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Friday, March 23, 2012

Savana's Scars

I remember being 5 years old, outside in our front yard, day dreaming of having a sister.  I loved my brother, but as a girl, I dreamed so much about what it would be like to have a sister.  It was something I wanted so badly.
I can't remember Mom and Dad telling us that mom was pregnant.  I was 6 years old when they found out about their little "oops!"  I was so excited and would have adored the little thing no matter if it was a boy or a girl, but I was so hopeful that I would finally get the sister that I'd dreamed of for so long.
At seven and a half, I will never forget being at the hospital waiting on Mom to have our new baby.  My aunt took my brother and I home at one point to eat dinner and I was so worried that she would have the baby while we were gone.  This was back before the days of the cell phone, mind you.  So, just a few minutes after we got to the house, the phone rang.  The baby had been born.... and it was a GIRL!!  I was so excited.  I can't think of a time in my childhood where I was more excited than that moment.
I was instantly in love with that little girl and with my God given nurturing/maternal nature, I became a little less plain old big sister, and a little more 2nd mother to her.  I felt very protective of her and I wanted to help take care of her.  I was so extremely proud of her.  I brought her to my 2nd grade class for show and tell as soon as Mom was okay to bring her to the school. 
Bless my brother's heart, as she got older, I would take her side in any argument they had, citing the fact that, "She is 5 years younger than you!!"  In my mind I felt we should just concede to her because she was the baby.  I could not understand his feeling that she had taken his place in the hierarchy of our family because in my mind she was the greatest thing to ever happen to us and I revered her as almost a child of my own. 
As we grew older, I know our age gap must have made her feel a little left out.  As I became a teenager, I loved her no less than before, but I was busy with school activities, work, and friends.  But, often I would come home at midnight on a weekend and wake her up to have her crawl in bed with me and play with my hair like she had always done when we were little.  And, as an excited 18 year old, fresh out of high school, I gave home barely a second glance as I ventured off to college.  Savana and I shared a country song by The Dixie Chicks that reminded us of what I was going through at that point in my life:  Wide Open Spaces.  I don't know for sure how she felt about me leaving, but I remember having her come stay with me in my dorm room and I always loved the feeling of being able to be the big sister to her.  I often felt like I didn't do enough for her and didn't spend as much time with her as I should have, but I loved my role in her life.
My sophomore year in college ended traumatically with a life defining phone call about my sister being shot in a school shooting.  She was 12 and in 6th grade.  In a rushed car ride to the hospital she'd been life flighted to a little over an hour from where I was living then, I felt my heart aching almost outside of my body.  It was my first experience with the fear of losing someone that you love more than yourself.  It was my first experience with wanting desperately to trade places - to stand in for someone else's pain. 
I walked in to her little room in the ER to see half her head bandaged and I choked my tears back for her sake.  I smiled for her sake.  I would not break down in front of her.  I would be the big sister in this instance and I would be strong for her.  I walked to her bedside and the first words out of her mouth to me were:  "Sissy, I'm sorry.  I got blood on your letter jacket."  (She wore my high school letter jacket to school.)  "That's okay," I managed to choke out in a half laugh with my voice cracking.  Then I had to step out of the room and break down.
I remember sitting in her hospital room, looking at the newspaper picture of the pool of blood that had been left outside the school.  I remember looking at the spot where she had been lying on the cement with her face open and bleeding and thinking about how scared she must have been.  I couldn't shake the feeling that I wished I'd been there.  I wish I'd been there to hold her and tell her it would all be okay.  I hated knowing she'd been there by herself for any period of time.  I hated that picture.
She survived that.  Barely, and by the grace of God.  Which meant that I survived it, too.  Barely.  And, by the grace of God.  She'd have taken some huge part of me with her if she'd gone to Heaven that day.  You see, Savana's scars are my scars, too.  The one on her cheek that most people don't notice.  That scar is on my heart.  The day I almost lost her.  The day God changed my life and brought be back to him through her.  There's one above her eye where she got hit with the swing set when we were little.  There used to be one on her bottom from a spider bite when we went on vacation that got infected.  There's one on her lip from basketball when she was in high school.  I had to take her to the doctor that day and watch them sew it up.  I almost threw up because they didn't have her numbed all the way and I couldn't stand watching her in pain.  Every time she has been hurt, it has hurt me, too.  Or changed me.  Her scars are my brother's scars, as well.  There is something so special about growing up side by side with people.  There's something irreplaceable about the people who know everything about you from the time you were small and know all the stories you can't even tell - the ones just on your heart; buried memories our minds don't even recall, but shaped us in to who we are today.
Savana is about to have her first child.  I might be as excited as she is; possibly more excited than I even was when she was born.  As always, I am ahead of her on the road of life.  I know what she is about to experience and I am so overwhelmed at the opportunity to be close to her and watch her become a mother.  As her stomach swells and stretches and scars with the new life she creates, the scars are mine, too, as my heart swells for her.  She asks me questions about what to expect and I play the role now of older sister, but more than anything, as just her friend who has known her since she was born - who shares all her past glories, tears, and dreams. 
Savana's scars are my scars.  And, I wouldn't have it any other way...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's a long wait from 2:00 to 5:00...

Warning.  I talk about boobs in this post!
So, I leave my house at 2:00 to head to the hospital for my ultrasound and possible mammogram.  I am supposed to be there at 2:30 and the appointment is at 2:45.  I check in and I sit and wait.
When I am called back the nurse shows me to a dressing room and asks me to put on a "gown." 
I see spray deodorant and wipes on the little table.  I'm thinking this is to make sure no one has to smell your skanky pits while examining you.  Nice touch.  Then, she asks me:  "Do you have deodorant on?"  At this point I'm thinking there must really be an issue with stinky people getting their boobs checked out.  "Yes," I reply quickly.  She then tells me to use the wipes to wipe it off in case I have to have a mammogram.  Something about the machine.  At this point my inner monologue is really chuckling at my own expense.
I take my shirt off and my bra.  I wipe the deodorant off my pits.  Then, I decide better to be safe than sorry and just wipe down the whole chest area.  (Ahem.  I am rather blessed in the chest area, and us girls all know:  Nothing smells worse than boob sweat!)  I get the "gown" out of the little basket on the table.  Now, I'm no stranger to gowns. I've been pregnant 3 times, during which I was admitted to the hospital several times during each pregnancy due to complications. I have rocked a hospital gown a time or two. No sweat!  I pick this gown up and it's very short so at first I think they have just cut down regular hospital gowns and this seems like a cute little idea for having boob exams.  However, as I begin to wrestle with it, I realize this is no gown!!  I can hear snaps hitting each other somewhere but cannot find them, one end is tapered in to a point, and none of it makes sense!  I start to have anxiety about them coming back to get me and being still shirtless.  So, I just drape the thing over my shoulders and try to make sure the girls are somewhat covered.  I feel exposed... and half mentally challenged.
I go out in the hall and the tech directs me to the ultra sound room.  This is great fun.  I've had an echo cardiogram done before so I know how extremely awkward it is to lay on a table and have someone squirt KY Jelly all over your chest and probe around on it.  Just the two of you in a dark room.  At least this time it was a woman.  But, still.  I have to feel around on my breast for her to show her where the lump is.  She is using the clock terminology and we easily find the 2:00 lump, the 5:00 is a little more hidden.  She wipes the jelly off and tells me she has to send the images to the radiologist to see if he thinks I need a mammogram or not.  So, I envelope myself back in the small cape and try to relax, obviously hoping she comes back and says it all looks great!
She comes back.  I need a mammogram.  My heart sinks.  But, I'm staying positive....

Mammograms are not my favorite.  As I mentioned before, I am no C cup.  I would actually probably have been really happy with a good C, maybe even a D.  But, as per my recent professional bra fitting, my place in the alphabet is much past D.  Fortunately, (This is about the only time I've seen the following as good fortune!) after 3 kids and years of gravity, they aren't that perky anymore.  That has to be advantageous when having them smashed.  So, I go stand in front of the machine and the tech who happens to be from my very small hometown, literally lifts my boob on to the machine.  Not awkward at all.  It compresses.  Not THAT bad.  I wish I had my cell phone to take a picture of it.  Not to post on facebook!  Just to send to my husband because it is CRACKING ME UP!  (I hate when you want to crack up but it would be completely inappropriate!  I did that at a funeral once.  So not cool!)  (Also, I deflect tension with humor.  It's inherited.  Just ask my BFFs who got pictures of me in my cape sent to them from the exam room!)  Then, she moves the machine to a very strange angle.  She puts me boob back in there and I think that this is not a way my boob is supposed to bend and as she compresses it I find out that I am absolutely correct.  Ouch.
All done.  She tells me she has to now send these pictures to the radiologist and I can get dressed if I want, but he may want more.  I choose to stay in the lovely cape with pastel flowers on it.  I've grown attached by now.
So, I wait... I don't have any anticipation that I'll find out results today but still sitting in the dark room, surrounded by mammogram equipment, what else can I think about beside:  I might have breast cancer.  I might need radiation or chemotherapy.  I might have to not work and what will we do?  What stage would I be at?  All these things are running through my mind for what seems like forever.  My BFFs and sister are texting me encouraging words, verses, thoughts and prayers.  I feel loved, covered and protected more than I feel scared.  That is beautiful, I think.
At very close to 5:00, the tech comes back in and says:  "He said it's all clear on both ends. You can go.  Just let your Dr. know if it starts to get bigger."  I'm elated!  I put my shirt back on and run out of the hospital.  I don't ask questions or make eye contact.  I feel as light as a feather! Praise. The. LORD!!!

Today I get a call from my doctor.  He says that there's no malignancy... that they can SEE and emphasises the "SEE."  My light as a feather feeling gets weighted some.  He wants another mammogram and ultra sound in 6 months.  That's good, I think.  Best to keep an eye on it.  And, it also keeps it in the back of my mind.  Which I hate, but I think is a good thing for two reasons:
It is going to prompt me to make changes in my lifestyle.  Eating healthier.  Getting more exercise.  Things that reduce my risks.  It will also ensure that I do monthly self exams now.  No more sporadic when I think about it stuff.  This is for real!
I'm not living in fear of cancer.  I had already told myself that if I had it, I knew it was in God's hands and that I would use it as a platform to glorify him.  One of my friends reminded me during this ordeal, very simply:  "Fear is not of God."  I won't be terrified.  I won't dwell on it.  I won't think about the what-ifs.  I will be informed, proactive, and faithful.
And, I might start wearing capes....

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Unknown at "2:00 and 5:00"

I am writing this, knowing I won't post until later.  Until I have a better conclusion to this instead of an open ended maybe to end the post.  It will end up with one of two significant major life reactions:  Either "Whew" or "Is this really happening?"  So, I'm hoping for the first and arming myself with the knowledge that we are never immune to having to deal with the latter.
I've never done regular breast exams.  Shame on me, I know.  I just don't think about it.  Sporadically I will check them and, of course, there's the awkward yearly fondling by a trained medical professional.  I know people who've had breast cancer, I know I should check every month, just like I know I should eat more fruit and vegetables.  And, I plan to do those things... then I just don't.
Anyway, this Fall during one of my sporadic "Guess I'll feel myself up for the sake of early detection" moments, I felt something in my upper left breast.  My impulse was to jerk my hand away with the "Eeeeew" factor present and the immediate denial set it.  I assumed it was because I had just put the feminine supplies away for the month and that it would go away. I didn't tell anyone.  Not even my husband.
I don't know how often I checked it after that.  But, often, I would feel around to see if it was still there or if it had gone away.  After a couple of months I told my husband.  There was a nagging in the back of my mind about needing to get to the doctor and have it checked out.  And, there was also another voice in my mind telling me if I just ignored it, it would go away and/or I wouldn't have to face anything scary.  (I know the second voice is mentally challenged...  I know.)
Finally after about 4 months or so there started to be some tenderness in my breast and I decided that for the sake of my family, if nothing else, I needed to get this over with! 
So, I went to the doctor.  Keep in mind, it was a brand new doctor because I hadn't had a primary care physician in over 3 years.  I went in to become established as a patient, with my 3 year old in tow, thinking that they would probably schedule all the stuff I needed done, like my yearly hot date with Mr. Speculum.  But, I was wrong.  When they told me to strip down and put on a gown, I looked down at my three year old and thought about how traumatic and confusing it might be to watch a man - not her father - (Not that I would let her watch her father do this to me, either!) rub all over my breasts and fish around between my legs.  YIKES!
All I can say is thank God for iphones.  A Madeline movie in the corner kept her occupied as the Dr. felt of my breasts.   Right one checked out fine.  He started on the left and I could tell when he got to the lump.  AKA:  Nodule.  It hurt when he palpated it.  He continued in his circle and then tells me he found another one, lower.  He asked me about my menstrual cycle and if it seemed to have gotten bigger over the months.  His words were like honey to my soul, "Well, they don't seem to be worrisome, but given your family history, let's do an ultra sound just to be on the safe side."  I blew out a sigh of relief.  NOT WORRISOME was all I really got out of that statement.
He turned to the nurse to talk to her about scheduling an ultra sound and he said, "She has two nodules.  One at 2:00 and the other at about 5:00."  I found this very comical.  Apparently they label breasts like a clock.  My nodules are at 2:00 and 5:00! 
I went about my day in a pretty great mood.  I think it was such a relief to get that all scheduled and out of the way.  Plus, the Dr. didn't seem worried, so I was home free, right?  After a few days I started thinking.  What did I expect the Dr. to say?  Do doctors really ever say at this stage in the game, "You might have cancer.  Let's check it out."  I meant, it's a given that I might have cancer.  It took exactly 3 days for that realization to make it all the way to my brain.  I. COULD. HAVE. BREAST. CANCER.
I'm staying positive.  Don't get me wrong.  I never googled breast cancer (which is very unlike me!) until after I went to the doctor.  I am not assuming I have it or breaking down in to the depths of dispair at the very thought.  But, I'm being real with myself.  I have two lumps in my breast, which CAN BE a symptom of breast cancer.  So, somewhere in my mind is the realization that after I go in tomorrow for my ultra sound/mammogram, my life could change.  I did have a little episode last night after everyone was asleep and I couldn't sleep.  I did cry for the first time at the thought of it.  I think I'm allowed to be a little scared.  Not even so much for me, but for my family.  I'm the Momma!  If I get down, the whole family goes with me, and I don't want that! 
What I know is this:  God has me.  Whether I end up with a scary diagnosis or not, God is in control of the situation and I won't break down.  If I have to I'll stand up and I'll fight and however it all ends up, I'm victorious already.  My God has overcome this world.

So, here is my verse for this day of testing:
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

....Good news to be posted later!!  :-D