Dear Father, please forgive me. It has been two months since my last blog post!
I have been procrastinating for quite some time about writing my next blog post. It is to be about a very difficult, painful, and scary part of my journey. One that I do not want to remember, let alone talk about.
I was having coffee with a new friend the other day, sharing information and getting to know each other like we do, and it allowed me the opportunity to reach a discovery. I had begun to share a story with my new friend about a recent experience I had.
I had just spoken to my women’s networking group, in part about my journey. I had not wanted to do that either! But Spirit can be most insistent. Spirit had even written my talk through automatic writing, after all. But I did not want to be embarrassed, I did not want to cry in front of my business associates.
Even up to the day of my presentation, I was fighting against doing it. Then Spirit said to me gently and lovingly, ” If there is one person there this evening that could benefit from your talk, that really needs to hear what you have to say, would you be willing to be uncomfortable in order to help them? ”
How can you argue with Spirit? So, of course I agreed to speak to the women that night and share what Spirit had written. And, of course I cried. Surprisingly though I was not embarrassed. Rather, I felt grateful that I could share some of my story. And by the end of my talk I felt loved because, after all, these women are not just my business associates, they are family.
As I was sharing this with my new friend, Spirit’s words came back to me once more. Would I be willing to be uncomfortable to help others? How can I not? With Spirit’s words clear in my mind, I was able to write this post when I returned home.
Decisions. Decisions. Will they never end?! I just need to catch my breath.
If you, or your loved one, has ever had a life threatening illness, then you know what I am talking about. The demands, the questions that require life altering, life-threatening decisions that never seem to end. They keep coming, one after another, day after day. It is exhausting.
The situation was exactly the same as the first time I was diagnosed with cancer. So many decisions. Surgery? No surgery? What kind of surgery? Where is the surgery to be done? Who is doing the surgery?
In 2006, the surgery was so poorly done by a so-called expert that, when I was sent home too early after having the surgery performed in Vancouver, my doctor took one look at me and sent me directly to the hospital. I spent the next 10 days fighting a battle for my life, which I wrote about in my blog post: Robin Williams Saved My Life.
Eventually, I was stable enough to come home. I remember sitting at my dining room table. I had only just arrived home from the hospital. I was weak and tired but it felt so good to be home. Suddenly, time slowed down. Everything seemed to be captured in slow motion bites. The phone rang. It was the surgeon from Vancouver. You would think she was calling to apologize for almost killing me. Nope. She was calling to tell me that they had found more cancer and that I would require a full round of radiation treatments. Say what?!
Having a life-threatening illness is like being in a nightmare that you desperately want to wake up from. The world is continuing to function around you. Internally you are screaming and crying for help, for comfort, for healing. No one sees you and no one hears you. It is just the most surreal feeling I have ever experienced.
And here I am now, in 2014, going through it all over again. I am barely healing from my surgery. I am not sure what looks worse. The scar from the surgery or the raw flesh with pink new skin on both sides of the scar that had blistered so badly in reaction to the bandages used by the surgeon. I was actually rushed to emergency the day after surgery because the blistering reaction was so bad. Unfortunately, there was only one way the bandages were coming off. And most of my skin on my breast went with them! I was so drugged up that I don’t remember any pain. I only remember watching everything occurring in a strange disconnected way like everything was happening to someone else.
But I digress. Back to the onslaught of decisions to be made. Now my doctor wants me to make a decision between a PICC line and a port, in order to receive my chemotherapy treatment. God, I just need to breathe!
A PICC line stands for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. It is a form of IV access for extended periods of time through which they would inject the chemotherapy drugs. The catheter is extended through the superior vena cava in your arm and stays inside your vein for weeks, even months. It is the less invasive of your options, but it is not without risks. You could bump it or bang it, requiring the PICC line to be redone. There is the risk of infection and, worst of all, there is a high probability of your veins being damaged, burned, developing scar tissue, and or having permanent difficulties with the vein and your arm, not the least of which is lymphedema (swelling of the arm).
My second option was a port. The port requires surgery, which in itself has risks. A small device is inserted in to your chest with a catheter attached to it. The catheter is threaded through your chest cavity, encircling your heart, so that the opening of the tube is right by the entrance to your heart. The chemotherapy IV is attached to the implanted device and the drugs are fed directly into your heart!
Now let’s think about this for just a minute! Who, in their right mind, would come up with such an idea? That feeding poison directly into one’s heart would heal them? But, that is what the doctors prescribe and that is what society buys into, including me.
No one ever discussed a third option with me. What is the third option? Not to have chemotherapy at all! That option was never mentioned. I now know that Spirit really did not want me to receive chemotherapy but, at the time, I was operating and making decisions out of pure fear. It is very difficult for you to hear Spirit when you surround yourself with the static of fear. Let me repeat that. It is very difficult for you to hear Spirit when you surround yourself with the static of fear.
I am an Empath. Among other things, it means I am very sensitive physically. I also have what you would call squiggly, difficult veins. Hence, my dread of needles. I have experienced the challenges of edema as a result of my first go round with cancer. I personally know of women who are continually having trouble with their arms as a result of receiving treatment through a PICC line.
I therefore chose to have a port implanted. For myself, I felt it was the option with the least risk. Before I knew it, I was booked for surgery to have the port implanted. So surreal! The surgery itself was uneventful. I was home in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, I don’t recall or don’t remember anyone telling me the risks to my heart at the time. It has been about 18 months, and my heart is still healing.
I ended up with an all too familiar dilemma. How to get some sleep! I could not sleep on my right side because of my breast surgery. Now I could not sleep on my left side because of the port! What is a girl to do!!! My only choices were sleeping on my back surrounded by pillows to support my breast, or sitting upright. No moving to the right. No moving to the left. I can tell you it was certainly not the most restful of weeks.
The day following the port surgery I felt surprisingly good for someone that had just had a foreign object implanted in her chest. It was a beautiful day and I decided to go for a little walk and breathe some fresh air. I didn’t even make it to the end of the block when I felt a sudden thump on my chest with a heavy pressure on my heart. I could feel the port move. I felt like I was choking. It was very scary. This was the first message that Spirit sent me, saying that chemotherapy was a bad idea.
I slowly shuffled my way back home. By the time I made it home I felt a little better. I dismissed my earlier feelings. Big mistake! By the next day I was choking and having difficulty breathing. I was having chest pains and an erratic heart rhythm. But still I couldn’t bring myself to call 911. I called 811 instead! Silly me. The nurse insisted I call an ambulance right away. Which I did.
And so began one of several trips to emergency over the next two weeks. Each time, I received a battery of tests and x-rays, to no avail. The port appeared to be located correctly, although it felt physically deeper in my chest than it did after the surgery.
Because they couldn’t find an explanation for the choking, the chest pressure, and the erratic heart rhythm, doctors dismissed my concerns as that of, for want of a better description, a hysterical woman. Don’t you just hate that?!
After two weeks of running back and forth to the emergency, I finally fell in to a deep sleep from exhaustion. I woke to find I was on my side. Uh oh. As a result, the port had shifted again. The good news was that my symptoms did lessen as a result. Although it was still uncomfortable, and I occasionally still felt like I was choking, I resigned myself to living with this port inside my chest indefinitely so that I could proceed with chemotherapy treatment. Otherwise, I would have to have the port removed and revert to treatment through a PICC line. That was not something that I wanted to do.
By the way, the cancer clinic just called to schedule my chemotherapy sessions. More decisions.