I’m a richly blessed old chick.
The summer of 2023 started with my first ever colonoscopy on June 13. The gastroenterologist who did the procedure was a real jerk. It’s bad to be a jerk, but I think it’s a lot worse to be a doctor and a jerk. This particular ass in scrubs told Jim over the phone that I had cancer. Usually they at least call you back and talk to you in a private room, but no, this absolute waste of a medical degree couldn’t be bothered. As my daddy used to say, that nasty doctor is his own punishment, so I’ll let him go and do his thing to himself. That’s pretty much been the only negative piece of this other than, you know, the cancer part of it.
Most of last week, including the fourth of July, was prep for surgery. What I didn’t know when I scheduled it for July 6 was that it would require a two-day prep. Silly me. My family always gets together on the Fourth, so that was a dumb choice on my part. Two days of clear liquid diet, which meant I cooked dinner for 12 for my family, and had to have Jim to come and taste for me. I didn’t mind — it was fun to cook again and everyone seemed to like it. I sat with the family at the dinner table and enjoyed my Gatorade. And it was much easier to resist the temptation of the cupcakes when I couldn’t eat anything else either. 😀
My family is the most supportive of families. They’ve been there for me through countless surgeries and now two (separate) cancer diagnoses. We’re weird, and just as dysfunctional as any other family, but we’re always there for each other and when we’re together we have good times. This year was no exception, so I went in to the surgery feeling wholly supported.
The prep the day before surgery was particularly nasty. It’s like colonoscopy prep and then some. First they give you a gallon (a literal gallon) jug of this stuff to drink. And bless their dear hearts, they included a tiny packet of lemon flavoring with the jug. It did nothing to make this mess more palatable. Here I’m showing how much I had drunk about about four hours.
By the time I was into the jug of this stuff, Sara Ann had arrived from Little Rock. She was a godsend. She’s got natural caregiver vibes and she was so good. We watched Top Chef until everyone else went to bed, then she turned on Project Runway, which has always been a favorite of mine. We compared notes late into the night on the outfits and the designers and how we miss Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. At some point I realized I wasn’t going to be able to drink the rest of the evil stuff, so I poured it down the sink with a few choice words and went to bed.
We arrived at the hospital at 5:00 a.m., as directed — Jim and me, Mom and Sara Ann. They took me back pretty quickly and started the IV, which felt like we were making progress toward the goal of getting this thing out of me. Sure enough, soon it was time to roll into the OR, about which I only remember the scary huge lights on the ceiling. I was a little disappointed that my hospital socks didn’t go better with the gown, but they were still pretty comfy if not fashionable.
This has been so hard on Mom. It’s breaking my heart to see her wanting to help and not being able to. She wants to bring me things, food, etc., and help in ways that aren’t safe for her physically. I so love that heart in her and it’s not lost on me that we have a cycle of caregiving in our little group. I’m caring for Mom, she’s trying to care for me, Sara Ann and Jim care for me, and we all care for Mom. It’s kind of beautiful and I’m the recipient of most of the caring. I told Mom that there are a ton of folks who can minister to my physical needs, but I have only one mother and that’s her.
We’ve had dinners brought to us by our pastor and some other church members, and that’s been super helpful and a welcome relief from a liquid diet of gross non-lemon-flavored icky stuff. I’ve received notes, Facebook messages, and texts of support and love, wishing me well. My sister and her husband made his smoked chicken and ribs, which are the most amazing ever, and brought me a yummy lemon cake with a cute sunflower. They stayed for dinner with us and we had a great time. My sister and I agree that sunflowers are happy flowers and it was a fun, happy dinner.
My sister, a physician, has been most supportive in all of these medical crises of mine. She can untangle the medical bs and tell me what’s the real deal. She’ll tell me straight-up, good or bad, what’s up. And all along, she’s told me that it’s been the best news it can be under the circumstances.
I only had to spend one night in the hospital, which was a huge blessing. My surgeon told us that he does not foresee this affecting my life span, and that he saw no evidence of any spread of cancer, which is supported by my CT and PET scan results. The docs in my family have told me that it would be extremely rare for a PET scan to not show spread to the lymph nodes, so I’m resting on that even though I don’t have the official lymph node biopsy results.
I’m still sore and today I thought maybe I’d try to get through the day without the mild muscle relaxer and extra-strength Tylenol they sent me home with. It didn’t work, so I took them a little while ago. Maybe tomorrow on that. I still can’t drive or lift anything more than 10 pounds, which means I can’t pick up my sweet baby Artie. My appetite is still not that great, which is OK. I’m not yet eager to leave the house or put on anything with a waistband.
I’ve grown quite the collection of scars now. I’ve got scars from two C-sections, a hysterectomy, breast cancer surgery, and now this. I believe my chances of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit spread are all but lost. Still, I’m OK with the scars. Two of them represent the birth of my girls. The rest represent a time when I walked a difficult path and family and friends were there to support me and care for me. They remind me that I’m not alone, that I don’t have to go through tough times by myself. Scars are a visible reminder that sometimes there is healing and life after the dark times.
Sometimes, however, there is no healing and no life on earth and I grieve for the family and friends I’ve lost to this damn disease. I don’t know why it’s worked out for me and not for them, and I won’t know this site of heaven. I cannot rejoice in my own good news without considering those for whom test results are not a relief.
I’m good y’all. Really good. And I’ll be back out and about after a little more healing. But I’m not the same. I resolve to pray more fervently for those loved ones who continue to struggle with cancer and give care where I can. Now I can be the one to bring dinner, to send a note or card of encouragement. Let me be a comfort to others as others have comforted me.