When I look back and think about all that has happened in the past month I am completely overwhelmed, actually let me say "transformed".....this event....this CANCER has truly transformed and changed me forever.....
When I started this blog I never intended on it being about me, but rather only intended on it being about the kids. I have realized though through this process that even though I was the one with the cancer, it involved and impacted the whole family. Therefore I've realized that I need to share my story, that I need to savor these memories and feelings I've been having so that my kids can one day look back and see what we beat as a family....we all beat this cancer together.
I am going to tell you the naked, honest, brutal truth. This was the most emotional and worst week of my life. Once my stitches came out and my mom flew home and things slowly started to get back to normal I began to grasp and agonize and question everything that had happened. A friend put it best when he said getting cancer is like going through the 5 steps people go through when someone dies. This was absolutely true for me. When I was going through the process of beating this cancer I felt strong, I felt positive, I felt closer to GOD then I had ever felt in my life. Now once my doctor released me and sent me on my way I all of the sudden felt so scared, so alone. I was questioning everything this week. I threw myself into learning everything I could about melanoma. I read too much actually, and let me tell you there is some really scary stuff out there on the Internet that makes your imagination run wild. I was sure this week that the cancer was not gone. How was the doctor so sure? Why didn't I get any blood tests? Should I have gotten a lymph node removed just to be sure it had not spread? What if the lab results were wrong? What happens if the cancer comes back and I don't catch it as soon? And the list goes on and on.....
Every single night since my stitches came out I have been an emotional mess. I slowly grew farther from God and started to paralyze my mind with fears and "what if's" I felt so alone even though I have had more friends and family here for me then I ever even realized I had. And like I have said before, there is unfortunately very little out there in regards to support groups and resources for people battling melanoma. I have had nightmares, horrible scary nightmares every night. It got to the point where I would just dread going to bed because I knew I would either lay in bed letting my mind run wild or I would fall asleep and have a horrible nightmare.
I have to say I am usually always a a very positive person. I would like to think I'm pretty strong, especially after moving across the U.S away from all of our family and friends and starting from the beginning. This week I was not that strong woman.
I prayed and prayed this week. I prayed to GOD that he would release my anxieties, that he would take them for me so that I could live my life again. From morning until night I started constantly praying. And then two days ago my prayers were answered...
In one day I had three different people reach out to me who had all beat cancer. One person I hadn't talked to in years and two family friends who reached out to me from California. A friend I went to high school with was actually told a year ago that she was only going to live maybe 5 months and that her melanoma was so advanced that there was nothing she could do. She beat the odds, educated herself, immediately got second, third opinions and is now cancer free. She was the first to reach out to me and told me the words I needed to hear to turn my attitude in the right direction. I asked her how she was able to battle the anxiety, past the point where you are constantly questioning when and if the cancer will come back. She told me she would rather live one more happy year of life then waste a year worrying and stressing about the "what if's". This really stuck with me. I was wasting away my days doing this. I was not totally there for my kids, for my husband, for my friends. This wasn't fair to them either and it was a waste.
The next person to reach out was actually my old High school biology teacher, who also happens to be friends with my parents and live across the street. He called me from California on Friday and again gave me more strength and encouragement that I needed to hear. He was told 17 years ago that he would only survive 5-6 months after being diagnosed with cancer. At this point his two daughters were very young and he told me he made a decision that this was just not o.k. He beat the odds. He educated himself, he mentally and spiritually prepared himself and he fought. He gave me a lot of advice on what I need to do to make sure I am being proactive. It is known that once you get melanoma you have a high chance of it coming back again sometime in your life. I need to be aware and be proactive just like I was before. He also told me something else that really stuck with me. I told him that I felt helpless. I actually felt so scared when the doctor released me because now there was nobody taking care of me and fighting the cancer. He told me about imagery. He said when he was getting radiation all those years ago he would envision in his head that radiation killing each cancer cell click by click. He suggested I do this when I wake up from a nightmare. Your mind really does have the a lot to do with your attitude and your health. I need to picture myself healthy. I need to picture my life in 20 years when my kids are grown and in college. I need to picture life in 50 years sitting on the beach with my adoring husband. What I had been picturing this week was my kids growing up without their mommy. I was picturing my husband without a wife. This is not healthy, and this I knew had to stop.
The last person to reach out was also a good family friend who battled breast cancer about 5 years ago. She is a very emotional person like me and she admitted that she too at first was overwhelmed and sad and scared all the time. She said she finally decided one day that she was going to be strong. She made a decision and she stuck to it. I made that decision in the beginning, but then I fell into the trap and hold of the devil warping my mind with these crazy thoughts. I knew I needed to now make this decision and stop.
After talking to these three people I immediately made a phone call to my family doctor, who was the original doctor that removed the mole. Tyler called my dermatologist and we all came to the conclusion that further tests needed to be done for me to be able to move forward and be sure this cancer was gone. I was now back in control.
We are now in the process of getting referred to Duke medical center where they have a prestigious melanoma cancer center. We are going to be pushing to get a PET scan done. This is a test they can do on me where it will show any "hot" spots in my body, meaning any areas will light up if there is or could be cancer. It will also give us a baseline map to go off of if anything further does come up down the road. I already feel stronger. I already feel like I have been released from all this fear. Like I have said before, this is your body, be proactive. Because Tyler and I both have pushed on this we will now be seeing a oncologist who specializes in this field. This is not to say my doctor has not been excellent, because really he has and is amazing. But I do feel strongly that I need to get a second opinion and need further tests so that I know I have done everything there is to do so that I can be sure and fight this cancer if it has spread or if it comes back.
We just got back from attending church. It was surprising for me to hear the sermon tonight, in fact it makes me smile every time I think back to the pastors words. I think this was God's way of summing up and reassuring me of my week. The sermon tonight was all about how you look to God during tough times. How you fight against the "enemy" and how life is a game that you are here to fight. David Chadwick spoke about how God is not the one who places diseases and horrible circumstances in our life, he is the one that helps us to fix it and heal and recover. He is and has been the one that has healed me, that has helped me to catch this so cancer so early. It makes me smile because if I had heard this sermon last week I probably would not have had the emotional, horrible week that I had. I think that God wanted me to go through this week though, to learn more about myself then I ever had. To start fresh. To take control again of my life and to have a stronger faith in him then I had ever had before. So....even though this was the worst week of my life, in the end it was also the best. I am back and I feel so strong and so lucky to have caught this and beat this. I will never be the same again after this experience and I am glad for that. I hope one day soon I can teach someone else this lesson that I have learned. I now have some peace.