Menopause

My Cancer Story: Handmade Affirmations

Open Box

The biggest challenge I faced after my cancer surgery was letting myself recover. Sounds so silly! But as a project person, sometimes I fought the need to rest. (Other days, I thought it glorious. I loved having no greater mission than hours on the couch with a good book.)

So many people told me to rest, that I finally got it. And now that’s my best advice to anyone else in recovery mode. Be good to yourself! Be the best you can be.

My friend Jane’s affirmations helped me mightily. What a wonderful handmade gift! What creative medicine for some tough days!

Af One

 

Af Two

 

Af Three

 

Af Four

 

Tucked back into their box for now, I’ll keep them forever and use them again (and again). Thank you, Jane!

A gift of handmade affirmations would work for plenty of other situations too: A new job, off to college, the difficult days following a divorce or the death of a loved one, MENOPAUSE, or just a pick-me-up for any old time.

 

Menopause

My Cancer Story: Remember the Caregiver

Barbara and Cliff

Soon after Dr. Fried gave me the cancer diagnosis, I thought about Cliff.

He’d need to come to appointments, stand by me during surgery, and take care of me afterwards, possibly during months of chemo. He’d do the money and most of the insurance stuff. Cancer would curtail our summer plans and maybe the plans for the rest of our lives.

As the days went by, I knew it was my cancer. The burden was on me (In me! My uterus to be exact).

But I tried to be mindful of how this would affect Cliff, too.

Cliff’s mom and I used to talk for hours. Many of her pronouncements on life proved true, but one didn’t. “When you go into surgery, you go alone,” she told me, recounting the story of her thyroid operation at age forty. Nope. Not me. I took her son with me. I never felt alone.

Our good friend Lisa Flinn wrote Cliff this note two weeks after my surgery:

 

Lisa's Note

Others too, thought of Cliff. Visitors arrived with a favorite beer for him to enjoy while we all chatted. Those who prepared food sent plenty since they know my husband chows down with gusto.

I’ve made a new vow: Remember the caregiver!

Photo Top: Cliff and I at Mazen’s first birthday last fall. Note the grins of grandparents.

Photo Bottom: Lisa’s note. The “clear to see (even for me)” is in reference to her macular degeneration. Lisa’s a cancer survivor. Read her post, “Tai Chi Brings Balance after Breast Cancer” on Friend for the Ride. 

She’s one of my cancer role models! Others include Frances, Lisa W., Vibeke, Karen, Linda, Mark, and Haralee (Check out her sleepwear line!) Thanks, friends.

Menopause

My Cancer Story: Out of Surgery

liquids

I opened my eyes.The clock said noon.

Four and a half hours gone by in a twinkling.

Barbara body check:

No nausea.

No memory of a tube being whipped from my throat.

No weirdness from a catheter.

Worries Two, Three, and Four, all vanished.

Yes!

“You’ve been out of surgery for an hour,” the recovery room nurse said.

I did some fast math. My surgery lasted a half hour longer than expected, by my calculations.

Did the doctor need to remove additional nodes, meaning the cancer had spread?

Worry Number One, The Big One, despite my sleepy brain, loomed large.

An orderly wheeled me out of the recovery room.

I saw Cliff for a moment. At least I thought I did.

A blur of walls. The ding of an elevator.

Next, I was in a hospital bed.

I glanced around. No other beds.My own room. Worry Number Five, gone!.

Cara, who introduced herself as my nurse, explained lots of stuff. I mostly remember her pointing out the  TV remote control and the phone, tucked in on one side of the bed. Cool!

But what about the pathology? Cliff had promised to tell me right away, good news or bad.

But he had said nothing in the flash of an instant I saw his face.

Did that mean bad news? Was he waiting until I was more stable?

Finally, at one-thirty, he stepped through the hospital room door. I hit him with the question immediately: “What’s the pathology?”

“All good!  Everything is good.”

I sank back into the bed. Never, ever have I experienced such relief.

That joy took hold and hasn’t left me yet.

My first meal arrived. A liquid one that included my beloved Coke!

Despite my high spirits, I fussed at Cliff, “Why didn’t you tell me the good news when you saw me after recovery?”

He explained that besides a half-smile, I slept, and of course, he didn’t know he wouldn’t be coming into my room right away. (Turns out, the orderly and nurse asked him to wait while they got me settled, and then forgot about him until he began to worry and inquired.)

Maybe waiting made the news even more powerful, if that’s possible.

All was forgiven, and Cliff enjoyed my jello with gusto.

Cliff Eating

An hour later we checked out the bandages. Amazing, isn’t it, that not so many years ago, this would have been a giant incision.
Stomach

A visit from our pastor (don’t worry, I didn’t reveal my stomach) and phone calls added to the room’s festive spirit. Everyone reported later that I was an upbeat chatterbox.

Ordering a meal at UNC Hosptial  is great sport. The menu is divided into pretend restaurants. This is the page with Asian food.

Menu

We decided to select dinner from the Southern Cooking page. After all, we were in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Best milkshake ever. It’s probably all I really consumed. While food sounded, looked, and tasted good, my appetite was missing and wouldn’t return for two weeks.

Hospital Dinner

Cara printed three goals on the white board across from my bed:

Walk.

Pee.

Eat.

Eat: Although I didn’t consume much, I passed the eating test.

Pee: The catheter, which began to bother me some by nighttime, was staying in until the morning, per doctor’s orders. Pain medicine helped. Official peeing would come tomorrow.

Walk: I’ve heard story after story of patients being pushed out of bed.

“Am I getting up?” I asked the late night nurse.

“Nope,” said the nurse. “You aren’t going anywhere tonight.”

If you told me three months ago that I’d be hooked up to tubes and ordered to stay in bed at UNC Hospital, I’d have panicked.

But that night, in that hospital bed, was just about the happiest night of my life.

I’m not sugarcoating the experience.

I’m not making light of something so serious.

I’m writing the truth.

The surgery over. My pain minimal. An excellent surgeon and her team. The kindness of family and friends and hospital staff.

And most of all, an excellent pathology report.

What more could this girl want?

womens-hospital

Menopause

My Cancer Story: Getting Ready for Surgery

nightgowns

I’m a project person.

I like to be organized.

And I’m fond of shopping.

So I took on preparing for surgery with a touch of gusto. I was scheduled for a hysterectomy on July 8. A month earlier a biopsy had revealed endometrial cancer.

I bought a new nightgown.

 

Hospital Stuff

I found stretchy shorts. I wouldn’t be able to wear waistbands for a while.

And I picked up some other post-surgery items.

I put sheets on the guestroom beds, since I thought it best not to climb our long stairs for a week or so.

And I made the house as tidy as could be.

As the day approached, a sort of calm came over me.

Yet I had moments when my illness hit me anew. Our pastor sends out a weekly email with announcements of upcoming happenings at Hillsborough Presbyterian Church.

 

Church Announcement

 

Me.

Cancer.

I felt so good. How could I be sick?

The night before the surgery, I took a final walk on our brand new riverwalk. I had no idea when I’d be able to walk this trail again.

Riverwalk

I talked to my girls on the phone, and to my mom (I didn’t tell her a word about my illness until after the surgery).

Got the blog set.

Packed my hospital bag.  Added a folder with my Living Will.

Gave my ID and medical card to Cliff to carry.

Took a shower with antibacterial scrub per hospital instructions. Talk about squeaky clean!

The very last project was taking off my nail polish.  Hospital rules state it has to be removed. One pedicure down the tubes.

toes

Three weeks later, after the surgery, I sank into a bit of a funk. My oncologist said it’s normal. “You sail into cancer surgery with  blinders on,” she explained. “You do what you have to do. Later you stop and really reflect.”

And that was me.

I did what I had to do.

And got as ready as I could.

With the help of my husband and the well wishes of friends and family, I was off to UNC Hospital at five the next morning. Lights out!