Here in the South, we have a saying…”straight from the horse’s mouth”. In spite of what TV would have us believe from all those Mr. Ed episodes of days gone by, horses can’t really talk. Yet the saying carries truth in the fact never can a story be more real than when it comes from the person living it. Today, my dear friend, Leslie, shares her cancer story…one that started long ago and continues today.
Having lived in the same town our entire lives, Leslie and I have roots that go way back. We both graduated from the same high school, although admittedly my diploma was inked several years before her’s. That in and of itself makes us sisters…of a sort. She is a true Warrior! Someone who encourages others…who signifies strength…someone who is a true inspiration. Her positive attitude and fighting spirit never cease to amaze me.
I know we all are familiar with Breast Cancer, some more so than others. I got my first dose of this demon when my mom, Cathy Young, was diagnosed with it in 1990. She fought bravely and long, with 4 recurrences, a double mastectomy, chemo therapy and radiation. Her battle was long and hard, she won some, she lost some and in the end she went peacefully on February 28th, 1999. She is missed!
I guess I kinda figured that some where down the road I would face this demon again. I was kinda hoping that I would be around 80 or so and had gotten the most use out of the girls as possible. But that was not to be. You know the saying…Want to make God laugh..make plans. Well I was making plans, had finally gotten hired at the hospital and was loving my job. Working some 12 to 14 hour days 5 days a week but loving it! My daughter was doing great in school (no drama…Thank you Lord!) Had my family and friends…life was good! Since mom, I had done my monthly self checks and had regular mammograms. Well to be honest, I missed the previous year due to unemployment but since I was working had called and scheduled it for June. Side note ****CHECK YOURSELF****
Since I working so much I had started loosing weight and hey I thought Bonus!! But as most big chested girls will undoubtedly tell you, that’s the first place you loose the weight… in the boobies. Anyway I was doing my self check when i felt IT!!!! Holy crap on a cracker….only that’s the PG version of what I was saying! No no no…ok Leslie don’t panic…yeah right! I was past panic and on to hysterical. Call the doctor…ok they’re not in at 10pm at night on a Sunday, wait till in the morning. Morning could not get here fast enough. At 8 o’clock the next morning I was calling. They would see me right away! (personally now that I think about it, the girl on the phone was probably waiting to see if I looked as crazy in person as I probably sounded on the phone!)
I saw my regular doctor. She felt IT and said lets watch it….WATCH IT! WTH was IT gonna do? So I said NO! I wanted a second opinion and I wanted it then! So in came my Hero….Dr. Hawes! He was on the ball, said he would feel more comfortable getting a digital ultrasound and mammogram immediately. That was fine by me, I wanted to know now too!
The tests were scheduled for the next day, Tuesday. Okay, by this time I’m was as nervous as a long tale cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it to myself just in case it was a false alarm. (Fingers, toes and eyes crossed) I arrived for the test and the nurses are super sweet and kind. The ultrasound tech was very sweet also and helped wipe my tears when Dr. Hawes came in and said he had me an appointment with the Hope Center for the next day because he was pretty sure it wasn’t good.
To be honest I can’t really tell you how I got dressed or how I even drove home. But I did. I arrived at the Hope Center. It’s really a pretty place…well, except for the tutu’s above the windows. I was not really sure what to expect, but was so relieved that a friend worked there… 2 of them, Angie Ponder and Xylina McMinn. They both held my hand when Dr. Harkness came in and said he was going to do a biopsy right then.. Okay. In my book this was probably for the best. I wasn’t dreading it…but for those who aren’t familiar with that lets just say OUCH!!!!!! I was told I would have the test results by Monday. It was Wednesday. How was I gonna make it through the rest of the week let alone the weekend? Well I didn’t have to. By Friday, it confirmed what in my gut I had known all along…Stage 3 Breast Cancer.
How do you tell the people you love the most in the world that you have cancer? How was I explain to it to my child (even though she was old enough to understand)…my child who in my eyes was still my little girl? The little girl I’m suppose to protect and be there for no matter what. How do I tell my dad that his daughter has the same type of cancer his wife died from? Or tell my brother, my best friend and so on….its not an easy task by no means. But I did. All I really remember is a whole lot of crying and then some more crying and hugging going around. They were all there for me and I do mean there.
When I went in the following Monday to discuss options, they were there…my dad, my best friend, my cousin (who I think of as my sis) Jackie Cantrell, my sister-in-law, Angie….all were there with me at the doctor’s office. Kinda felt like my army, which I needed to fight this battle! And fight it I did and still am. A double mastectomy was done followed by several rounds of chem (18 to be exact) then 38 radiation treatments. Along with all the nasty and unpleasant side effects and bonus problems that can occur with treatments. Like low counts, stomach problems, lymphedema, neuropathy… just to name a few.
That was 2 yrs ago and things are better. I still have to deal with some issues but I’m still here and still fighting. I have found then and now that laughter is really the best medicine along with lots of love and prayers. I know that on most days when I was too weak to even move that prayers carried me through.
I’m not sure what my future holds, but I know who holds my future! With God’s love and grace I’ll definitely get through. My favorite saying and what got me through a lot is this….
With Faith, Love and HOPE