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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Being In the Moment-The Sounds of Cancer and Healing Like a Fighter

"The results from your tissue analysis have returned.  Your right breast and lymph nodes were clear.  The other masses near the cancerous tissue were benign.  Mrs. Reese, your pathology report is all clear!"

It took a moment for the words to sink in.  My pathology report was clear!  Really?  No radiation or chemotherapy is needed?  Praise God!  It all still seemed so surreal and happened so quickly.  From discovering a mysterious lump in one breast to undergoing a double mastectomy to receiving an all clear report-WOW!  A miracle had just occurred!  Thank you, Lord!  Now my focus could shift fully to healing.

Previous life experiences have shown me that healing is a process.  It is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, expectations and disappointment.  There is pain and relief, progress and delay.  There are moments of peace as well as some exceptionally difficult moments.  I do not know if I thought this experience would be any different, however, through this healing process, I discovered the sounds of cancer which in turn are the sounds of healing like a fighter.

During my second week of recovery, in an effort to relieve my husband from the driving he had undertaken as a result of my diagnosis and recovery, I drove our eldest son to his high school which is 35 minutes away from our home.  This was my first time driving since the surgery and I soon realized that I had attempted too much too soon.  With each turn, the pain I felt in my breasts, which seemed like sharp razors, increased.

As I made my way home, I began to weep as I thought about the pain I was feeling and the entire process of losing my breasts to surgery because of cancer.  Sitting at a traffic light, I sat in that moment.  I turned the steering wheel and my muscles contracted, my chest seemed to constrict further.  The pain crept through my body as if I had been captured by a boa constrictor who was slowly squeezing out my breath by wrapping itself fully around my weakened body.

The somber reality of those thoughts then led to thoughts about how much I was missing my daughter who is away at college which in turn became thoughts of inadequacies in my roles at work, as a mom and in my marriage.  I felt overwhelmed with emotions, pain and fatigue.  I questioned why this diagnosis had happened to me.  I questioned my purpose in life.  I questioned everything.

In an effort to change the atmosphere, I switched the radio channel.  Almost on cue, my daughter's favorite song came on the radio.  As I listened to the words, the tears flowed effortlessly.

"I've been thinking too much.  Help me," were the words the pop artist belted throughout my car's stereo system.

At that moment, I felt totally alone.  Even though I was in bumper to bumper traffic and was surrounded by other parents, spouses, employees, and survivors, I felt completely and utterly alone.  "Help me!" is what I wanted to scream out the window at my fellow commuters.  Instead, I inched my car along with the masses, allowing the tears to simply fall, weeping with no audience.

By the time I returned home, my eyes were like the animated character, Garfield the Cat.  Or better yet, my eyes looked like those of a heavy-weight fighter who had just lost a round.  They were nearly swollen shut from crying, wiping away tears and more crying.

"What in the world happened?!?" my husband exclaimed in shock as I entered the house.

Without a word, I grabbed a pain killer, took a sip of water and turned towards the bedroom.  Under the blankets I went, clearly in need of some rest.

The following days were full of nothing.  I was committed to not making the same mistake I had made a few days prior and made it a point to remain in a low energy state.

 Later that week, we went in for my follow up appointment with the breast reconstruction doctor and I was looking forward to having my drain tubes removed. No such luck. My body had not yet fully begun to absorb the fluid produced by the surgery, therefore the tubes had to remain in place for at least another week (which became two more weeks). The tubes had to be drained at least three times a day, carefully handled so as to not rip off skin at the insertion site, stripped and output recorded. Because of their location, I was unable to turn on either side while sleeping or in a restful state.  They were truly a pain in my side-literally!

On our way home from the doctor's office, I was processing in my head the issue about the tubes and in all honesty, felt a great deal of disappointment. I was staring out the window, chin in hand, shoulders slumped, watching the world slowly pass by.  I lifted my gaze a bit and saw Kennesaw Mountain, in all its grandeur. I have always marveled at Kennesaw Mountain because of the beautiful views one can enjoy once the summit is reached.

It occurred to me that I am currently facing a mountain in my life. At that moment I realized I could focus on how big the mountain is and how long it is going to take me to get to the top along with all the minor stops along the way or, I could choose to enjoy the journey with my focus solely on the view at the top.

The mountain served as a reminder of what God had already done in my life with this experience.  I was not ashamed of the tears I had shed earlier that week or even the disappointment I felt just a few moments before.  Those were all very real feelings and a part of my process.  They represented the sounds, for me, of cancer and healing.  I was thankful for the reminder to focus on those things that are pure and noble.  I was thankful that God met me right where I am.

I choose to focus on the mountaintop and I will continue to heal like a fighter.

Shatanese Reese is a freelance blogger and author of a future book who resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children. She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises. Shatanese’s goal is to find the extraordinary in every day moments. Follow Shatanese on YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope.