(Previously published July 19, 2010)
Surgical Care Room #19, another stepping stone on this journey of breast cancer. A stopping place for many a friendly face during those three days. A hospital room, but also my temporary home as my recovery began.
One of our prayers going into surgery was that God would grant me a private room so my husband could spend the nights with me. A simple prayer, but a heart desire of mine. God answered. And not only did He answer, but He went above and beyond surrounding me with so many friendly faces, compassionate nurses and gentle hands.
As I've said before, I've prayed that God would show me His fingerprints on each step of this journey. Nothing is an accident. It all comes from the hand of God with a purpose. The day began around 8:30 down in Ambulatory Care. Barclay and my friend, Beth, stood by myside as they started my IV, and went through my admission questions. We all had a chukle when my nurse asked if I had had any previous surgeries and I answered , "Yes, 6 c-sections." She stopped in her tracks and laughingly said, "You're the one!" I guess my baby delivery reputation has preceeded me!
I was transported up to radiology where I was injected with radioactive dye that would help my breast surgeon identify my lymph nodes during surgery. That part was a piece of cake. A couple of short needle pricks and within 10 minutes we were done. Back down to ambulatory care we went to await my 1:00 surgery time.
Barclay called my sister, Heather and my dad who were waiting at home for the ok to come to the hospital. We assembled our own little pre-surgery party complete with hospital gowns, surgical gloves, hospital beds and ice chips. (sounds like a party you want to attend, huh??) I think laughter is medicine for the soul. We had our own little party in my tiny cubicle while passing the time.
My sister, Heather, who is anything but a nurse....I think she gets queasy when medical terms are even being discused, had to turn her head on many a conversation. She immersed herself in her new iphone to tune herself out. Of course, we thought it only appropriate to give her a hard time. She played the part well, as you can see from the picture below, although I never really got that foot massage. We laughed, and joked, we played on our electronic equipment, and joked about the "new me." I think the nursing staff must have thought were were crazy!
And then 1:00 approached and my transport tech emerged around the curtain. The gravity of the moment descended and my heart quickly changed its beat. Tears welled in my eyes as I knew I was entering the passageway that would forever alter my physical body. The ride down the hallways to the Operating room began. The pressure inside of me was building. But God granted us a nurse that had been transporting for over 30 years. She was an angel and brought ease and calm through a tense passageway. We arrived upstairs and as we exited the elevator, I asked her if we could have a moment to pray. It was a beautiful moment. My husband, my sister, dad, and Beth all came around me on the guerny, laid hands on me and ushered me to the throne of grace of our Heavenly Father. We asked for divine healing, for protection, we prayed for the doctor's and staff, for an uncomplicated surgery. We prayed that we would be witnesses to the love of Christ to others and thanked God for this day. This day that he ordained and had He made. With a tear streaked face, a peaceful heart, and one last gaze into the eyes of my beloved.....I was wheeled through the OR doors.
And that transport tech....she told me that she was blessed that day. That God had ministered to her heart and filled her to an overflowing that day....as she was in the presence of the Lord and able to partake of our prayers being lifted up to God. She asked me if my husband was a pastor. And I told her no, He was just a man who loved the Lord. As she brought me to my final stopping point before the surgical room, she leaned over, kissed me and asked if she could give me a hug. My heart was overjoyed again at the goodness of my God. His faithfulness. He was not only holding my hand, but pouring out onto others. He is a God without partiality, whose compassions are for everyone. He is a God who takes a loaf of bread and shares it with everyone......and the bread never runs out. There is abundance. This woman walked away beaming and shaking her head in awe of our God, who I believe is her God too.....another professed believer in Jesus Christ.
The next beautiful face I saw was a lady from church, Heather....who is a surgical OR nurse. She held my hand and stood next to me introducing me to the staff that she had selected to be with me in the OR...many of which were believers. One by one they came to my bedside. Some bringing laughter, some bringing their own stories of cancer, giving me opportunity to share God's love with them. And then Dr. Chang made one last stop by before my time of waiting had come to an end. They gave me some sedation, wheeled me into the OR and off I went to sleep. That was the last I remembered.
As I awoke in recovery, again, God never leaved me abandoned. Through more friendly faces and connections, my husband was allowed back into recovery room even though that is not the norm. He was able to caress my hair and cheek, give me the news that the lymph nodes had cancer, but reassured me again of God's control. With Christ, we will get through this cancer. Around 9:00PM, I was brought to surgical care unit 19 which would be my home for the next 3 days.
I don't remember much that night. Some friends came and went, but my pain drugs were rather significant so all is a little fuzzy. My pastor came and prayed over me and annointed me with oil. My husband held my hand and prayed. And sleep overcame me as i was washed with the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
I cherished the next two days. I was blessed to have my Aunt Kay, a breast cancer survivor, sit with me in addition to my Aunt Pam, who both serve as second mother's to me. I didn't even have to ask and they were there for me. My sister, Heather, from Texas had given up a previously scheduled weekend in California for a home business seminar to be by my side in support and my dad drove up by himself on Wednesday night from NY to be waiting for me following surgery, and then Barclay's parent's came in Thursday from Virginia to shower me and my family with love. I watched everyone give so selflessly of themselves. I was loved, I was made to feel special and I didn't even have to ask. They all took turns between staying home with the children and sitting by my side.
My children came to visit on Friday evening and see that their momma was hurting, but bouncing back quickly. What a breath of fresh air to wrap my arms around their sweet bodies and kiss their precious heads. To give them a squeeze and bring them in close to me.
Friends came and went throughout the day, to sit with me, laugh together, talk through the surgery, answer questions, pray together and share God's Word. I was ushered again and again to the Lord's feet.
My aides brought me smoothies from the labor and delivery floor. They made me a milkshake, as I had trouble keeping most food down, let alone not even having an appetite. They just loved on me and for that I say thank you. And my most favorite nurse, Courtney, was another gift from my Father. She was my day nurse each day and really helped me work through the pain meds that would suit me the best going home. She was a dream. Thank you, Courtney!! I love you.
And so yesterday evening, I arrived home. I have been pretty wiped out and on a cocktail of narcotics, anti-nausea meds, valium for the muscle spasms, and and anti-inflamatory. Precious friends have helped today with the kids, giving them a change of scenery and distractions with their friends. The visiting nurse came today to go over my care. Hands have so graciously brought us meals every evening for dinner. My Aunt Kay will be here until Thursday morning and then my mother in law will come and pick up where my aunt left off. I am truly humbled to be the recipient of God's love.
I go back to my plastic surgeon (Dr. Singer) on Thursday and hope to have at least one set of my surgical drains removed from my sides. He will start to fill up the expanders with saline the following week. I will also begin meeting with medical and radiation oncologists the following week, so that we can begin to make those decisions. The pain is coming somewhat under control. It is hard keeping this girl down, but in all honesty, I am so tired, that the quiet time has been welcomed.
We should hear either tomorrow or Wednesday what the final pathology report will show regarding the cancer on my lymph nodes and exactly how many nodes were included. This will be the final information we take with us to the oncologists. I think sometimes we tend to fear information because of its finality, but with information also comes choices. With this next round of information, we will know what our chemo/radiation choices are. I am glad to have the surgery behind me and now, I pray that Go will equip me and strengthen me for the next step on this road.