Tomorrow is the big day - surgery day and the first major step in becoming cancer free! By this time tomorrow, I will have hit a major milestone in the recovery process. Though I'm not looking forward to the actual surgery itself, I AM looking forward to closing the door on this chapter.
Plans have changed a little. I have breast cancer in my right breast, but a biopsy of a suspicious area in the left indicated that I had something called Lobular Carcinoma In Situ or LCIS. Though it is NOT breast cancer, it is a cluster of abnormal cells that increase a woman's chances of developing breast cancer from 12% (average woman's chance over a lifetime) to a 40% chance. So, since I'm going under the knife anyway with the right sided lumpectomy, my surgeon suggested that she excise that tissue from the left as well. It makes sense and hey, it beats having to go back in again later! So, basically, I'll have two lumpectomies so both sides can feel nice and even!
I was at my pre-op appointment a few days ago down at the cancer center. After it ended, Dr. Fabulous ducked off to the restroom while I finished checking out with the administrative staff. On my way out to the lobby, I passed a woman not too much older than me with a scarf wrapped around her head. She was talking to the front desk woman and I heard her saying "I'm so blessed. There are so many people who have it worse."
I smiled to myself, knowing that this woman obviously has been going through chemotherapy (a bullet I have dodged) and likely will go through radiation too. I was smiling in appreciation of her gratitude despite her circumstances. She sounded so sweet and upbeat it almost made me cry because I would have looked at her and felt sorry for all she had to endure, seeing that scarf on her head. "It could be worse," I would think to myself." "I could have to go through what she is going through."
Dr. Fabulous wasn't back in the lobby yet, so I ducked into the restroom too. When I emerged, he was sitting there staring across the room with a face full of emotion and a sad smile.
"What? What's wrong?" I asked.
He shook his head and said nothing, but he still had that look.
"What?!?" I pressed.
He told me that the woman across the room with the scarf on her head was with her young adult daughter who had Down Syndrome.
I glanced over nonchalantly, and it was her. It was the same woman who I overheard talking about how blessed and lucky she was and how many people have it worse. She was a caregiver to a disabled child.
There were no words at that point.
There still are no words.
All I can think of is this. That in some way, being a caregiver to a child can sometimes tear you down, challenge you, exhaust you. Yet, at the same time it makes you a fighter. It makes you less concerned about yourself because you are so concerned with another. It makes you find humility and gratitude in the little victories embedded in the bigger stressors.
So, even today when I got that phone call about the surprise of an additional surgical procedure? I went through a myriad of emotions but landed on this - there are so many things someone can hear, and if this is what I hear? I'll take it. I'll take it, run with it, be glad that this is all I get right now. And I'm grateful for everyone and everything that has made me stronger along the way.
Tomorrow is game day. Look out cancer, you are getting your ass whooped. I take no prisoners.