Thursday, June 17, 2010

What’s That?

Last night after church, refreshments were served in the fellowship hall.  Steve and I were mingling, chatting with our wonderful folks, and enjoying the hum of laughter and conversation buzzing around the room.

At one point in the evening, Steve came face to face with a little girl who was about seven years old.   She was a fairly studious, quietly observant child and she just stood there very still, peering at him quizzically, not saying a word.

As he waited to see if she was going to say anything, he saw that her intense scrutiny had zeroed in on his “slightly expanded middle section.”  And remained there for a while.

At last, she slowly reached out her little hand and patted Steve’s stomach.  And then she looked up at him and inquired with the greatest of innocence,  “What’s that?” 

Steve was still laughing about it when he got home last night and started laughing about it again when he woke up this morning.

He said he was tempted to answer, “That, my dear, is popcorn, jelly beans and ice cream.”

But he didn’t.

I’m just glad the inquisitive child ran into him before running into me! We women don’t take those kinds of questions with quite the same equanimity as men, do we?  (Well, at least I don’t.)

I hope your day gives you many reasons to smile!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bought the T-Shirt

When we used to travel full time across the country in our music ministry, I remember driving through big cities and seeing certain large, well-lit buildings perched within view of various freeways in various states.

Emblazoned on the sides of those buildings were the words, “Children’s Hospital.”

I would gaze in frightened awe at the buildings as we passed and then I would glance furtively at my own healthy children in the back of our truck, barely suppressing a shudder as I thought about the pain and trauma that went on inside those walls—not just for the children, but for the parents, as well.

And then I would breathe a silent prayer for the people whose lives those hospitals touched before adding, “Lord, I’m quite sure you know that I could never deal with that sort of thing. I could never, ever deal with having a child who was sick enough to have to be admitted to a specialized children’s hospital in a large city. That would just be too much for me to handle.”

And then those moments would pass. And life just went right on. The way it is wont to do.

A few years later, Sarah started getting sick. Very sick.

Mysterious symptoms. Baffled doctors. No answers.

We made the rounds of a few physicians and were finally sent to Brenner Children’s Hospital, an hour from where we lived.

A children’s hospital. Near a freeway.

We were suddenly inside the sorts of walls that I had viewed from a distance with such anxiety and trepidation.

brenner outside

But it was okay, really, because the reports we were hearing didn’t seem to indicate anything life threatening for our small, suffering princess; in fact, the consensus seemed to be that she had some sort of arthritis. Not a great thing to have, by any means, but it didn’t seem to be anything that might steal her life away.

I remember the day after getting that preliminary diagnosis, I was walking the halls of the hospital and I happened upon a certain office door that had a sign on it. The sign said, “Social Worker/Counselor for Pediatric Oncology Patients and Families.”

I stood frozen in the hallway and stared at that most horrific combination of words: “Pediatric Oncology Patients.”

I prayed, “Thank you Lord, that Sarah doesn’t have cancer. You know I could never deal with a child who had cancer. It would just be too overwhelming, too traumatic, too un-doable.

The next day Sarah was diagnosed with cancer.

Without a miracle, it was terminal cancer.

And my mind flashed back to those imposing, lit up buildings beside the freeway that I never ever pictured myself entering. And my mind flashed back to the day before when I had seen that sign on the office in the hallway and thought that I could never cope with having a child with cancer, a child who was really and truly life threateningly sick.

But suddenly the impossible was handed to us to do. Walk a child through chemo. And vomiting. And hair loss. And multiple surgeries. And numerous hospitalizations.

And then when that’s all done, get ready to transfer to another Children’s Hospital for a bone marrow transplant.

It was unspeakably hard for all of us.


I learned very quickly that I could do things that I never before thought were doable. I became the parent I had prayed for earlier—the parent behind the walls of a children’s hospital, hiding behind the blank, unblinking stares of rows and rows of windows and wondering whether or not my child would survive.

I never thought I’d be in a place like that. Never thought I’d get through.

But I made it! We made it!

And then . . .

Two years ago, I had a major cancer scare. I was told I had a 90-95% chance of having cancer in one or both breasts.

I just knew I couldn’t cope with such a horrific thing. I was especially convinced of that fact when a friend who’d had a mastectomy gave me a book with information and pictures showing women in different stages of breast cancer, surgery, and reconstruction.

I clearly remember sitting down with that book one evening and leafing through its pages. I lasted all of about ten minutes and then I shuddered violently and threw the book across the bed thinking, “I can not even comprehend what those words are saying. I can not even look at those pictures. I just can not face that sort of thing. Not now. Not ever.”

And then somehow, mysteriously, miraculously, the report from surgery came back. Benign. No cancer. No need for scary books and scarier pictures.

I had been given a reprieve.

But two months ago, everything changed.

Cancer found me.

Surgery was scheduled.

Recovery was endured.

Reconstruction commenced.

Two weeks ago, I picked up the very same book I had flung across the bed two years earlier. I read all the information without a qualm. I looked at all the unnerving pictures without a quibble.

What was the difference? I was able to look at those pictures because I was those pictures.

And I found out something important. I found out that we can deal with a lot more than we think we can.

I’ve dealt with my daughter’s cancer. I’ve dealt with my own cancer. And I’m okay.

Sure I’ve had my moments of horrific grief and tears and hopelessness and anger and every other awful emotion that can possibly be experienced.

But I’ve made it. I’ve faced off against the monsters and the monsters didn’t win. I’ve found out I’m a whole lot stronger than I thought.

And that’s a lovely feeling.

Even with the scars that mark Sarah’s body and the scars that mar my own body, it’s a lovely feeling to go through something that’s impossible and come out at the other end with a smile. And peace. And a grateful heart.

Because now Sarah and I know that when the next “impossible” thing comes (and it will), we’ll be ready for it.

Because we’ve been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Kingdom for A Bike

A couple weeks ago, we made an exciting purchase.


Walmart was having a sale and we got these for just $85 each. I have always loved to ride bike but I haven’t owned one in over ten years.

Happily, Manteo is a bike town. It is almost a requirement that you have a bike here. You are not even allowed to buy a home, or shop in the local stores, or even breathe the Manteo air unless you have a bike. And I’m not even kidding!

So my love for bikes and moving to a town that love bikes all conspired together to bring about the result you see above: His and Hers bikes.

As I’ve mentioned before, we live about a block from the town’s biking/walking trail which is a lovely place to ride.


We can stay on the trail and ride for a very long time or . . .


. . . we can turn off the trail about three blocks from our house, ride a couple more blocks and then find this.

IMG_5063 IMG_5064 IMG_5065 IMG_5070 IMG_5075 IMG_5083 IMG_5091 IMG_5095 IMG_5105


Lovely scenery to admire. Wonderful company to share. Multitudinous calories to burn. Invigorating fresh air to breathe. God’s creation to appreciate.

Sounds like a good deal to me.


To follow up on my (pitiful) post from last night, I am still in some pain today from the saline fill yesterday. I spent the whole morning in bed, knocked out by a pain killer. I’m finally awake and semi coherent but not yet feeling real zippy.

And since I’m on the subject, let me answer a couple “saline fill” questions that were asked yesterday.

Q. Amy said: OUCH poor Becky, I must know, are the expanders a permanent "fixture" or do they remove those nasty little painful things? Did I mention OUCH.

A. Amy, if all goes well, I’ll have one more fill next Monday. Then I have to wait for three months for all the needed skin/muscle stretching to take place. Then my plastic surgeon will schedule me for the exchange surgery which means he’ll take out the saline filled expander and, in its place, put in a permanent silicone implant.

Once I recover from that surgery (which sounds like it would take at least a week or more—I might even have drains again!) I should be much more comfortable. The expanders can start to feel very hard and all the stretching and pulling that goes on is not a real comfortable experience. I heard one lady describe the process as, “Wearing a bra six sizes too small with coconuts in them.” Doesn’t that sound like so much fun?

I’m counting down the days till the replacement surgery day arrives. It should be sometime mid September.

Q. Alyssa said, Forgive me if this is a dumb question, or if I missed it before (which I am sure I did), but when they fill the expander, how do they get to it? Do they have to stick the tube into the port or do you have a tube coming out of the port? Either way...OUCH. Hope you are feeling better!

A. Alyssa, there is a port built into the expander and somehow (using a magnet) the nurse finds where the port is and marks that area with an “x.” When the surgeon comes in, he gives me a little deadening shot in another area of my breast and then sticks the HUGE saline syringe into the port to deliver the goods.

He and his nurse are always chatting away amiably (yesterday it was about herb gardens) and I’m lying there thinking, “Ouch, ouch, ouch.”

Can’t you tell that I am a scintillating addition to their conversational thread?

Today I’ll continue to take it a little easy while hoping that tomorrow will be a bit better. I’ve been told that with each successive fill, the discomfort level increases, simply because there’s more stretching and pulling going on.

So that’s my story! Let me know if anyone has any more questions!

Monday, June 14, 2010

If This Is Monday, It Must Be Saline Day

Yes, indeed, folks. Today was my day to make my little trek back to the plastic surgeon’s office for what was supposed to be my last saline fill.

I was a bit apprehensive about this appointment since I’d had some “out of the ordinary” troubles since last week. My left breast turned a lovely shade of pale lavender (not really mottled like bruising) and a little strange, jagged horizontal line appeared at the top of it. Not to be outdone, my right breast started to sport some bright and interesting bruising in several different (but complementary) colors. I felt like I was a walking advertisement for Crayola crayons, or something.

I also had quite a bit more overall discomfort last week; in fact, I even called the surgeon’s nurse last Tuesday and told her what was going on. She said that although what I was describing sounded “unusual,” she wouldn’t worry about it unless the area was warm to the touch or the pain increased a lot.

When I got there today, the surgeon immediately commented on the discoloration. (Even after a week it was noticeable.) He also admitted it was unusual and gave me some highly technical explanation having to do with the chest wall and the expander and the muscles in the area. Although I didn’t completely understand him, as long as he wasn’t overly concerned, I figured I wasn’t going to worry too much.

He did the fills (ouch) and then told me I would have to come back for one last fill after all.

Happy day.

I got myself re-dressed and hit the road for home. I felt like there was quite a bit more discomfort than usual and much to my dismay, that discomfort only increased until it was transformed into all-out pain. After about a half hour, I was actually in tears from the pain, which didn’t abate (even after taking two Aleve) until I was about 45 minutes from home.

Sarah, bless her heart, had dinner on the table for us. We ate and then Steve left for a church board meeting, after making sure I was sufficiently “doped up” and had everything I needed. (And by the way, he did volunteer--several times--to make the trip with me today but I told him I'd be fine.)

Sarah informed me that if I needed her to pick up anything I dropped from the floor or if I needed her to get anything for me, just to call. She made that sweet speech in between clearing the table after dinner and putting some laundry in the machine.

I am so blessed by this wonderfully supportive family that hangs out with me.

As per usual on a Monday “fill day,” I am headed for bed very early, pain killers on board, book in hand.

Oh, and one more thing.

Since it occurred to me that this whole notion of tissue expanders is as foreign to you as it was to me when I was first diagnosed, I thought I’d include a couple diagrams. The first one is of an empty expander, the second is of one that has been filled. As you can see in the photo, the expanders are placed underneath the chest muscle and skin, which they then expand.

Hence, their name.

Hence the discomfort.


A tissue expander

B port

C catheter

D syringe

E ribs

F pectoralis major muscle

G Other muscles of the chest wall


So there. Now you know the fun I’ve been having!

And that’s all I have for tonight. I am hoping this discomfort (which has just made a re-appearance in the last few minutes) will go away and allow me to sleep tonight.

Thanks for all of your prayers and concern over these past “interesting” weeks of my life. I appreciate each one of you so much!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Potato, Two Potato . . .

Here is a view of my plate from dinner last night.

Baked potato, apple slice, fresh corn, peas, rosemary yeast roll, tomato slice, and grilled fresh tuna. (Given to us by a local fisherman.) I just love all the flavors and colors of summer.


I also love looking around the table and noting all the interesting food-related stuff. For instance, the difference between Steve’s and my “potato cutting” is fascinating. To me at least. (Remember? I don’t get out much.)

When I get ready to eat a potato, I take a fork, make a little tattoo all the way around the middle part of the potato and then open it in half, like opening a book.


Steve, on the other hand, does the whole “crisscross cut thing” through the top which to me, looks more elegant than my “splayed out way.”


And Sarah? Well, let’s just say that Sarah does the “flinging open the potato regardless of appearance” treatment. (And don’t worry--she was going to have meat too. It just hadn’t made it to her plate yet.) Also please note the TWO rolls on her plate. That girl loves bread!


I guess I never realized there were so many potato “schools of thought.”

Have I missed any ways of opening a potato? If you have your own personal way of dong it, do tell!


A couple nights ago, Sarah and I went to see Letters to Juliet at our local theater downtown.


Such a lovely movie and especially nice to see it at a theater that has been around for such a long while. (I believe it’s been in operation since 1918 and in downtown Manteo for over fifty years.)

However, I’m sorry to have to report that just recently, the Pioneer Theater raised their popcorn prices and now we have to pay (prepare yourself) a whole dollar for popcorn. A dollar! Can you believe it? A whole, entire dollar? What is this world coming to?

And then you have to shell out $5 to even get in the door! Five dollars? That's highway robbery! I mean I can drive to the multi screen cinema up the beach and pay $9 to get in and at least $10 for snacks so why in the world would I want to stay in Manteo and go to the quaint, lovely, historic Pioneer Theater and pay just $1 for popcorn?

Why indeed?

I just love small town life.


And since I’m on the subject of Manteo, Jodi left a comment asking how the name of the town is pronounced. As best as I can tell, the natives pronounce it without the “t” or else with just a very soft “t.” It’s kind of like, “MAN-e-oh.”

Got that? There will be quiz!

No go eat some fresh sweet corn already!