Sunday, October 14, 2012

guest post :: the gift

 {Our aunt Sandy with her gorgeous family. . . here is her story!}

About 8 years ago, while lathering up in the shower, I felt a small lump under my armpit, about the size of a pea. I did not think much of it, but it definitely was something I had never felt before. I watched it for a few months and when it did not go away I went to the doctor. She felt it and realized it was an enlarged lymph node. To be safe she sent me to get a mammogram and breast ultra sound. I was 39 years old at the time.

Both the mammogram and breast ultrasound came back fine. The doctor just told me I must have had a cold and that the lymph node was enlarged. They never told me to come back if it did not go away. I had no family history of breast cancer or any cancer for that matter. I was not worried at all.  Life went on and about 4 months later I realized the pea sized lump was still there. I right away made another appointment at the breast center. They decided at this time to do a needle biopsy of the lymph node. As the doctor was doing the needle biopsy, he was telling me that out of every 1000 of these he does, only maybe one comes back as cancer. He made me feel like I was over-reacting by doing the procedure. Again I was not worried.

Three days later I went back for the results. I went alone because I was so sure there would be no cancer. When the doctor came in and told me the results............BREAST CANCER...........I was shocked. I was also scared because it had already gone to my lymph nodes which made my diagnoses less favorable.

My children at the time were 9 and 10 years old. All the crazy thoughts were going through my mind, “would I see them graduate high school, get married , have children of their own?” The next month was crazy with doctors appointments and decisions to be made on treatment options. I cried a lot , but I was fortunate to be surrounded by a loving husband and family and a large group of supportive friends. This support  group helped me get through the next two years which involved 5 surgeries, 6 months of chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments.  I lost my hair, my breasts and my belief that I would live to a ripe old age with my husband and children by my side.

People kept talking to me about the gifts of cancer, “huh?”  I could see no gifts in this nightmare I was living. What good could possibly come out of this?  I often asked “why me?”  I had always lived a healthy lifestyle, ate well, exercised my entire life, was not overweight, didn't drink much alcohol and never smoked. No family history, “why me?”

Now, almost 8 years later, looking back on that very difficult time of my life, I can see some gifts. Through my suffering I gained more compassion for others that suffer. There were days I could not walk around the block or empty the dishwasher. When I see others with disabilities or battling disease, I have a little better understanding of what they are going through. I understand the meaning of enjoying each day, because every day is truly a gift. I cherish each moment with family and friends even more, because none of us truly knows what tomorrow will bring. And now when I ask myself, “why me,” I have a sense of that understanding as well.  I know everyone must suffer in some way. But we don't know how or when. Some lose a parent, some get a divorce, others are born with disabilities or other physical or mental challenges. We all get our challenges, but we can't pick what they are or when they will happen. We can only move through them as strongly as we can, learning along the way the gifts of life. Gaining the wisdom that will make us stronger, better human beings, that can share our life experiences with others in order to hopefully make their journey a little easier.

Love, Sandy

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