Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cryin Myself Ugly

 Sometimes you have to be willing to put yourself in a position where you cry yourself ugly and feel the hopelessness in order to find strength. 

This blog is intended to give me a way to lend some funny to my chaos.  To give other moms (and dads) a way to feel better about their mess, or at least to feel like they are in good company.  But I haven’t been feeling so funny lately.  Guess that is why there have been fewer posts.  I thought maybe I was just running out of steam, out of funny, out of chaos, out of creative writing juices.  But I don’t think that is it.  For sure the chaos and mess continue, and, over time, I still find the funny.  But my head is in something much much more serious.  So, writing a blog about my comical mayhem has seemed insufficient. 

I have a sister.  She is amazing.  She is strong, gorgeous, tall, thin, blonde (well, her hairstylist is awesome), smart, deep, positive, nurturing and loving.  I was in Texas with her for 2 weeks recently while she was recovering from a mastectomy and this is her story. 

When she had her daughter, (who is now a beautiful 24 year old that I adore with all of my soul), she was a single mom with very little help or money.  My mom was there for her support-wise, for babysitting, etc.  But very little financial support.  She worked hard, but it wasn't enough.  When she sought help from the government so that she could go back to school, they told her she made too much money.  That is the way it goes, isn’t it?  Stop working and we will help you.  Try to make it in this world and we will N.O.T.   That was small potatoes compared to what God would challenge her with in her life.

14 years ago, she and her husband welcomed to this world what they term their "million dollar baby."  My sister has had kidney trouble since she was a child so the pregnancy was too hard on her body.  She went into labor at 23 weeks and the baby was 2 pounds.  The doctors told them to start planning the funeral.  They never did, they never needed it.  My sister is much too positive for that kind of talk. That sweet baby was so completely underdeveloped; the doctors told my sister that his sweet little parts may not fully develop and they needed to start making decisions as to if it was ok with them to make him…a her.  They did the research about it, worried themselves about it, wrapped their brains around it, but a change was never needed.  God is good, all the time.
He is an amazing and healthy young 14 year old boy that I am so super proud to call Nephew!!!
Over the years following that my sister had been experiencing alot of fatigue, chronic pain, and just the plain old "feeling older than she should's."  She couldn't do much of anything, even shopping with her sister, before she had to take a long nap.  No doctor could figure out what was going on.  Finally, after many many years of searching and doctors visits, she ended up at MD Anderson Cancer center in Houston having portions of her large and small intestines removed because she had a Carcinoid on it. Thanks to a surgeon willing to x-ray, test and do exploratory surgery, she felt like a new woman.  It was amazing to watch my sister come alive again!!  It caused her some lifetime GI issues, some of which have given her a sharp understanding of just how much her husband loves her and is willing to put up with for her!!  Man that girl be smelly!  She has also lost a ton of weight because of it, but she soldiers through!
She was feeling amazing.  Exercising again, traveling, and, just recently, she got REALLY into planning my niece's wedding coming up this June.  Then on a routine visit to her kidney doctor she found out her kidney's were digressing and functioning at around 17%.  She began the process of having a fistula implanted in her arm for dialysis and getting on the kidney transplant list.  This woman has amazing friends all over.  There were people popping up from everywhere willing to give this beautiful lady a kidney.  It looked as though I was going to be the best fit, but there was still some testing to do before we knew if it was official.  After some real wrapping-my-mind-around loosing a kidney and being that connected to my sister; I was good to go.  I was actually a bit delighted at the thought that I might have to be told to REST for a few weeks after being a kidney donor.  Surgery was likely to be a walk in the park compared to 3 kids, right??  So, there we were.  Worried her kidney's would not make it through the process of getting to the actual transplant but happy for all the provisions so far.  
Then just before Christmas I got a call from my niece.  My sister had found a lump in her breast, had a mammogram and would know the results after Christmas.  AFTER Christmas????  We were told, "She doesn't want to talk to anyone, but she wanted you all to know so that you can pray."  After Christmas came.  She has breast cancer.  Breast cancer in and of itself is scary.  But then we are told you must be cancer free for 5 years to be eligible for a transplant.  Now the kidney transplant is null and void.  We (she) must all wrap our heads around breast cancer and the chemo that comes along with that.  How will that affect her already failing kidneys??  No one knows, at that point, we are just focused on the mastectomy that is scheduled for Feb 21, or is it.....
I get a call on February 14 thinking it was a "Happy Valentines Day" call.  Nope, my sister is on the other line in the hospital.  She had trouble breathing accompanied by severe pain.  They admitted her into the hospital for pneumonia.  This news concerned us because we thought this meant that the mastectomy scheduled for the next week would have to be rescheduled.  God worked his miracles once again and the mastectomy happened.  Just as planned.  On February 21, 2012. 
Her daughter and husband were there with her for the surgery and the week after.  I got there on February 25; 4 days after the surgery and 15 days ago.  It was a roller coaster ride from the moment I got there.  As though the weeks and months leading up to my visit weren’t emotionally draining enough.  Doctor visits everyday.  It is amazing how many doctors you need when you have renal problems, part of your intestines missing, unexplained lung infections, breast cancer and a looming reconstructive surgery.  Not to mention the massive pile of meds I had to learn to navigate for her.
She just seems so sick.  I thought maybe it was just par for the course for a woman recovering from breast cancer surgery.  But, she is nauseous, lethargic, pale, frail and weak.  At the visit to her renal doc we find out why she seems so very very sick.  It is not just “par for the course.” It is because her kidneys are failing her.  It is all just too much for her weak organs.  They admit her to the hospital.  I go too.  I am not about to leave her side.  I am her advocate. 
After 5 days of I.V. fluids, hospital food, doctor’s rounds, 5 mornings of hospital coffee, she is looking and feeling much better.  There is no real explanation for her improvement except lots of meds, love, prayer and the abundant and amazing grace of our precious Savior, Jesus.  For 5 days we were sent nurses that fed our faith and nourished our confidence in those that care for the sick.  We were commissioned with hospital staff that needed our grace and love more than we needed theirs.  It amazes me how God tangles us in each others lives in such a way.   It is certain to both me and my sister that we were sent one angel in particular.  Ms. Linda.  At the heaviest time of need and hopelessness, she came to us.  She sang songs of the gospel to us.  It was not awkward.  It was beautiful.  She cried with us, she held us both and she sang.  She was a nurse tech, and she held us and sang to us and called us her “sisters in Jesus.”  She was sent to us.  By God.  She was amazing. 
A busy busy lady doesn't stop the busy just cause they put her in the hospital.  Here she is working on the very cool broach bouquet for my niece's wedding and making very important phone calls. 
We were strengthened by faith and we (she) soldiered on.  They got all her crazy levels worked back out, and finally sent us home.  I had grown fond of the hospital staff and their services.  Going home meant that I had to cook again.  And clean up after myself.  Now I was in charge of her massive pile of meds.  Making sure her blood pressure stayed in a very narrow window of not too high and not too low.  Making sure she ate and, let me just tell you, a renal diet is NOT easy.  Rice, bread and fruit. That is about it, my friends.  Try coming up with a creative menu for that.  
I was supposed to leave last Saturday, it WAS NOT time for me to go.  So, I am on my way home today.  A week later than planned.  God knows what he is doing.  He worked out so many logistics so that I could stay and be there with her.  We had an appointment with her oncologist the day before I left.  I don’t think we had any idea the hidden anxiety we had going in to that appointment.  This doctor was about to tell us her fate.  Anyone going through this knows that chemo is a scary treatment option.  But when you have so many things going on with your body that chemo could make worse, it is even more unsettling.  We wait and wait.  As you do at doctors offices the magnitude of MD Anderson Cancer Center.  She entered the room.  She spoke to us like normal humans of no medical knowledge.  She told us about her cancer and what she had, what she DIDN’T have now and she told us…….she did not recommend chemotherapy or radiation for her!!!!  Come again??  We just need to hear that again.  In her getting-well-process that we know is far from over, we have gotten bad news after bad news.  Just when we allowed ourselves to understand the last prognosis, we got more.  Who gets a lung infection just before a mastectomy??  Who gets breast cancer while awaiting the kidney transplant team to find her a new organ??  As positive as we were about that particular visit to the oncologist, I had to prepare myself. 
Just another day in the life for my sister.  This particular blood pressure made her very proud!
I could not have been more relived.   We left that clinic, made the 1 hour commute back to her home, making very happy phone calls all the way.  Then she and I both fell in the bed and slept.  Like rocks.  For hours.  Guess we were able to rest for the first time. 
During our 15 days together we cried ourselves ugly, we laughed till she peed her pants (look, this is the very least of her troubles), we hugged each other so long and so hard I was sure we’d never let go, we traveled many miles between doctors offices and hospitals, we watched bad television that made us feel much better about our own lives, we studied the Bible together, we talked a lot about God and what we thought he would have us understand.  I guess we basically had a 15 day sleepover because I never left her.  If she is anything like me, she doesn’t like to be alone, especially at times like these.  So I just never left. 
But, it was time for me to go.  I have a lot of hugs to catch up on at home!  I was able to leave today on a very happy note.  I left her in good hands: her husbands, her daughters, and most of all in Gods gracious hands.  She is on her way to doing much better.  She has a long road ahead, but she is tough.  She has faith.  She has me, and I have her.  
This same sister has been in the hospital room with me for the birth of all 3 of my children.  No matter what was going on in her world, she was there.  She has been the voice in my head through choosing my husband, training up my children and lovingly arguing with our mom.  In all cases, she has been "right on!”  She still whole-heartedly focuses on my niece's wedding planning and home schooling my nephew.  (Did I not already mention she home schools too!?!?)  Her husband stands beside her every doctor visit and rush to the hospital.  Believe me, they are fighting these things together.  They are amazing.
I am not sure how much refining fire God can grant one person, but I hope her lesson's are almost learned.  I hope that those that God has chosen to teach their lessons to through her journey are getting to their destination.  Be sure, we have all learned alot through all of this.  God is still so good.   She has an amazing positive outlook.  Her words to me a few weeks ago..."I am going to come out of this thing on the other side a whole new amazing woman.  I will be skinny.  And I will have perky new boobs!!"

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I'm speechless and in awe of her stength! Now that this is in writing it is so very real. What a testament she has, and she'll know just when she needs to use it. God is SO GOOD...All the time!