My STORY of Christmas 2015
December 18, 2015 started as a normal day. That morning I was excited for three things. It was Friday! An auditor that had spent the week with us in our home health office was leaving! And my sons, Zachary and Cody were having their hair cut to donate to Wigs for Kids. The Spirit of Christmas was in full swing and it was palpable everywhere.
Around lunchtime, the auditor got in her car to leave, so I immediately started preparing to end my work day. As I walked by one of the nurse's desks, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. It was so sudden and so strong that it made me gasp and crumple over. I remember saying out loud, "I don't know what the heck that was!" I continued to ready myself to head home after one stop for some last minute Christmas gifts.
Thankfully I made it to the Hair Salon and felt "okay" enough to make it through the ceremonial hair donation.
I made it home and immediately went to bed. I had a ton of things to do to get ready for our family Christmas at my house the following night. And it wasn't just any Christmas party...it was a Tacky Christmas! And I had not finished making our tacky outfits, outfits that could withstand extreme competition. Thankfully, my daughter came to the rescue and employed her creativity to complete our outfits.
The next day, the pain continued and I was now taking pain pills. Now like any great nurse, I knew that abdominal pain was such a vague symptom and the onset, location and character of the pain was so crucial for an accurate diagnosis. So I reasoned with myself that since I couldn't really describe the pain very well, I would put off going to the doctor. Plus, I had 30 people coming to my house for a party!!!!! I did NOT have time for this!
With the help of my family, the party was a huge success and I made it through thanks to Lortab. At that point, I had decided that I had a kidney stone and I was settling in for a few, rough days.
By the next morning, I knew it was not a kidney stone and started to worry about my appendix. Although I still did NOT have time for this with all of the preparations for Christmas in 5 days, I told my husband I no longer had a choice and had to go to the Emergency Room.
After the first round of tests, I could see the concern in the faces of the Emergency Room staff. More tests followed and then the Physician's Assistant came to deliver the news. As I listened to the words that she was saying, it was as if everything was in slow motion. Was I listening? Did I hear what she said? I didn't hear a lot of it, but I heard her clearly when she said, "Worst case scenario, it is ovarian cancer. You need to see an Oncologist immediately. I have copied all of your scans and reports from two radiologists, because you need surgery fast." WHAT??? It is now Sunday, December 20, 2015 and we all know, nothing happens fast the week of Christmas!
As my husband and I got in the truck to leave, I remember saying that it was so inappropriate for an ER doctor to tell a patient something like that. She didn't know I had cancer! But as I started reading my reports, I understood why she was trying to stress the importance of very quick action. Words like "9.1 cm neoplasm", "4.6 by 4.6 cystic and solid tumor", "suspicious for ovarian neoplasm", "free fluid" were jumping off the page! Having seen many ovarian cancers in my days as an Oncology nurse, I knew that there was a reason it was called the "Silent Killer." (Truthfully, I had forgotten I even still had an ovary. I had to remind my husband that I was a big part of the decision to keep the ovary five years ago when I had a hysterectomy. He kept saying over and over again that he wished he could find my doctor, because he would punch him out! )
That night I sent a Facebook message to a long-time nurse friend for advice. She made a call to the nurse of the top Surgical GYN Oncologist in town. She told me that she had given the nurse my number and that her name was Mary. Mary! The same Mary that I had worked with on the Oncology unit many years ago! Mary called me Monday morning, told me the doctor had seen my scans and wanted to see me Tuesday morning (December 22nd) in his office at 0700 before he began seeing patients. This was AWESOME news, but it also concerned me that he wanted to see me so quickly.
Now by this time, we had rallied the prayer warriors and people from MS, TN, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, California, Hawaii, Jamaica, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Peru were storming the Gates of Heaven on my behalf!
I truly debated telling my Dad the news, because I knew that he would want to cancel his trip to Hawaii for his eightieth birthday! For six months the anticipation was building for this trip and I knew that I would be consumed with regret for ruining his trip. My daughter made a trip to her PopPop's house to convince him to go on his trip and celebrate this monumental birthday. She reasoned that he could not do a thing for me at this point and that I may need his help after the surgery, especially if chemo was in my future. He acquiesced and went to the beautiful island.
On Monday night, I went to Life Group, where my Pastor and friends prayed over me and anointed me with oil. (James 5:14) We then went to spend time and take gifts to a young family with two handicapped children and a husband on disability due to a serious heart condition. Wow! How easily I forgot my own troubles as I watched this family who remained hopeful in spite of their dire circumstances.
At my appointment Tuesday morning with the surgeon, he showed me the CT scan and shared his concerns. He was so incredibly compassionate and he offered to do my surgery on Christmas Eve!!! I signed a surgery permit for exploratory laparoscopy, removal of my ovary, removal of the omentum and placement of a Port-a-Cath if needed. We were planning for the worst and knew that I would need a permanent IV access for the chemo that would follow.
So we had two days to get all of our Christmas celebrating done. My boys were happy to oblige, because that meant opening Christmas presents early! We had a lot of fun and I enjoyed it so very much! I'll never forget the beautiful, heartfelt prayer my big brother prayed for me before our Christmas dinner. It was a night of celebrating and making memories. My family rallied and gave so much support, which is what they always do.
I tell you, 4 o'clock in the morning came early! My husband, my daughter, and my mom headed for the hospital, all in good spirits! My mom surprised me with the famous "Mambo" shirt that I made 25 years ago for my little sister, Mandy, as she was fighting her battle with cancer.
I had another surprise as I walked through the doors of the hospital at 5 o'clock Christmas Eve morning, to find three of my Pastors and my Life Group leaders waiting for me. They were there to pray with us and for us. I cannot even explain the love, the comfort, and the peace that I experienced because of them; it was truly so heart-warming. My Pastor asked specifically what I was asking of the Lord. I told him that my prayer was that I did not wake up with a Port-a-Cath. I knew that this would tell me everything I needed to know about what was found in surgery. We prayed for healing, but ultimately for God's will to be done.
Amazingly, I was very calm and did not fear the outcome. I was trusting God in either situation. Since the beginning of this ordeal, I had experienced so much peace (you know the kind that surpasses all understanding) and that morning was no different. In the pre-op waiting area, I was already claiming victory! There is a picture below that shows this moment. :)
My family was there to send me off and been prepared for a 3 hour surgery. We said our good-byes as I was rolled down the hallway.
I remembered very little until I woke up in recovery. I was quite fuzzy-headed and in a lot of pain. I was shivering and my teeth were chattering and the nurse kept saying, "We need you to breathe. We need you to breathe." In and out of the fog, I remember having a moment of clarity and I immediately reached up and started frantically patting on my chest, trying to see if there was a Port-a-Cath. The nurse thought I was crazy and she was trying to pull my hands down. Excitedly I said, "There's no Port-a-Cath!!!! That has to be a good sign!!!!!" She of course had no idea what I was mumbling about, but I knew then it was great news.
At 1:28 pm on Christmas Eve (30 minutes into the expected 3 hour surgery) my family heard the words, "IT'S BENIGN! HE GOT IT ALL! NO CANCER!!!!" I found out officially when I was rolled back to my room; the look on my mom's face gave it away!!!! It was awesome news! God prevailed and had done the miraculous for me once again! The 9.1 cm tumor was completely removed and totally benign!!!!
I cannot even begin to explain the things that God showed me through the entire experience, especially the power of intercessory prayer. If you have ever doubted, PRAYER WORKS! I kept my eyes on Jesus; I trusted and leaned on Him, my Abba Father.
I am forever grateful for God's gift of life over death that day! I am grateful for my powerful prayer warriors who prayed me through to healing! And I am so blessed with my family and friends who have always had by back!
It will be difficult to beat Christmas 2015!!!! He is Forever Faithful! Amen and amen!
What MAN said!
Our Tacky Christmas!
Thank you for visiting my site! This has been a work in progress for many months and I am so happy to finally share it with all of those who have supported me along the way.
This has been an incredible journey and I truly believe it is just getting started. I've been on this earth for almost a half century and I finally feel I am living intentionally and on purpose!
Thank you again for everyone who has invested in me to make this dream possible! I am looking eagerly and expectantly to the future!
My theme song for that season
WHAT GOD SAID!!!!!
My boys donating their hair to Wigs For Kids
Before and After!!!! Claiming VICTORY! My cute pj's are compliments of my Sister-In-Love!