of my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer) and December 2nd (the anniversary of the night I found the first lump) – came and went without causing me the anxiety of previous years. I noted both events in passing, took the time to breathe deeply and be grateful, and then got on with my day.

It’s been four years since I found the lump. It’s been three since the cancer spread to my liver. And it’s been two and a half years since my first clean scan.

I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday. I had nothing to tell him. He said, “Shall we keep dragging you in here every few months just to say ‘hi’?”

I readily agreed.

I have chemo next week. They’ve been building a new treatment centre for what seems like years. I have often jokingly pointed in the direction of the new building and said, “They’re building that for me.”

Yesterday, I discovered that the new building is open and the chemo room has been moved. No more listening to the sounds of construction during treatment. No more listening to the intimate details of the constitutional issues of the patient beside me. There will be a little more light and a little more room and hopefully, a little less noise.

I’m kind of excited.

And yes, that is somewhat ironic. I have lived long enough to be excited about getting chemo in the new building.


aware of the irony

November 9, 2009

Life is funny.

This morning was perfect weather for a bike ride. The sun was out and the temperature climbed to 17C (that’s 62.6 in American). It was my first time on the bike in more than a week – since before the plague toppled my family, like a series of dominoes.

It was a fun ride, and I didn’t even mind the big hill I have to climb on my way to the hospital. I arrived twenty minutes after I set out, a little sweaty and with my heart pumping. As I locked up and headed into the cancer centre, I noted with pleasure that I hadn’t been coughing.

“It feels good to be healthy.”

I very nearly said it out loud.

I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of my situation. Here I was, going to get my bloodwork done the day before chemo and thinking about how healthy I am.

Three years ago, at almost exactly this time of year, I learned that my cancer had become metastatic. I don’t think I could have imagined this day, when I’d be riding my bike up Smythe Rd. and thinking about how healthy I am.

So, as I was saying at the beginning of this post – life really is pretty funny.

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.


routine anxiety

September 8, 2009

In less than 48 hours, I made a total of three trips to the General Hospital last week for tests and an appointment with my oncologist (I toyed with the idea of staying at the hospital all day one day but, with 4 and half hours between appointments, I chose to come home. This meant an extra bike ride up the really big hill that is Smythe Rd but I chose that as the lesser of two evils. Also, it’s reassures me enormously that I can meet that kind of physical challenge).

These appointments will probably never stop making me anxious but I this week they really stressed me out, perhaps because the timing was so compressed.

On Thursday morning, I had an echo-cardiogram.

That afternoon, I saw the oncologist (My appointment was set a week earlier than it usually is in the cycle and his nurse insisted that I come in for the appointment, as opposed to calling in. I had no evidence to back this up, but I became irrationally convinced that I was being called in to hear bad news of some kind – perhaps that my oncologist was breaking up with me or quitting medicine. Or moving to Florida. Or something).

And Friday morning, I had a CT scan.

All of these things are just a routine part of my life. But I don’t think they will ever feel routine to me.

Cross-posted (sort of) from Not Just About Cancer.


Sisters in Survival

June 24, 2009

sisters in survival

When I read about Somerset Studios call for submissions in the theme Sisterhood I did not have any trouble coming up with my submission idea. Yes, I do have a sister, but it is a different sisterhood that I wanted to express my emotions about.

 Sisters in Survival…

Over the past 3 years I have met many new sisters… some diagnosed with the same or similar cancer as mine… some diagnosed with different cancers…some as cheerleaders to help us through this disease… some in the medical field that deal with cancer everyday…my sisters on this very site as well as our visitors…some that have passed from this disease…

I know that many feel the pink ribbon has been overused and exploited, but it has become a symbol for breast cancer so I chose to use that as my “tie” or continuity throughout the piece. I love hearts and color… and felt both fit the piece as we are all different: sizes, shapes, colors, cancers… but love is woven throughout our lives, it helps us heal, and it helps us survive.

I was so happy to receive an email that my piece was selected to be published in the July/August 2009 issue. I was so excited to see it in print when my issue arrived in the mailbox. Page 113….

Sometimes I feel that I do not have much to contribute to this site anymore… but I guess in some ways that is my contribution.

Here is my personal update…

I have reached my 3 year anniversary, my scans came back clean, and the oncologist is moving me to 6 month visits. (A little scary). I just celebrated my 26th wedding anniversary and my 48th birthday. Cancer does have a way of changing how we look at birthdays. I no longer feel old, but happy to have reached another year. Another celebration.

I think about and pray for all my “sisters” on this site. We most likely would have never been brought together if it was not for cancer, I am thankful to have a glimpse into each one of your lives.


The Journey’s the thing

December 24, 2008

Three years ago yesterday my whole world stopped. For a split second anyway. Before it was thrust into a strange slow-motion, fast-forward kaleidoscope of cancer treatment and regrets for a future with my children that might never be.

Is there and other phrase that has the same effect as “it’s cancer”? What powerful, life-changing words those are. Normally I would think news of a close friend or relative’s diagnosis would be worse than your own. But after careful consideration, I think it’s far, far worse if it is oneself. Particularly, if you happen to be the mother of young children.

When I heard the words for the first time my heart stopped. Confirmation. My worst fear. I cried.

Was I crying for myself? The prospect of death. The stress of all the medical tests. The relief of finally knowing. The fear of an unknown future.

Was I crying for my kids? Losing their mother at such young ages (that was the only end I could see for them). The confusion and pain they would feel because of me. The scars they would always carry. How those scars would change their lives.

Was I crying for my mother? Hearing that one of your children may die (not a certainty in her context for some reason). Bearing powerless witness as the child you created fights for survival. The pain that would cause – the unnecessary burden.

All those thoughts rushed through my head at once, scorching a path as they passed. Quickly in and out. Shock left in their wake. Mental paralysis. Yet my fingers started typing. As the doctor’s voice relayed test numbers and statistics through the phone to some walled-off portion of my brain, I tapped off an email to co-workers. “It’s cancer.” Even in shock I knew it would be less painful to type than to speak those dreaded words.

I don’t know how long that call lasted, but there was a tight wall of support behind me as I put the phone in its cradle. I couldn’t turn around. I felt marked. Marked for death. An object of pity. Not strong. Weak - in constitution and capability. A failure. I ran away from their concern like a coward .

~~~~~

All through my treatment, I never successfully shook those initial feelings of failure and weakness. I’d failed to remain healthy. I’d failed as a wife; cashing in the vows from our marriage. In sickness and health. Till death do us part. I’d failed as a mother. Would I see my boys grown? Would I leave Danny with a father stretched too thin from providing and filling both parental roles to adequately see to his therapies and education?

Yet I survived.

Chemotherapy made me realize what strength is… and that I have it. It gave me time to work through that onus of weakness and failure. Time to realize that God’s plan was perfect – even for my children. Even if it means that they may have to live without me someday. It gave me time to appreciate my husband for the man that he is and not the one I sometimes wish he was. And to be grateful for those in my life that have always been there for me, and even more that stepped out of shadows and into my life. Mostly, it gave me time to acknowledge my life, my loves and my future… in all its incarnations.

I am so pleased to be here three years and one day later. I am proud of the journey I’ve made. I am grateful that I have been able to walk my boys through a difficult time and prepare them for others in the future. More grateful still that those future tragedies just might not include their mother.

When I look back at that afternoon in December 2005 I see myself consumed with fear. Today I have replaced that fear with power and action. Daddy-O still refuses to mention the “C” word by name, choosing instead to simply reference his worry from time to time, knowing I’ll know exactly what he means. As for me, I talk about it often – stripping cancer’s power and making it my own.

I am more than a Breast Cancer Survivor – I am a Thriver.

Cross posted from I can’t complain any more than usual


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