Friday, March 18, 2011

Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear Up. Put On a Happy Face!

This is a very long post and I apologize in advance. You may want to read it in shifts!

Last week at this time I was lying in the hospital in a drug induced sleep after having half of my intestines removed. It had been a week of daily discoveries, all of which included words like "tumor" and "cancer", and culminated in a body-changing, yet successful operation. I had Greg by my side every step of the way and Allison and Courtney came as much as they could. It was not the most fun week I've ever spent, but there were definitely some things that turned my gray skies blue, and that's what this blog is about.

First of all, Greg blogged a little about all the love and support we had from everyone. At the time he wrote about it we had no idea just how much more was coming. That counter with the flowers on it from the last post eventually become so crowded with flowers that we couldn't get one more on. Every time a new nurse would come in to start her shift she would literally gasp at the sight of "my own floral shop". They made the room so bright and beautiful and smelled so good! Greg asked me one night which one's were my favorite, but how could I choose just one when they were all so gorgeous? It made me happy every time I would look at them.

Besides the flowers, I had lots and lots of visitors. It seemed like before one group would leave another one would come to take their place. We only had 4 folding chairs in the room and we had them set up most of the time. Everyone was so sweet and would all tell me that I was being prayed for, that they were fasting for me, that they'd put my name in the temple, that I was loved. It was so humbling to think of all these people, plus ones that I heard from but didn't come to visit, were all thinking of me. The principal of my school and his wife came to visit one night. They told me that my whole class was praying for me and reminded me of the power of a child's prayer. I also heard that Greg's whole department went to the temple together on my behalf. I have felt overwhelmed with gratitude as I've received sweet notes and phone calls from dearly loved and far away nieces and nephews, friends from our past, brothers and sisters, ward members, etc. I had no idea I even knew so many people! You know, when I first found out about the tumor I had decided to only tell people on a "need to know" basis, but to try to keep it as quiet as I could. A good friend advised me against it for two reasons: 1) If you all the sudden drop out of life for a long time like that people's imaginations start to wander and they might think I was having a boob job (which Greg was quick to point out that when I went back they would all think that I'd been robbed!), and 2) The more people who know, the more people can pray for you. As I considered this I thought that when people heard they would say, "Oh, too bad for Nancy." But I never dreamed I would have the outpouring of love and prayers and faith and fasting and support that we ended up with from all over the nation. I am still deeply touched, and cannot begin to thank you all for your part.

I could go on and on about that, but there was another little plan brewing that just made my week so happy. Little did we know that this surgery coincided with Griffin and Ashland's spring break. As soon as they heard about the surgery they called and said that they were going to drive out to see us. We talked them out of it because it is so far and expensive, and I would just be in the hospital the whole time anyway, etc. etc. They said okay, but then went ahead and made plans to come. And not only did they come themselves, but they called Haley and asked if she wanted to come too. With only 45 minutes notice, dear Haley packed her car, threw her house keys to a neighbor as she was driving down the street, and started the 8 hour drive to Oklahoma with Bennett. She arrived at 2:30 a.m., transfered her stuff to Griffin and Ashland's car, and they were on the road by 3:00 a.m. They drove the 20 hours to Rexburg straight through and arrived at 9:00 Sat. night, totally unbeknownst to me. Imagine my shock when I heard a knock on my hospital door and there were Griffin and Ashland and cute baby Zoey! I just couldn't get over it. It was incredible to see them here when I had thought they were in Oklahoma. After hugs and kisses and squeals of surprise they said that they'd also brought another package. That's when Haley and Bennett walked in. If I hadn't been in so much pain I would've leapt from the bed and scooped the whole bunch into a great big hug. Haley walked in and said, "Mom! You look just like Mom lying in bed!" That's when I realized that it was good for them to all just see me and to see that I am still the same and I am okay. It was so fun to see Bennett and Zoey and I just couldn't get over how much they'd both grown just since Christmas. Bennett is talking so well now and Zoey's smiles can light up a room! We had a very joyful little reunion right there in the hospital room. Over the next few days I was able to spend some precious one-on-one time with each one of them and I will forever be grateful for the herculean effort they made to be there for me. As I write this Griffin and Ashland are in their second straight day of driving home and it makes me appreciate them even more.

I should say that this was also Logan's spring break and he had already arranged to fly to Spokane for interviews. He will be graduating from dental school in May and it's exciting that he is now at the point where he is moving on with his career. We talked to him almost daily and we would get updates on his interviews and he'd get updates on me. Rachel was so sweet to call and check up on me a lot too. We had support from everywhere!

Ashland is in nursing school and she was so excited to be in the hospital with me. The first night she was there she announced that she was going to wash my hair. It must've looked really bad! (Just kidding, Ash.) She spent the next day hunting all over town for an inflatable sink and finally found one. That night they all showed up with a big basket full of hair supplies and got to work. This sink had an opening for my head and a little attached pillow inside to rest my head on and keep it up. My job was to just lie in bed, and everyone else had a job of either filling up the warm water, bringing the buckets over, pouring the water, and even taking care of the kids. Ash gave me two good scrubs with shampoo before using conditioner, and it felt so good! The nurses were so kind to supply us with lots of towels and buckets, and didn't even say anything about the chaos. In the middle of blow drying my hair more company came to see me, so the end result wasn't quite what I had in mind, but the first part was a lot of fun and I will forever remember the lift it gave me to just have clean hair again!

Another big plus for the week was that I finally got to experience the wonder of an epidural and had very little pain compared to what it could've been. They gave it to me before my surgery and left it in for 5 days! No wonder people would walk in and exclaim that I looked so good. I was so spoiled, but it helps a lot in the healing process to have your body relaxed and comfortable. I was able to get up and go on walks and go to the bathroom much faster than I would've otherwise. It was wonderful! Where were those things when I was having babies?

On the last day I was there they took the epidural out and it was a rude awakening. It was a long hard painful day, but at the end of it the Dr. came in and gave us the long awaited pathology report. We'd been waiting 6 days and I was nervous for what they would say. I knew that I would be needing chemotherapy, but I didn't know how much or for how long. As the days went by we got more and more anxious about it. The dr. didn't come in till after dinner and by then I was in a lot of pain. He talked to me about the pain for awhile, and then said that maybe he could cheer me up by telling me the results of the pathology reports. Even he was surprised as he told me that the tumor, which had been 4 cm. long, had NOT entered the intestinal lining, as he had thought, and which would've made it much worse. Also, out of the 37 lymph nodes that he'd removed, not one of them was cancerous! It took awhile for what he was saying to sink in. No cancer?!? The tumor was cancerous, but it is gone, and there are no traces of anymore anywhere else! We will still be visiting the oncologist next week to see what he says, but it will likely not be as bad as what I thought, if I even need to have chemo! It is nothing short of a miracle and if I could've moved I would've jumped out of bed and kissed the Dr.! Instead I started to cry, which hurt just as much, but I couldn't help it. And then all of a sudden I remembered the blessings Greg had given me and all the sweet people telling me they were fasting for me, praying for me, putting my name in the temple, and remembering me with good thoughts, and I could hardly contain myself! I truly am so humbled and so grateful, and so overwhelmed by it all. It is probably the most significant thing that has ever happened to me, and certainly the most faith promoting experience I've ever had. There was absolutely no luck involved, but a most miraculous blessing, and I am so, so humbled to be a part of it. The Lord truly does hear and answer prayers! I am so grateful for His infinite goodness!

The day before I came home Haley called and asked me what room I wanted to be in when I came home. I knew I didn't want to spend all my time in my room. We don't have a tv in there and I would be away from all the action, so I suggested we get the trundle bed out from under the daybed and set it up in the family room somehow. I gave Haley free reign to make it work. The kids all went to work rearranging the furniture and getting rid of stuff and when I came home and walked in I felt like I was in a room on HGTV. The room is set up so the bed looks like it belongs there and I feel so very cozy by the fire. I am facing the tv and I have a table next to me that has everything I could possibly want on it. Haley told me when she first got here that she has no life anyway so she will stay here to take care of me. It's such a great set up for me and she is the most efficient nurse I've had so far. Bennett helps keep us all entertained and I couldn't be more thrilled to have weeks ahead of me with nothing more to do than enjoy these two.

If you are still reading this you should be rewarded somehow. I wanted to write it all down mostly for me, but if you're reading it it's probably because you were one of the people who cares about me. Thank you for everything! Life sends us some twists and turns along the way, but we can always find reasons to put on a happy face!


Forever, Foralways, No Matter What said...

I am so glad to hear that only the tumor was cancerous. You will continue to be in our prayers. I'm also glad that Haley & Bennett will be by your side :-)

Alyssa said...

oh Nancy we love you!!!! You know I worried about you for days not sleeping until I talked to Leslie and she reminded me of a blessing that was given to Don when he had problems with his back that said he would be ok. Then Leslie told me that she was going to call you guys immediately and asked what if any blessing you had been given were to see what God had to say. It taught me of Leslie's faith as well. When she told me what your blessing had said, I wasn't as worried. I felt at peace. Then on Thursday, a day after your tests came back, a lady came in to my work gathering gifts for the 5K she was organizing called "Buns Up". This year it is the first year they are doing it and it's next Saturday here in SLC. Anyways, I still wondered if you were really ok. I asked her what the race was for and she said, "It's for color cancer!" I could have laughed out loud. I told her about you and your symptoms and she told me that she and other nurses that work in gastronology had organized this race and she told me that you are fine, completely fine. And she also told me that March is Colon Cancer Awareness month. I thought it was such a coincidence, but also such a tender mercy for me.