A Moment to Think

I accidentally snapped this picture on the way to dinner last night and as I was downloading the pictures to my computer I realized this photo spoke about the mood I was in yesterday: contemplative, searching, thankful. It might be just my eyeball to some, but to me it’s a window into my soul.

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You see, yesterday was my fourteen-year cancer-free anniversary.

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Fourteen years. It feel like just yesterday and at the same time it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

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I’m sure I’ve told you the story before of how I find out about the cancer. If not, here it is.

The summer before my sophomore year of high school I became very tired. So tired that I would fall asleep anywhere. During the track and field events at the Olympics. During class changes at school.  I couldn’t help it or do anything about it.  I was sleeping almost 16 hours a day by that September. My mother took me to the doctor and they did a battery of tests on me. I was severely anemic and had severe recurring UTIs, but that was all. There was nothing to explain the sudden, extreme tiredness.  And the problem grew worse. After many almost-weekly trips to my doctor he thought I was perhaps having seizures–that instead of sleeping I was really in a seizure-induced haze. See, I had became so perpetually tired that I could go to sleep and wake up having taken pages and pages of notes in biology without even remembering it. It was eerie. My mother got a recommendation for a neurologist.

However, before we could make an appointment I was admitted to the hospital.

It was election day 2006 and I had the day off from school. My parents had gone to vote and I went to take a shower. That’s when I all-of-a-sudden doubled over in pain. I’ve always heard that you forget pain, and it’s true, I honestly don’t remember what it felt like. All I remember is thinking that it was the worst pain of my life. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. Somehow I got out of the shower, fell to the floor, and that’s how my parents found me when they got home–delirious from pain and laying on the floor. They got me dressed and decided it would be quicker to drive to the hospital than to wait on an ambulance.

Since all this I’ve been to the ER before for various things. Never, and I mean never, have they taken me right back. You have to wait and fill out paperwork and get your vitals, etc. But that day it was so obvious that I was in intolerable pain, that they immediately put me on a gurney and wheeled me back.

I don’t remember much, thankfully. I do remember coming to {I was passed out from the pain for most of it} and begging for pain killers. I remember being told they couldn’t give me anything until they knew what was wrong because they might have to do emergency surgery. I remember them telling me that all my xrays were cloudy because it looked like I was bleeding internally. They did catheterized me {without any pain medicine, I might add}–I do remember that plainly–and admitted me.

Finally, they did an abdomen ultrasound and realized that most of the bleeding was coming from my pelvic area. A surgeon came in and told us he was going to do exploratory surgery because he thought I might be having a cyst issue.

“A cyst issue” was an understatement. It ended up weighing 15 pounds and had twisted and destroyed my ovary so much that it had to be removed. It had caused me to lose massive amounts of blood to my internal bleeding {hence, the sleepiness and anemia}. It had put so much pressure on my bladder and kidneys that they could not function.

After a four-day stay in the hospital, I was sent home to heal. It was all going to be fine I was told.

A week later as I was laying on the couch, my parents received a call from my doctor. They left quietly and without telling me who had called. I assumed that they were going to look for me a car for my 16th birthday that was in less than two weeks.

They came back a couple of hours later crying. They told me I had cancer.

I tell you this story because it is an important part of who I became after those three words, “You have cancer.” I am such a blessed woman to have survived this ordeal. I have a wonderful family. A phenomenal husband. A daughter I don’t deserve. She is my miracle baby.

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I only let me dwell on the “Cancer Natalie” one day a year. Every November 7th I allow myself to think back on those dark days. But every single day I rejoice for what I’ve been given.

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Because I have been given so very much. And last night we celebrated by going out to dinner and I was given beautiful things by my family that I treasure.

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In fact, I treasure everything since November 7, 1996.  Because that is the day my life, and its purpose, changed forever.

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5 Responses to A Moment to Think

  1. BlueEyedYonder November 9, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    Natalie, reading this post reminds me of when Chris found out he had testicular cancer. It was the summer of 2003 and we had only been dating a couple of months. It was such a scary and humbling experience. You don’t realize it at the time, but God knows what he is doing. That experience forever changed me and Chris and made our love for each other even stronger. As you mentioned, going through an ordeal such as cancer makes you more thankful for all of the small moments in your life, making us deeper and more loving people.

    I am so happy to hear you’ve been cancer free for 14 years! What a beautiful milestone.

  2. Ann G November 9, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    I’m so glad you are cancer free and have been for 14 years. That’s a wonderful reason to celebrate. My father has chronic leukemia and that has changed our lives. We are grateful for each and every day that he has been given. When reading your post, I thought about how you understand how your parents felt now that you have MM. Being a Mama makes you grow so much deeper than before, but having been down the road of cancer would change you forever too. I’m glad you made it.

  3. jenna brown November 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    Love you Nat and so glad your still cancer free! 😉
    That necklace is beautiful.. Who got it for you? C.

  4. Natalie November 10, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    HAHA! No, not C.
    My parents!

  5. Krisa November 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    What a strong woman you are! This post gave me chills.

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