April 18, 2018. One year ago today, I had my yearly checkup with Dr. Frenduto……and he found the “lump” in my breast. In some ways, it seems like the past twelve months creeped by and then in many ways, it seems like it flew by. You get so caught up in the moment……doctors appointments, tests, chemo, radiation……as I was busy checking things off one by one……the months rolled on by. Some pieces of the last year stand out so vividly in my mind…….and thankfully, others seem a little blurred and hazy!
I’m happy to report that I am feeling FANTASTIC. I’m not quite at 100% yet, but I’m dang close! My energy level is great, I feel good every day, food tastes great and I’m finding myself doing most of the things I did BC (Before Cancer)! Praise be to God! He has brought me so far over the past year.
To celebrate kicking cancer’s butt – my sweet husband took me to see The Eagles last night. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate! The concert was great! Yeah – the original members can’t hit all the notes like they used to – but golly gee they are 70 years old. They can still rock it though. And Deacon Frey joined the band in his dad’s absence. He’s adorable and talented in his own right. He really looks just like a 70’s version of his dad……long hair, mustache. Such a cutie! Joe Walsh can still tear up that guitar and Vince Gill was a nice addition to the band.
I had a follow up with my medical oncologist yesterday. Everything looks great. I did mention some tenderness/burning near my incision area – and upon investigating, she determined that I was very swollen in my left chest and breast area. It appears I have lymphedema of the breast. I’ve heard of folks having issues with lymphedema after they have lymph nodes removed – but it’s usually in the arm and/or hand. Who knew you could have lymphedema in the breast. Sooo……I’m being referred to physical therapy. Yep – you heard me right. I’m being referred to physical therapy for my breast! Who knew that was even a THING??? You can ONLY imagine the comments I’ve received from friends and family over the past 24 hours. It’s given us some comic relief for sure! Anyways – other than physical therapy – I don’t have to return to my medical oncologist until December. Halleluiah!
And today was my follow-up with my radiation oncologist. I’ve completed my steroid regimen (thank GOD – cause I was about to eat myself into oblivion)! I definitely feel better than I did when I was initially diagnosed with the pneumonitis. The doctor said my lungs sounded wonderful and unless I had any other issues with coughing/breathing again – I don’t need to come back to see her until September! What great news. She did, however, concur with my medical oncologist and believes that physical therapy was needed to get the excess fluid removed from my breast.
Wow…….sooooo much has happened over the past year.
As I’ve reflected back over the past year……I’ve tried to think of a word or phrase to describe it. The word that continues to come to mind is COMMUNITY.
I would not have been able to endure the highs and lows of the past year without COMMUNITY. For those of you who have followed my blog from the very beginning, you may remember that I did a post last July on COMMUNITY. Pastor Karl’s message that Sunday was on “Created for Community” and he reminded us that Jesus created us for community and that God has said for us to be alone is NOT a good thing. He wants us to be one with Him and one with each other.
The love that has been showered on me and my family was nothing short of spectacular. I truly felt the love, care, concern, compassion and the goodness of my COMMUNITY. I was the recipient of so many good deeds, meals, rides to doctors appointments and treatments……just having someone to hang out with the hospital on those long days was such a huge blessing. Who knew you could have a “waiting list” for folks who were eager and willing to help you with transportation or meals! Talk about a wonderful problem to have. Not once during this whole ordeal did I ever feel “alone”. I knew I had a tribe of folks supporting me in so many ways.
I received so many blessings from family members, old friends, church family, neighbors, mere acquaintances, new friends, and yes – complete strangers. What a humbling experience to be the recipient of random acts of kindness from folks you don’t even know! God showed me in countless ways just how good His people truly are. They loved on me like nobody’s business…….and I just soaked it all in. We are encouraged often to “be the hands and feet of Jesus”. Lemme tell ya – I saw first hand people doing just that – doing the Lord’s work here on earth. My friend Joni calls it JOY work. And I promise you that I could tell every act of kindness was done with loads of JOY. I’m reminded of this quote…
You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. – Khalil Gibran
If you’ve ever spent much time in a hospital – you know that it’s not uncommon to make small talk with those around you. Today, as I was waiting to see the doctor, there was a young couple sitting near me in the waiting area. I knew she was the patient because I saw her armband. Otherwise – she had a full head of hair, cute as a button and looked as healthy as could be. Yep – I know that look well. I asked where she was from and she said Columbia, SC. Turns out they had come Duke for a second opinion. As I had been whining about making 2 trips in 2 days to Duke – I quickly stopped to count my blessings. Yeah – I’m 45 minutes away – but I do have the luxury of coming home and sleeping in my own bed each night. Before we were able to talk very long, I was called back to see my doctor. I could not stop thinking about this young couple. They’d gotten up super early to drive from SC to Durham for a second opinion – and came early hoping they would be seen early……..and turns out her doctor was running behind today. You know how life just happens like that sometimes. Well, while I was in the exam room waiting on my doctor, I took time to write a little note to her – (I’m ashamed to say I don’t even know her name – we just didn’t get to talk long enough). Anyway – I gave her my contact information, shared a Bible verse with her hoping it would offer her some comfort and I told her that she was going to find out she was stronger than she ever, ever imagined……and that I could promise her there were gonna be tough days ahead – but she was going to have to be tougher…….and I told her that in a year from now, she’ll be on the OTHER side of this mess just like I was and she’ll be proudly marching out of her follow-up appointments after all her treatments are done. We were both about to get all weepy – so I just hugged her and wished her well. It’s crazy how this “sisterhood” bonds you immediately with complete strangers. I don’t even know her name – but she has been on my mind and my heart all day……and I know God will hear my prayers for her.
What a difference a year makes! I’ve come full circle. Last year I was enlisting the prayers and support of my COMMUNITY…….and today, I was able to attempt to OFFER encouragement, prayers and support to someone just starting out on this wild ride. My “battle” with breast cancer began one year ago today…….and while I am NOT thankful for cancer…….I am very thankful for what cancer has TAUGHT me. God has restored my health…….and life is really good.
It was difficult to choose just ONE verse for today – so here’s two that sort of sum up my year.
Blessings to all of you!
1 Peter 4:12-13 The Message (MSG)
Glory Just Around the Corner
12-13 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
1 Peter 5:7-10 New International Version (NIV)
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.