We all hope for happy endings no matter the situation. Sadly, Breast Cancer doesn’t always end the way we hope. My dear friend, Jocelyn, knows all too well the heartache cancer can cause. Today she shares her story. A story of friendship and loss. I have yet to meet this powerhouse of a woman in real life but I consider her one of my dearest friends. We have shared so much by way of phone calls and emails. She was one of the first I reached out to after my diagnosis. What I value most about Jocelyn is her giving spirit. She fights health battles daily yet she never fails to give more than she takes. She has faith that can move mountains and I am honored to call her friend. You can find Jocelyn at SIMPLY ME, where she blogs about life and her wonderful family.
It was an ordinary day….. the alarm buzzing in my ear, me wishing that I could have just 15 more minutes of sleep, but knowing that I had to move this body and move it now! So shower, wake up Danielle, breakfast, lunches packed, French braided hair, and heading to the car to start our day!!! The laughter of my daughter on the way to school always seemed to brighten my day! Waving goodbye to her in front of the school, and now heading for the dreaded drive to work. Of course on this ordinary day it was raining, and I knew what was ahead of me on the beltway, the fender benders, flat tires and traffic jams that would make me late for work. I cranked the radio and replayed the conversation in my head from the night before that I had had with my dearest friend in the world, Roxie!!!! We were so excited because we had a dinner date planned for Friday evening! We talked about where we wanted to eat, would we go for drinks or catch a movie, and of course the dreaded, “I have nothing to wear, what are you wearing”! I thought about her appointment for that date, her first mammogram! We giggled about the stories we had heard about it being a torture chamber, and how in the world was she going to get her tiny little boobs into that machine! She told me she would call me when it was over and let me know how bad it hurt. The traffic moved slowly, the music humming in my ears, thoughts floating about all the things on my plate, and yes just an ordinary day in the life of me, or so I thought!
Work was busy, dealing with settlements on homes was driving me crazy…….buyers not happy, sellers not happy, mortgage companies late with packages, but it paid the bills and in the long run, I really did love my job. I was on the phone with a real estate agent and my assistant stuck her head in my office and said….. Roxie is on the phone and she needs to speak with you now! That seemed strange, I felt an odd sense of panic, so I asked the agent if I could put her on hold, and switched lines. There was a voice on the other end that I barely recognized. She was so quiet I could hardly hear her….what was she saying, What. It then hit me, SOMETHING IS WRONG, Tootsie, that is what she called me, I was her Tootsie. Something is so wrong, they did this stupid test and then kept calling me back to do more pictures and then they said they were calling the doctor. Something is wrong and you need to get here now, I am at the GYN office and I am afraid. Those words are forever etched in my mind. I am afraid. The phone went dead. I got up, I grabbed my purse, left the office telling everyone I had an emergency, and I had to leave. I went to the car and I don’t even remember driving, I just remember running the words over and over in my head, something is wrong. I got to the doctor’s office and she was sitting in the waiting room, her cheeks were flushed, her hands were tied up in knots, and she got up and ran straight into my arms when she saw me! We said nothing. We just sat there and held one another.
When we went back to see Dr. Friedman it was surreal. We were both his patients. He was always, smiling and silly, but today he was not. He put up pics of the mammogram, explaining that there were calcifications on the left breast and they needed biopsies immediately. Too many medical terms, so much information my brain could not process it all, and Roxie sat still. I looked to see if she was still breathing. She looked at me and I saw FEAR, like I had never seen before. Dr. Friedman had made an appointment for the next morning. Yes we would be there, Yes, nothing to eat or drink. Yes, we knew where to go. Yes, we would go for the blood work and then we exited the office. There was a small cafe downstairs and we headed there, as if connected to one another by a thin string. We held hands, ordered coffee and sat. She looked at me and said, “I have Breast Cancer don’t i?” No of course not, you are only 38 years old, the biopsy will be fine. It’s OK, and yet I had not convinced her nor convinced myself. We sat and talked and went over everything that had been said. Finally, we decided that we would go to her house, gather some things and head to my house. It was best she be with us for the night. That ordinary day had suddenly turned not so ordinary!
The blood test done, the biopsy done and now the wait. Oh that wait, trying to hold myself together, because I had to be strong for my girl! This is not about you Jocelyn, this is about Roxie, You are the Rock, you always have been….wake up, wash your face, apply that lipstick and move on throughout the day. That is what I did! The results came in quickly and yes my greatest fear was now written on a medical report, Stage 3 Breast Cancer. No tumor, no lump just this ugly cancer. Now things moved quickly and my girl was an angel! She did not have time to be angry, sad, mad, she went at this disease with DETERMINATION! She had no fear of having her breast removed. She wanted this thing off of her. She wanted this cancer gone. We saw oncologists who were wonderful, kind and also determined to beat this cancer. So surgery was done. She stayed with me, I changed bandages, screamed into pillows because of the pain that she was going through, but if she could do this with grace, by God, so could I. The chemo started two weeks after surgery and those were the days that I thought she would not make it. She was sick, but determined that she was not going to shave her head! Her beautiful locks of auburn hair fell to the floor and we cried. She would throw up and I would wipe her face. She would cry and I would hold her. She would laugh and I would laugh. I hated this disease! I asked God how can this happen, please help us to find a cure. Please help my friend live, and not be sick. I prayed until I felt my knees were raw!
Months of chemo and radiation, and then fighting the insurance company so that she could have the other breast removed, due to the fact that this particular cancer was highly likely to appear in the other breast. She worked through all of these treatments, because she had to, she had no one to take care of her. So she did what she always did. She did it with Grace and Determination and this wonderful sense of humor. It was summer and she had decided that she felt well enough to do some gardening. I was home taking care of the house and family and the phone rang. She was laughing hysterically. It took 5 minutes until she could get the story out. Oh my! We decided to get the hedge trimmer out, and it needed gas. So she jumped in the car and off to the gas station she went. She was pumping some gas into a can and she saw this really HOT guy staring at her….she thought…hmmmm, see I still have it, and then she looked down. Yes, she had forgotten to put her “FAKE GIRL” on that morning. So there she was, one boob on and one boob missing, and here is this HOT guy checking her out!!! So what did she do, she talked with him, about how hot it was, what a great car he had, and she even managed to give him her number! This was typical Roxie.
Roxanne had her second breast removed and was so happy. She had talked with the plastic surgeon about reconstruction and was excited for her new life. All the scans were clear and Life was Good. One year to the day of the removal of her second breast she had reconstruction. We giggled about how big she was going to go and like always my girl kept her senses about her, and had HER GIRLS put back to the same size that she was before! She told me, why waste all that money that I have invested in great bras, I don’t want to look like a hooker, I just want to look like a woman again. She thrived. Her Auburn locks had grown back even more beautiful, her weight came back and she glowed. We celebrated everything, every scan that came back clean, every month that passed we celebrated. We found happiness in the smallest things, we laughed more, we cried at silly movies, we took Danielle to amusements parks, and she rode all the crazy roller coasters that always made me sick to my stomach. Holidays came, and we cooked and baked and decorated. Life was good.
Ordinary days had seemed to return, the alarm going off in the morning and the crazy drive to work seemed normal again, but little did I know that this would soon be taken away. Another phone call in the middle of the day from Roxie. “I have a pain in my hip Tootsie. It’s been here for about a week and I called the doctor, I have a scan this afternoon, I’m afraid.” Did I hear those words, did I really hear those words again! I asked where she had the appointment , gathered my things and walked out the door to meet her. The scan was done, nothing said, reports were sent to the doctor. What now, call the doctor, see if the reports are in and yes we had an appointment for the next day! The cancer was back and this time it was bad. The cancer had spread, it was in her bones, her lungs and her brain. WHAT? HOW? NO? This cannot be happening, but it was. The doctors informed us that there was nothing more that could be done. Chemo could give Roxanne a few more months, but there was nothing more that could be done. We needed to meet with hospice. What does this mean, how can just tell someone that there is nothing else that can be done. Second opinion….that is what we needed. So that is what we did, and still the same report. I am so sorry, there is nothing more that we can do.
Getting your life in order to die. Making funeral arrangements is not what you do when you are this young. The days were going too quickly. She was in pain. Putting ads in the newspaper to sell furniture, to visit Hospice Centers, everything revolved around death. I found myself unsure of what to say. She seemed stronger than I did. She seemed to be taking care of me now. No…this is not how it is supposed to be. I wanted her to be angry, to fight, to tell me that she was not going to leave me. I felt like our lives were in a fog and then the day that she entered into hospice, I thought I would never breathe again. I would go to work, and then head straight to her everyday. Joe was wonderful, taking care of Danielle and the house, while I spent the evenings with my Best Friend. Her Mom would spend the day there, and then head home in the evening. She slept a lot. The nurses were wonderful to all of us. I didn’t want to leave at night, I now was afraid. I wanted to be with her, but I headed home and it was a restless night. I awoke in the morning and told Joe, today is the day, I feel it in my bones. I went to work, called her Mom and she said, “She asked for you just a few minutes ago, I think you better come!” Again, gathering my things and driving as fast as I could, walking down the hall with legs that felt like jello. I got into the room and her Mom told me she needed to get some air, I asked the nurse if I could climb into bed with her and she nodded. I slipped my shoes off, and she lifted her head and patted the bed, smiled at me and said, I Love you Tootsie, and I kissed her and held her, and she breathed her last breath! She was gone, my tears ran down her cheek, I lost my Dearest and Best Friend on that awful day!
Time passes and we learn so much in our lives! I truly believe that this wonderful woman was put in my life to bring me joy, happiness and understanding. There are no longer ordinary days for me….each day is a gift for me. I have had my battles, and that is a story to be told at another time, but my battles were fought with my Best Friend beside me. She is with me every day. I talk to her, sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I just spend quiet time with her…but she is here in my heart forever.
I took up scrapbooking and crafting as a source of therapy. I met so many wonderful ladies…..one in particular… Miss Lisa Howard! We met through blogging and quickly exchanged telephone numbers. Oh the hours spent on the phone talking about Design Teams and the newest and greatest products! I fell in love with her….she made me laugh so hard I thought I would wet myself, with her wonderful story telling. You see, God puts people in your lives when he knows you most need them. Promises that I was going to get to North Carolina for a visit. Wonderful cookies arrived at my door for my Birthday, Christmas presents exchanged and loving someone that you have never met in real life, but knowing that they are good people. Miss Lisa with the southern drawl, who made me feel good about myself, who shared her life with me!!!
Life is a strange little character….just when you think you have it figured out, it throws a curve ball at you….Can I really have received a phone call from my Lisa telling me that she found a lump and was going in for a biopsy. Oh no…..this is not happening again. You had a mammogram and it was clear, no just a cyst, not a tumor. You take such great care of yourself, no it’s OK. Remembering of course that there are no ordinary days, in fact, it was my anniversary and Joe was taking me to see a PreSeason Raven Football game and my cell phone rang. It was Lisa, she sounded off, not like my Lisa. She told me she just got off the phone with the doctor and that she had Breast Cancer. The journey began…….. and as you have read through her posts the journey continues. It hardly seems like two years have passed, the treatments, the surgery, the radiation and the Faith and Determination that she has continues to uplift us all. I am on this journey with you my sweet friend. No ordinary days for us……each day is our gift and I am blessed to have you in my life!!!! Strong women we are….and we will walk the walk and fight the fight!!!! I promise you that I am there every single day…sending up special prayers for you and your family!!!! You amaze me….you are a Survivor, and I am most proud to say YOU ARE MY SWEET FRIEND!!!