Thursday, April 18, 2013

When I almost couldn't be there for her

My aunt called me last night with the wonderful news that she has been declared 5 years cancer free!  I was ecstatic for her because she went through a lot during that time and she's come out the other end like a champ.

I have always felt close to this aunt.  She let me tromp around in her high-stepper boots and play with her pom poms when she was in high school, I was flower girl at her wedding (and her daughter was flower girl at mine), she taught me how to put on make up and let me play grown up in her high heels.  After our happy conversation, I couldn't help but be reminded of the day I found out.  I was basically almost at my heaviest and was not able to fit most places.  When she asked if I would go to her appointment with her and my uncle, I panicked.  I had to ask if they had chairs with arms because you know how doctors offices are, the ones they get come from some kind of chair factory that caters to waifs.  I had to ask if they would have a stool I could use if they did only have those chairs.  I felt horrible.  I told her I would gladly do any research for her but she really wanted me there.  I must've had an entire week of panic attacks anticipating going there.  I asked her if it was okay for the Mr to go so he could catch anything I might've missed while writing things down and she said it was fine.  I begged him to go with me more for moral support because I didn't trust myself not to have a panic attack in the office.  He agreed.

I had my own set of questions to ask and the doctor had a definite God complex...he was a total tool to us because we were outsiders.  I get that.  I get that he probably didn't like that we asked to record the session so I could take notes after the fact but if he really didn't like it he could've said no.  But he was like gold to my aunt and that's all that mattered.  I can handle arrogance in small doses.  Thankfully I *just* fit in the chairs around the table for the initial consult.  When we moved on to the head nurse and what to expect during treatment, they had to get stools and I diligently took notes which made them happy.  There were a lot of things they missed just from the shock of being in the situation.  It turned out okay for me with fitting where I needed to go but when I think of her diagnosis, I immediately feel shame I even had to ask for those things.  I know it was that important to her that I be there that she didn't care what had to be done to get me there but the social fear and the fear of not fitting was paralyzing.  In the end, I was able to give her some good, comprehensive notes and I bought her a "chemo basket" of things that I'd read you'll need going through it that she might not have thought of.  I was also the one that cut her hair for her before she lost it.  I didn't want her going to a salon.  I wanted her to be able to cry if she needed to.  I had to be strong.  I pretended she was the Mr and I was just giving him his usual haircut.  If I thought more about it, I would've lost it.  There were tears shed when it was over and then we had a wig party.  We always kept party wigs on hand because we're weird like that.  So we all tried on braids, glitter wigs, Marilyn wigs and all kinds of stuff and laughed.  I was glad I could do that for her and I'm so proud that she has come through this.

Has your weight ever affected you socially in a dire situation like that?  If there are any other cancer survivors out there, give a shout out and how many years!

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  1. I remember feeling so scared for her but also for us during that time. Luckily it worked out just fine for all of us but especially her. I am so glad she is cancer free.

    My mother is 8 years cancer free of Lymphoma and has 2 more years before she is in the clear for that. I just wish I could say the same for my dad. He lost the fight in 2004 to multiple myeloma.

  2. Fortunately I've never been that situation due to my weight.

    We lost my MIL December of 2011 to Ovarian Cancer. I do know several longer term survivors, but no-one in my close circle.

  3. I just wrote a blog about this very subject.
    With my hubby's recent cancer diagnosis, it dawned on me that looking into every treatment possible to give us as much time as possible, since there is no cure, was all made possible because of my weight loss. We flew to Chicago last week and had a 3-day consultation at the Cancer Treatment Center of America. I would never have considered investigating the Center, walking and fitting into chairs was just too difficult, and traveling by air was just too humiliating when I was morbidly obese. Sometimes our weight affects others too!

  4. I should have added, your are a wonderful niece to endure possible humiliation so that you could be there for your aunt when she needed you. She is indeed blessed to have you in her life and to have is now five years cancer free!

  5. You are a great niece! I am so glad to hear she is cancer free now. My dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and he died in 2006. :( My weight didn't keep me from doing anything like that. However, I was not able to do a lot of things with my kids because of it, and it made me sad all the time. Thankfully it's different now. When they ask me to go down slides at the park, I can fit. I can go on swings. I missed out on a lot of fun things before, and I am just glad that isn't something I have to stress over anymore. I remember when we'd have plans to go to a restaurant with people and I'd worry over not being able to fit in a booth. So, I can only imagine how you felt all that time before the appointment.

  6. Reading your post today brings back so many memories and feelings. My mom is fighting the on-going battle against Ovarian Cancer for the past 12 years. She has relapsed three times and is currently receiving chemotherapy. I become her primary care taker each time it comes back, and that time is precious to me. She is the strongest and bravest woman I know, and I have learned a lot in the process. The "clinic", as we refer to it, has become a second home. (She takes chemo every single Friday, and many times we are there daily for shots.) The nurses and her doctor are like family. I, too, have become her little recorder- taking diligent notes and researching constantly. If I have learned anything from her diagnosis it's priorities. I realized what's really important, and we don't save anything for another day or time. Cancer has taught me to be humble, gracious, and strong. It has shown me compassion, strength, courage and hope. Today I honor those who have fought and those still fighting...

    "Don't lose hope.
    When the sun goes down, the stars come out."

  7. Wonderful news that she is cancer-free! My dad lost his fight to bladder cancer related to smoking (yes, if any of you are smokers, that's another risk!) but my mother is still going strong at 90, having successfully fought melanoma for close to 20 years. My son-in-law's aunt, with whom I share a first name, got word not too long ago at her three-year checkup that she is still cancer free. In her honor, I crochet little hats for a local cancer clinic to give free to chemo patients on cold days. It's fun, uses up my leftover yarn (yay!) and gives me something to do with my hands while I watch TV. I learned recently that the real estate agent who sold me my home in November of last year had undergone a double mastectomy in June and never quit working! Her husband had to drive her for two weeks after her overnight stay in the hospital, but other than that it didn't slow her down at all. She is my hero! Although I'm a little mad at her for not saying a word about it to us while we were working her to death to locate the house--she just told me last week.

  8. I'm so happy for your aunt! Your a really good niece and support is very important, no matter how it's given. I'm 15 years cancer-free from cervical cancer and I have an aunt who's just turning the 5 year mark for ovarian cancer. We've both had relapses of our original cancer types, if not the same cancer. The roller-coaster can be really horrible. 15 years ago I went through much of my diagnosis and treatment with very little support and it was a very dark time for me. Better now, thank goodness!

  9. That is wonderful news! It's even more special that you were there for her when it was not an easy thing to do.

    My mother had breast cancer and beat it (almost 20 years) before lung cancer took her from us; my mother-in-law died of breast caner several years ago, and we just got back from the funeral of a dear friend who died after her third bout of breast cancer. Screw cancer indeed; I'm doing the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk this year to honor them and to keep up the fight to find better treatments, more effective cures, and ways to prevent it.

  10. So glad to hear the good news about your aunt! She must have been so grateful that you were there for her when she needed you. Sometimes when you feel bad about yourself, it can be hard to get over that and do what you have to do--I think everyone has been there at one time or another.

  11. My mom is now finished with her chemo and radiation from Breast Cancer and her hair is slowly growing back (stark white much to her dismay!) Unfortunately she's still suffering greatly in her left leg with edema due to the chemo, to the point where she can't bend her knee. She's wearing compression hosiery to help, but I haven't heard back from her on how that's working out. It's been HELL for the past year with all she's been through, on top of her taking care of my uncle (and of course keeping her cancer a secret from him), but my prayer is that she is on the mend now never to have to go through this again. God willing!


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