I began writing my Grati-Tuesday newsletters about a year ago when I heard the clever play on words.
I am a huge believer in Gratitude and I practice it relentlessly, so it was a no-brainer to start writing a blog as a Tuesday pick-me-up for my followers.
So one would think that good things should happen on Tuesdays, right?
(Okay, maybe that's just MY expectation!).
Well, try telling that to my poor General Practitioner who showed me the results of the CT scan after breaking the news the evening before that it "did not look good."
It was Tuesday, May 8th.
I'd been having chest pain the previous week and tossed and turned the night of April 30th. It was the same day I thought I'd rubbed a quarter-sized muscle knot onto my clavicle. It felt like a bruise, but the underlying ache in the wee hours of the morning felt like my heart was tightening up.
I decided to stay home from work and get a cardiac check-up. I secured an appointment that morning.
My EKG was perfect, but as an afterthought, my practitioner suggested that I get a chest ex-ray. Perhaps my chest pain was related to inter-costal issues; maybe some arthritis was settling into my sternum or ribs.
That sounded feasible, so I drove to the hospital to obtain a quick and easy x-ray. A few days later, the report noted something "suspicious" so a CT scan was recommended.
My nurse sounded alarmed, but I wasn't. After all, I am a healthy gal, fastidious about annual MD visits. I don't get sick often; I decline flu shots; I am up-to-date on my mammogram and pap smears; and I had an early colonoscopy a decade ago.
I'm not a hypochondriac; I take 3 pills a day, two of which are supplements; I rarely get head-aches but when I do, I hesitate to take any medication; I'm in good shape, with the proverbial few pounds still to lose; I walk almost daily; and I practice yoga and self-help.
I'm a nurse and a life coach, perfect breeding ground for living a bountiful, sickness-free life.
So I was stunned when I received the news on that seemingly normal Tuesday: I have a 10.6 x 6 cm tumor in my chest, with several smaller ones, most likely a diagnosis of Lymphoma.
Despite my vigilance, cancer still snuck in.
I had to understand how this could've happened right under my nose. Did I recall any symptoms before the chest pain?
Well, yes. Burping.
I'd been experiencing an inordinate amount of burping for what seemed to begin out of nowhere (it continues still, a month later). It began just before the ache.
Other than that, I did not and still don't have any of the classic symptoms associated with lymphoma: no drenching night sweats; no fever; no weight loss (damn!); no excessive tiredness.
I've been belching, that is all. I was puzzled about what I'd been eating. I also noticed a tightness in my throat that felt like the short bout of reflux I'd experienced a few years ago.
If it weren't for the possibility that my heart was acting up, I probably would've ignored the ache in my chest, because I was already passing off the burping and reflux as indigestion problems.
And the ache in my chest has subsided, so I may have not gone to the doctor had I waited it out a few more days. The blessing is that the pain was bad enough, and had gone on long enough, to seek evaluation on the day that I had.
If I stretch my memory farther, I can admit that I've had an annoying cough/tickle in my throat for a long time. How long? I'm not sure, but for more than six months, and that's a sign that something is amiss. I just passed it off as a "tickle" and as a medical professional, I know better.
I also noticed a labyrinth of veins running across my chest, but again, I cannot pinpoint the date they appeared. I don't believe it was while I was in Hawaii just a few months ago; I think I would've been aware of them while strutting around in my bathing suit.
But it was odd when I first noticed them, because the last time the veins on my chest displayed such a vibrant, blue hue was with each of my pregnancies.
It now makes sense that those veins boldly showed themselves off as they wormed their way to the tumors deep within my chest cavity, keeping them well fed with oxygen-rich blood.
Since meeting with my oncologist, I have discovered that the "muscle knot" on my clavicle is actually a tumor that has worked its way through my breast bone.
But because it presented itself so obviously on my chest, it was easily used for a biopsy just a few days ago. And the cells that were recovered will be used to decipher which treatment options will be best.
The burping, I've also learned, has been caused by the tumor nudging my esophagus aside, causing discomfort. It is only when I burp that the discomfort is released.
On May 19th, my mother's 94th birthday, I finally began to share my diagnosis, first with my BFF. Amidst tears, we continued chatting as girlfriends do, which for us means plenty of laughing.
I told her about the hat party I intend to host while complaining about how awful I will look bald. Maybe I'll begin wearing bright red lipstick and sporting a smokey eye shadow to draw attention away from my baldness. And perhaps the port on my chest (for infusing chemo) will become a sexy new way to attract men.
An hour passed, with moments of tenderness and tears, when an older gentleman parked his car and walked right up to us.
"I've been informed by management that you are both having entirely too much fun!"
I leaned toward my friend as he walked away and said, "If only he knew what we're really talking about!" My friend informed me that he was a local pastor.
See, God is already infusing my life with blessings.
In fact, it hasn't been the diagnosis that has brought me to tears; to the contrary, I've been more enveloped in sobs by the reality of blessings and love already showing up from all corners of my life.
And from the moment this began, I have had a heightened sense of peace, which initially concerned me because I worried that I was in denial.
But I have had to remind myself that I also have 25 years of healing behind me. I have lived through a few life-crushing events already so I am an expert at grieving. I know how to shore up my emotional resources and carry onward. I also know how to reach out for help.
I have learned new coping mechanisms, and I have a steady--if not sometimes shaky--belief in a God who wants me to become all of who I am meant to be.
In the past, that meant slogging through grief, betrayal and a broken heart while I struggled to find my footing again. Perhaps today, that means inviting cancer to my table, as I stay open to its teachings.
I believe that life is one big school of lessons, and our soul wants only for us to become our whole, authentic, bright selves. Those of us who are hard-headed students (um, yes, that would be me) sometimes need more than just the gentle whispers that signal a change is necessary.
I seem to need the damn Mac Trucks.
My intention for this newsletter is to introduce a new platform. From the minute the news hit my ears, I made a decision to kick this, no matter what it may require of me.
And with that decision came a whole lot of gratitude and a plan for loving life more fully while I'm still in it.
The Nurse in me plans to stay informed about treatment options; the Life Coach in me longs to remain brutally authentic; and the writer in me lives to tell the story.
I'm drawn to sharing my journey with you--the good, the bad and the ugly--because that's life. It often hits with a devastating blow, from out of nowhere, crushing all you thought you knew.
But having endured hard emotional events before, I know that it's possible to do things we don't want to do. I know this because I have come out the other side with more gratitude, more wisdom, and a whole new attitude for life.
I plan on soaking up every morsel of teaching this cancer has in store for me.
I am not writing this to draw pity, but to show you how you can hold your head up high when life serves up shitty, moldy lemons, and live with courage, anyway.
It begins with an intention. Then you have to do the difficult, exhausting, sometimes terrifying work to get there.
And remember this: the possibility of a good outcome is just as likely as a bad outcome, but we as humans tend to worry and fret and obsess about all the bad things that are going to happen!
Well, I prefer to dwell on all the possibilities of GOOD, and you should, too.