|Vicki Marney And I After 30+ Years Of Separation!|
Learning to Lean on God—A Survivor's Story—Part II
December 16, 1994—The Surgical Margin: The biopsy confirmed that I did have cancer—the big C! The results indicated that it was a very aggressive, hormone positive cancer, needing quick attention. The week after the biopsy was filled with daily visits to multiple doctors. My life as a healthy person who rarely went to the doctor, or even took an aspirin, was replaced by that of a cancer patient, known on a first name basis at our small local hospital. The cancer went to the edge of the lump that was removed in the biopsy, so they needed to go back and take a little more, "just to make sure they got it all"—so on December 16, it was back to surgery.
Amid the turmoil of meeting doctors and becoming a human pin-cushion, we found out that we could extend our existing insurance for six more months, so most of my cancer treatments were 100% covered. God was providing a path through the valley.
January 1, 1995—Hello New Year, Goodbye Hair: My first chemotherapy treatment was on New Years Day—I felt both nervous and vulnerable, as I entered the room lined with recliners and IV poles, but Jon was by my side and God was with me. My treatment went without any problems and I returned home to discover a group of my friends had cleaned my entire house—what a blessing!
I took my anti-nausea medications and lay on my bed, watching TV, and waiting. Waiting for what, you ask? I didn't know either. Is this when I would start getting sick? Fortunately, I never got very sick—only a mild feeling of 'yuckiness' for a few days after each treatment—no vomiting or any of the other horrors I could imagine that would result from my chemo. And yes, I had heard my share of ‘horror stories’ about treatments going wrong. While everyone responds differently, this was my experience—and I think they gave me some very effective anti-nausea medication. I continued chemo for six, 28 day cycles—each cycle included chemo once a week for two weeks, followed by a two week recovery period.
After my first chemo treatment I was called back to the clinic and informed that my white cells had dropped too low and I had to stay away from anyone sick. The problem was that I had just picked up my young son from school with the flu, so guess who had to care for him? Yep, my husband with a very sensitive sense of smell. To shorten this story, I will say that when Jon went downstairs to check on him, 'he kicked the bucket' and had a mess to clean up. Jon kept coming back up to the kitchen to get more paper towels for the cleanup. With a cloth over his nose and his eyes pleading for the relief he knew was not available, I finally asked him, "How much was there?" and he responded, "I don't know", he sighed and added "but it's a lot!"
Losing my hair was one of the greatest challenges for me because I was very self-conscious about being bald. When my hair started coming out by the handful, I think I truly looked ‘sick’. We decided to shave the remaining scraggly hairs while we were at a weekend retreat. However, we realized that Jon had forgotten his electric shaver and were nervous he the might cut me. With my reduced immunity, we decided to do something that seemed to make sense at the time—shampoo my head with Nair! Hey, it works to make your legs smooth and hairless, why not your head?
Jon seemed to enjoy telling people I had less hair than him and noted—"except hers will grow back and mine won't." I began wearing a wig, or occasionally a head wrap, as soon as my hair was gone. Only my family and closest friends saw me without my wig, and even that was limited. At one point; however, God stretched me a bit on this. Soon after losing my hair, I went to a hospital workshop about head coverings for people with hair loss, and because I was the only one in attendance who actually did not have hair--most of them were hospital staff—they asked me to be a 'model'. While I was embarrassed, it was actually fun trying on various colors and styles—from black, to blonde, a brunette, and the one most liked by everyone was a redhead! Now I dye my hair—not red, but a dark auburn. Tee Hee!
Summer, 1995—Connecting the Dots: When I went in to prepare for the radiation series, I realized that modesty was going to be a thing of the past. While lying on a treatment table, they lined me up with laser beams and marked me with several small tattoo dots. They then took a Polaroid picture, so they could get the correct alignment for each treatment. Each time I would come back for my treatment, there on a clip on the wall, was the Polaroid picture of me, in all my glory! Truly a strange and awkward feeling…I wonder what happened to that picture?
My radiation treatments were five days a week, and I was commuting from our church campgrounds for for the first few weeks. The air conditioning on our car was broken and we were having triple digit weather. Having the window down to cool the car also tangled the wig, so I decided, "Hey! The people on the freeway don't know me, so I don't care!" I pulled the wig off my head and laid it on the seat next to me, with windows down and air blasting by me! However, as soon as I got off the freeway, I put the wig back on before anyone I knew could see my bald head. Later the same day, I started feeling hot and sweaty, so I went into the ladies room so I could remove the wig and wipe the top of my head off. It felt so good, that I decided to leave a cool damp paper towel on my head, under the wig. When I started to feel warm again, I would tap the top of my head to cool off again. God knows how to stretch us in our vulnerabilities, doesn't He?
Many of my friends commented on my 'happy attitude' during this time. My response was that
God had foretold us of his care and control, and I was trusting what He told us. I believed that
God wanted us to look for the positive, while going through the negative and sometimes we
might even find some humor, along the way. These are the things that get us through the tough times—when we learn to lean and become ‘overcomers’ with God's help. I truly do not know how people without faith in God could make it through such difficult times.
Note: This is only a small glimpse of my story and I am currently writing "the rest of the story". God miraculously brought us through it all and I am celebrating 20 years of being a BC Survivor this coming November. I had already decided I should write my story, in celebration, when Diana asked me to share my testimony on OWG—God knows how to nudge us along, doesn't He? I will let OWG know when I finish writing this story and let everyone know how to gain access to it.
*I have provided a link below for meaningful suggestions for friends and family supporting a loved one going through a life-threatening or chronic illness.*
Facebook Writing Page: Victory's Memories - VM
I live in the lovely Pacific Northwest (Oregon) with my husband Jon, (when I'm not following him around the world, wherever his job takes us). After 40 years of marriage we now enjoy spending time with our five children, and look forward to our ninth grandchild, due spring of 2014. I love to read and I am exploring my possible writing skills, looking forward to possibly being published someday. I am currently working on a book for young girls. I am also working on a book of my 'memoirs' from my breast cancer journey, to coincide with my 20 year survivor anniversary at the end of 2014. I look forward to seeing where God's direction takes me from there…