“Ok Peggy, you are going to begin to feel a little sleepy. Start to count backwards for me.”
As those words rang through my head in a blurry fog, I began to feel relaxed and sleepy. I looked to the side of me from my horizontal position on the operating table and could see a buzz of activity happening all around. Among the sea of medical faces that were swarming all around me, I saw my oncologist and my anesthesiologist. They both smiled at me. Eyelids heavy, I sleepily smiled back. “Ten, nine, eight…” My eyes moved sluggishly upward and I could see several huge, round, bright lights above my head. They were going in and out of focus. “Seven, six…….” And then nothing.
Four months earlier, I had received devastating news. I had Papillary Cancer. Stage 3 Papillary Cancer, which means it had moved from my thyroid to my lymph-nodes. That day I thought to myself, “But… I don’t want to have cancer!” Time seemed to come to a halt. Everything suddenly felt very surreal. Priorities seem to be put instantly in order. The last time my life slowed down to that pace was when my dad was sick and dying. My world as I knew it, stopped, and all I focused on was my dad. My kids were little at the time and I had to rely on my friends to take care of them as I would travel back and forth to South Bend to be with him and my mom. I treasure those weeks with my dad. Tragedy has a way of forcing us to take a step back, slow down and concentrate on what’s important in life.
Relationships and friendships are important. How we give support and show love is the most important life lesson we learn. When word slowly started to leak out that I was sick, my friends and family took up where I felt I couldn’t. The meals started coming. I received daily cards and phone calls. And in this technology age we’re living in, the texts on my phone lit up. “What can I do?” “What do you need?” “How can I help?” “I’m praying for you.” It’s hard to ask for help and even harder to know how to gracefully accept it. Friends know this and take it upon themselves to just take over. Im grateful for each and every one of them.
Four months, many Dr’s visits and two surgeries later, I’ve made it through the hard part. I’ve had one surgery to remove my Thyroid, which is the site where the cancer originated. The second, to remove my lymph-nodes where the pesky cancer had moved to and was hiding. Radiation is next. I’ll continue to recover for a few weeks and then start a protocol to prepare my body for treatment doses of radiation. Within a week or two of receiving those treatments, I will have a full body scan. At that time, I will know whether or not the cancer has traveled anywhere else in my body. I’m encouraged that I will beat this ugly disease. I’m looking at it as a huge inconvenience that will soon be over. A bump in the road.
“Peggy…Wake up…” gentle shaking…. “It’s time to wake up now, Peggy. The surgery is done. Bruce is waiting for you…” As my eyes slowly opened back up, it was as if no time at all had passed. I looked around me and saw the nurses from Northwestern Hospital standing by, smiling. “You’re all done, honey.” “Do you feel okay? Any nausea?” Do I feel okay?? Yes, I felt good. A little numb. I felt relieved that it was over. I wanted to see Bruce and talk to my kids.
The next morning I laid in my hospital bed, eager to go home and thought to myself how fortunate I am to have my family and so many amazing friends in my life to grab hold of my hand when disasters hit. I saw an ad on TV while laying in my bed. It was from the NYC tourism board. The Big Apple! America, the melting pot! I smiled and thought to myself, I have my own melting pot. I have friends from every walk of life, from so many different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They have different political viewpoints and different stances on religion. Some conservative and some liberal. They are all treasures to me. They’ve been there for me from day one since I heard my unfortunate news. The one common denominator that runs through all of them is the definition of friendship and love. They are my melting pot!