Monday, September 24, 2012

Strength in Weakness, Part 4


This entry is a part of the blog where you may question what I say. You may ask, "Was Shannon in her right mind to make such a decision?" You may ask, "Why didn’t her husband step in and force the surgery on her?", "Why didn’t her mother vocalize what she felt and scream from the mountains, 'Have the surgery, Shannon! Have the surgery!'?"

This much I do know: our adult children will do as they want, not what we want. I lived this, I know.

It was January 2010; Shannon had finished 6 cycles of her clinical trial treatments. She was starting cycle 7 when she felt a small lump in the spot where the melanoma had been removed from her breast. She and her physician could not be certain that it was not breast fiber, scar tissue or something else for that matter. No conclusive results would be known medically without surgery. If Shannon’s cancer was back again, then for her it would mean going all the way back to Cycle 1 and starting again with 6 more months of the dreaded and sickening stomach shots of IL2.

Before Shannon and Ben told her father and me about the lump, they prayed. Shannon and Ben prayed until they felt they had direction and peace with their decision. Shannon told her father who in turn told me. No one knows about this but her immediate family. I am not sure she told anyone about this, ever. Shannon decided that she felt peace and should not have any surgery. Ben supported her decision. So when Sean told me that is how I was told. A decision was already made. Sean also felt that Shannon made the right decision. Christopher and I both had different feelings about this lump. I was happy and felt great joy that my daughter would trust the Lord with her body. She was exercising powerful faith. However, I felt Shannon should have the lump removed surgically. I felt that this was the only true way to know what it was and then deal with it accordingly. I felt that Shannon was in a fight for her life. I told Shannon one time-- only one time-- that I thought she should have surgery. She shut me down and told me to stop being negative. Shannon said what she needed was positive support. So that is what she got from me. But as hard as I tried I could not shake that uneasy feeling of the possibility of cancer being left to do its deadly work. Throughout the rest of Shannon’s battle that lump would come and go. In the end this is where the spreading began and took off like a wild fire. I never felt sicker at heart that I had been right. I didn’t want to be right.

I have shared these feelings with you for a testimony of what real strength in weakness is all about. What a gift my daughter received that she was able to have so much faith in her decision. For me? Well, for me my feelings are best left at the feet of a loving God, who loves me and will help me to emerge from the ashes I find myself in. I will emerge from the ashes a stronger woman, a more tender woman, who has suffered and learned a lesson that could only be taught by living it.

I know as a reader of my blog posts this one may seem so different to you. But it is an important entry. Shannon was strong in faith. Strong in love, strong really in everything she did. She was a truly amazing person who I respected and admired. She held fast to the promise she felt she had gotten from her Saviour. Was she right? Was she wrong? I don’t know. Is there a right? Is there a wrong? I don’t know. This I do know: Shannon teaches us all by how she lived and how she believed until she had no more breath.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mexico in Shannon's Words (Part 2)

January 5, 2011

At the airport

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mexico and successfully achieved my goal of getting absolutely not one bit more of color than I came with. The day before we left it was a snow blizzard in Maryland. We got to enjoy a bit of the winter white and then it was off to the airport to make our way down south and to the warmth of Mexico. We were supposed to leave at 10:30am and ended up flying sometime around 2:00pm. Not too bad all things considered.

It was the first time that I have flown since having my ancillary lymph node dissection. I followed precautions and put on my compression sleeve and gauntlet about an hour and a half before the flight. When I arrived in Mexico I noticed that my fingers looked very swollen. I was worried that the flying had caused me to get some swelling. However, the entire flight and after it I felt like the gauntlet piece was very uncomfortable. After about 45 minutes after landing I decided to take off just the gauntlet. After about 10 minutes I noticed that the swelling in my fingers was gone. When we arrived at the hotel 2 hours later I took off the compression sleeve and did not notice any swelling in my arm or hand.

Our trip was so nice and relaxing. I had just finished my sixth cycle of treatment and needed a nice relaxing time with my husband to just breathe, have some adventure, and enjoy life.

The first couple of days we were there we really just ate, read, sat on the beach, and went for walks together. We enjoyed this time very much. We especially enjoyed the second day when the sun came out nice and bright and all the iguanas came out of hiding to sun themselves.

Unlike the iguanas, I am not allowed to bask in the sun unfettered and unprotected. I took extra precautions to protect myself from the sun. I coated myself with Fallen’s COTZ sunblock. This is a very nice product. I only use it on my face because I can’t use regular or even standard sensitive skin sunblock on my face. This is the only thing that doesn’t irritate my eyes. I end up using very little so it is worth the price. For the rest of me I used a 70 spf waterproof sunblock. I also re-applied my sunblock not only according to the directions on the bottle, but also every time I swam and then dried off. I also wore a hat and sat under umbrellas at the pool or beach and also wore a coverup.

On the day we went to Chichen-Itza I decided that I did not need my compression sleeve and gauntlet. We did a whole lot of walking! I loaded up on the sunblock like our days on the beach and also wore a hat. During some of the tour guide’s talks the group was standing directly in the sun. I chose to forgo part of these learning experiences and stand in the shade on my own. It was incredibly fascinating and I was able to hear enough during the talks in the shady parts of the area that I did not feel my experience was in any way incomplete.

On Christmas Eve day we went to swim with the dolphins. I did wear my compression sleeve, but not my gauntlet because of it bothering my hand so much when I was flying. Now, salt and oil breaks down the special weave of fibers that the compression garments are made of. What I did was ask the place where I get my compression garments from what to do while swimming in salt water. I wore my old compression sleeve and immediately cleaned it when I got back from swimming with the dolphins.

That night at dinner I ate some thing that I was allergic to. I broke out in hives all over both arms, neck, and legs. I chose not to see a medic because my airways were not in any way restricted and I was having no trouble breathing. I had brought Benadryl with me and chose to take that as recommended. The hives lasted long after our vacation had ended. They were pretty much gone about a week after they popped up.

Our last two days were spent in lazy enjoyment. Ben played golf, we went shopping in Playa Del Carmen, (where I found a Starbucks!), and I got a hot stone massage and pedi-cure at the hotel spa. Now, one of the precautions one should take to prevent lymphedema is to avoid massages on that area. I simply told the spa that I could not be massaged on my right arm, shoulder, and the surrounding area of my arm. It was not a problem and I got to enjoy the perfect relaxing day.

I suppose now it is back to reality and New Year’s resolutions. I don’t usually make any, but I think I am going to this year…even if they will start a month late.

Last picture we took together in Mexico

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mexico in Shannon's Words

December 19, 2009

So, I am finishing up packing and alternately checking Air Tran’s website for our flight status tomorrow. Still on-time every time we check. I really don’t like cold weather, but even I have to admire such a beautiful white winter wonderland.

When I first heard that we were expecting this kind of weather I panicked! I immediately called Apple vacations and when I found out that the worst-case scenario was us leaving on Monday morning I breathed easy and embarked on packing.

I am looking forward to being in Mexico, but I am so glad that right before I am leaving to enjoy nice sunny weather, zip-lining over the jungle, and swimming with the dolphins I am getting an opportunity to enjoy the only part of winter I like-- snow!

It was a nice day and felt reminiscent to my childhood. What a lovely way to spend the day. The started with my brother cooking everyone breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausage links for Ben and Fer, and veggie sausage patties for me. A nice hot Chai Tea Latte and I felt ready to stay inside and enjoy my day. I leisurely packed my suitcase, watched the snow come down, read, and watched TV with my husband.

A roll of cookies, round of Boursin cheese, and some Starbucks Java Chip ice cream later…I am feeling fat, lazy, and happy. The best part of the day…being completely unfashionable and not changing out of my pajamas.