AN UNEXPECTED CHANGE… TO HEART

One step. This is the mastectomy procedure where the breast tissue is removed and immediate reconstruction begins by, for me, placing the silicone implants in place. The removal of the breast tissue is kind of like making a “twice baked potato.” You know, you cook the potato, cut it in half, open it up, and hollow out the inside all the way down to the thin inner peel. Then, you fill it back up with some sort of mashed up concoction — hopefully, throwing in some bacon bits, cheese, sour cream, chives — and fill it back up again to make it look all pretty.

For the most part, the whole twice baked potato process is pretty easy. It’s even featured in kid’s cookbooks (under the “get help from a parent” section). Fairly straight forward.

The challenge arises when you can’t really anticipate what that peel is gonna be like when you get in there. Or, you can’t really anticipate what happens once you get that potato all opened up.

In the breast surgery, all of the hollowing can go well, however there is always the risk that something wasn’t right with the skin – maybe blood flow to certain areas isn’t good, or maybe there just wasn’t enough skin to cover the proper sized implants, or, well, a whole host of things.

“I definitely am going to have the one-step procedure,” I said to my plastic surgeon.

“That’s great,” he chuckled. “Except Mother Nature might have a different plan that you.”

This whole time, I imagined waking up from surgery and having the silicone implants just perfectly in place. However, that’s not what the surgeon prepared me for. “You could wake up with expanders — hard devices that would be inserted prior to any implants in order to achieve any host of goals: stretching to create more skin, encourage more viable skin in the event of any damage or structural weakeness, etc. Just be prepared for that,” he appropriately warns me. In our 30 minute consultation, very little of our conversation was about the procedure. Most of our conversation was about all the things that I would not expect to happen.

*******

When I was younger, I didn’t read “Teen Beat” or “Seventeen” magazines. I read old copies of The Readers Digest that my dad brought home from his office. I was fascinated by the quick stories, the funny cartoons, and the poignant nature of The Readers Digest. More than a quarter century later, this particular tale has stayed with me:

A major flood began to hit. A man crawled his way to the roof top and prayed aloud, “God! God! Please save me.” At that moment, a neighbor came by with a life jacket and told the man to put it on. “No, no,” he proclaimed, “I am waiting for my God to save me.” The neighbor swam away. The water began to rise even higher. Another neighbor came by with a raft. “Friend, get inside, the water is rising,” he said. “No, no,” said the man, “I am waiting for my God to save me.” The man in the raft paddled away. The water began to rise even higher. A rescue helicopter flew overhead and dropped a rope. “Climb the rope!” yelled the voice from the helicopter. “No, no,” said the man, “I am waiting for my God to save me.”

At the Pearly Gates of Heaven, the man met his God. “God, God, what happened. I called to you and asked for you to save me,” pleaded the man.

“Son, I sent you a life vest, a raft, and a helicopter,” said God. “What else did you want me to do?”

************

I’m having this surgery because I don’t want to wait around for something to occur. I don’t want to ignore all the signs around me — my sister getting cancer, my other sister developing pre-cancer, the health effects of years of chemo and radiation of my aunt, the advanced cancers of my cousins, the cancer of my child — waiting for something to happen. When I feel the urge to cancel my surgery, play the odds, I am quickly reminded of all the warning signs pointed in my direction. I am scared, I’ve prayed, I’ve asked for saving and redemption. I’ve pleaded with God to “let it be me” when Joli was sick. And, I’m coming around to believe that God doesn’t want it to be me. Not now. Not this time around. I’ve asked God, “When is enough going to be enough?” I believe God is telling me, “Right Now.”

***************

The Worcester 1/2 Marathon (and the Harvard Pilgrim 10k) was a huge event — personally and physically for me. But, it was also a major event in the lives of so many others, team MB4M runners, friends, runners from across the country, co-workers, old high school and college mates, and other BRCA women whom I have never met. While the physical training and challenge were all important, it was the overwhelming support of people that made it so special. I was surrounded by motivation, encouragement, friendship, but most of all heart.

This time around, this Boston 1/2 Marathon, has not been as special to me. For the past 3 months, I’ve complained that I just didn’t physically want to run another 13.1 miles. Today, just 24 hours before the race, I’m realizing that the 13.1 miles doesn’t scare me …. going through this leg of my journey alone is terrifying. Maybe that’s the symbolism, though. That friends, family and love can take me only so far. From there, I need to face the road. I need to face the surgery. I need to face the fear.

And, yet, I’m reminded of that Readers Digest story.

When does facing the fear actually mean ignoring the love?

************

After hitting “send” on the Boston 1/2 Marathon registration, I’ve felt anxious. I didn’t realize there was a time limit — 2 hours and 30 minutes after the race starts, they are closing down the finish line and timing area. This finish time would be 34 minutes faster than I finished at Worcester.

For weeks I have been anxious about the driving/parking situation at the Boston 1/2 Marathon. The only parking is satellite parking with a shuttle bus. I’ve been anxious about how Jorge will manage all three kids in a crowd of thousands, finding their way from a parking lot, to a shuttle bus, to the finish line.

Friday, my sister-in-law Jenny said that she and the kids might not make it to the Boston 1/2 Marathon to support my brother and me. Their toddler is sick.

Last night, Jorge says to me, “Liza, I know you can finish the 1/2 marathon. I’m worried about you getting hurt.” He said aloud what I have been silently thinking for weeks.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, my brother, Jon, my lifeline running partner for Boston, texted me the following message: “I am sick and my knee is killing me! I hope by tomorrow I’m feeling better….”

At 4:00am Saturday morning, I woke up to Evan coughing and sneezing in my face. I was covered in toddler mucous and saliva from neck to face. His mucous. My face.

At 5:30am, I began to write.

***********

I had been tossing in bed asking myself to reflect honestly about this upcoming 1/2 marathon.

Why did I want to do it? To challenge myself

Why did I want to do it? To be more fit for the surgery

Why did I want to do it? To prove that I could run 13.1 miles as a plus sized woman

Why did I want to do it? Because I won’t be able to for a while after surgery.

Why did I want to do it? Because I can.

Why don’t I want to do it? Because I haven’t trained.

Why don’t I want to do it? Because I’m worried about getting injured.

Why don’t I want to do it? Because that day will be such a logistical hassle with parking, the kids, transportation.

Why don’t I want to do it? Because it just doesn’t feel the same without the “team”.

Why don’t I want to do it? Because I’m afraid of being alone.

**********

Interests: I want to run 13.1 miles; I don’t want to do it alone.

Solution: Run 13.1 miles; Make changes so others can be there with you.

**********

It was never about “running Boston.” Heck, I don’t even know where this course is. It was never about “running Boston.” So, why do I need to run it in Boston?

Answer: I don’t.

**********

I’ve made an unexpected change … to heart. For once, I’m listening to my heart and not my head (not easy, if you know me well! I’m a classic “ESTJ” in Myers-Briggs). It’s not about Boston. It’s about friendship, family, and love. It’s about support, company, companionship. It’s about including; not excluding. It’s about pushing myself, not about pushing a finish time. It’s about honoring my health, not about jeopardizing it.

***********

I’m listening, now, God. I get it. You’ve sent me the signs. It’s time for me to pay attention.

***********

So, on Sunday, I will not be running the Boston 1/2 Marathon. Instead, I’ll be running 13.1 miles at Stonehill College. The personal race will still start at 8:30am, just like Boston. It will still be 13.1 miles, just like Boston. But, unlike Boston, I’ll be surrounded by family, friends, and love. I’ll be running to beat my own limitations, not to beat a digital clock. The sidewalk will be lined with my children and husband, my sisters and family, and my friends.

Sometimes, we prepare for the unexpected.

The rest of the time, we should just expect that love has already done that.

Peace, love, and a change to heart,

Liza

DETAILS:

The “race” will begin by the Old Student Union at 8:30am on Sunday. The course is in 3 mile loops, so please feel free to join me if you would like to walk/run 3 miles, 6 miles, 9 miles, 12 miles or the 13.1 miles! Or, if you’d just like to come and enjoy a lovely morning, please come! Have you been wanting to join in on Mb4M?? Now’s the time! It’s the last “Marathon B4 Mastectomy”!!

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9 Responses to AN UNEXPECTED CHANGE… TO HEART

  1. Cleyde Oliveira says:

    Thank you Liza for sharing this with us- your courage and strength are inspirational. Please know that you are a champion!

  2. Emily (Cobb Henry) says:

    Oh, Liza!
    Your decision is perfect.

    I’m so happy for you that you’ll be able to reach your goal, but without the crazy anxieties that were accompanying running in Boston. And I’m *thrilled* for you that you’ll be able to do so surrounded by family and friends.

    I wasn’t planning to go for a run on Sunday, but now I definitely will. I don’t know how far I get, but every step of the way, I’ll think of you. (I so wish I lived closer to Stonehill so I could literally run with you!)

    You are NOT alone.

    p.s. Hope that Evan is feeling better ASAP, and that he keeps his mucous to himself today. ;)

    • Liza says:

      Thanks Em! Actually, realizing that you did it in an unofficial race and had it still mean SO MUCH was what pushed me. I loved the pics of Nick and the girls as your water stops and cheering crowd and I was jealous that Jorge and the girls didnt get to experience the 1/2 with me in that way. Tomorrow, THEY CAN!! Thank you for giving me the courage to do this with my heart.

      Love,
      Liza

  3. Patti Mula says:

    I am forever impressed and moved by your courage and strength. Good luck tomorrow and take my love and positive energy with you! I know you’ll do GREAT! I am so proud of you and you truly motivate me to be a better person!!! Once again I encourage you to make this blog a book!!! Craig Jolley from NYU knows someone in the publishing field…it would be so inspiring for so many…please consider it…

  4. Carra Gamberdella says:

    I will be there!!!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Good for you for listening to the silent messages being sent your way and not worrying what others will think. Do what’s best for you…you already are. :) & ♥

  6. Elizabeth Moser says:

    OH MY GOSH! You are truly amazing!!! If I had known I would have joined you, encouraged you, ran with you as much as I could. I admire your courage, strength and resolution. You are truly inspiring. Glad I was able to catch up with you last night. How did the run go???

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