In April of 2007, my world changed. Id like to tell you that it changed in a good way, and in some ways it did… I had cancer. In my brain. Me.
In typical “Heather Form”, I wanted it out. I couldn’t stand knowing that it was in my body. If I couldn’t get rid of the cancer, at least I could get rid of the tumor. So off to the neurosurgeons office I went.
Inoperable, but the tumor looked to be a slow growing tumor, so we could wait and watch.
Then I went to another neurosurgeon to get a second opinion, because the first neurosurgeon didn’t really understand the graveness of the situation, in my opinion.
Inoperable again, slow growing again, wait and watch again.
My world fell out from underneath me.
Luckily the internets rallied around me and raised money for me to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. It was a long shot, and they probably wouldn’t have any other answer than the one that had been given to me twice before, but I had to go. I had to hear it from the #1 Neurosurgery hospital that it was inoperable for me to believe it. It was my last chance, and I was taking it.
So Mark and I loaded our kids up and took them to my parents. We boarded a plane, flew to Rochester and hoped for the best.
We settled into a hotel, kissed each other goodnight and prayed harder than we had ever prayed before. The next morning was my big appointment, and I had pages of questions that I needed to ask.
Operable. Not only operable, but “RIGHT NOW IT HAS TO COME OUT” operable.
The neurosurgeon wanted to know if I was free tomorrow. Mark and I looked at each other, in disbelief. When we left his office, I called my parents first. I wanted them there, because if someone was going to be cutting my head open and touching my brain, I needed my parents. Mark called his mom and she generously offered to come to our home and watch the two oldest. Mom and Dad would be bringing our youngest daughter who has autism with them. We picked a date for the following week, and called to schedule my craniotomy.
Fast forward to the day of my surgery. I cant begin to put into words the feeling of knowing that it just might be your last day. It might be the last meal you eat. It might be the last time you see your husband. It might be the last time you hug your parents. Put on top of that the fact that my two oldest kids were away from me… I just cant put into words. I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was sad that my possible death would effect my entire family. I honestly was looking forward (if it happened) to opening my eyes and seeing Jesus…
but my family….It was a really hard day.
Long and short, it went better than they expected. They expected me to have semi paralysis (on my right side) and possibly not be able to speak permanently. I woke up and lifted my right arm. “Good” I thought. I tried to speak. Nothing. It took me 4 months to get my speech fully back and still to this day it isn’t what it once was.
But I was alive, and that in itself was a great thing.
They removed the entire tumor, which was the size of the head of a 9 iron. The pathology came back an Anaplastic Astrocytoma (Anaplastic means Grade III). It was missing chromosone 1 and 19, which doesn’t mean anything to you but they tell me that it that it gives me a better prognosis, and I am all for that! I started radiation and chemo simultaneously. I lost my hair and my appetite. But I was alive.
Fast forward to today.
What have I learned?
It isn’t about the cancer, it isn’t about what it has the ability to do to our bodies, it isn’t about the treatments or the part of us it takes away; its about the journey. Its about rediscovering the parts of yourself that you never ever knew or dreamed existed, and giving them room to grow and room to take flight. Its about seeing life through cancers eyes and being better because of it, being more whole and more alive despite it.
Its about living.
Sure there are going to be days that we feel like a Mac truck just bulldozed over us. There are going to be days when you look in the mirror and think “Who is that person, and what did she do with my hair?” But there are going to be days that we are fully alive and energized too, its part of the journey. Its part of life. But its not the only part.
Its not the defining part
I am still a mother. I am still a wife. I am still a daughter. I am still a daughter of the King. I am still the same Heather that I was before I found out that I had cancer, just a little more alot more mature and a heck of alot less naive. I still have the same heart, the same dreams, the same desires. I am still me, cancer cant take that away.
It only made me stronger.