Pardon my “all over the place” -ness in this post. I’m feeling a desperate need to just get it all out there because so much is swimming in my head. Or, is it simply the post-vacation-cruise ship-inner ear- dizziness (thanks for the diagnosis, Dr. Margot). I avoided Montezuma’s revenge but seem to be suffering from Cruise Ship revenge.
Huge thanks to all the peeps who continue to link to my blog, who have been donating Facebook statuses and asking people to pray for my family, who have been writing so beautifully to raise awareness of cancer, and who have been so generous with support. I also want to shout out the wonderful teachers at the local schools who have supported my kids through this whole journey, too. Check out this article in our local paper and a blog post by my good friend Colleen.
Running Girl (that little icon on the right side of your screen if you are on the web) tells me that we have only 6 days left until surgery. My brain is pudding, these days, so yes, I actually do rely on Running Girl for the countdown.
But, Running Girl is also making me race against the clock in ways She could never know. In my house, right now, I have 3 children and 1 husband who are battling sore throats, stuffy noses, and enough phlegm to wax a car. When I spoke with the pre-op nurse about the mutiny of germs just 1 week before my surgery, her advice was “just try to limit your contact with them.”
Convinced she didn’t really hear the part about having a 7 year old, a 4 year old, a 1 year old, a house full of responsibilities and a full time job that requires me to be surrounded by sleep deprived college students, I asked her what other helpful suggestions she might have for me. Her reply: “Make sure they wash their hands and just try not to have them get close to you, then.”
Surprise, surprise, I woke up with a sore throat and a runny nose today.
Little does the nurse know, this whole “no contact” rule is actually what freaks me out about the weeks post-surgery. See, my children have never been interested in comfort items — stuffed animals, blankies, binkies, etc. Instead, they have used me as their comfort item.
Let me explain.
My oldest child calls it “Squishy.” It’s that tiny little webbing area between your thumb and your forefinger. Go ahead, look at your hand. It is maybe a 1/2 inch of space? Well, that’s her comfort item. When she’s nervous, anxious, or just needs to feel that everything will be alright, she grabs my hand and takes her two fingers and holds on to “Squishy.”
My middle child has an even funnier comfort item. Shortly after weaning from breastfeeding, she still found comfort in at least holding onto one of my breasts. When she was upset, she would teeter across the floor, crawl into my lap, and walk her tiny little hands up my shirt. (Though, some readers may be absolutely horrified right now, I promise you this is common for breastfed babies!). When I became pregnant with my third child and developed very tender breasts, I put an end to this. Instead, she was allowed to put her hands only on my growing belly. When upset or just needing some comfort, there was my belly; and there was my little girl. And, yes, even today, my middle child can be found asking for “Flat Tummy.”
With the arrival of my third — and, knowingly, last — child, I held on the very precious time when he was breastfeeding. I knew that this was my farewell, my final goodbye, to the functional aspect of my breasts. The mastectomy will surgically remove any possibility. Turns out, though I tried to prolong it as much as possible, my third child self-weaned at about 16 months. He, too, is experiencing that same stage of finding comfort in holding on to my breasts. I admit, it gets a little annoying when he’s grabbing at me; but with only 6 days to go until surgery, this feeling — the one shared by all three of my children — is making me sad. After next week, I will be untouchable for months. And, as my post-mastectomy women have told me, I may not even feel when I am being touched for still months more. The familiar bump of a nipple will be gone. The recognizable dark brown pigmentation will be gone, only to be added should I choose cosmetic tattooing. And, the soft, squishy feel of my tissue will be replaced by a firm silicone dome.
And, gone, will be a 87% risk of developing breast cancer.
Getting closer to surgery also means I’m swirling through a tornado of emotions. I feel like I’m having hot flashes, the overwhelming sense of warmth replaced by the overwhelming flood of tears. Having a colleague say, “I’m praying for you” or a friend write “Thinking of you” sends me into tears. Just finding a quiet moment where I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and try to center my heart is disrupted by reaching for Kleenex.
The other night, my friend Jacqueline and I went to a Gospel concert where we work. Mixed with words of God and the harmonies of angels, I felt the need to run out of the room. Have you ever been witness to something so beautiful you just had to walk away? I was thankful to be sitting in the back row, hidden by a darkened auditorium. Yet, the sound of my crying, barely louder than the starting note from a pitch pipe, was enough for Jacqueline to grab my hand and slip me a tissue. “Love you, Liza,” was all I needed to hear.
These days, people want to say to me, “Everything will be fine.” My response, “Oh, I know. Thanks,” delivered with a forced smile. But, really, I want to say, “But, how do you know? How do you know everything will be fine?” Selfish words of wisdom for right now: Please just tell me you’ll pray for my family, think about us on that day, or look forward to hearing how it all goes. I can’t really explain it well, but the phrase “everything will be fine” just doesn’t work for me right now.
Tornado. Swirling. Angry. Happy. Angry. Happy. Angry. Happy.
I know this needs to be done. But, let’s face it. I’m pissed. Made better by the incredible amount of support in my life. Made better by the knowledge that so many people have put their own work, life, needs, and priorities aside to help out my family. Made better by the hugs, comments, and hand holding by people near and far.
When Joli was sick, I spent so many months, so many years, thinking “Why her? Why did this have to happen to her?” After a few years, thanks to my husband, I began stating, “Well, why not her!” She’s the strongest, kindest, most incredible little kid. If God were to pick someone to endure some of the most unbelievable challenges, it would, of course, be her. And, because of all of the early challenges she faced, she will continue make difficult decisions in the context of her life.
So, BRCA1. Yea, I’m pissed at you. Though you’ve tried, you haven’t won; you’ve just made me stronger.
Peace, love, and trading ’em in for a less deadly pair,