Adventures of the Flat and Infertile

PTEN, Cancer, and a Thing Called Hope

adventures of the flat

My next step in treatment is about to commence. Yes, the dreaded hysterectomy has been scheduled for next week.

Nothing like sitting in the waiting room of a gynecologist’s office to make you feel a bit conspicuous. Childless, flat, and there to schedule a hysterectomy.

When I met with the doctor and had my initial exam, I was somewhat surprised to find out that I wouldn’t be able to have a laparoscopic hysterectomy due to my size, fair skin, and lack of childbearing.

Who knew that being a petite, redheaded woman with breast cancer and no history of childbirth would be a drawback when it came to this surgery?

I will be undergoing a full abdominal hysterectomy, with the one large incision on my abdomen. The average hospital stay is about two days, with recovery about six weeks.

Honestly, I’m dreading this surgery, but I’m ready to have it done…

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Small Rebellions

small rebellions

During a recent discussion with my dad, we were reminiscing a bit, and he admitted that I was probably the easiest child to raise. I rarely rebelled and tried my hardest to excel in school.

When you live in a small town, though, and your father is the head of your school…well, rebellion generally isn’t on the menu.

However, sometimes girl nerds have to do their own thing. And back in 1989, that was attending the premiere showing of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

What was the problem with that, you ask? Well, I had a BIG geometry test the next day. Pressure, pressure. Still, I had been studying for the test for at least a week, and I really, really wanted to see the latest Indiana Jones film before everyone else.

My parents let me go, but I knew that I must do well on the test the next day.

That night was perhaps one of the best memories from my teenage years. I and another fangirl friend went to the movie alone and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute.

Even before the movie started, we had a surprise visit from the actor who played the scout master in the film; he talked for a bit and shared his experience in being part of such a big movie. We were thrilled to hear from someone who was actually there, someone who played a part in the latest Indiana Jones film.

That night I barely slept. It was the first movie premiere that I had ever attended, and I was ecstatic. I lay in bed replaying all of the scenes from the film in my mind and humming the theme song. Little sleep, but it didn’t matter.

My friend and I enjoyed bragging the next day about how we had attended the movie premiere and giggled about the humorous bits that only we could share. The nerd girls finally had something that the others didn’t.

And you know what? I still aced the geometry test.

Mother’s Day and Breast Cancer

Source: Mother’s Day and Breast Cancer

Mother's day cancer

My mother died in 1999 after a recurrence of breast cancer.

With little information at the time–no internet, only the beginnings of patient rights–we didn’t recognize the signs of a recurrence until it was too late. Her behavior began to change over time, showing signs of recklessness and forgetfulness. And then she suddenly had trouble walking, having collapsed at home.

Doctors in the ER informed my father that a scan revealed tumors along her spine. She was released home with pain medication, but little else to do as far as next steps. Her extreme reaction to chemotherapy in 1992 precluded any more chemo treatment for the recurrence, and so we were left with pain management and the awareness that her time with us would be limited.

After a call from my father, I drove home from college. She died the next morning on our couch.

Since then, I have regularly avoided going out on Mother’s Day, and that now includes social media as well. People say that the pain and loss of losing your mother–or any other family member, for that matter–lessens over time, but I believe it is more your learning to live with the loss.

And now this year, I have breast cancer yet again. The same cancer that killed my mother so long ago.

I am finding this day to be more difficult than I expected. My flat chest, many medications, and constant pain only serve to remind me of my mother in the most horrible way, that of a shared illness and possible death. And the celebrations that litter my Facebook stream only enhance that awareness.

My mother was loving but a rather complicated woman in that she had a misdiagnosed mental illness. If she had lived longer, she might have been able to receive the treatment that she needed. I know that she did the best she could considering her struggles, and I will honor her for that.

But I cannot join in on the celebration of this holiday, especially this year. I loved my mother despite everything, and the pain of her loss is still too great even after all these years.

If this is the first Mother’s Day that you face alone, please know that my heart and prayers are with you.

The Defiant Cat

defiant cat

It’s hard to believe that it will soon be a year since we rescued Volta and his brother, Ampere.

I suppose it was fate that brought us together that night. My cancer diagnosis was still new, and the surgery to implant my port was just a few days away. So we went for an evening drive to play Ingress and Pokemon Go, just to escape the badness that had only begun.

We found these two hot and scared little kittens in the middle of the park that night. Volta, small and yet brave, stood in the middle of the street, meowing for help. My husband scooped him up even as we heard the pitiful cries from his brother echoing in the storm drain.

A car drove by several times and parked farther up the street, watching us as we struggled to coax Ampere out of the darkness. Finally, finally, they were safe with us.

Since then, strong, sparky Volta has grown into a defiant cat, ruling the roost, so to speak. He loves to dominate and annoy the other cats, caring little when he is disciplined for his behavior.

Volta has matured and mellowed a bit over the past year, but he is certainly obstinate.

He reminds me of a feral cat who had a run-in with our little Anakin so many years ago. So that Anakin could survey our fenced-in yard at our old house, my husband had placed a chair in the middle of the yard. Anakin would sit on that chair, happily enjoying the sunshine.

One afternoon, however, I heard Anakin barking angrily. I ran outside to find that feral cat–obviously a tom who paid little attention to dogs or man–sitting defiantly on Anakin’s chair. The cat ignored Anakin’s barking, really seeming to relish the fact that he was disturbing our Shih-tzu.

I shooed the cat away so that Anakin could have some peace, but I had to admire the strength of that cat.

And now we have our own defiant cat, one who tests our patience each and every day. Although he often disrupts the quiet in our household, I’m not sure how we ever lived without him.

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Having cancer wasn’t part of my plans. And having cancer a second time?

Fuhgeddaboudit.

Indeed, cancer is like a thief who arrives suddenly, stealing all of the things you hold dear. He then decides to stick around, drinking coffee with you each morning and lying beside you at night. If a bit of goodness comes your way, he’s always ready to snatch it away.

Eventually, as the months have passed, I can’t even recognize myself in the mirror. Body and soul, I have changed.

But there is that grasping onto the past, all of those dreams and plans that I had. Having lost control of my body and life, I want my old self back. That self who could walk without pain. That person who could easily work ten hours per day. Someone who could spend hours reading and then suddenly get the urge to write.

Now things have changed. I have changed.

Reading Wonderlife by Mike Foster, I find a quote to ponder:

“God can’t change who we’re becoming until we let go of who we were.” –Bob Goff

That’s my challenge at this point. Accept how my life has changed–how I have changed–and mourn for what I have lost. And then move forward.

 

 

 

The Little Things

little-thingsHonestly, I’ve been struggling this past month or so.

It often seems like the days just drift by, with those around me bustling to work and fulfilling goals and stressing about life in general. Outside of it all, I watch them hustle and wish that I were still part of all of that stress.

Weird, huh? But it’s true.

When you’re in the midst of regular life, it is all a bit overwhelming, and a break is welcomed. When a serious illness–or other calamity–holds you down, however, things change. The regular falls away, leaving little but the illness.

Days are filled with doctors’ appointments, worrying about scan results, dealing with side effects of treatment, etc. Life becomes simply about trying to maintain a failing body. And that can be disheartening.

So I’ve been trying to count three good things that happen each day. Perhaps it’s that my husband and I were able to go for a walk today. Or I saw the first robin of the season. Little things.

In Katie Ganshert‘s upcoming novel, Life After, one of the characters, Anna, states:

“I guess that’s what life is, though, isn’t it? A whole bunch of little moments that don’t seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back…They become the most profoundly beautiful things.”

Maybe that’s my lesson to be learned and lived out for right now.

If I had my druthers, this cancer would have never happened. I would still have a job and wouldn’t be scarred and wrecked physically. My days would be all about the hustle and bustle of regular life.

Really, really honest, though…If that were the case, I probably would miss the little things because I would be distracted by all the rest.

Cancer takes away pretty much everything when it comes into your life. With all of that empty space and time left behind, however, there’s the opportunity to see those blessings in each day and cherish the little moments that make up our lives. Because one of these days, I may be able to look back and smile.

What We Bring to the Table

what-we-bring-to-the-tableRecently we had a couple of friends over for dinner. In the past, I might have made something special for their visit. Pecan Sandies or even homemade ice cream. But this time? I baked a pie fresh from the freezer.

The pie was good, if a little crumbly, but a part of me felt a bit bad about it. Sure, I’m going through cancer treatment, but still…

I suppose the question in the uppermost part of my life at the moment is what do I bring to the table?

Until recently, I could have answered that question easily. I worked and cleaned and blogged. I was a wife and mother of fur babies. I had a place and a purpose.

Now most of that part of my identity has fallen away. Cancer has taken my job and my sexuality. And even doing the most simple things, such as paying a bill or fixing dinner, can be quite an accomplishment. Blogging too has been more sporadic as the pain from the treatments has increased.

As the prognosis for my cancer has become worse and worse, I have struggled with my faith more and more. The comfort that is so often spoken about among Christians seemed far away. And with each loss, I wondered why all of this was happening.

Reading the upcoming book from Katie Ganshert, Life After, I could so relate to Autumn’s crisis of faith depicted in the book. Looking back on the traumatic event that had changed her life, she asked questions similar to mine. At one point, though, she thinks,

“Maybe comfort wasn’t to be found in the why.

Maybe comfort was to be found in the who.

A God who wept.”

I suppose I realized that night as we ate the crumbly pie that my life has changed dramatically and that I may never be able to do things I once accomplished with ease.

But perhaps I still have something to bring to the table, even if it’s a frozen pie. And blog posts that come less often but are maybe just a bit more meaningful. Days that aren’t centered around a work schedule, but about communicating with family.

In the novel, Autumn goes on to conclude,

“Maybe it was time to stop trying to make the puzzle pieces fit. Maybe it was time to let go of the why and remember the Who.”

I may never understand the why of all of this, but I’ve got to move on, keep trying to bring something to the table, even if it’s not what I would have wanted. Letting go of the why is what I need.

That and some time to remember the God who cares and comforts, the God who understands our struggles.