Friday, July 29, 2016

Two years ago today...

Oh my goodness, Ben and I just realized that I went in for my double mastectomy exactly two years ago today.

I feel like I've aged a lifetime since then.

I was sifting through pictures to find the above one, and I got a little emotional.  I was dancing at Ben's neice's wedding.  I was playing with my kids in Lake Chelan.  I was loving my new house.  I was gardening.  I was so vibrant.  So healthy.

So I thought.

As I progressed through those pictures, there's the above the picture, and then maybe a picture of a bouquet or two, and then.... nothing left in that summer folder on my desktop.

It was rough.

Not pictured are the demons I faced when my children were at sleepaway camp, Ben was already working in Bend, and my darling youngest was thousands of miles away.  My darling dog - my dear, sweet Pepito! - was adopted into a new, loving home.

And I was alone.  In the house I had hoped to grow old in.

There was so much loss, all at once - Ben's job, my cancer, Gage's autism diagnosis...

I think I'm still mourning in a lot of ways.  I miss my old, vibrant body.  I miss my extended family.  I miss my dog.  I'll never have feeling in my left upper arm, or anywhere on most of my torso, again.  I miss not having to wear compression.  I miss gardening.  I miss a house where we could really spread out.  I miss my Idaho friends.

However, also not pictured is the overwhelming outpouring of love and support I received from hundreds - I mean that literally - hundreds of people.  People I had only met eight months before.  People I grew up with. My family.  Acquaintances.  People very far away.  People next door.  They landscaped my yard and painted my house so that we could sell it.  They watched my kids.  My sister took my youngest to Chicago with her and provided life-changing intervention for him, being a caretaker for him for five whole months!  My parents took me into their home so that they could care for me during the darkest hours I would face.  I was surrounded, enveloped, in love.

Not pictured are the hours I spent suffering on the bathroom floor, the sopping wetness of my parents' poor guest bed from all the night sweats, the terror I felt as I watched my body disintegrate before my eyes.  Not pictured is the panic that arose when I was rushed to the hospital with neutropenia and dehydration.  Not pictured is the weird feeling you have when you're severely dehydrated - you get the feeling that people are trying to talk to you, begging you to drink, and you just don't care anymore.  Not pictured is the relief you see when you see a nice, full IV bag that's emptying into your body.  Not pictured is the strange burning you feel from deep inside after each chemo treatment - like a full-body blush.  The pain from the shot that pumps up your white blood cells to fight infection. The incessant disinfecting, sanitizing, praying that I won't get sick anymore.  The tear-filled FaceTime sessions with Ben and my kids.  My shoebox full of medications.

Not pictured are the hours I spent curled in a chair next to my parents' fireplace, gaining light and knowledge and warmth from my Heavenly Father.  Not pictured is the constant, continual love and support from family and friends that I received.  Not pictured was a perfect re-alignment of my priorities.  A life-changing re-alignment.  That's what happens when you face death.  Not pictured are the hours my dad stood in line in the frigid cold with Micah so that he could pet a reindeer.  Or the hours my mom and I spent giggling, crying, and watching Elizabeth Gaskell movies, joking that I really was becoming long-suffering, because I had been suffering for soooo long... The small road trips she, Micah, and I took to see southeast Idaho in all of its autumn glory.  The look in my dad's eyes whenever he came home from work and came straight to the couch to see how I was.  The hours he spent looking over my EOB's and paying my bills for me.  My mom stubbornly insisting upon taking my temperature, and me stubbornly avoiding it, because I didn't want it to be too high and have to go to the dang hospital again.  My mom advocating for me with doctors and nurses when I was too weak to talk. My friend, Megs, and I spending as much time together as humanly possible before I would have to move.  And the gifts!  Oh, all the gifts people brought me and sent me and gave me.  People are so good.  People are so good.  Not pictured is the lovely lady who gave me a chance to teach dance when I felt well enough, and how much that healed me every week.  How it gave me something to look forward to.

If there was a word to describe how I feel after two years, it's this:  grateful.  I'm grateful that Heavenly Father saw fit, in his infinite knowledge, to let me stay on this earth a little bit longer.  I had more work to do.   I'm so grateful for the perspective this experience has given to me.  All the little crap that used to bug me is not a big deal anymore.  I'm a little more patient than I was before.  A little more empathetic.  I hug my kids more.  I hug my husband more.  I watch more sunsets.  I laugh off things that used to offend me.  I've truly gone through a refiner's fire to become better.  Stronger.  And I'm grateful for that.

Plus, now I get a chance to use the word "abreast" in a double entendre as often as possible. Example: Today I texted one of my dance bosses to let him know I'd be missing a teacher's meeting while in Portland.  Then I said, "Be sure to keep me abreast of any information you discuss..."

His response, "Ha!" seemed to have a little discomfort behind it.  Which I love.  One of life's great pleasures is making men uncomfortable by talking about girl stuff.  Haha!

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