Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Susan's Story - Happy Endings

My boss/family doc recommended I see the same oncologist he'd been seeing. Great recommendation! Another good AND personable doctor. He too, spent a good hour with my husband and me. Answered every question and even gave us his cell phone number so we could call him any time we needed to. That didn't end up being necessary but it was a comfort. My regimen was Adriamycin/Cytoxin every 2weeks for 4 cycles, then Taxol weekly for 12 weeks. I also got a shot of Neulasta after each A/C treatment to keep my blood count up so I wouldn't have to miss any treatments. There are lots and lots of potential side effects from these meds. A few I experienced included "chemo acne" - painful cystic acne all over my head, face, and even under my breasts. It hurt to shower. I didn't have teenage acne anywhere near that badly! I developed an extreme pain in my back from the Neulasta, but only once and it was 90% better the next day. Then my thumb nail beds started to hurt. At first I thought I was texting too much! Then the rest of my nails hurt - fingers and toes. Then all my nails turned brown. The acne and fingernail side effects were not mentioned in any of the literature I had. Later, during the Taxol treatments, I didn't get nauseated (I didn't have nausea with the A/C treatments either) but NOTHING TASTED GOOD. My sense of taste was totally altered. All I could or wanted to eat was a bowl of oatmeal in the morning and a Boost supplement for lunch. I lost 40 pounds! I had plenty more to spare and even wish they'd make a diet pill that caused the same effect! 

All through that I was able to work at my job, though only three days a week instead of my usual four in order to accommodate chemo on Fridays. I had a mediport placed just under my right collar bone after one of my veins became unusable. I was able to have blood drawn from there, get chemo through there and have a blood transfusion through there! It worked out great for me! At one point I became anemic enough that I got out of breath walking a few feet! Hence the transfusion. Didn't have to miss chemo, though. I really didn't want to have to prolong that if I could help it. On June 1, 2012, a year ago today as I write this note, I had my last treatment! 

In August, I had my reconstruction surgery on BOTH breasts and the plastic surgeon removed the mediport. He created a new nipple on the right breast, and a few weeks after healing from that, his P.A. tattooed an areola. It's the only tattoo I have or will EVER have!

What I've shared here with you so far, are some of the facts relating to my diagnosis and treatments and surgeries. These are important to me and I hope helpful to anyone who may read this. More important than the facts of what I've endured, are the many blessings I received throughout this little walk. Countless friends near and far offered prayers, sent cards, provided meals, cleaned my house and my co-workers - including my boss - painted four rooms in my house! My husband and daughter were a constant source of comfort. For many years, though, I've asked in my daily prayers for a greater knowledge of my Savior's atonement and how it applies to me. I've endured other challenges in my life - losing my mother a week after my daughter was born, watching my daughter endure her own trials, some as a result of poor choices. (I learned what unconditional love is in that situation!) 

However, I didn't feel like I KNEW the Savior like I needed to. Then I got cancer. I had absolutely no control of that other than to make and keep appointments and do what I was told by doctors I came to trust completely. I also learned to trust my Savior completely. Matthew 11:28-30 says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (KJV) I'd learned years ago, that when farmers made yokes for their oxen, they'd measure them and fashion the yokes specifically to those measurements. The yoke could not be reversed because then it wouldn't fit properly and the oxen would be uncomfortable and or not be able to perform their tasks. Each of us has our own yoke. I can't wear anyone else's yoke. It wouldn't fit. We are yoked to Jesus Christ. He carries our yokes! Now it makes sense!

I literally felt the burden of cancer being carried by my Savior. That was one of the countless things He endured in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He carried His cross to Calvary, and as He breathed His last breath before fulfilling His Father's will. I felt no fear. I shed no tears. I was never discouraged. Any pain I suffered was easy to bear. I have no concerns for my future because I know without a doubt that with Him I did and can endure all things. I just have to let Him do what He says He will do. I am not perfect, and I'm certain to stumble. However, I will never look at my cancer experience as anything but a blessing, and if I have to go through it again, ever, I will be grateful because it will mean I will be able to take that walk with Him again.

Susy McGowan

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