12 April 2010

Living Waters


This afternoon I had to drive back to the venue where Saturday's wedding cake was delivered so that I could retrieve the cake stand and other cake accessories. This is not something I have ever done before, but the bride paid me for the convenience of not having to bring those items back to me later this week.

I don't drive very often. It is much more uncomfortable (painful) for me to have the seat belt across my chest in while in the driver's seat than the passenger's seat. I think I have driven only four times in the last four months. Today was spectacularly beautiful and the venue was at a rustic setting called the Aqueduct Conference Center nestled in the bucolic woods surrounding Jordan Lake, just off Farrington Rd.

I had the windows down and the sunroof open. I was listening to a CD that Mary had made for Doug for Christmas and I had the song Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan playing fairly loudly while I let the wind "blow through my hair" (well, figuratively, as my hair is only about 1/2 inch long right now).

I felt so alive and happy. There are several portions of this road that cross over some of the "fingers" of Jordan Lake. People were out on their boats, others were fishing and I just thought to myself "what is it about being close to the water that makes me feel so peaceful and happy?"

I get this same feeling when we go to the ocean. Water--lakes, rivers...it is all the same for me. I just love it. I started to think about how we need water to live. We can go without food for sometime, but it doesn't take too many days without water before our bodies begin to shut down.

That made me think about the Savior, and how all references in the scriptures to "living waters" refer to Him. He is the source of our spiritual life and if we go too long without being fed by Him through His Spirit, our spirit begins to shut down too.

I can't even imagine how I could have survived these last 6 months without my testimony of Jesus Christ and the power of his atonement to lift me when I have hit the lowest points that I have ever experienced in my life.

*(deep thoughts, contemplations, meditation)

What's Been Goin' On?

About three week's ago I started having the tissue expanders filled with saline in preparation for the final reconstruction surgery that would eventually take place at the end of the year. It became instantly apparent to Dr. Hanna, and me that the expanders were high on my chest and not in the usual level that breasts are found in women. Nevertheless, I returned 10 days later for my second fill. That was a week ago today. As he injected into the expanders the additional solution, I was very uncomfortable. No, that is an understatement. I was in pain.

Dr. Hanna was obviously concerned and told me that he didn't see any reason for me to return for additional fills, since the expanders weren't expanding me in the place where the permanent breast implants would ultimately go. He started thinking "out loud" in his usual manner.

He thought it would be best if he could go ahead and remove the expanders and put in the permanent implants now, before radiation treatment began. But, we all know that I was already at 9 weeks post surgery and that the radiation oncologist needed for the treatments to begin no later than 12 weeks post surgery. Dr. Hanna called Dr. Sailer to suggest the change in plans.

I was so hopeful. These expanders hurt so much and actually restrict movement of my upper arm since they go into my arm pit as well. (You'll just have to use your imagination, since I can't show you what I am talking about. Find the point of your right clavicle bone that is centered between your shoulder and the center of your neck. Go one inch down. That is where the top of the expander is. Imagine that your breast tissue starts there)

The thought of having to live with these tortuous things for 8 more months was very discouraging. You see, I originally could not have the final surgery until 6 months post radiation, or there would be serious healing issues. I was excited about the possibility of moving this time line up.

Then, on Wednesday, I got the call that Dr. Sailer said no. We couldn't hold off the radiation any longer. I was depressed. Despondent. I cried on and off all the rest of the day. Sleeping was difficult even with Ambien, because of the pain of these things.

I had an appointment with Dr. Sailer last Friday to start the radiation process for the next 6 weeks. When he examined me he said "Well, a picture is worth a thousand words". He was able to understand what Dr. Hanna was describing over the phone. He just couldn't imagine it, just as I am sure you might be having a hard time imagining what I am describing.

He looked at my chart and said that since I had such favorable pathology report from my mastectomy that we could buy a little more time and he concurred with Dr. Hanna to go ahead and do surgery ASAP.

Oh...I am not sure I ever wrote that they found NO evidence of cancer in my breast tissue or lymph nodes in the pathology. That meant that the chemotherapy destroyed ALL the cancer. All my doctors were beyond surprised. It was miraculous.

Anyway, Dr. Hanna and Dr. Sailer spoke this morning and my surgery to get these hideous things OUT and the permanent implants in is scheduled for this Friday, April 16th at 2:15 p.m. I am both excited and and nervous. I am not sure what to expect in the outcome. Because the expanders were unable to do what they were supposed to do, I may not get the fullness that matches what I was like before the mastectomy. At this point, I am trying just to be grateful that I even have this option.

Radiation will likely begin by mid-May. I won't know until my May 15th appointment with Dr. Singh if he still believes that I won't have to finish up the chemotherapy that was stopped back in January. I am not counting on anything, but hoping that his research will give me the answer that I want to hear.


Many of you already know that my father died two weeks ago on March 30th. He passed away peacefully in his sleep after suffering for the last 6 or so years with Alzheimer's disease.

My mom called me on the evening of Monday, March 29th to tell me that the Hospice caretaker felt dad's passing was impending within a day or two. She said that Daddy had not eaten or drank anything in three days. He had not responded in several days. In that moment I felt an urgent need to be near him. I had not seen my father since early November after my first chemo treatment. I was not able to go to the facility in my immune compromised state.

We gathered up the family and immediately drove to see him. He was so thin, barely over 100 pounds. He was in a non-responsive state, but appeared to be sleeping, although his eyes were half-way open. On Tuesday, I returned with my son, Mark, since he was unable to be with us the night before. We stayed for several hours until my mom was able to get there. She was making the arrangements at the funeral home and cemetery in preparation for the inevitable.

I had to take Mark home so he could get to work. I was only home for 20 minutes when my mother called to tell me that dad had passed on. One moment he was breathing, the next moment he was not.

Within an hour or so, I returned back to the facility to stay with my mom until the funeral home came to take away the vessel that housed my father's spirit for these 82 years.

The next days were filled with many tasks and phone calls making arrangements for my sisters' arrival from their homes across the country and preparing the program for the funeral including helping my kids prepare special music for the funeral.

My mom asked Douglas to give my father's eulogy. It was wonderful. My brother-in-law Will gave a marvelous talk on the Great Plan of Salvation.

I was so happy for my dad, who was now free from the body that had impaired him from being able to communicate with his family and friends. And yet, my daddy had died. It was exquisite joy and sorrow.

Three days. Three days my father had no water. He could not live without it. Water is essential for our bodies. The Living Waters, where we can drink and never thirst again are always here for us if just want to drink.

I am so thirsty.


J9 said...

Wow, Sally, you have been through so much. I will be praying for you that this next surgery will go well. You are always on my mind. Love, Janine

Catherine said...

When I thought about this change of events yesterday the thing that kept coming to mind is that you'll be closer to having a more "normal" life by having everything moved up. By the time Eric gets home you will be a few months past everything instead of anticipating another surgery. I love you and I know you are strong, mom!

They call me grandma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
They call me grandma said...

You are in my prayers. I have many fond memories of your father, I knew him to have a cheerful disposition and quick sense of humor. May you be blessed as you continue on this bumpy road. Hopefully 20 years from now you will look back and marvel at what you were able to do. Smile as best you can and know you are loved.


imabetty said...

I wanted to comment on your most recent post - but couldn't see a way to do it, so I'll say here how glad I am that things have gone as well as they have for you. To lose your father in the midst of all this has to be difficult but I know the Lord will comfort and bless you.
Dr. Sailer also did my radiation treatments and I liked working with him. I'll keep praying that all will continue to go well for your recovery.
Lots of love, Betty

Lynne said...

I am so relieved that you found out that the chemotherapy was successful! What great news. I will be praying for you and thinking about you as you have surgery tomorrow. I hope that everything will go well on Friday. Sally, I am sending my care and concern your way.

So sorry about your father.

love, Lynne

Sue said...

So glad to read your latest post Sally. You are and will continue to be in my prayers. I'll be thinking of you on Friday.

carykate said...

Dear Sally-

I have been thinking of you. I am so happy to hear the treatments have been successful. You are in our prayers! I always love your posts. Love, Katie

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