Monday, March 9, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Surgery

Well it's been an interesting week and a half since my chemo ended. I have about two dozen side effects caused by chemo. None of them miraculously disappeared on the eighth day as I was hoping, but I have had one significant positive turn of events. The rash that's been on my legs since December is most definitely fading and not itching so much. Alas, my hope was not in vain. Things are changing for the positive. 

I received my call from the surgery scheduler. I will have my operation on March 17th around noon. Now I should tell you I've had four surgeries: an ectopic pregnancy, a C-section, Carpal Tunnel repair, and sinus "windows". The last two were much easier than the first two. Let's face it, though, paper cuts hurt and surgery is surgery, so there is pain involved. This fact tempts me to be anxious. That and the fact that we get the big news when I wake up: Did the chemo kill the cancer as we hoped? I think there's more to this anxiety and fear thing. I'll flesh it out a bit. 

My grandmother, whom we called "Nan" shortened from "Nanny" lived between my house and my Aunt Eileen's house my whole life growing up. She never lived alone after being widowed at an early age. Until I was 8 years old, we shared a bedroom. Anyway, she had certain instructions for me. They were seeped in Irish American culture which had more than a hint of superstition. She simply said, "Don't let them put you under the knife." She also said, "Don't walk under ladders, you'll have bad luck." As much as I can intellectually reject a lot of her teachings, I still don't walk under ladders and I prefer not to go under the knife. There's an influence our elders have on us that runs pretty deep. 

Here's a second point at hand. It is an interesting thing to ponder life itself and the time in history we live in. When I was 18 years old I spun out on black ice in my parents' new and beautiful Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I totaled the car, moving the engine back a bit when a tree entered the area under the hood. The first thing I remember is a man telling a woman, "Don't come any closer. If they haven't been there, there can't be anyone alive in it." Well, I was alive, and I was also curious as ever so I tried to get up to see the excitement. My head was stuck in the Y of the padded steering wheel. I do believe that my height (relatively short) and the fact that steering wheels had started being padded saved my life that night. I got away with a concussion.  Several years later I had an emergency C-section to welcome my daughter Melanie into the world. Think about it. Modern day C-sections were first performed in the 1880's. Have you been to an old graveyard like in downtown Boston? Both Melanie and I would have been buried neatly beside each other and God knows who would have raised my other children. But it was 1978 so we both got to live. Progress. It works for the good and the bad. I'm in awe. I have been saved twice by the place in history I am part of. Now we can make that three. My oncologist told me that one of my infused drugs, Herceptin, has changed my prognosis from around 40% chance of survival to 90% chance. Just think about it. I have 2 friends that died of breast cancer 10 years ago. My knowledge was very lacking at the time, so I have no idea if they had my kind. I'm triple positive (positive being in this case what you don't want because it's more aggressive). But I could have the same kind and I may live because it's 2014 and they didn't because they were a couple of years to soon. Unbelievable, but this is the reality of time and progress. 

And so I approach my surgery with some level of temptation to be anxious. I want to believe the cancer is killed. Dead and gone. All the rest of the year's treatment is clean up and and preventive against recurrence. I want to believe the recuperation is a piece of cake as my surgeon claims even though she hasn't had surgery. I remember how Our Lord instructed against anxiety. It has never done anyone any good. That's the truth. I pray from Psalm 30, "I hope in the Lord, I trust in his word; with him there is kindness and plenteous redemption." He is my refuge and my solid rock. To strengthen me (yes, this is very self focused), I will tell you a more detailed story of why I hope in the Lord. He has been working in me all along. 

I think the year was 1982. I went on a Cursillo weekend. I listened to talks given by lay (everyday) people. When I went to bed that night, it occurred to me that there was a major difference between their faith and my faith. These people were outwardly loving God and others with their whole heart. It was palpable. You could argue their theology, but you could not deny that they loved God and his creation. It was just too real. My faith was more of an intellectual assent to the doctrines I learned as a child. I said a short prayer. Something like, "Lord, I want to have my faith be in my heart and not just in my head." There, in an upper bunk of a retreat house where I knew no one, I had the biggest faith experience in my life up to that point. It felt like the flint of a match was struck inside my brain and started to travel down to my heart. It went through my neck, across my chest, and planted itself and it's burning heat deep inside my heart. May I simply say that nothing in my life has every been the same. It was like a black and white movie changed to color. It was like the lights being turned on after struggling in a dark room. Actually, there are just no words to say about this event, other than I have loved Jesus ever since with my whole heart, mind, and strength. In that heat, there was a work of God happening. Decades later, I struggled for 9 months with a shoulder injury. I went through PT, had lots of medications, and very little improvement. One night at a prayer meeting, someone laid hands on me and prayed and I felt heat again. Just like that first night only it didn't travel. The hand was on my shoulder, the heat went into the area, and my pain was gone. I was healed. Now, I tell you this because lots of people have prayed over me in the last four months (I can't believe I've only been diagnosed for 4 months. It feels like eternity). Two of these times, when Fr. Michael, our pastor, and Walt prayed over me, and another time when David and Terri Porter and Walt prayed over me I felt heat entering my body. I wanted to get this documented before the surgery so we can rejoice if the tests all come back negative for cancer from the pathology lab. It is not crazy to have faith. God has done greater things than heal my cancer. Those without faith, I know our modern technology has a 90% chance of healing my cancer, but God can still want to make the road easier by taking it all early in the treatment. Anyway, I am turning my anxiety back to hope and spending this week trying to get stronger and visiting my daughter Mary and her family in South Bend. My life is very full. Full of wonderful people and full of joy. It's up to me to remember that!

My mom is flying from New York and Melanie is driving from Michigan to be with me post op. I look forward to their company. Bring it on! 

I'm counting on Walt giving the next update. I'll talk to you all after surgery and before radiation. Here is my gift to you. It is from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.

I want you to know how much I appreciate you all and how you have been literally "helped me up" these past 4 months. 


  1. Beautiful Sharing Pam!
    Ps 18:29-30 With thee I can crush a troop, and by thee I can leap a wall. This God, his way is perfect...

  2. You are so beautiful Pam. What a great day to have a surgery! We pitch our tent in the land of hope- and ion this day is it Ireland! :)

  3. Prayers for peace and ultimate healing Pam!

  4. Thank you Pam for sharing so honestly and full of faith, hope and trust. He is faithful! Praying for you! Claudia

  5. A beautiful sharing Pam, thanks. Our God is so good, loving!
    You are in my daily prayers.

  6. Love you, Mama! Thanks for spending the week with us! You are certainly living a faithful, hopeful road. You seem very peaceful and I know the Lord is with you!

  7. Thank you for this beautiful sharing, Pam! I'll be praying for you especially this week.

  8. Wow! Lord, heal my sister! Continue to give her peace!


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