Awhile back, when my doctor scheduled my reconstruction surgery date for December 6th, one of my very funny friends (who shall remain anonymous) said, “Now you can say ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teet.'” First of all, no one has EVER accused my friends of being vanilla. Secondly, the rule of ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ applies in this case. But here I am now – with Christmas around the corner – and I finally do have my two new front teet. And while I may not shout my friend’s poignant phrase from the rooftops, it really is all I want for Christmas. Because to me that means I’m cancer free and (Lord willing) finished with this crazy journey that is breast cancer. Thank you Lord Jesus.
Not to be outdone by my friends, my husband brought home these from the store a few days after surgery.
I’m not sure if the Tom Thumb worker just thought it would be funny to package grapefruit in such a way, or if someone really is that oblivious. Either way, I want to meet the person who thought this was a good idea and slid it past the produce manager.
With all these jokesters around it’s sometimes difficult to remember that I actually just had surgery. Thankfully, my most recent surgery (reconstruction) was the easiest one by far. I can’t determine if it’s just because I’ve done this so many times now, or if it really was that simple. I’m thinking it’s the latter. My sister and I didn’t even have to think twice about what to wear in pre-op. #weareprosnow
Seriously, though, I was literally up and around the day after surgery as if not much had even happened. Yes, I was sore. Yes, I was bandaged up. Yes, I had two drains (you read that right – TWO MORE DRAINS – shoot me now). But the pain was so minimal and really the only inconvenience was having to sleep on my back again for a few nights. (Luckily, I remembered how to do this from my post mastectomy days.) It was like deja vu all over again without all of the pain and discomfort.
Another deja vu moment happened when I took off the bandages this time around. I kept telling my friends I didn’t want to take them off because what was underneath was there to stay and I feared I may be disappointed. Before now, I knew that I would undergo a series of surgeries, therefore nothing was permanent. But NOW I knew that I was about to cross the finish line and there was no restarting the race. Thankfully, my plastic surgeon is a miracle worker in the truest sense of the word. Without getting too weird (too late, you say?!), everything looked as if it’s always been there. I marvel at modern medicine and want to break down and cry when I think about how these surgeons can create something so natural & feminine that cancer wanted to ultimately destroy.
Stephanie and I were in Dr. Potter’s office for my check up a few days after surgery (he is also Stephanie’s surgeon), and I told him how grateful I was for this gift. There are no amount of words that describe feeling “normal” again after having something so horrendous happen to your body. Steph and I agreed that Dr. P got a little verklempt when we were thanking him. Either that, or he had tears of joy that this dynamic duo wouldn’t be visiting his office every other week in tandem. Regardless, I like to think his compassion matches his talent and he was truly touched by our gratitude.
Most of my days since surgery have been spent getting ready for Christmas, helping my boys study for finals (they tell me I’m only good at coming up with funny acronyms, though – beyond that they enlist the help of their dad), and watching my kids play sports. I’ve said this before, but I will never take for granted being able to sit in the bleachers and have my ONLY care be if my kid has good sportsmanship. What a gift. (It also helps tremendously if you get to sit through approximately 6 basketball games with a friend by your side, however).
Ahhhh my kids. A lot of you have asked how they have dealt with this whole cancer thing. Truthfully, I don’t know how to answer that. They are boys. And with boys, sometimes all you get is an extra pat on the shoulder or one less complaint about carrying in the groceries. I often think of my friends with girls during these times, and imagine adorable homemade cards or decorated houses in celebration of the finale. Not that I want or need these things, but big events like this highlight the chasm between the sexes if you will. The tradeoff is zero drama and a quiet house, though, which I have grown to love and appreciate through the years. Unfortunately for boys and girls alike who are directly affected by this disease, the word ‘cancer’ is all too common. It’s inadvertently woven through the fabric of conversation and becomes as normal as words like ‘school’ or ‘lunch’. They hear it in the car, on the phone, over dinner, etc. In fact, Stephanie caught her kindergartner singing in the car the other day, ‘You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Cancer…” Yep, that about sums it up.
I will say, however, that my boys have witnessed the kindness of strangers and the love of friends in SPADES this year. They have also seen Trevor and me depending on the Lord like we never have before. And I know in my heart of hearts they will be better for it. That, plus they now have no qualms about talking about the female anatomy. In fact, do you know what kind of bees get scared often? BOO BEES (courtesy of a certain Kraus boy). In all seriousness, though, I have noticed that all three boys have been extra kind and loving since my last surgery. It’s as if they now feel confident enough that I’m going to be okay so they are free to love again. And there’s no better feeling that that.
My next doctor’s appointments are in January, where I will have follow ups with Dr. Grant and Dr. Potter. I will also finally have the skin cancer removed from my leg on January 18th. Hopefully after that, I won’t see the inside of a doctor’s office for quite some time!
In closing, I want to say that while I am beyond thrilled to have all of this behind me, my heart aches for those still fighting this dreaded disease. Not surprisingly, I have grown close to many undergoing treatments during my same timeframe. It’s hard to explain, but you become part of a little club while in battle. There is a certain tenderness towards your fellow soldiers, and a camaraderie that is second to none. After my surgery, I almost felt like I walked out on the club. And yes, in this case, that’s something to celebrate. But I’m forever changed, and I want my fellow cancer fighters to know that I will continue to fight with and for you until we are ALL out of this club! (Ladies, I feel compelled to encourage you to go get a 3D mammogram if you haven’t already. We need more stories with good endings!!!)
This Christmas will be a very special one for our family, as you can imagine. But I pray that it is a special one for your family as well. The very best gift of all is the opportunity to have a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Don’t wait until something challenging in your life happens before you take advantage of this one. Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! I hope you get all YOU ever wanted…I know I did. 😉
Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,
PS: A HUGE thank you to the Sewall family for carting Hayes around AGAIN. I couldn’t do this without you! And to my sweet Bible study girls…I love you more than words and appreciate all of the delicious meals. And lastly, thank you to my sweet front porch friends who gift me often as well as the thoughtful friends who have sent me little surprises in the mail. I AM SO GRATEFUL.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “ Isaiah 9:6