It was 5 years ago tonight that I was doing the “prep” for surgery to have my cancerous bladder removed. Four months of chemo prior to this did nothing medically to deal with the cancer. It did, for some reason, give me an incredible sense of smell (which I have since lost) and for some other completely unexplained reason changed my personality to be more chatty (no one ever accused me of being chatty prior to cancer – I still have some remnants of this chattiness left). Just for clarification, chattiness is not the same as “chemo brain” and I might explain the difference another time.
On April 8, 2013, I arrived at the hospital at 4:59 am for pre-op at 5:15 am. Some in my family thought this was early, but they were not the ones who milked cows at like 4:30 am growing up in God’s country. I got out of surgery at 8:00 pm and had my bladder and various other parts taken out and a new bladder constructed out of 2 feet of my small intestine. So this takes a while. But officially I declare April 8, 2013 as my cancer-free day!
The recovery was not problem-free. I was in the hospital for 9 days, which is trouble enough, but apparently blood clots were likely forming in the OR and a few days after my hospital release, I was back in the hospital. I had casually, almost apologetically, mentioned to my surgeon that I felt a little short of breath and after an immediate scan was ordered, found that my lungs were full of blood clots. This was the most serious of all possible complications and with the highest mortality rate of 38%, which I kept to myself, but hey I like to know the percentages when possible.
Enough of the medical recap (trust me, there is a lot more I could say, but in the interest of non-chatty brevity, I will save you).
What I celebrate this weekend after being 5 years cancer-free, is not so much the cancer-free part, but the blessing that cancer turned out to be in my life. Here is the cool thing about blessings, you don’t always know the “why” until later. Literally two hours after I was diagnosed with cancer, my then future son-in-law called me to set up a time to “talk”, which meant to ask my “blessing” to marry my daughter. I could not imagine having a better son-in-law! The day after my diagnosis, my devotional guide verse was James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you go through trials of many kinds.” Wow, was that ever timely! And it was true. I fixed some relationships. I devoted more time to finding God’s plan for my life, and then following it. As of yesterday, I have helped 97 people in one-on-one mentoring through their individual cancer journeys. This was something that I never would have expected to be good at or to find joy in doing had it not been for my own diagnosis and experience.
So, this weekend, I am grateful to be cancer-free, but thankful that it acted as a catalyst for finding a different life of meaning. Thanks to all of you who walked with me on this journey!
A Boomer In Transition