Angels among us
by Carmen Smith
It has now been almost 2 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My first reactions were disbelief, shock and anger. I was pretty angry, but mostly at myself because I felt that I had neglected to do what I needed to do to take care of myself, such as getting annual mammograms, losing weight, eating less fat and exercising more. I immediately went into treatment mode. I am in the healthcare field and with my contacts I was fortunate to find a great group of care professionals- from doctors to nurses, imaging technicians to lab techs. I had surgery, then chemo and finally radiation therapy. I also participated in a study to see if a new drug would be effective to prevent my cancer from coming back.
Surgery was easy and made easier by my family, husband, children, sisters and friends being around. Chemo was a little harder. I was going through many changes at work and my life was turned all around. A week before my chemo started, due to a change in companies, I lost almost all my staff and was short staffed during most of the treatment. I decided to continue to work during my chemo and I was fortunate to only lose the days of my treatment. The rest of the time I was at work- and did a good job- only to go home and collapse and sleep until waking up to go to work again. My new boss was very supportive and understanding. The radiation therapy was five days a week and lasted for 6 weeks. I left my office, walked down the hall, got my treatment and came back all in about 15 minutes. For me, radiation was easy. I still see the technicians at work on a weekly basis and am greeted with hugs and kisses from the staff.
I found that it was the support I received from family and friends that saved me and my sanity. The hardest thing was to tell my husband and children of my diagnosis, and I did not want to tell my sisters and my friends until I told my children first. My daughter was away at school, and because I needed to start treatment, I told her over the phone which was very hard because I wanted to hold and hug and comfort her.
I am so thankful for the wonderful support all around me during this time. I am grateful to my doctor who first diagnosed me and saved my life by finding the cancer. I am grateful to my husband for being there for me during the chemo days by cooking special meals (that I mostly could not eat) and just holding me and letting me cry. I am grateful to my children for being concerned and helping me even though they were scared and sometimes at a loss for how to help. I am grateful to my friend, Cheryl, for staying with my husband during my surgery. I am grateful for all of my friends who brought meals and sent cards.
I am grateful for my babe friends who went out with me the night before my first chemo day. And for the young lady and her mom who overheard our conversation and told us about the young lady’s experience with cancer and her journey through the treatment. She sat in the restaurant with her bald head and I glorified in her beauty and her strength.
I am grateful for my sisters who called and let me rant and rave when I felt I could not rant to anyone else. My thanks go to my sisters, Angie and Maria, and my friend Katie, who got the brunt of the rage.
I am grateful to my church family for praying for me and sending me cards and notes, especially Judy, who sent me a card every week for a year. Judy embraced me and made me feel loved and cared for. I am grateful for my priest who anointed me before each chemo treatment. I am grateful for the women in the knitter’s group who gave me a prayer shawl.
I learned that there are angels in our lives that look after us. They are our family and friends and co-workers. They are strangers who come up to you because you are wearing the scarves- or when you forget the wig or hat or scarf and go out public in your bald glory- and they give you encouraging words. I found so many women I knew who had also been through the same journey and they would tell me they survived and I would too. During my early chemo days I watched the movie Mama Mia. There is a song from the movie that made each of my days and every time I hear the song I feel joy because I know that I will survive. The song is “I believe in angels”. Angels are all around us.
There is not a day since my diagnosis that passes that I don’t think about it at some time. I think it has helped me be a better person, a better healthcare provider. I feel I understand folks in pain much better. I do wish that I had never received this particular diagnosis- that I did not need to suffer the pain and the cost (the only part of the disease that continues to make me upset), but I feel that I have grown and learned to appreciate life so much more. I think I learned to look at my blessings in a totally different way. Whatever happens in the future, I know that I will stay grateful and strong because of all the angels in my life.