Monday started out like every other day, for any other parent this time of year, I loaded up my son’s truck, kissed and hugged him tight, slipped him a few extra dollars for the road trip, told him I loved him, said a quick silent prayer for his safe journey, and sent him back for sophomore year of college at Auburn. By the time I came back inside, a combination of sweat and tears rolling down my face, I took the opportunity to glance down at my phone and saw that I had missed a call I had been waiting to receive.
A few weeks back I had made an appointment with my dermatologist for my 6 month skin check, being oh so fair and light eyed I am a regular there. During my visit I told her about a spot on my leg that I kept nicking every time I shaved my leg. Can I tell you that she is my least favorite doctor to see, because it seems like “every time I go away I leave a piece of me with her” Hall & Oats 1991. This time was to be no different. First the numbing, then the punch, bandage up, don’t get it wet for 24 hours and I’ll give you the results in 7-10 days.
I promptly played the voicemail back that they left that told me to call the office and I needed to come in to discuss the results. The feeling of fear and dread set in. This can’t be good so I called a friend who’s had spots removed before and she reassured me not to worry it was probably something minor that she needed to do a little more work on. By coincidence Juan happened to be home Monday because he had two doctor appointments himself that day, so I asked him to go with me because my gut was telling me it was going to be worse.
Sure enough the doctor came in with a worried and serious look on her face when she sat down next to me. She looked me in the eye and said the dreaded three words “YOU HAVE CANCER” melanoma to be exact. Sometime shortly after that my brain passed out. I could see and hear words but I can’t recall much more than, this is very serious, survival rate is 5 years or less, you need to do something immediately. I know she and Juan had further discussion but all I could think was “How can this be possible this is my year of living in joy? WTF I’m only 57! It was an old age spot that was in my way when I shaved my legs!” I tried really hard to fight back the tears as I checked out in a daze, and made our way to the car. But then the flood gates opened.
The last few days have been filled with fear, tears, conversations, calling loved ones and fighting to get doctor appointments, bloodwork, scans, surgical opinions, etc…
The hardest part has been telling my dad, my sisters, friends, but mostly my children, because up until this point of my life, I have been perceived as being invincible! The Sno-Cone Diaries touched on a few of the obstacles I’ve overcome in life but certainly not all of them. I’ve been invincible for two reasons, I have always believed that God put me on this earth for greater things, and therefore when the going gets tough I cannot quit. These are the challenges I must face as a Christian to be the person God wants me to be. If I quit, I let myself down, I let others down, but more importantly I let Him down.
So here is the good news in this blog that I want everyone to take away from my first week of facing cancer. I will not allow my pity party to extend for longer than a minute because it takes too much energy and I need to save it to stay positive and focused. When Juan told his boss Christina why he wouldn’t be in New York this week, she advised Juan that I was being prayed for and to read a really good book called Sno-Cone Diaries. It’s about overcoming challenges and winning. His other boss and his wife have called daily with encouragement. The Chilean winery is also praying for me and held a Mass in my honor. My friends, my sisters, and my dad have all reached out daily. So I have felt loved in a way I’ve never allowed myself to experience before. This time I don’t have to do it alone, I have prayer warriors all over the world that believe that this is just one more thing I need to experience to understand my purpose and mission. The oncologist I met with who is also a cancer survivor explained me in terms that allowed me to comprehend the diagnosis, the course of treatment, and that his job was to make sure I died of old age not this. He also said the most important part was my faith. Neither he nor I could control the outcome it was all in God’s hands.
I will close with this last quote from Justin when I told him the news “Does cancer know who it’s messing with?” It’s quite the profound message from a young man of 19 who offered to turn around and drive back from Auburn to be with me.
I’ve already done the blood work, and met with one oncologist. I will meet with the surgeon on Monday so all that’s left for me to tell you for now is this:
Always trust your gut
Wear your sunscreen
Don’t wait to tell people you love them. Life changes in an instant.
Trust that you are loved by more people than you can ever imagine no matter what you may believe.
Diva’s never quit, or whine, they find a way to win.
And finally, let your faith be bigger than your fear.
I will update you with more information as I get it. Now go hug someone you love!