Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I have breast cancer...

Shelle Edit: "This is a blog by a woman in her 50's who is finally on the crooked path to find who she truly is. Married at 19 and divorced at 53. I am going to unearth the artist, the cynic, the free spirit that has been long buried. Or die trying. I've left Bethlehem and I feel free... I've left the girl I was supposed to be and some day I'll be born. ~Paula Cole"--This is how she describes herself on her profile... this was my first time to her blog... it's warned as NSFW (Not Safe For Work) but I guess I didn't scroll down enough to understand why she has that warning. What I know of Nitebyrd is she is incredibly compassionate and kind.  She also is passionate about things and how can I not love someone that has this quote at the end of every email, "I want to live my life in such a way that when my feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "Oh! Shit! She's awake!"

I have breast cancer.

My daughter said those words and my heart stopped.

My hope was that 2006 would be better than the previous year. During that year, my husband (now, ex-husband) left a job almost 20 years to start his own business. The business was pouring money out and dribbling money in. I was watching my retirement, my future, circle the drain. It had been a very difficult year. The decision my husband made was against my wishes. There was really no discussion because that’s how things always were. My unhappiness in the marriage increased in direct proportions to how quickly our (his?) money was disappearing. I prayed, begged, threatened, pleaded with “The Powers That Be” to make this New Year be better. They didn't listen.

My daughter said, “I have breast cancer.” In July of 2006, she was 28 years old. She had been married for a little over two years. Neither she nor her husband were working, they were “helping” at my husband’s business. One good thing was she had health insurance through that business. My daughter and son-in-law were living off money they’d made from a sale of their house and a small settlement they’d received from a lawsuit. My daughter and her husband were together 24/7 in a failing business with dwindling funds and now a life threatening illness. Their relationship was in trouble. To add to the drama of all this, I had decided in January of 2006 to cash in my small 401K and take a trip to Australia. I needed something to look forward to and wanted to use MY money for something that was going to give me a lifetime of good memories, not throw it into the money eating hole of my husband’s business. Selfish? Maybe, but it was something I needed to do for myself after 32 years of being a wife, mother, homemaker, office worker and person in charge of everything. My departure date was August 6, the same day my daughter was scheduled for surgery.

Once my heart started beating again, both her father and I broke down. We were totally useless for about 45 minutes weeping and swearing at God and nature in her kitchen. Once we’d pulled ourselves together, my daughter told us she would be having a lumpectomy with some lymph nodes removed to be on the safe side. Her tumor was fairly large but had been encapsulated in an antibody (pus) filled sac. Her MRI and PET scans showed a very clearly defined tumor. Her surgeon was very confident that her cancer had not spread and that the lumpectomy would get it all. Yes, this was heartening but I was still terrified for her. (There is no history of breast or prostate cancer on either side of the family. Apparently 85% of all breast cancers have no family history.) My daughter asked me not to go on my trip to Australia. I had to say no, that I still was going. I was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.

While I knew that my relationship with her father was beyond repair, I also knew that for my own well-being, I had to go. The stress of the last 15 months had taken their toll on me – mentally and physically. If I did not get some relief, I wouldn’t be good for anyone in the future. My daughter, my son, my son-in-law and yes, even my ex-husband would need the strength I'd show for years after her surgery. I spoke to my daughter, explaining why it was necessary for me to go. I would only be gone three weeks. She understood immediately. This was a great relief to me and surprisingly, her!

My daughter was facing the scariest thing in her life and she was going to do it without the “mommy” buffer. In the family, I was the one that made the decisions, meted out the punishment,kissed the boo-boos, fixed the unfixable, made the phone calls, paid the bills, dealt with the “dirty” decisions, etc. I could always “fix it” But she knew I couldn’t fix this. She realized that there wasn’t much I could do for her other than hold her hand and maybe cook and clean for her after the surgery. She also told me that since she was going to have chemotherapy and radiation, that she’d need me for that. My daughter was only 28 going through a horrible ordeal yet she had the insight and understanding to know why her mother needed to go half-way around the world for a bit. She made me very proud.

My daughter understood, no one else did. Let me tell you that I took a rash of shit from EVERYONE and anyone. However, I would not be dissuaded. At 6:00 AM on August 6, 2006 I, along with her husband, her father, her brother, her mother and father-in-law and her cousin, kissed her and hugged her as she went into surgery. We then all waited until the surgeon came to tell us that her lymph nodes were clear and the tumor had been removed. She was in recovery, goofy from drugs but damn happy for someone just out of surgery, as we kissed good-bye and I left for the airport.

Over the three weeks I was gone, I spoke to my daughter every other day. She was marveling at how her husband was helping her so much. He was changing her drains and keeping her clean. He was doing some cooking. He asked his mother to come and stay with them for a week, which she did. He went through a very difficult patch after I'd come home but the whole experience matured both he and my daughter. My daughter and her husband started planning for the future now that it seemed much more important to do so. She loved hearing about how amazing Australia was. I was home before I knew it.

Although, my leaving for a “vacation” at this very delicate time is still a sore point with my ex-husband and some others, it has never been with my daughter. She has never once said it was wrong for me to leave. I went with her to her chemo appointments, cried with her when she lost her hair, laughed when we went to buy her wigs and have walked in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure every year since her diagnosis. Those three weeks she spent with her husband allowed him to see her at her most vulnerable and I believe they both learned so much about each other that it was a good thing for me not to be there. My daughter has said that in a round-about way. So while it was selfish of me, it was necessary. Her diagnosis also made me realize that life is precious, it need to be enjoyed as do the people you love. I think that by her seeing that I was not just a mother but also a person, she gained valuable insight to herself and to her relationship with her husband. She enjoys her life much more now and so do I.

She has made me promise to stay around when she gets pregnant, though, and I definitely will.


P.S. She has also posted HERE.


Welcome to the Garden of Egan said...

Unbelievable story. She sounds like a stong woman that knows what she wants and walked firey coals to get there.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Gucci Mama said...

You and your daughter both sound amazing. Such an incredible story. I'm so glad you shared it with us.

Big Fat Gini said...

What an incredible story...

I admit to being a little judgmental at first. Because, I honestly don't know if I'd be able to do it. But, the interesting thing to me was that it seems like it taught everyone how to deal without mom. And sometimes, I think our kids need to learn that lesson.

I'll most certainly look back on this as my sons get older. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story.

nitebyrd said...

Thank you, all. I was a bit apprehensive about posting this because I figured I'd get a whole rash of new s**t about it. But so far, y'all seem to "get" the whole idea. What I, my daughter, her husband and my son gained out of her cancer and my leaving was invaluable.

wendy said...

It is funny sometimes the lessons we learn through really HARD decisions and crisis'.
I understand about judgments and it can be tend to destroy the faith we have in ourselves and the choices we make.
We may or may not agree....but we should all try and support each other during difficult times.
Your daughter and husband certainly drew close to each other during that time of "having" to rely ON EACH OTHER.
You were restored to health
as was she.
I hope she remains cancer free and I wish the best for both of you and what lies ahead.

binks said...

Cancer is such a debilitating disease and everyone has to walk their own path to deal with its effects.
Glad to hear that your daughter has pulled through stronger and more aware. Thanks for sharing your story.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I'm not going to lie... I don't know how you did it. How you were able to go to Australia still. It is one of my top places to go... but I'm not sure what I would have done.

It just made me think of how desperate you were in your life to make such a tough decision.

But things like that, that turn out for the best... usually reminds me that choices and consequences are all a big plan and a great teaching tool for growth within ourselves. That is what really matters.

Judgment comes from guilt within ourselves... something my father use to always remind me. So I always have to step back and see the reason behind why I'm judging.

Sage is going to hate that he is out of town for this one. I know that this kind of thing especially dealing with cancer is a big deal for him... and especially if it is something written by a good friend of his.

I hope he gets some time when he gets back to read and respond to this!

Anyway, all that matters is the relationship between your daughter and yourself and let the judgments lie where they may :)

Becky Andrews said...

Sending love and wishing you nothing but the best.

Anonymous said...

Despite the fact that your daughter had to fight cancer, your story was beautiful. Sad, but beautiful and happy in the end.

Love ya darling!

Anonymous said...

What an amazing story. Sometimes the hardest thing to do as a parent is to step back and let your children stand on their own two feet (or in your case to rely on someone she should rely on - her spouse). I don't know that I would have been able to do what you did. (Mainly due to prior life experience dealing with losses after not being in the right place at the right time)

It takes strength and courage to make a difficult decision that is the right one for you, when it may be unpopular or misunderstood by others.

Kudos to you for sticking to what was right for you, (and yes, for your daughter) during that time. Best wishes to you & your daughter on your continuing journey.


kyooty said...

hugs and prayers for Health and Happiness! everyone needs happy

Unknown said...

Big kudos to BOTH you and your daughter nitebyrd. I don't ever want to be faced with such a decision but if I should, I want to have the confidence to do whats right for me and my child just like you did. I hope I have it in me.
I hope your daughter is doing well.

I haven't done a post about it and not sure if I will but my 29 year old niece was just diagnosed with breast cancer a month ago. Its definately terrifying for all involved.

TisforTonya said...

I'm surprised actually that you got so much crap about going... I would have been BeGgInG my mother to go out of town while I dealt with things... not that she's smothering (okay, maybe a little) but I don't think I could bear the pain in her eyes while I was trying to be strong.

Sounds like she (and those who love her) have grown a lot from the experience, sucky though it may be.

vixen kitten said...

You made that trip to save yourself. I believe your daughter realized that.

I've been trained as a life guard and also worked search and rescue with one of my dogs. The first rule they teach you is you will be useless to anyone if you put yourself in a position to need rescue yourself.

Kinda the same thing they say about the oxygen mask on an airplane. Put YOURS on first, then put one on your child.

I believe you did just that, and I am so proud of the strength and the courage you showed. I've always been a huge fan...now so even more.

love you lots,

Ron said...

Brava for not only having the courage to share this story, but more so for having the courage to do what you knew in your heart was for the best.

You are one of the most caring, loving, and compassionate people I know, therefore I also know that your choice to go on your vacation was not a quick and easy choice. I know how difficult it was for you.

And I gotta be honest here....

...I would have made the same choice.

"If I did not get some relief, I wouldn’t be good for anyone in the future."

For that same reason.

X ya, Nitebyrd!

UP said...

Great post, it just all doesn't turn out that way unfortunately. I lost my dear sister-in-law to breast cancer, 6 weeks after my by-pass surgery. It was a sad sad December.


nitebyrd said...

UP ~ I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope that you are doing well after your surgery. My daughter is a survivor and I'm grateful everyday.

To All ~ Again, I have to say a big THANK YOU! Even after all this time, your kindess and understanding mean more to me they you can ever know.

nitebyrd said...

Ooops! ... THAN you can ever know.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff NB. Muah. Sounds like everyone is better for it, which is often the case when tough decisions are made.