Early this summer I had to go in for urgent surgery, a hysterectomy. Here is why it was the best thing for me.
For once, my family history made me a priority when my periods became erratic. I have suffered from endometriosis since I was a teen. It slowed down during my two pregnancies. Last Christmas it picked up speed painfully. It got to the point I wasn’t able to leave the house or be a present mom.
What They Found
After waiting for the best OBGYN in town for months, she sent me for test. Thankfully, I got in quickly. At that time, several fibroid tumors and one polyp was found in my uterus. Surgery was scheduled 5 weeks from the original testing date. There was no time to waste. A partial hysterectomy was scheduled quickly. (Uterus and tubes removed, ovaries were clear.) My body took a turn for the worst fast.
Baby Factory Closed
Due to the endometriosis, I never expected to be pregnant once, let alone twice. Three doctors told me I could not conceive naturally. After meeting my girls and seeing my youngest go through her challenges with autism, my baby factory is closed. I am at peace with that. If I ever feel a baby urge, I can visit one of my friends’ newborns.
No more late-night grocery store trips when I run out of pads. No more impossible-to-handle cramps when my girls need me. No more forgetting to stock my purse every week in case I am out when ‘Aunt Flo’ arrived.
I am here!
Because of my high-cancer risk due to a genetic disorder I have for ovarian and endometrial cancer, having the surgery reduced my risk dramatically. I am older than my mom lived. History has not repeated itself. I won’t let it. Apparently my body agrees.
I turn 40 on October 10th this year. I cannot think of a better birthday gift than being alive for my family and me.
If you have been a reader here, you know that breast cancer stole my mom away from us when I was ten-years-old. My daughters never met their grandma. After my younger sister kicked cancer’s ass, I began to participate in the CIBC Run For A Cure as a way to give back to the gift of having her. It has now been over 13 years. Since then, I have been joined at the run by my sister, my brother-in-law, my best friend & my husband and our two daughters. I do believe that our girls will see a cure for breast cancer in their lifetime.
When I heard about the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s latest campaign to get the word out about breast health, I knew I had to help. Throughout September and part of October they will be visiting 25 campuses throughout BC, educating young women and men about ways to reduce their risk of breast cancer and empowering them with the knowledge that what they do now can impact their breast health in the future.
Don’t Forget to Check is targeted towards women and men 18-25 years old. There is a website http://www.dontforgettocheck.ca, a free iPhone and iPad app. Within these you can take a pledge, learn what to look for, set reminders to do your self checks, as well as “boob bomb” your friends. This sounds fun while having your girlfriends’ back.
Starting September 3rd, CBCF launches the “Don’t Forget to Check” college campus tours across BC. They will have information about modifiable risk factors affecting breast health including body weight, physical activity, alcohol use and smoking (harmful college life risks.) Don’t Forget To Check also encourages young women to check their breasts, know what’s normal for them, and if there are any changes, to go and see a health professional.
I have had mammograms since I was 28 years old. My mom was only 38 when she died. They only take a few minutes and can save your life. Consult your doctor or the CBCF site for more information about breast health.
How will CBCF deliver their message this year?
By hosting free yoga sessions on campus to engage in conversation with young women. While people take part in a low-impact, easy yoga session, the yoga instructor leading the class will weave messages about breast health and “don’t forget to check.”
Participation is optional. There will be the volunteers to answer questions and hand out reminders such as: bookmarks, note pads, nail files and more.
You may find them at the Student Union Building, outdoor atrium, current campus events, grassy field or high traffic areas. For locations, watch your local student newspaper, campus radio stations and posters displayed around the campuses.
For more information check out their site.
Has your life or loved ones been affected by Breast Cancer?
This year’s Run for the Cure is on October 6. Sign up here. A new run site has been added: SURREY, BC.
The birds start chirping before I realize that the morning is about to begin. I have no idea how long I have been awake, or if I slept at all. This day has been months, if not years in the making. I do not need to put my glasses on to know it is too early for me to shower. Thank goodness. My heart and head are still trying to process the itinerary for today.
I will be staring at four, pale pastel walls. Either I’ll be having a long nap or waiting to go in the operating room. Right now, I am in limbo to find out if it’s my turn with the cancer card. I’ve avoided it for 39 years now. As I said here in Erica Ehm’s post, I made time for me, so I can be here for my girls. Weeks ago an ultrasound gave concrete proof that my body has been fighting fibroids. More tumours are trying to reside here.
Because of my cancer history the doctors are not waiting to biopsy. My uterus, and possible more parts, has been given their eviction notice. I do see the rational side of the procedure and there will be relief to have it all gone. No more debilitating cycles that has robbed me of time to have fun with my family. I may be 39 years old but, I want my mommy! I want her to tell me all those reassuring ‘mom-isms’. I need her to tell me the magic words, “It will be okay.” I am scared.
I hear the birds starting their morning song. I take a deep from-my-toes cleansing breath, and place my brave face on to kiss my husband good morning. I repeat again and again that everything will be okay as I take my pre-op shower. History will not repeat itself. It cannot.
As I recover from whatever results in today, this site will show a variety of new and archived posts. By the time you read this, .. let’s be real, I will be dreaming of a glass of chardonnay. xo
‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.” I hand over my homemade to my mom at the restaurant.
She opens it and sees my self-made coupon for her to cash in when she needs dishes washed. Her eyes scan the card like it was the first card she had ever read. I patiently wait to see if she really likes her card and gift. Our eyes meet over the table and she beams the widest smile.
‘Thank you honey. I love it.” She says.
Just then our desserts arrive in all their sweet glory. We are at her favorite dinner place. It is so grown up here that there are cloth napkins. My sister and I wanted to make this day very special for her. Everyone keeps whispering around her that we need to treat mom very well because she is so sick. I am never allowed to ask her what is making her so sick or urge her to take her medicine so she can get better.
She excuses herself to the bathroom. She gets her cane in place and hobbles to the back of the restaurant. I follow behind her saying I had to go too. As I wash my hands I stare at myself in the mirror. I still can’t help feeling like something is not being said. I love my mom so much. Before I can think anymore, she comes out of the handicap stall.
We walk back to the table as my sister and dad are waiting to go. After we get home and get into our pajamas, I hug my mom tight. When she tucks me into bed our favorite way to say goodnight is telling each other “I love you more than a million oceans.” I smile as I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.
Little did my ten-year-old self know is that was the last Mother’s Day I had with her. She died of breast cancer three months later at the age of 38. As hard as it was to see her in her chemo-ridden self, I hang onto the memory that we honored her on Mother’s Day and every day since. It’s what moms deserve.
There it is, the season of PR and Marketing people flooding inboxes for May. What about the customers who don’t have a mom to buy for this Mother’s Day?
When I think they believe that I am asleep, I get out of my
bed carefully. I tip toe to my door and open it a crack. I sit by
the floor ready to jump into bed if I hear them come down the hall.
I can hear my mom and dad watching tv and sipping their drinks at
the other end of the house. I barely allow myself to breathe. I
hope they go to bed soon so Santa can come. I am wide awake in
anticipation to see Santa.
After about an hour, my parents shut off
the tv. Finally, I think they need to go to bed. Only they don’t. I
hear lights being turned on and furniture being moved. I go down on
my belly trying to peer down the hall into the living room to see
what is going on. Then I hear my mother. “I am tired. We should get
the stuff out. Do you want the cookie?” she asks my dad. His reply
is muffled by the sound of paper rustling and a box being ripped
open. I can’t take it anymore so I open my door and creep down the
hallway to get a better look.
My heart stops when I see the Barbie
Dream House being built by my dad. Packing materials strewn
everywhere. I almost speak up when I hear my sister moving in her
room which is next to where I am standing. I race back into my bed
and pull the covers over my head. I wonder if Santa didn’t have
time to deliver a put together house so he left it for my dad.
Before I could think of anymore sad thoughts, I fall asleep.
“ Mommy.” Before I crack an eye open I am smothered in kisses by my
three-year-old daughter. She bounces over to her daddy who is
pretending to still be sleeping. “It’s Christmas. Santa came. Let’s
go!” she demanded. “Keep it down. You will wake your sister.” I
requested too late. All the family is up now. We go down the stairs
together to the living room. I smile at the dream I had about that
last Christmas I spent with my mom. I never did tell her I found
out Santa was not real.
The look on my children’s faces makes me
wonder if there is still Santa magic. It has been 26 years since my
mom died and I still miss her, including the holidays. I still
remember her sitting in the black vinyl chair, cane at her side,
smiling at us enjoying the Christmas presents. Each day is hard and
easy all at once. Once I gave myself permission to embrace the
grief that my children do not have their grandma, I felt lighter.
By letting go I began to tell my daughters stories of when I was a
kid. Showing them pictures reminds me of the happy times. I do
things that remind me of her, like watching her favorite Christmas
movie and enjoy her special coffee. She will always be a part of my
heart and soul.
My youngest toddles over to me with her new Elmo
toy. She gives it a big hug and joins her sister back on the floor.
I take a deep sip of my coffee with Baileys just like mom. I feel
warmth of the day and the knowledge that my daughters know their
grandma. I take great peace in that. Happy Holidays to you and your
loved ones. May you make new traditions while appreciating the past
I am sitting still on the phone listening to my friend complain about going from her mother-in-law’s house to her own mother’s for Christmas dinner. I inwardly shake my head. I love my friend, and at the same time I want to yell at her on how lucky she and her kids are to have family fighting over where to go for Christmas.
It has been 26 years since I shared my last Christmas with my mom. I can still hear the wrapping paper crinkle, ice in her rum and coke tinkle and the squeal from my younger sister over what Santa brought. I can still feel the warmth of her hugs. It was the last year of my childhood. I was ten years old.
The years that followed without her, I could not get into the Christmas spirit. It was not the same. The void always darkened the room despite other family members trying to make it a good day for us. I still missed her and didn’t understand why she was gone. The grief engulfed me when I became a mom. My girls did not have their grandmother.
Then something changed for the better. I began to talk about my mother to my young daughters by showing them pictures of my childhood and sharing memories. I relived the singing carols, watching her favorite holiday movies and the fun she made just being with her. By opening my heart’s door it made her the grandma she is which made me feel better and lighter. I had buried many of the happy parts of my childhood until now. Though I know she will never be back, I can not ignore the fact in talking about how amazing she was, and still is, in my heart.
After many discussions with my husband, we decided to have a quiet house over the festive holidays. We had nowhere else to go as other family had passed away or moved out of town. After gifts were opened and played with, we stayed in our pjs for as long as possible. Games are a plentiful and movies are replayed over and over. Big Christmas dinners are replaced with snacking all day long on favorite foods. The car remains in the garage all day long.
When we let go of the sorrow and what we can’t control, we build our children’s memories of this time. We enjoy the magic of the season with each other.
As my friend wraps up the call, I take a sip of my wine. I smile as I say good-bye. I am relieved that what I thought I wanted for my daughters is not the reality of traditions that we have built. The legacy that we give them any day of the year is unconditional love. We need to stop the coulda, shoulda and woulda in our lives. Our life is what it is. Our family may be small. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.