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One Year Cancer Free

2/12/97:  With permission of Linda Barcus of our cancer forum, here is a reflective and hopefully helpful letter about a cancer-free one-year checkup.  May we all experience the same someday.

One year!

February 15 is the one year anniversary of being cancer free. What a year this has been. A year of thankfulness, a year of acceptance, a year of ups and downs and wondering the future.

Thankfulness for having the DCIS - one that could be cut out and eliminated. Thankful though for something I didn't want in the first place. Thankful for all the love from family, friends, and co-workers and most of all the friends I have found on-line. They have been my God send.

A year of acceptance and of ups and downs. The year started out with the doctors telling me I had breast cancer. I had to accept that fact before I could go any further. To deny it would have been a foolish and potentially dangerous move for me. I know because Shirley (my cousin) died from breast cancer because she would not recognize the fact that there was a lump in the breast and refused to go to doctors. As my sister put it -- it is almost as if she committed suicide. She didnt like doctors and had never been to one since her 17 year old was a baby. She never in her life had had a mammogram or a pap test.

I had to accept the fact that the decision I would make would be strictly mine. No one else could make that decision for me. I was given three options --The surgical biopsy removed the clusters and area around -- I could do nothing and wait for it to return, I could go back into surgery, re-excise the area until they got clean margins, then have six months of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation 5 days a week, or have a mastectomy. I chose the mastectomy and an immediate reconstruction.

To sit and wait and do nothing would have driven me crazy, wondering with every little itch, pain, twinge, or spot was cancer running rampid in my body. The doctor told me that even though they would go for the clean margins and radiation, there would not be a guarantee that the radiation would hit the far edges of the cancer and again would wait. The mastectomy somewhat guaranteed me that I would have a "normal" life after breast cancer -- whatever normal is! The first thing I was afraid of was I was not going to get to see my grandbabies grow up. I knew I would die just as my cousin.

I have had very strong support of my family, co-workers, church family and friends. Without it I dont think I would have kept my sanity as long as I have. Dale has backed me in every decision I had to make and it was always, "Whatever you want to do is ok." He would never say you should this or thus - he knew I must make those hard decisions. But he would say the decision must be yours but whatever you want to do is ok.

I have never been a down person, oh I worry just like anyone else. But I don let worry get me down, I don't really get depressed which helps me be a stronger person when it comes to fighting a problem. When we were young girls and "in our moods" now called PMS -- we were told every woman has to have these days and there's no need to depress everyone else -- talk yourself out of these moods and move on. Smile -- you'll feel better! I remember telling my own daughter that and she has grit too.:-)

Now this year went downhill really fast and if I were a person to get depressed and stay down I think I wouldn't be around. The day I found out for sure I had cancer, we buried an uncle. The day I had my mastectomy my very best friend since 8th grade died, a girl friend at work was hospitalized for a blockage -- colon cancer and cancer behind the colon. Four days later I found out they had removed all my cancer, my friend found out her cancer was also in the liver. She is now on chemo - doing well and a great attitude!

Now came the healing. Boy until you have your boob cut on -- you really don't know just how much it moves when you move. I told my husband one day when he asked if I was ok -- it sort of looks like a civil war stump ! He said he didn't know cause he had never seen a Civil war stump! I would walk around with my arm tucked under and mom passed by me and said sort of like carrying your Easter Egg. -- Thus -- the nick name stuck -- my Easter Egg. My 4 year old granddaughter heard us talking about it and would ask if my Easter Egg was ok -- not knowing what it was.

Three weeks after surgery, our minister had a quadruple by-pass and almost died. Two weeks later his beautiful mother-in-law and a blessing to so many of us passed away. March 2nd my son's divorce became final and then a battle for his children. March 25, I had my second surgery to remove my implant. I had lost the drainage tubes 4 days after my mastectomy and instead of replacing it -- they thought the body would absorb the fluid -- Not so -- it drained through the incision and I had infection the whole time until the implant started poking out the incision -- surgery to remove it - had inflammation, infection, scar tissue and bacteria. That was like having a second mastectomy. What a shock to the body, and mind. On line I cried, and yelled and rattled all to the understanding of those who had been there -- did that --- and still doing!

Easter Sunday, as we walked out of church, someone yelled across the parking lot Happy Easter Linda -- good to see you. At that -- my 4 year old granddaughter looked up and said Grandma how's your Easter Egg. My son-in-law nearly dropped his mouth to the ground - not knowing how to react - my daughter stopped and looked at me, my mother giggled and I broke up laughing and Said honey it couldnt be better. It is fine. It just got broke and I had to fix it. My son-in-law after gathering his composure started to do a half hearted laugh -- and I said -- Its ok - why do you think I walk lopsided. He has since learned it is ok to joke about it.

In April, we lost a dear neighbor to cancer, and a cousin just 6 months after learning she had lung cancer that had spread throughout her body. All summer it was one test after another and another mammogram on the left side (a mass, but they THINK it is fatty tissue). In August we lost an aunt to stomach cancer, September an uncle. In September I finally was able to get my prosthesis. Now I didnt have to "stuff" with the little cotton prosthesis the doctor had given me at the second surgery. What a difference 10 lb. of silicone makes! In October we lost another cousin to lung cancer in just 8 short months of first finding out, and an aunt to leukemia. In November we found mom has a carcinoid cancerous tumor in her stomach, I had hand surgery, December son lost his job, January daughter-in-law put on disability due to problem pregnancy - and I had another hand surgery.

As I said - it has been a year! But I have also survived Cancer -- Thank God.

However -- One of the biggest fears I have had has come to past. My son-in-law was picking me up to take me to work -- I heard him coming down the road and I grabbed my coat and as I was putting my coat on - Oh NO -- Through my knit dress -- I forgot my boob! I haven't moved so fast in so many years running to the bedroom pulling up my dress on the run, -- drop my boob in - shake up the bra pull the dress down - coat on and door locked as he pulls in the lane! I told this story to one of the girls at work and she laughed so hard and said - heck with me it wouldn't make a difference -- You have to have something first.

1997 -- Although it hasn't started out too well -- it is going to be better! We are looking forward to our sixth grandbaby in March -- a girl. Later in the year - I'm going to try the implant again - and am sure it will do good -- and if not -- at least I tried and as long as my husband doesn't mind having a lopsided wife - that is all that matters. However from this point on -- any surgeries that I have and something is removed - they are going to be ordered to put it in a jar and pickle it and when I die I plan on taking it with me! When the Lord comes and we rise from the grave I don't plan on going around picking up the pieces for him to know who I am.

Forgive me for rattling on -- for you who have read this -- Thanks for being here for me and all the others. God Bless each one of you and may you each have a very healthy year!

With hugs and love and a very deep appreciation and respect for life,

(If you like, you can E-mail Linda)

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