"I have cancer." The minute you let yourself absorb those words, your life changes. What had been important yesterday, is either more important today or less. Family and friends are definitely the more important, rather you can get a dye on your hair or not really doesn't matter any more. You just hope you will at some time end up with hair again.
I have heard some say that chemotherapy didn't bother them. I wasn't one of that group. From the minute I took my four steroid pills the day before chemo and got severe migraine headaches, chemo played havoc with me. The headaches would come first. I was given pain medication for the headaches and they proceeded to make me sick at my stomach. I was given nausea medicine to counteract the pain meds and the nausea medication proceeded to give me more headaches. I had developed an infection in my left breast which required my taking antibiotics which created yeast infection. I do not need to explain the scourge of yeast infection as most women have suffered from it. Needless to say, it is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy.
I would lay on my bed, with my plastic garbage can close at hand to vomit in. My darling daughters, and daughter-in-law and sister were never far away bringing me ice packs for my aching head, carbonated sodas to dry and still my stomach, ice water to try and keep me hydrated, oatmeal and dry toast. This would last for about two weeks. Going into the third week after chemo, I would start feeling pretty good. Hope was renewed that I was in fact not going to die with my head in a garbage can. I felt a little more energy seep into me and was able to get out of bed and at least put dishes in the dish washer. Of course, that period would only last a week until I received my next dose of chemo an would start all over again.
I was told my hair would start falling out the third week after my first chemo treatment, and as if on a tight time schedule, that is exactly when it did. My daughters and son had taken me to San Diego for a few days during my one week of feeling good. I showered and washed my hair to find it falling out in my hands. It was strange. It's not like losing a few strands here and there that usually accumulate in the bottom of the tub or on the shower stall. It was handfuls of hair. It was like pulling weeds after a soaking rain storm. I used a comb and very, very carefully tried to assemble it without combing it all out. Rainee had bought me two wide-brim hats so they came in very handy in trying to hide what was going on beneath. The day we got back home, Shannon took me to Diane's Wigs and I had my head shaved. I did not want my hair laying all over the house and I knew if I didn't get it cut off, that would be what would happen. I bought a wig and several scarves to wear. A person has two choices in life. You can either find something funny or you can find something miserable. My "hair situation" has been the bunt of many a joke between my children. My son Mark awoke from a nap in his recliner and he had a hair style quite associated with Alfalfa on the Little Rascals. I told him I liked his hair-do and he responded with "Well at least I have hair." Rainee has told me not to use her shampoo and conditioner and Dawna my daughter-in-law asked if I carry hairspray in my purse. It's the Whiting way of handling life and this way has seen me through many tough times. I love my kids and their warped sense of humors.
On July 5, 2014, with the help of some old friends, I attended our 50th high school reunion. What fun it was sitting with a group of women that had been my friends throughout my life. I think when one suffers a life threatening disease, it puts everything into perspective. You appreciate more and find less to ridicule. Petty things suddenly find their place at the bottom of the pile.
On July 6, 2014 I awoke and was unable to get out of bed. I couldn't move to the left, nor to the right. I called Mark who came in and helped me get out of bed and then took me to the emergency room at American Fork hospital. It was determined through a CT scan I had some ruptured vertebrae. The scan detected a light spot on my spine and the ER doctor suggested I have a PET Scan done. With a PET scan, your blood sugar is tested when you go in, then you are given a drink of sugar based liquid. Evidently, cancer likes sugar. If there is cancer, it attacks the sugar showing up in the scan. The report was sent to my oncologist and she said it didn't show anything alarming. I took the maximum amount of ibuprofen to try and get the inflammation out of my back along with a muscle relaxant when I went to bed. My back seemed to get worse.
I went to an orthopedic surgeon to see what could be done. After an X-ray he asked me "How did you hurt your back so bad?" (Apparently, I had five ruptured discs.) I told him I haven't fallen, I haven't been in an accident and I don't know how I hurt my back as bad as it was hurt. I told him I had lifted an air conditioner and pushed a tire into the tire well in the back of my car, but he told me that wouldn't have caused the damage that I had. He suggested I have an MRI to see if I had cancer in my back. I was scheduled for another lumpectomy three days later, on September 3, 2014 so they scheduled the MRI for Friday, September 5, 2014.
The lumpectomy went off without a problem. Rainee took me to the University of Utah Clinic located in Day Break. Lola met us there. Dr. Poretta removed a lump the size of a golf ball, cleaned out scar tissue that had accumulated since the original lumpectomy and cleaned the border of the original incision that had indicated there might still be cancer. All in all, I felt like an egg beater had been put inside of me and turned on high.
Mark and Dawna brought me over a feather tic mattress to fit on my bed. It made sleeping much more comfortable.
Friday I went in for the MRI. I spent two hours in the tube having my upper and lower back checked out for bone cancer and then waited anxiously through the weekend waiting for the results. On Monday, I received wonderful news. My back was cancer free, and so was the second lump removed by Dr. Poretta. I am cancer free! I need to have radiation treatment that will last between 3-6 weeks, and I need to decide what to do about my back, but as of today September 9, 2014, I am on my way back to healthy.
The God I believe in doesn't pick and choose from the prayers sent His way. He doesn't make the choice to save some of his children from cancer while having others die from the same disease. With that thought, why then did I get breast cancer. Why do I get to live? There has been no history of breast cancer in my family. My mother and six sisters did not have breast cancer, so why me. I only know that my experience with this disease has made me more aware, more compassionate, more caring towards others that suffer cancer and chemo and the side effects. It made me cry for the woman I met sitting in a chemo chair who had stage 4 breast cancer. It made me cry for my daughter's friend who's little granddaughter has liver cancer. I have been blessed throughout my life with a minimum of health issues. I don't think I truly appreciated feeling good. As I write this, my feet and part of my legs, along with my fingers suffer neuropathy. It is a result of the chemo that causes numbness and pain. I don't know how long it will last, or if it's something I will just need to deal with for life. I recall my sweet husband in the last weeks of his life. His legs were so swollen and were constantly cold and painful. I would put towels in the oven and heat them to wrap around his legs to try and warm them. As I crawled into bed last night, my feet were so cold (but not on the outside, only inside) and I thought of Danny. I appreciated all he went through with his illness, thankful to have been able to help him when I could, and regret any impatience I showed him when I shouldn't. I admire the strength he showed. He didn't give up. He didn't give in. Until the day he died, he was still "doing".
Having cancer has made me rely on others. I have always been one who didn't want to ask of people. Having cancer released me from that pride. I couldn't have done and faced what I did without the help and support of my children and my sister.
Why did I get cancer? It was a lesson to be learned; a tool to teach me with. It wasn't suppose to kill me. It was to help me live more fully.
Now, if I just don't get Alzheimer's Disease and forget the lessons learned during this year.