It was the scariest time of my life, up to that point.
The diagnosis of the "Big C" came August 9, 2012.
We had spent over 6 weeks filling out the paperwork, begging, pleading, working with my OB/GYN, tears, a multitude of prayers, that I be accepted to M.D. Anderson.
And now ...
I was undergoing the final tests for tomorrow.
I was to have a radical hysterectomy because of uterine cancer.
Once the path reports came back, we were told that it was the most aggressive form.
Stage 1, Grade 2.
Also had it not been caught (by a miracle, thank you Dr. Tobin, Rick's nephrologist) early, then I would have died within 6 months.
My oncologist told me that 99.99% of women with this type of cancer are given 2 weeks – 4 months to live an excruciating life of pain.
An 8 hour radical surgery.
I will not go into the details, suffice it to say that it WAS indeed radical.
I woke up in recovery 1 with my daughter and my husband by my side.
Slept some more.
Woke up in recovery 2 with my doctor kneeling by my bed.
I was in the hospital for almost a week.
We were counseled as a cancer patient and husband.
We were encouraged to be honest and open with one another, and with family & friends.
We returned 6 weeks later for the path report.
The cancer had not invaded my lymph nodes, nor the lining of the uterus.
Dr. Frumovitz told us that he was giving me 95% chance of survival, with only a 5% chance of it returning within 5 years.
Because it had not invaded, there would be no chemo, no radiation. Only monitoring so that if it did return, we would have a better chance of catching it early. However, the grave warning was given - IF it did return, there would be no treatment options, only pain management and comfort care.
I was told that for 18 weeks I would not lift anything heavier than a fork. Along with a whole list of what I could or could not do. Taking a shot every day for 6 weeks in my belly trying to prevent blood clots.
2 weeks after my cancer surgery, Rick had his first surgery on the shoulder. 6 weeks after that surgery, he had the surgery to insert his catheter for home dialysis.
The rest of the story has been told in other blog posts.
In these 6 years, I have been told by “well-meaning” family & friends (not because they talked with the oncologist, not because they had read the path report):
*You did not have cancer, because God didn’t tell me you did.
*You only had the mild form of cancer, not the most aggressive.
*The path reports were wrong.
*You are milking this.
*Grow up and put this behind you.
*You shouldn’t talk about this when so many have died.
*You should be ashamed at being thankful you survived.
*It should have been you that died instead of Ricky Lee.
I have told few people since the original diagnosis of cancer, or since my surgery.
Why tell them when these words are the responses?
Only a handful of people have listened, having anything good or positive to say afterwards.
I do struggle greatly with survivor guilt, not that it matters to anyone.
There are nights where I cannot sleep, wondering why I survived cancer and Rick didn’t survive kidney disease?
Why did I survive cancer when a best friend’s wife didn’t survive?
Why did I survive when so many children do not?
Why did I survive when Rick died and I was left alone?
Why did I survive … and the questions scream at me.
I still do not have the answers.
I wish I did.
If I could change the outcome for others … I would have done it with no hesitation.
Yet, I had no power, then or now.
The best I can do is to press on.
Trying my hardest to live a life that is worth hearing,
“You done good, girl” from the one I have always loved – Rick.
I do all I can to not listen to the negativity, yet there are the moments in the night that words hurt.
There is a part of me that wants to shout from the roof tops that I survived what should have, could have, would have, killed me.
And there is a part of me that feels compelled to fall at the feet of everyone who has lost someone they loved to cancer and apologize for living when their Sweetheart, their Joy, their Life, did not.
These are the things I think about, dream about, stay awake at night because of.
Life goes on for me … albeit alone, and filled with more questions than answers.
I search for all the goodness in people, and in moments.
Treasuring the smallest acts of kindness.
Doing all I can to serve those around me.
Loving, laughing, living.
Hoping with every beat of my heart to be doing the right thing.
Beginning today, I will no longer walk in shame for having had cancer, for having survived it.
I will hold my head, and my heart, up in gratitude and with great thanksgiving.
Yes, I will still wonder.
I will still have the questions, and not have the answers.
I will no longer defend my diagnosis, nor my prognosis. It was what it was.
Life is what I have now.
Even if alone.
I love my children & my grandchildren.
For you, I fight on still.
For you, I will live this life with as much dignity & class as I can.