It is hard to believe just how much your life can change in just ten years! Ten years ago today, I was just going about life in an ordinary way...working at a job that I truly loved and still do...raising a beautiful daughter that was turning into an awesome young woman who was enjoying life - despite the fact that she had Cystic Fibrosis, being with my husband, sister, friends and family, going to Hot Springs to visit my parents..just going through life's ups and downs! Then, on July 29, 1999, my life was forever changed!
A much postponed trip for a mammogram started this roller coaster ride for me! After the mamogram, I immediately saw Dr. Hagans and was told that I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer...every family on my Mother's side of the family has had someone who has had breast cancer, but I was the first to have IBC! I had never even heard of this type of breast cancer. Things moved pretty quickly after this diagnosis...within a week, I had met my wonderful oncologist, Dr. Sternberg - a specialist in IBC, got an infusaport inplanted and started chemo! With IBC, it is found that you have to have chemo first to shrink as much of the tumor as possible before having surgery. I was diagnosed at Stage IIIB, not a very good diagnosis - I had about a 30% chance of survival. Dr. Sternberg said they found out that if you did surgery before shrinking the tumor, that before you even got finished with the surgery, the cancer would have spread to the chest wall....thank God for leading me to Dr. Sternberg and Dr. Hagans for treatment. I had six months of chemo before my surgery followed by six more months of chemo followed by radiation. I had sixteen out of twenty-one positive lymph nodes, which wasn't very good news either! One thing that this experience has taught me is that God is in control and He has the plan! He knew that Jennifer needed me here to take care of her and be there for her....I will forever be grateful for that!
Fourteen months after my diagnosis, I was able to return to work! The people I work with are really like my extended family...we have all gone through alot with each other....
One of, if not the most positive thing, resulting from my diagnosis, is having a long time friend, Joanna, do my radiation! She and I went to Levy Methodist Church when our children were young and we also graduated high school together. She invited me to come to the church that she now went to ..Fellowship North. I accepted her invitation, and Jennifer and I went that following Sunday. As soon as we walked through those doors, we both knew that we had been led to where God wanted us to be.....I truly feel as if I have another wonderful family now. Even though I now live in Hot Springs, I will still go to church there and hopefully continue to grow in my walk with Christ!
Over a year after my surgery, while at work on Christmas Day, my incision from my surgery busted open...took many, many months to heal and thus leaving me with my big cartoon Popeye arm! Just another hurdle to jump and deal with...took me a few years before meeting a wonderful physical therapist that has helped me tremendously with this obstacle...still have infections and flare ups every now and then...but nothing like before.
Three years after my diagnosis, my husband lost a kidney, then the following year, he had a quadruple bypass surgery. Thirteen days after his heart surgery, I lost my best friend...my Mother! Within three months, I not only lost my Mother, but a sister and my Dad, as well. You look back on those times now, and just wonder how you made it through it, but you know that you made through with the stength God gave you. My Mother used to tell me over and over that each of life's struggles make you stronger and a better person....I am ready to be strong enough!
Three years after losing my parents, I lost my most precious gift of all...I lost Jennifer! Of all my life's struggles, this is the hardest and most devastating of all. We are not supposed to bury our children. I KNOW in my heart that Jennifer is happy and healthy now and that all my countless prayers for her to be healed were answered the day she went to be with her Heavenly Father....but there will always be such a hole in my heart and life until I see her again...I miss her every second of every day!
Yes, my ordinary little life has changed alot over the past ten years - lost my parents, a sister, my daughter - diagnosed with IBC, had a hysterectomy, arm infections, broken leg, and am now dealing with my second bout with a herniated disc, spinal canal stenosis, arthritis in my hip....like Dr. Sternberg told me...we got rid of the cancer, but caused a train wreck in the process...somehow I keep on chugging along.
I believe that good things come out of life's bad experiences too! I now have a passion or guess I should say - obsession - with card making and scrapbooking, a new church family, many new friends, my best friend in the world...my sister Kimberly - as my main cheerleader, the encouragement and inspiration from my friend - sister Lisa, my treasured life time friendships, my rekindled friendships (thanks to facebook LOL), the advent of the "Jennifer Project" to help give other CF patients a little sunshine...it goes on and on! I am hoping and praying that this latest struggle with my back will soon be resolved and I will be back giving care, love and hope to the special patients at ACH!
Yes, these past ten years have definitely been a roller coaster ride! There have been many, many sad times but also many happy times that I am so grateful for....being a ya ya, a member of the "Pajama Mama's", rediscovering the joy and happiness that a child can bring through some wonderful great nieces and great nephews...not only in person but by being able to have a long distance relationship with them through correspondence and giving them the "card making bug" LOL! Yes, I have many, many things to be thankful for, I have many precious memories to cherish.....I truly do "get by with a little help from my friends"!