Denise's Silver Linings

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My experience was many years ago, in January 1994. I remember the same feelings of dread, the questions, the reality of my mortality hitting me square in the face. However, I had so much support, including from my husband. I had always wondered “IF” I ever get cancer, would he stay or run away. He stayed. That says a lot for him.

I had my surgery in Houston, both modified radical mastectomy and reconstruction on the table back-to-back. It was about 10.5 hours of surgery. My husband waited the entire time in the waiting room. During the morning and afternoon, he had several people there as support. Once the late evening and night came around, he was alone, and quit getting updates. It was one of the most difficult things he had to endure. We think about the women undergoing this diagnosis and surgery, but forget about the family, especially the husbands.

I remember waking up, and all the pain I had after the surgery and over the next couple days. Two days after the surgery, I was in so much pain, but was afraid to push the button for the IV pain medication, knowing it could affect my breathing. (I’m a nurse, which can be good, but at that moment was a very bad thing since I talked myself out of what I deperately needed – pain relief.) My husband brought my young children by for the first time during that moment. I felt bad, looked bad, and had the various tubes and wires. I think it scared them. Once they left, I pushed the button, waited about 10 minutes, and pushed it again. Figured if I die, I die. I woke up the next morning feeling SO MUCH BETTER. My family came to visit while I was actually up walking in the hall looking like a completly different person.

I had so much peace during my surgery and chemo experience, because I had so many people all around the world praying for me. I believe it was God who literally carried me through the many months of treatment. I had mini miracles happen during that time, as well, which confirmed my belief.

Now as a survivor of 18 years, I can say, there is life after cancer. I participate in the Relay for Life each year, and see other survivors I remember. Another thing that helped me was being a part of a support group. I live in a small town so it was a combined group of different types of cancer and both genders. It wasn’t really uncomfortable. We all bonded very well.

My suggestion is if you are going through, or ever go through cancer, to stick with you positive support people and stick to your faith. Pray, have others pray for you, and look for the blessings. It is not easy, because the “C” work is a very scary thing to experience. I have had opportunities to share and support other breast cancer survivors since my diagnosis. To me, that is a blessing. Anyone can get through it. It just takes one step at a time.

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