You and me, we had a tough year. It sucked, really. Hakuna MaSucka! We started off fine, with the usual New Year’s resolutions and aspirations, then shortly thereafter, began our trajectory down a slippery slope of goo. Stinkin’ sludge, as a matter of fact. We landed in a muddy pit of severe neck and back pain that worsened, and worsened, and left us incapacitated. Down for the count! Forget Ebola, people!, this was the real American Horror Story. Suddenly, we found ourselves with no other option than to head straight into the operating room. Um, did anyone else notice that this may not end well? But, then again, who needs a neck anyway? All we need is a good head on our shoulders. And some good shampoo to go with it.
It has been seven months since we had two cervical discs removed; carefully replaced by dead Joe’s discs from Kentucky (Go Wildcats!…damn, I hate the Wildcats!). We also freed up a few trapped nerves, removed some erroneous bone spurs and added a three-inch titanium plate with six screws. Voila! Good as new. Welcome to the team of cervical spinal fusion Avengers. Step over here and familiarize yourself with our fight manual. I have a sneaky suspicion that you’re going to need a super hero plan of attack later in the year.
While we’re on this topic, let’s just admit that the hard neck brace was GOD AWFUL, a very stiff Joan Cusack drinking-out-of-a-water-fountain-and-drooling-all-over-herself awful. The soft neck brace…well, that was kind of nice, in a weird, only a back injury survivor would understand kind of way. And sleeping upright in that recliner for six weeks was like being trapped on an endless flight circling around the Bermuda triangle. No one found Amelia Earhart and no one noticed us, with our sexy compression socks, multi-colored drinking straws, and endless bowls of soup…because what else can you eat when you have a baby porcupine lodged in your throat? Thumbs up, SCARletta, and amen to isolated anonymity. Oh, and let’s give some praise to the inventor of metal detectors. My remains will be discoverable centuries from now, thanks to my badass new hardware.
And just when I started to feel normal again. Ha! You cracked that ridiculous, annoying laugh of yours. 2014, you had more, much more to send my way. Suckatooey, Jennifer Juney! The second round of news hit harder than the first. A blow like none other. A call that changed our lives forever, a call that no one wants to get. EVER. Damn you, 2014, year of suckage. I remember snippets from that call…something about my mammogram results being abnormal. Microcalcifications, additional diagnostic testing was needed, perhaps a biopsy. I was being good, getting a routine mammogram during Breast Cancer Awareness month, for tatas’ sake!! All I could think about was this news landing smack in the middle of my mother’s birthday. I needed her now more than ever. Damn it, why did she have to die so young? I feel so alone. Frightened and so very alone. I’m on a plane that is going down too quickly, uncontrollably, like a bat out of hell. Where are those stupid yellow, oxygen masks that drop down in the event of an emergency? I can’t breathe. I can’t think. Why is this happening to me?
And then you sent me a messenger…..(thank you, by the way)
Hello, Jennifer. This is your captain speaking. I want you to listen to me very closely. You don’t need the oxygen mask, you simply need to be still and listen. I want you to trust me. Wholeheartedly. Completely. Unconditionally. From your head to your toes, with every miraculous fiber of your being. Cast away your doubts. Focus. I need you to reach down deep and believe. Hear the words I am saying and see the actions that I lay before you in guiding you on this journey. We are headed toward some severe storms and in them we will encounter a terrifying stretch of turbulance called CANCER. There is no way around these heavy storms. The only way is through. For your safety, please ensure your seat belt is securely fastened, your seat back is upright, and your tray table is stowed in the full upright position.
Now, look out your window. Despair is the ominous funnel cloud to your right. Hope is the shimmering, iridescent cloud to your left. We will be traveling through both. Now, look down the aisle and into the cockpit. Notice that it is ME who is flying this plane. Not you. Trust Me, Jennifer. You are the passenger, my dear, not the pilot. You are no longer in control. Please let go. I need you to put your positive energy elsewhere. I want you to lace up those pink boxing gloves, build up your strength, and let others love you and lift you. You need them as much as they need you. Let them carry you. Now, look up, look down, look all around you. Can you feel the warm glow? That’s me wrapping my arms around you. I am here. I love you. Trust Me. It’s going to get really dark and awful and scary, but I will ensure that you have a safe landing. I promise. Trust Me.
Last week, I had a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction surgery. For those interested in the reconstruction process, please note that my new breasts did not arrive on the day of surgery. They are sort of on a layaway program, so to speak, over the next few months. Only one penny down was required! My recovery, thus far, has been as good as I could have hoped. Sure, I am in a lot of pain and exhausted, but mostly, I’m heartbroken about the disfigurement and loss of maternal parts of my body that once nursed my daughter. The parts that made me feel like a woman. Feminine, soft, and beautiful. They weren’t perfect anyway, but they were mine. I know the heartache will ease with time, as will my pain level. I’m putting one foot in front of the other toward healing. And by God’s good grace, my final pathology report showed no invasive cancer and no lymph node involvement, so I am officially CANCER FREE as I type this letter to you. What a gift! What a relief! Actually, the very best gift I will likely ever receive.
I guess this is to be expected. You and me, 2014. Year after year, we enter into the next unknown. I’d like to leave you with a few important insights that I gained on this challenging and rewarding journey with you.
- God is good, always. Trust Him. I know I do.
- Be. Awe. Some. Be You. And be a light for someone else.
- Fight the good fight!, with grace, guts, and gratitude.
- Tell yourself every day, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – Psalm 139:14
- Always remember, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa. I think we definitely belong to each other.
2014, you’ve made it a memorable year. The best and the worst, a bittersweet symphony of 365 unforgettably painful and joyful days. Here’s to traveling deep into the depths of the valley, only to rise up and land softly in a field of fragrant flowers, free from back pain and free from breast cancer. Here’s to passing the baton to 2015 and living our lives to the absolute fullest. Year after Year.
Lastly and most importantly….here’s to US and this amazingly beautisucky year,
I think you are going to like me a gazillion times better than 2014. After all, I’m the one who will be with you when you get your fabulous new boobs.
Hooray for cleavage!