I know I promised I would write more about my chemo this week, and I started to but then realized how negative I was being. While its important for me to be honest, and I will be, it was putting me in kind of a bad place emotionally. My 2nd chemo was a less than pleasant experience for me, and was a pivotal moment for me in my treatment. I promise to put that information out there but I really wanted to write about something a little more fresh on my mind this week....and something much happier!!!
I have always believed that certain people cross our paths for a specific reason. Whether it is for 1 minute or for a lifetime. I am one of those people who looks back and really appreciates the timeline of events and the people that have gotten me to where I am today. While there are definitely some people in my life I probably could have gone without meeting...I know in some crazy way God put that person in my life for a reason.
I am going to back track to the very beginning of my journey when I was told by that doctor there was no way I had breast cancer. She might be one of those people who I wonder why God would put them in my life. I have convinced myself it is because it is my job to encourage her to pay more attention to her patients and to not let a patient walk out of your door with clear and obvious signs of breast cancer. I have to say this, though. There is a reason that she did not diagnosis me. She wasn't meant to diagnosis me. I wasn't meant to fall in the hands of her care. What came from her not diagnosing me, was a team of doctors who God strategically put in front of me. There is no doubt he had a plan in store for me. When I called this specific doctor and told them about the lump I found, I was told to wait 3 weeks. This was not acceptable to me. I wanted answers immediately. I have inherited the lovely ability to have zero patience what so ever and this would be the first time it actually benefited me. I called my old OBYGN that same day, was scheduled the next day and diagnosed within a week.
Where I was once bitter that this other doctor had shown such little concern for my health...I have now realized that it was for the sole reason that I would fall in to the hands of the most amazing team of doctors. I didn't realize this until after my double mastectomy and this is why...
I was diagnosed by a doctor at Oak Hills Women's Center in San Antonio which neighbors a breast reconstruction clinic called PRMA. I was then referred to Dr. Rosenthal who would be my general surgeon, who would refer me to Dr. Lang, my amazing oncologist, who would then refer me to my plastic surgeon back at PRMA. I will come back to my plastic surgeon in a minute because that becomes a pivotal moment in all of this. I was not the patient who went and got 2nd opinions. While I definitely encourage women to do that, I had my husband and family with me at almost all of my initial appointments and we loved my doctors and trusted them immediately. When it came time to talk more seriously about my surgery, as I neared the end of my chemo, Dr. Lang asked me if I had talked with a plastic surgeon yet. I replied that I had only been referred to PRMA but not a specific dr. The way that she presented Dr. Ledoux to me was in a way that I had no doubt, without even meeting him, that he was going to be the perfect doctor for me. I don't know that I can put this in to words but it was almost in a way that she was referring me to her best friend, someone she trusted, someone she knew who was going to be a perfect fit for me and my personality.
This would be the beginning of how all of this would come full circle for me. When we left our first appointment with Dr. Ledoux, we all got in the car and said...well what did you think? Needless to say, we all approved. I wouldn't actually see Dr. Ledoux again until the morning of my mastectomy. What's odd is that you meet these doctors only once or twice before this major surgery but somehow they become such a huge part of your life. The morning of my surgery Dr. Ledoux came in to the pre-op room and talked with me for a few minutes and right before we would go back he asked if he could say a prayer with my family and I. We all held hands and I really only remember him asking for God to guide his hands as he would perform this surgery that day.
Because the few times that I have seen Dr. Ledoux since then have been a little happier, I have never expressed to him what that moment meant to me. I was sitting in that pre-op room crying, scared out of my mind. When he said that prayer, I was calmed. I knew that God was going to pull me through this and in that 6 hours that I would be under anesthesia, that I was in the hands of the absolute best doctors possible.
As you know from previous posts, I have been going through the difficult emotions you face after such a "traumatic" experience having cancer. I attended my first support meeting last night which happened to be held at my plastic surgeons office at PRMA. My nurse, Jenny, had encouraged me to go because the woman speaking was a patient of hers and she knew our stories were very similar. As I sat there listening to Staci's story, I felt like I was talking to myself. About 1/4 of the way through her story she asked that we try and focus on the similarities in our journeys and not the differences. This is a piece of advice that I highly encourage anyone to follow as you read my blog, listen to other survivors stories, and even as you're telling your own story. We may not all share the same exact journeys but I believe we all share the same scary feelings when it comes to a breast cancer diagnosis.
What I took away from this meeting and from hearing Staci's story, is not something I am sure I can explain. She was close to the same age as me at diagnosis and is now 14 years free of cancer. Knowing that there IS HOPE, that it IS POSSIBLE, that cancer is NOT a death sentence...and hearing that come from someone who has gone through every emotion I have felt is extremely encouraging. I would speak with Staci after for awhile and I truly felt like I was having a conversation with my best friend. For the first time, since I was diagnosed, I was having a conversation with someone who fully understood every single emotion I had. There is a certain range of emotions that come along with being diagnosed in your early 30's and finally relating to someone on that level was an amazing moment.
"We meet people when we are suppose to, when the time is just right".
If my journey had not taken the exact path that it did, I have no idea where I would be right now. I cannot say enough about my doctors or my nurses. I now feel as though they have become such a huge part of my life. They aren't just my doctors, they are my protectors, they are my guides, and I feel as though my nurses have become my friends. I don't know that I ever really appreciated the role of my doctors so much as I do now. Sure they receive a huge paycheck for what they do, but the compassion that comes along with that is not something you can put a price tag on. It takes a very special person to display that to someone going through such a difficult time in their lives. For my nurse, Jenny...her job isn't to listen to my emotional problems but she did. She knew that I needed to hear Staci's story and it all came at the perfect time. There is something to be said for that special attention that a doctor or nurse puts towards their patients.
Had I not been falsely diagnosed by the first doctor, I never would have met Dr. Anca...who would put me in the hands of the best surgeon for me...Dr. Rosenthal, who would send me to the best oncologist for me...Dr Lang, who would then place me in the hands of the most amazing plastic surgeon...Dr Ledoux and amazing nurse...Jenny who would introduce me to a women who I am confident will encourage me to life my life and find myself again. It was that part of her story that really spoke to me. In my mind, I had referred back to a few weeks ago when I wrote about finding your routine again post cancer. I am pretty sure I was just sitting there smiling, shaking my head "YES" the entire time. While I have sat here and wondered how I will find the routine, what will that routine be, who will I be after cancer, I realized that I don't have to answer that question right now. Right now, I just need to live and enjoy being alive. Its amazing how one person, and one hour can change your way of thinking. I am thankful for every single person who has been a part of this journey so far and I look forward to meeting so many more women, sharing my story, and encouraging women in a way that Staci has encouraged me.
With all this being said, I highly encourage anyone reading this to attend local support meetings. If the first one doesn't work out, try something else. There are tons of resources out there and so many options available to you. I am learning of new organizations daily. Whether it be through social media, going to support groups, or doing my own online research. It took me awhile to admit that I needed to attend a support meeting but it was clearly the best decision I could have made. You don't have to be ashamed or feel like its a sign of weakness. I spoke with a few women last night and I swear I could have sat there for hours sharing stories and laughing with them. Regardless of their age, we all share a very scary and life altering experience with one another. Most importantly, you NEVER know who you are going to meet along the way or what roll that person will take in your journey.
I am certain of one thing though. God has put some very special people in my life and I will forever be grateful for them all. I am certain if you look back at the people you have crossed paths with you will find purpose in every single one of them. I hope you have the opportunity to meet someone who inspires you, brings happiness, and gives you hope for your own personal journey.