Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dedicated to my Guardian Angel for Valentine's Day

By Katy Meek

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it is about learning to dance in the rain”

April 9, 2007: I awoke startled in a hospital could I not remember how I got here? As I become more coherent my mind wanders back to my last memory of being wheeled away from my life into an operating room that would change me forever.

A friend had arranged for all of us waiting for my surgery to wear red lipstick. This idea came from a movie, "Why I Wore Red Lipstick to My Mastectomy". This made me have a sense of control.  I found the lipstick comforting as I was briskly wheeled down a sterile hallway. I am freezing cold and frightened, this is so surreal. I drift off.

Struggling to stay awake, as the morphine ebbs its way through my veins, I thought of the bilateral mastectomy that I had survived.  Breast Cancer diagnosis: Check   Surgery: Check

I feel myself starting to panic; did they get all the cancer? Am I going to live? The morphine quickly takes me to a place where there is no cancer; there is no pain or fear. There is only peace, I sleep, I dream....

February 22, 2002:  I went to a club with a friend, I could be so shy but we sat at the bar as no other seating was available. I sat next to a nice looking man, older than myself, but very handsome and single! He kept talking to my friend and I. His wife has passed away a few years ago of cancer. He had awesome blue eyes that twinkled and he made me laugh. This man asked me out and we have been dating since our first date a few weeks later. He became my "special man friend". We danced to a Beatle’s song; little did I know this was my first dance with my guardian angel.

February 22, 2007: We have had a wonderful, exciting five years together dating.....then I felt that dreaded lump in my breast. It became my secret as I feared the lump was cancer. I could feel it in my soul that it would not be good news; so I decided to ignore it and just maybe it would go away. A few weeks later I finally found the courage to make a doctor appointment.

March 13, 2007: At North Hills Hospital I hear the words coming from a stranger's lips, "Ms. Meek I am sorry to inform you that you have breast cancer". I want to fall to the ground, I feel so alone....."You need to see a surgeon immediately". I hear, "I am so sorry; would you like me to call someone for you?" I am about to be sick, I need to leave this small room that smelled of film developer. Somehow, I thanked the radiologist and stumbled to the hallway. I wait to get to my car to cry, the salty teardrops stinging my face. I am sobbing and shaking. I am in shock. I am a single mom. How am I going to do this?

I call my special man friend. Barely able to breathe, I struggle to get the words out, "I have breast cancer".  I am crying so hard...... and praying, "Dear God, please help me have the courage and strength to get through this one.” He is at a loss for words. I felt like I was dropping a bomb.

I worry that this man will not be able to go on this journey with me as his memory of his wife's cancer is etched in his mind. Her pain, her suffering can still make him shudder with each beat of his heart.  I am frightened and I need his strong hands to lift me over the hurdles I am about to face but I was not sure a person can go on a second journey. I wanted to be selfish...but would certainly let him go without guilt or remorse. 

When Vic said, "We can get through this together" I felt such a sense of relief and comfort that this man would take this cancer journey with me. I thanked God and prayed for strength and courage...I never asked why I would get cancer; I just  prayed for strength, courage and the capability to just put one foot in front of the other. During a prayer I felt God's presence and knew I was ready to face my fears. I felt such a warmth come across my shoulders, a peace come over me and weight was lifted off my shoulders. I stopped crying myself to sleep every night.

One of the most difficult things I had to do next was tell my daughter and son that I had cancer. I would be having major surgery to remove the cancer by having both breasts removed. It affects a daughter's future and a young son does not want to hear about his mom's breasts but he has to. We hugged, we cried. My daughter is afraid for my future; I am afraid for hers.

April 2007: Everything regarding my treatment moved fast a period of time. I had a visiting nurse come to my house every other day to change my bandages. This went on for 2 weeks, I had those awful drainage tubes; after an eternity I got them removed. I had never looked at my incision as I just couldn’t bear to see what the surgery did to me.

The nurse removed the bandages while I waited for my reconstruction surgeon to take a look at how it was healing.  Vic looked first so I would know if I could look. He said, “It wasn’t too bad and the incision looked good”, I looked and from that day on I took it all in stride. If he could bear the change I knew I could too.

May 2007: I had a port put in my upper chest for chemo…..this made the reality of it just one step closer. I am so scared. The port just grossed me out for the 8 months I had it, I will never forget the pressure each time that I felt as they connected the IV to chemo.

June 5, 2007:  I am reclined in a “chemo” chair. I feel the pressure of the chemo IV being hooked up to my port. How did I ever end up here? New chemo shoes: check, new chemo outfit:  check.  At least, I looked good! Everyone knew I was a “newbie” because I had hair and I am probably visible trembling.

I have a doctor appointment with the Oncologist and then my first chemo treatment. I am feeling nauseated as I am reliving this day. It was one of the most difficult moments of my life. Fear can be so paralyzing, somehow, with my guardian angel and with God’s grace, I walked the path to the doctor’s office. I am shaking, my heart is racing; my instincts say run and run fast! I promise you there was only one set of footprints walking down the hallway into the chemo room. It was horrible but I lived through it! Well, another notch on my badge of courage. Yes! Only seven more to go! The next few days bring nausea, vomiting and body ache so I sleep; take lots of medicine to control the symptoms. I begin to wonder if I am going to die because I sure feel like it. Then amazingly, I return to life and get ready to return to work.

June 11, 2007: I returned to work. It was a great place to be to feel somewhat normal. I worked between chemo treatments and the company was very good to me. I was paid for all of my time off.

June 2007: A few weeks after my first chemo my hair started falling out. For some reason, I thought I might be exempt from losing my hair but sadly, it was all gone after a couple of weeks. It was another very traumatic, almost devastating experience. I felt like everyone could look at me and I know I had cancer. I got my head shaved to get rid of the few strands of hair that held on tight and got fitted for a wig. The wig was cute and maybe even sassy but way too hot for the hot flashes I began to have. I wore a hat with my head held high. I got used to not having to do my hair. I just had to match my outfit for the day to a hat. Oh yes, don’t let me forget that I started having hot flashes—every 20 minutes or so. Wait, I didn’t sign up for this!

June through October 30, 2007: Chemo came and went as scheduled every 3 weeks and just as I was feeling almost normal again I would get another round. I was sick, nauseated and the bone pain was brutal. Somehow, after feeling like I wanted to mash the death button, I did feel better between treatments. My blood counts were low sometimes and this required cell enhancing injections from hell, other times I would have to be on antibiotics and stay away from crowds, I was always able to go to work (go figure). Vic took me to all my doctor appointments and chemo treatments so I never felt alone. He spoiled me with lunches and Dr. Pepper (my lifeline) while I was hooked up to the chemo. He would insist I leave my house at times just to get out of my fetal position when I was worn out from the chemo.

My son, a freshman in high school at the time, lived the chemo experience with me. He was good about bringing me something to drink and fixing me something to eat when I just could not get up and do it myself. He was great overall for not getting sick when I was violently nauseated from each chemo. Each one seemed to be worse than the one before.

October 30, 2007: Finally chemo number 8 is over!! I am elated! I take gifts to the nurses and Dr. Patel. I survived!

November 2007: Port out, what a relief.

December 2007 to February 2008: Another chapter of my treatment begins….tissue expanders are filled with saline to start stretching my skin for breasts! Wow, as the months and fills I felt like I was going to need a tracheotomy. With my prosthesis on I had boobs from my neck to my ribcage. I never had large breast so it was almost embarrassing. I had to buy new tops to wear to work to accommodate these HUGE appearing breasts. Vic was so supportive and the poor guy had to listen to me complain but he did great! He really should have gotten a trophy!

February 2008: I got breasts… very own breasts. I don’t have to take them off at night. They look great, I feel like a “real girl” again. My hair had started growing back so I stopped wearing my hats when I returned to work. It took me several years before I could wear a hat again to cover a bad hair day when running errands.

May 2008: I was laid off, but cancer taught me to persevere. So I WILL SURVIVE, after my cancer journey I knew I could handle just about anything. This was just another small hurdle.

I can’t say that I am glad that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but I learned so much about life along my journey. I learned that there are so many great Christians amongst us. I had an outpour of support and prayers that offered incredible hope for me. The love and prayers I received were unbelievable. I had no idea that I had so many friends and all my relatives in New York were awesome. Vic started a site for me on Caring Bridge. It allowed friends and family to get updates on my journey. Also visitors wrote encouraging and inspirational messages.

So many people brought my son and me dinners when I had chemo or a surgery. The kindness was indescribable. I will never ever forget how wonderful everyone was to me and my son. Often someone brought desserts for my son.

I want to say a very special thanks to all my friends at St Peter’s Lutheran Church, friends at Pier 1 Imports, my children and family, the whole Carter family, Aunt Doris for all of the cards, Vic’s daughters, Rene and Laurie, Susie, Kim, Taylor, Deb and most of all to my Guardian Angel. Oh and don’t let me forget, Dirk Nowitzki, #41 for the Mavericks. He will never even know how wonderful I think he is and the stories I have fabricated purely for entertainment purposes.

February 2012: Next month I will be a FIVE year survivor!! I feel like I am on top of a mountain! Thanks to our Lord and Savior and to my Guardian Angel I survived breast cancer and am alive to celebrate! Five Alive!! You can’t even imagine the empowerment this experience has given me.

And as for me and my Guardian Angel, we are going keep dancing—even in the rain.

1 comment:

  1. Your are so strong. Not sure I could have faced chemo so bravely. Luckily for me, it was actually optional in my case. My 5 year survival rate was already 97-98% and the chemo would have only added an extra half %. I'm a gambler,lol!