Today was a banner day. I have finally turned the corner and am feeling somewhat like a human being. And it feels AMAZING. I had a much harder time dealing with the side effects of surgery (I’ll spare you the details) than I had anticipated, so today was a huge gift. Thank you so much for all of your prayers, as I truly do feel them.
In the last 17 days, I can count on ONE HAND the times I’ve gotten out of my pajamas (and maybe even my bed). And before you make the mistake of thinking that sounds like a VACATION, let me assure you it was anything but. Yes, my epic slumber party might have been filled with multiple viewings of ‘The Proposal’ and ‘Friends’ reruns, however it was also filled with extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, sleeping ONLY on my back, headaches, burning chest, sleeplessness, achy muscles, etc.
And all of that is something even Ryan Reynolds can’t fix.
On second thought…
But today. TODAY. I got up, took a bath, got dressed and even put on mascara. I didn’t even recognize myself. This is what my kids and dog did when I walked in the kitchen.
Then Trevor called and asked if I wanted to have lunch before my first appointment with the oncologist, Dr. O’ Shaughnessy, today at 3:30pm. (You might remember I’ve already seen the surgical oncologist, Dr. Grant, and the plastic surgeon, Dr. Potter prior to this, but this my first visit with the oncologist. Confused yet? Me too.) I surprised myself and everyone else when I said YES to lunch.
Trevor and I took our youngest son, Hayes, to eat and I couldn’t believe how great it felt to be out among real people. When you’ve been participating in a perpetual slumber party for the past few weeks, it feels so foreign to be in the land of the living. I didn’t even miss Rachel, Phoebe or Monica.
After lunch, we came home and met my sisters, Jennifer and Ashley, and my mom to go to my appointment. Unfortunately, my dad is still sick with a horrible cough, so he didn’t join us. We left for Baylor and arrived a WEE BIT EARLY for my appointment. I can’t help that I married a man that gets us to the airport 4 hours before take off…just in case. I started feeling a little shaky (emotionally) when we got out of the car and headed to the 4th floor of the very familiar Sammons building. I cannot count the times over the past few years that I’ve pulled into that circle drive with Jen. (But I can promise you it’s more than the times I’ve washed my hair lately.) Seriously, though, there was an odd comfort in knowing my way around, but also a real sadness in arriving without my friend to the same place that treated her so well for so long.
We got off the elevator on the 4th floor and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. Like RIGHT THERE in that space where all of the elevators meet. It took my breath away to look at the double glass doors ahead knowing it was actually me that was about to check in as the patient. Trevor reached out and held me for a minute until I regained composure. Then I walked in to the waiting room and saw the most beautiful familiar face of Michelle, the woman who is a constant behind the desk. She looked puzzled to see me, so I explained why I was there in a very unsteady voice. She kept reassuring me that, ‘honey, we are going to do this and it’s going to be okay’. She then got up from behind the desk and walked all the way around for a huge bear hug. Well, how can a girl stay dry after that?! She whispered in my ear that ‘God is good and He is strong. He’s got this.’. And in that moment, I began to understand why the Lord had led me back to Baylor. As my friend Angela pointed out, Jennifer had forged so many relationships there and I was now the benefactor of her relational investment. How Great Thou Art. Seriously.
I filled out a mountain of paperwork as my family and I dreamed up ways to streamline that dreadful process. If only Mr. Wonderful, Robert Herjavec, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban would have been there. Finally I was called back for my appointment. Trevor and I weren’t 5 steps in before I spotted Jennifer’s former nurse, Christina. She came over and we just gave each other that look. The one that says ‘I’m so happy to see you but I cannot even believe we are here’. We hugged and caught up while my poor nurse was trying to ask me all kinds of questions and take my blood pressure. Our timing was way off but we couldn’t help ourselves. Christina even came into the exam room while the nurse was doing her intake. And if that wasn’t enough, another sweet nurse, Elena, came in the room and said hello as well. It was like a little party and I had not even changed into my gown yet. While we were mid sentence, there was a knock at the door. And then entered Dr. O’ Shaughnessy. She was so cute about asking if she was missing something as everyone was so jovial and familiar. Christina explained the connection with Jen and Dr. Osborne (Jen’s oncologist), and I will never forget the way Dr. O’ Shaughnessy looked at me after that. She had such sincere compassion in her eyes. (She was familiar with Jen’s case as they all work together in the same practice and share case studies with one another.) I knew right then that God had answered ALL of our prayers for me to find just the right team of doctors for my journey.
After a quick physical examination, my family came in and we all got to hear the wonderful news. Dr. O (which is what I’ll call her for now although it’s weird because we also called Jen’s doctor, Dr. Osborne, ‘Dr. O’; that, and the fact that I feel very insecure every single time I type ‘Shaughnessy’ for fear of misspelling it) sat beside me and went through my full pathology report after surgery. She said over and over again how ‘favorable’ my report was and that she feels like it’s the best of the worst. Can I get an AMEN?! Then Elena (who is now MY nurse!) came in and reiterated the same great news. PRAISE THE LORD. The next step is to send off tissue samples to a lab in California for something called an Oncotype. An Oncotype is a proliferation score that tells us how quickly the cells are multiplying. If this score comes back at an 18 or under, I will simply start an estrogen blocker medication, Tamoxifen, and take that for up to 5 years. If the score is higher than 20, I will do chemo but only for 4 times (she called it chemo ‘light’ relative to all the other chemos). Then I will be done barring any recurrence. DONE. Cheers to that!
Trevor may or may not have teared up after hearing the fantastic news. Why? Because cancer is all around us. And receiving even one smidgen of positive news can bring you to tears. One of my very best childhood friends, Susan, just recently found out her husband Patrick has stage 4 glioblastoma (brain cancer). And one of Trevor’s childhood best friends, Brandon, found out his wife Kay has stage 4 non hodgkins lymphoma. Another precious family I grew up with at church is coming up on the first anniversary of their daughter, Laura’s, death from breast cancer this Sunday. And of course, there’s Jen.
I realize Trevor and I aren’t unique in being touched by this horrible disease. I’m sure you all have stories that have broken your heart as well. But there is a beauty in sharing stories. A strength in numbers if you will. And to receive good news seems much much sweeter in light of all that surrounds us. Your arms feel as if they are literally wrapping around and squeezing the word gratitude. Yet simultaneously there is a deep tenderness for those who may not have good news, or may not have the ending they desired. It’s the epitome of experiencing the emotional gamut. That’s why Trevor teared up. He gets it, and so do I.
God is the reason for our joy and the comforter of our pain. He walks every step of the road with us and never ever leaves us. If there is one message I could convey throughout this journey, I pray it is that. I heard a quote one time that I have to rehearse in my head about 3 times before I ever recite it. But it is worth it. “Don’t wait until God is all you have to realize he is all you need.” Truer words were never spoken. Enjoy your good health if you are blessed with it. Love your people well every single day. And never take for granted your ability to run even the simplest of errands without asking for help (did I mention I cannot drive yet?!). It is truly a privilege and a gift.
I love you all and appreciate you following along with me. Oh, and I assure you the next time I have a slumber party devoid of headaches and nausea (but full of Ryan Reynolds), you are all invited.
Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count!
PS: Trevor took a picture of my sisters, mom and I in the exam room that I planned on including in this post. But on the way home, Ashley looked at it and said, ‘Gosh we are really wrinkly.’ To which I replied, ‘I know, that lighting was HARSH.’ And she said, ‘I meant our clothes.’ So next time we will try to iron our
faces shirts so I can show off my support team.