“Holding space for another person is incredibly profound. When you hold space for someone, you bring your entire presence to them. You walk along with them without judgment, sharing their journey to an unknown destination. Yet you’re completely willing to end up wherever they need to go. You give your heart, let go of control, and offer unconditional support. And when you do both of you heal, grow, and transform.”
When Rob and I were at the U2 concert last month, this poem was one of several writings that scrolled on the screen before the concert started. I love it! And in light of last weekend’s chaos in Charlottesville, this seems like a great time to mention kindness. People navigate their own sorrows in many ways, and you never know what the person beside you is living through. We’re all in the middle of this mix of sorrow and kindness… one we can control and the other not-so-much. So let’s thrive on the one we can control and express it as often as possible. Do it today!!
… Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
– Naomi Shihab Nye – Kindness
“It’s all gone.” Those exact words came out of the surgeon’s mouth today when I asked him if he can definitely say if there’s any cancer left. I know he hinted at it during the last appointment, and I knew that the pathology report was suggesting that, but he never actually said the words. And I was scared to even ask because every other person I know with cancer doesn’t/hasn’t gotten a direct response like that. But I asked, and he said “It’s all gone”, and for the first time I actually let the joy and relief that comes with those words enter my being and feel it from the inside. I don’t know how to explain it. Like I knew it intellectually at the last appointment, but today I FEEL it… I FEEL free of cancer and he confirmed that it is gone!!! I cried, the nurses cried, and they sent me home with cupcakes. It’s also easier to react to such good news now that I’m further in my recovery from surgery.
Along those lines, I’m continuing to recover well. My incisions are healing incredibly well. The surgeon was impressed and said, “I’ll do surgery on you any day.” The infected drain site is finally starting to look better, though is still the most uncomfortable part of this.
I started physical therapy this week and was totally impressed. The PT talked about things we’ll do to prevent lymphedema (swelling in the arm that happens when lymph nodes are removed and worsens with radiation.) She’ll also help me work on increasing range of motion with my right arm. And will help with reducing scar tissue and increasing skin movement around the incision sites. She was extremely knowledgeable about post-mastectomy needs and I’m looking forward to working through this with her. It feels good to know I can now be a little more active in my recovery instead of passively enduring stuff that is done to me.
(I still have radiation that will start in a few weeks… and I’ll keep you all posted on that as it gets closer. The dr said that radiation helps reduce the long term chance of localized recurrence. As much as I wish this was totally done, I’m willing to do another step if it means preventing this in the future.)
It’s been a good week and an especially good Friday! Also, I’m writing this as I watch the girls play “Just Dance”… that’ll put anyone in an amazing mood! Love, Love!
I wonder if he knows…
How much I love just being by his side.
That he’s my best friend.
How much I love feeling his hands holding mine.
How bad I feel that I made him a caregiver, but how impressed I am at how well he does the job.
How I appreciate all the adventures we do together.
That I wish our life wasn’t in this place, but there’s no one I’d rather have helping me get through it.
How well he predicts what I need- sometimes even before I know it myself.
That a vow 14 years ago was so much more than words- and I’ve witnessed him living it out in amazing ways.
How I’ve smiled in my half-sleep state, too tired to get up or say anything, as I’ve heard him make our kids laugh.
That I trust now more than ever, that he would be an amazing father if he had to do it alone.
That I couldn’t be winning this fight without him.
That he stole my heart when I when just 15 yrs old… and he still has it today.
Yesterday was August 1st… mark that in your calendars as one of the best appointments so far!!! My prayers for healing have been heard and answered. First of all, I got my drains out which was a huge relief. And the surgeon said that’s the fastest he has ever taken them out of someone (just 6 days).
We knew during surgery that there were cancer cells found in one of the sentinel lymph nodes (which is why they removed a whole cluster of them after that). I still don’t know how many more were removed, but he said there were only “isolated tumor cells” in one of them, which is technically still considered negative. No other lymph nodes had any sign of cancer. He said it was because the chemo was so effective in killing the cancer in the lymph nodes. And the original tumor had shrunk to 1.2 cm. All margins are clear, which means there were no cancer cells near any of the edges of what was removed.
With the mastectomy and lymph node removal, they basically got all the cancer OUT of me!!!! It feels so good to know it’s gone!! I’m healing well, the incisions look good, and I have another follow up next week. I’m in a lot of pain today from where the drains came out… my tissue had already started adhering to the drains, so it ripped a little when he removed the drains. I’m taking pain meds to manage that pain for now and hopefully it will be better in a few days.
I will still do radiation as is protocol for treatment. That will happen in about 5 weeks when I’m healed from this. It’s the last big step for this time period (as reconstruction will happen next year).
My mom was here to help a ton last week. And we’ve had a lot of help with the girls and visitors to the hospital (thanks, Lisa Gonidakis, Cindy Hastings Winter, Brittany Armstrong, Amber Pierce Norman, Hannah Springer, Keely A Smith-Jividen, Cinnamon Leonard, Becky Kearns, and Doug Gates.) I also had my own personal nurse today to help with changing my wound dressings (Kelly Dawn Hobbs) . It’s times like these I realize how wonderfully God has paved the way ahead of me… all the people He has placed in my life and ready to help when I need it. Thanks for all the prayers… please keep them coming for comfort as I continue to heal and pray that the pain subsides. Thanks everyone!
Tomorrow is surgery day. We go in early and surgery is scheduled for 10:30. Should take about 4 hours. Please pray for this to go well and for my healing afterwards. I’ll be having a bilateral mastectomy (without reconstruction at this time- that will happen next year after I’m healed from radiation.) Also, pray for Rob as he takes care of me over these next few weeks. And, of course, for Olivia and Liana as they have to make another adjustment in their lives because of my health. They are with friends tonight (thanks, Amber Pierce Norman) and will go to a birthday party tomorrow afternoon, so they should be well preoccupied. Thanks to everyone who called or texted today as well. I’ve been very nervous.
Rob posted some pictures on Facebook after our first day in Lake Tahoe. Well, my cousins who live a few hours away noticed the post and without hesitation said they were coming to meet us out there. They heard we were within driving distance so the only question was where we would meet them. I love that about my family… always there… always. We met them at South Tahoe and did a gondola ride that goes 2 miles high to see a perfect view of the lake. It was reminiscent of our customary Caldwell rides on the Pittsburgh incline during city excursions… but super-sized. I was so completely happy to see them and spend the afternoon catching up with them. We laughed and tried not to cry. These family ties are made strong by our tightly woven memories from childhood. We made more memories to add to that mosaic- creating quite a beautiful patchwork quilt in my soul. Grandma would love it!
Toya is the oldest “wise” one whose fear of heights is as sweet as it is funny. But she rode a gondola 2 miles high just to be with us for the afternoon. (She’s the one I’ve mentioned before who encourages me to write. I’m sure she also chuckled as she read that I called her “wise”). Tamica is just as free-spirited as ever, with a heart as beautiful as her smile. The two of them make an opinionated, stubborn (“Johnny Bull”) hysterical combination of love. I’m so proud to be related to them.
Toya’s words said it well: “We will always meet you on the mountain top! You made it cousin. Can’t wait to see what’s on the other side for you!!” I’m so thankful to be at the top of this mountain now. I’m not over it, but from up here I can see more clearly where I’m headed. And being at the top, surrounded by loved ones, is a pretty good place to be.
We have seen love from so many people in so many ways over these last few months and this week was no exception. Rob and I were blessed to be able to go to Lake Tahoe for a few days- just the two of us. The timing worked out so we could squeeze it in before my surgery. We had such a fun, peaceful time together. Tahoe is SO beautiful! I’ve been wanting to go there for years and I can’t believe it really happened! We went kayaking, hiking, on a dinner cruise, up a huge gondola, and to the beach. Rob got some beautiful pictures, of course. I’m so thankful that I felt well enough (most of the time) to do what we wanted to do. And forever grateful to Kim Geibig Amigh for opening her home to us during this time in our lives.
(This picture is from the gorgeous sunset we saw during our dinner cruise!! )