Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recovery Time

October was the month I had a break from my treatments to rebound and gain strength for surgery. Flu season came early this year. Having a weak immune system and young children, it was a bit of a challenge dodging the flu bullet. Surgery got postponed as I did end up with a sinus infection. I was concerned as my oldest was ill the previous week. I am a mother first and ill with cancer second. Nothing stopped me from caring for my sick son, even when my own white blood counts were so low that I couldn’t sit and hug him. I remained at home avoiding public places and my family was diligent about washing hands. My bigger fear was becoming seriously ill during a vulnerable time.
I am one to take charge of things right away. Once my husband came home from work and found me with a 101 fever, he began to push fluids and care for me. Doctors were called and put on alert. I got blood work done to get a baseline to watch before surgery. It did not take long for me to recover.
Life must go on for my family. We cannot live in a bubble. I was ill during Halloween this year. I wanted my boys to have fun and go trick-or-treating. I wasn’t able to take them and watch. They are children thank goodness. They didn’t notice what I missed. Another “thing” for the list of things cancer gets in the way of, in a woman my age with young children. It is something else that is taken away. No one will know but my husband how sad I feel during these stolen moments of motherhood. My sons will continue with day-to-day life. I will find a way to let them go on with their childhood. Only I will understand the impact of not being able to share in these moments with them. There will be next year. I will be well next year.
I had my surgery last week to remove my tumor and cancerous lymph nodes. Surprisingly, I felt very calm and ready. I was very nervous for my minor surgery to install my port catheter, but then again, that was a first for me. This time I knew I was under the excellent care of the same team and surgeon. Just their positive attitude in the pre-op area was enough to lighten and calm my spirits. The doctor’s and surgical team’s confidence levels gave me the assurance I needed. I knew this would be the next big step in getting my life back.
Recovery was a bit difficult for me as I was in a good deal of pain when I woke up. All was done to give me comfort and manage my pain. Something I have always struggled with has been my pain threshold. In the past, others have not always believed how much it takes to manage my pain, but this team listened and made every effort to give me comfort. I was checked on constantly and cared for with compassion. If you are a medical professional reading this, it makes such a profound difference as a patient to be cared for in this way. I have been in a hospital before, laying on a gurney, as nurses talk over me like I was a piece of meat, not present as a human being. I have been in the presence of a doctor in the past, who treated me without regard to my dignity or intelligence. I don’t want to feel like that again. Under this team, I am offered choices which I am free to take my time to make. I am able to speak for myself and respect is given to my personal situation. My family is allowed to be present. I have not had to go through any of my treatments or surgeries alone. It has made a tremendous difference that my support system has been allowed to be present every step of the way. During those times I am not feeling well or able to think clearly, they have been able to step in and listen and advocate for me.
My surgery was extraordinary. My surgeon met my family in the waiting room with a smile and the news that she couldn’t find any more cancer. The lab reports confirmed the eradication of my cancer.In medical lingo:  my "margins" were clean.  This means the area surrounding the tumors and what she removed showed no more cancerous growth.  

It was my doctor’s honesty and caring advice that helped me arrive at the decision that was right for me. The treatment choices have been hugely successful and the positive attitude maintained by the medical team and my personal support team has made a difference. My family and friends have supported me without fail.
I can find the kindness in people’s eyes and feel their genuine concern. It is the genuine heartfelt assistance of those who truly know me and care for me that moves me. It is the unconditional love by those who care for me that expands my soul. My improved health is the result of those around me truly working and helping. It is the collective positive energies, talents, skills, prayers and good-wills of those involved in my life that heal me. It is the hard work and research of my medical team that deserves the credit and praise. It is the commitment and devotion of my family and friends around me constantly encouraging me, caring for me, working hard for me to keep life going. They are the unsung heroes in my heart. I am motivated to keep fighting by them. I avoid depression because they know I need them to keep my smile. I work hard at what’s before me because I will not become the victim of my circumstance. All who love and know me, support my outlook and keep me from falling off of that straight line. It is my circle of caregivers that love me and ask not for recognition or accolades. I am strong because they are strong. I am alive because I am not helpless. It is their commitment to me that astounds me. I have a will to live because I am loved and I love them. It is they that deserve praise and thanks because they chose to share this awfully hard journey with me. It is this kind of love that fosters life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Family field trip

We had a unique opportunity to experience the inside of the pathology lab at the hospital today. My boys have been asking questions all along trying to understand what has made "Mom" so sick for so long. We arranged through my doctor to meet with the pathologist where my diagnosis began.

Today the boys got a day out of school to personally meet with the Director of Pathology at my hospital and tour the Pathology Laboratory where no one is usually allowed to enter.

It was truly an amazing experience for all of us to witness what goes on behind closed doors in the closed off basement of the hospital. It felt like something out of a movie. The doctor first spent a good deal of time with us in his office with one of the most powerful microscopes I've ever seen. He taught the boys the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells and then they had the opportunity to see with the microscope what my cancer cells looked like. At 7 and 9 they learned about mitosis and how cancer cells divide uncontrollably and invade surrounding tissue. He was careful to point out that everyone in the lab treats each microscope slide as a real person and not just some cells and some dye. Behind each slide is a real person with a story and it is up to them to interpret correctly what those cells are doing.

We were able to tour through the entire pathology lab and meet with the doctors and technicians to see the process of identifying disease from beginning to end. We saw the hundreds of tissue samples from biopsies and the process of making those samples material to be studied and diagnosed. A far more complicated process than we all imagined.
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