For You, I Give You My Life
I've been struggling a little bit figuring out exactly what to share of what's been going on in my life. When I started Killing It Friday, the world was a much more stable place. It felt ok to dive into this world of cancer treatment and survivorship because there was more balance in the world in general. I told one of my oncology nurses this week that the world used to be my escape. I would deal with what I had to do and then easily find some joy in the world outside of cancer to distract me from the pain and worry that I was experiencing. Now, my pain and worry continues, but so does all of yours. I don't like adding fuel to an already blazing fire, but I had to remind myself of my "why". I started this blog to be a voice to others on unfortunately similar paths, but also as a love letter to my children. They do not read my blog, yet, but someday when they do, I hope they see a woman who loved them fiercely. Someone who fought with every bit of her being to be able to tuck them in at night and chase away the demons they encounter. With that said, I feel this part of my story is something worth telling...
About four years ago to the day, I came home from an emotional day of tests/scans as I had just found out that I had cancer. That day was brutal. It was as if I was caught in the middle of a storm that I had no idea was even coming. The very last moment at the Cancer Center on that long, horrific day, the doctor told me she knew I wasn't Stage 0 and I very well could be Stage 4. Those of you who frequent my blog, know that I speak of this moment quite often. I usually talk about the mindset switch I had to make that night. The one that probably saved my life. I had decided I could wallow in this dark, black pit of sorrow and fear OR I could show up for myself with as much grace, love and determination as I could muster. I did that. Somehow, someway. The part of the story that I have kept quiet for so long, however, is the part where my beautiful mom gifted me her life. At this point in time, we knew my mom was having some health issues, but we didn't know exactly what was going on. She saw how much pain I was in and she understood the horror I was feeling of maybe never seeing my kids grow up....or accepting the idea that my then three year old would, perhaps, not ever know me. We were standing in my living room after just getting back home from Sioux Falls, the kids excitedly buzzing around. Mom turned to me and said, "If I could give you what is left of my life to save yours, I would." I memorized that phrase and I have played it over and over in my mind since that day. I really did want someone to save me....but I never wanted anyone, especially my mom, to suffer because of it. I have harbored so much guilt the last four years because I have felt like since that declaration, mom's health has severely declined. Her Alzheimer's has taken bits of her away, although I continue to hold onto her for dear life.
Almost two weeks ago, I picked up my son from school and rushed him to the ER. He had broken his arm at recess playing football and he needed immediate medical attention. My brave little boy endured hours in the emergency room only to be given a splint and referred to an orthopedic doctor to be seen the next day. The two of us went to that visit expecting to be given the right cast for his type of injury. In some crazy twist of fate, the doctor told us that he needs to see a specialist in Iowa City due to the tumor in his arm at the site of the break. Holy, freaking hell. He paraded us over to the nurses station to view the x-ray. I had my Terms of Endearment moment where the mom is yelling "give my daughter the shot!!!" only for me, I literally held my hand up and shouted "Stop. You can't use a word like that so flippantly with us. What are you even talking about? " We had no idea anything was out of the ordinary. When a doctor walks in and starts talking "tumor" when my Stage 3 life is front and center, well, this doesn't sit well. I was questioning him and pushing for more explanation and initially he told me to just go to the ER in Iowa City and tell them I need to see an orthopedic oncologist. With tears in my eyes I told him to do better. This wasn't good enough and if this is healthcare in this country then it is total shit....sorry, not sorry. In my Shirley Maclaine type rant, with at least six to eight nurses staring at me, he sent us back to the exam room to wait while he made some calls. My world was literally crumbling and at this moment, I looked into the teary eyes of a very frightened ten year old boy who's world had already been rocked by cancer. He said to me, "Mom, I"m really scared". The daggers I felt in my heart hurt like nothing ever has before. Instincts kicked in and within seconds I pulled myself together, put my hands on his sweet red cheeks and told him "You're fine. We're fine. I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you. Mommy will take care of it". His trusting eyes met my determined eyes. My only job was/is to take care of this beautiful soul that I brought into this world. I had two sleepless nights that I seriously ended up locking myself in my closet for a few hours around the 3am mark to just cry, plead and pray that he would be ok. I found myself uttering similar words with the same intent that my mom once said for me. "Please let him be ok. I will take on whatever if it means that he can be ok. Just let my baby be ok". A whirlwind 10 hours in the car, three hours with the orthopedic oncologist, we walked away with a benign tumor that will be watched closely and a new Husker Red cast that was, I have to add, put on in Iowa Hawkeye Country (wink).
Huge sigh of relief, but the story doesn't end there. Four days before "the break", I had a routine oncology visit that was not routine by any means. My liver enzymes were quite irregular, so my team decided some scans were needed to make sure that my liver didn't have anything suspicious going on. The day I was due for these scans, I was on the road to Iowa City for my son, so we had to reschedule. On Monday of this week, I showed up bright and early for my scans. I had a bone scan and CT of my abdomen. The good news, is that my liver and organs are looking good. Whew. The bad news is, there was a spot on my lower spine that looked suspicious. My options were to wait until January to do an MRI (I can't have one now due to the expander that is placed in my left breast, ready to be swapped for an implant on December 30th) or proceed with a CT of my spine. I went ahead with the CT yesterday to hopefully get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately, the spot was very visible on the CT as well. Per my oncologist, it is a 50/50 type situation. It could be arthritis, an injury of some sort or wear and tear from all of my running. The best case scenario it is nothing and was just picked up by a scan because let's face it, I"m being looked at from under a microscope. Most people don't live this way! Worst case scenario, I'm looking at contained metastatic breast cancer to one location of my spine and I will need radiation and ongoing drug treatment. It's a lot to take in and a lot to try to process. Tomorrow I go in for a biopsy of my spine. Not really the itinerary I had imagined just before Christmas. As I think about so much of what has happened in the last four years and just this week, I can see that the world, universe, God, whatever...there is an underlying message that I've had a hard time seeing, accepting or really understanding until now. All of this guilt that I've been feeling for how my mom so courageously and instinctively offered me her life, I did the same thing for my son. I would do the same for any of my children. Her offering wasn't tied up in a lot of guilt, it was tied up in more love than you could ever imagine. I remember when I was a kid, I had a bible verse that for some reason resonated with me and I had it taped up to my mirror. It was from John 15:13. It reads: "There is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends". I am in no way throwing the bible at anyone, because again, if you have been following my story you know I have no idea how to navigate the religious aspect of my journey....yet. BUT, for whatever reason, this came to me and it brings me some sort of peace. I know what it means to love in a way that I would give my life to another and I also know what it's like to BE loved so unconditionally that someone would offer their life for me. I need to let go of the guilt and embrace what a huge blessing this truly is.
I do hope I'm ok and it isn't an eye for an eye type of situation. I can't imagine faith, God, angels, whatever/whoever works that way...I hope not, anyway. I also know that I am capable of enduring an awful lot if it means being here longer to breathe more life and love into the people and circumstances I care about. I am here, now, once again, asking for help. I really could use some prayers, good vibes, anything. This is only the second time I've asked for this because you know it is not easy for me to 1) ask for help in the first place or 2) believe that my own prayers are even being heard. I do think that even if we don't have the power to change my situation, we might have the power to make it a burden that I won't be facing alone. No matter what, today I am ok. I am here and I am still kicking! I thank you all for the unconditional love and support you have given me and continue to show. One day soon, the world and I, will be a little less dark.
Until then....your wings, my wings, our wings. Much love-M
A Winter Solstice Blessing
May you find peace in the
promise of the solstice night,
That each day forward is
blessed with more light.
That the cycle of nature,
unbroken and true,
Brings faith to your soul
and well-being to you.
Rejoice in the darkness,
in the silence find rest,
And may the days that follow
be abundantly blessed.
For Mom https://youtu.be/_NRdA0ST4Zg