Strapped in Tight

I now felt like I had just been strapped into the seat of the scariest rollercoaster ride imaginable.  I knew my car was just leaving the station.  All I could see ahead of me for miles on end were unending twists and turns and loop de loops.  I knew that at many points along the ride I would be left hanging upside down.  I knew that I would be left breathless.  I knew that my stomach would be up in my throat.  I knew that my knuckles would be white from gripping the handrail.  I knew that this ride could potentially be my last.  I knew that I had to pray.  I knew that if anyone was going to get me off my ride to hell and back, it would be God.  I was afraid to talk to him these days, though.  I really felt like he was misinterpreting my prayers. 

When my oldest daughter was little, her first daycare provider developed breast cancer.  She was at a Stage 4.  She ended up having a double radical mastectomy where all her lymph nodes were removed.  She underwent chemotherapy and radiation, a bone marrow transplant, and lived for 6 months in an oxygen tent up in the University of Iowa hospitals.  We stayed with her as much as we could.  We would go up and sit with her for hours on end.  We would take her new things to read, pretty turbans to wear, and one time we even took her a beauty package with all sorts of new makeup and nail polish.  Jasmine would paint her toes and I would make her up.  Jasmine loved helping her Fancy Nancy. 

She survived.  It was a miracle.  We were all in disbelief, but joyous.   I remember getting together with her one day for lunch.  She came over and we talked about her possible reconstruction.  I’ll never forget that afternoon.  She raised her shirt and let me look at her scars.  I had never seen anything like it.  It was just horrible…big, pink, jagged scars–shiny and slick-ish–that ran from one armpit to the other criss crossing her chest.  It put a whole new spin on the phrase “X marks the spot”.    Until that moment, I couldn’t truly imagine how painful this process must have been for her, for all women.  She told me she appreciated my thoughtfulness at bringing things that would help her feel pretty.  Of course, it had been my pleasure, but honestly, I was doing it so that she wouldn’t have to view herself as sick everytime she looked in the mirror.  I knew that chemo can do quite a number on you, I have stood by and watched her and a few more friends over the years go through it. It isn’t pretty.  Jasmine and I just wanted her to feel pretty. 

With the horror of what she went through staring me right in the face, I realized it wasn’t about the chemo at all.  It was about trying to maintain some sort of feminity through a time when it was being ripped away from you.  I lost touch with Nancy several years ago.  She got married and moved away, but I continue to pray for her to stay in remission.  I have never forgotten that afternoon.  It’s vivid in my mind.  It was truly shocking and humbling.  Now, fast forward 14 years and here I am…A childcare provider as well with breast cancer facing a mastectomy.  I sat for a couple days looking out the window and replaying the events of what Nancy went through in my mind.  Of course, I never knew all the details, but I did know quite a lot and what I did know scared the Hell out of me.  Since that time, I have prayed hard that I would never be inflicted with this disease.  The memory of Nancy’s scars are fresh in my mind and I knew I never wanted to undergo that emotionally and physically destructive monster.  I have prayed and prayed and prayed.  Yet, here I am.  Did God listen to my prayers?  Was I SPECIFIC in my prayers? 

That night in bed, I knew that my daughter’s would now be more at risk than ever for this happening to them.  Three times more likely as a matter of fact. I knew I needed to talk to them seriously.  I would have to let them know that they would always have to know the kind of cancer their mother had and that it was only detectable through a mammogram.  They would have to have imaging done EARLY on in their lives and forever after and when their doctor might not think it was necessary, they would have to demand it.  They would have to learn how to eat better to keep the cells in their bodies functioning in a more alkaline state than an acidic one.  I knew that they would be more at risk by early onset of menstruation, taking additional hormones in the form of birth control or estrogen supplements during menopause.  I knew that any other risk factors like smoking would give any free radicals in their bodies the opportunity to really go beserk.  I cried for my daughters that night.  I knew I would not live to see out their lives in their entirety and I prayed so hard that God would keep them safe and would never put them in this dragon’s path.  I prayed that they would never have to go through what I was about to.  I prayed that they would never have to look their children in their faces and tell them their mommy has cancer.  And I cried.

That started a huge tidalwave of tears.  All I could really think  was, “I’m going to die.  Oh my God, I’m going to die.  I’m never going to see my kids graduate, or get married, or have children of their own.  My poor children.  Oh my God, my little boy won’t remember me.  I will be a distant memory when he is grown.  He’ll forget what we used to laugh about or tell secrets about.”  My young daughter won’t have me there to help her through her first heartbreak.  My oldest daughter…well, that’s an entirely different blog.  If anything, I would like to see that she turns her life around and could easily spot those individuals that were bringing her down.  My mind started to race along the same highway as my heartbeat and my breathing.

Is the life insurance all paid up?

How are we going to afford this?

Will we have any health insurance at all?  It’s diagnosed now–its pre-existing, no insurance company will touch me now. 

Are we really going to lose our insurance this month?

Have I paid the bills this month?

do I have time to work ahead in my online classes to get by……..?

What will I do with my kids?  What will Jeff do with our kids?

What will happen to my daycare kids?

Have I told my friends I love them?

Have I told my family?

Have I lived life fully?

Have I laughed enough?

Loved enough?

Played enough?

Prayed enough?

What would Jeff do without me?

Would he remarry? 

Would he love the new one more?

Would the kids call someone else mom?

Would my children remember me VIVIDLY?

Would they remember my smell–vanilla–cookies (according to Justin)

Would Justin remember that his nickname for me was “my nilla mom”

Did I make a difference? 

To how many?

Will I be remembered fondly?

Will anyone remember my best dirty jokes and laugh about them in small huddles and laugh heartily for me as though I was there with them?

Who would come to my funeral?

Where would I be buried?

Would anyone come to put flowers on my grave?

and if I did live?…

Would I be different?

Would I take up different causes?

Would I slow down?

Would I relax more and enjoy my free time more?

Would I make more time for free time?

Would I make empty promises just to get out of the immediate situation?

If I did, would I follow through?

What if…what if…what if…what if…what if…what if…what if…

Would I learn to be more specific with God?

 The crying stopped.  Holy crap, that was it.  Besides my inward sniveling huffy breaths, everything was quiet.  Maybe I had always prayed for material things.  Maybe I had never really been specific.  Maybe I needed to speak specifically to God.  Maybe I needed to really write about my journey.  Maybe I needed to reprioritize my life.  Maybe I needed to really lose control to gain the control that is most important, the one that gets us out of the Earthly demands and helps us realize our potential through God.  Maybe I needed to see for myself how selfish or shallow or unforgiving I had been during my life.  Maybe, through a process where a lifetime of layers had been firmly rooted, I could begin to peel back those layers to reveal a shiny, strong piece of marbel.  Maybe God was polishing me for something.  

Whatever epiphanies were arrived at that night, I knew I needed to keep track of all these moments.  I needed to have a record of how far I had come, how much I had fallen short, and how triumphant I would be.  My blog was born…..Specifically Speaking.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. PM
    Feb 28, 2009 @ 19:07:20

    It is better to depend on the Lord than to trust in mortals. Psalm 118:8
    We aren’t strong enough Chris, to heal ourselves. YET God is Great and HE invented our bodies to heal from the tragic injuries that we accumulate in a “fallen” world.
    Rehersing our miseries is an indulgence that WE cannot afford. Do not do it. It does not help you. REHERSE your blessings. Reherse your blessings.
    It will bring you a peacefull space where you can rest and think. Do it like your little kids. “Thank you God for the trees, the grass, the car, the faces of my children, the blankets on my bed, the food I have today, the sky, the house, the sidewalk.
    Whatever… I have heard lovely funny things from the kids… the garage, my mom’s toes, the bathroom, worms, hay, kittens. just start doing it like a mantra. It is a wonderful habit to form and it will HELP you. la lu Pm

    Reply

  2. Lu
    Feb 28, 2009 @ 22:54:18

    Christine, keep writing. You have a way with words and your message will
    help others besides yourself. I have journaled for 3 decades and know that the writing itself is healing. Live in the moment. You have heard it said, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do know Who holds tomorrow.” And that is all we need.
    Peace be with you. Lu

    Reply

  3. Kara
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 06:12:36

    Hi Christine, I’ve been reading your blog off and on, and couldn’t help but comment. My mom had breast cancer way back in the day (1983) and she had a double radical masectomy, with reconstructive surgery. For her, the sacrifices she made in her chest bought her the time that she shouldn’t have had (she had stage four cancer). There are many groups out there that will help you after surgery; you should be able to call your local breast clinic to find out where they are.

    Really, though, I wanted to let you know what your daughters can expect. I have been put through the wringer over the last twenty years, but the medical community lives and learns. I went through genetic counselling and eventually refused the BRCA tests (because this then becomes a pre-existing condition and your daugthers will never, ever, get health insurance). I have been handed down doomsday sentences from every corner, except now they have started to change as researchers understand more what is going on. In short, my risk is minimally elevated because of my mother. Even my paternal grandmother had breask cancer, and my risk is still minimally elevated. What have I been told? Eat well, take care of yourself, check yourself monthly, and be true to yourself. They have even come to the point of letting me go without a mammogram until I am forty, as long as I check myself monthly and get an annual exam. This is also info I got from two different medical systems (in the US and the UK). Your daughters will be told by at least two doctors every year what they have to do, and they won’t really have to do anything beyond what everyone else should be doing anyway.

    Have faith in God, yourself, and the doctors. The treatment, management, and detection of breast cancer is improving daily. It is infinitely better than what it was, and it will be four times better when your daughters get to your age. Yes, I, as the daughter of someone who had breast cancer, am scared. But it is something that I have to let God deal with, so I believe instead.

    Reply

  4. myownterms
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 19:27:02

    I read about your cancer on Miss Maggie’s blog, and just had to come and send you my prayers and well wishes.

    Do not give up hope. There is always hope. And I will keep you in my prayers!

    Reply

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