Photo of Granny Gee/Gloria... 1998 ...Christmas Tree with Decorations painted, drawn, cut out by Gloria Faye Brown Bates.... (I never knew the day would come that I would dare to show this photo to anyone, much less 'the world.')
By Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee
I can barely remember this photo... I can't remember a lot during this time of my life... what I do remember was ... bad, good, bad ... good. So, I'll describe it again in one word .... bittersweet.
We were waiting for Tommy to get home from Germany. Skip had bought lots of gifts... strange, I can't remember shopping with him.
I sat here, just this very moment ... looking into a photo once again... seeing what you can't see, but... I know is there. You see a smiling woman... I would even say her face is pretty here... but, nothing in comparison with how beautiful she used to be.
You see just a smiling woman ... you don't see where she had surgery... where a rib was removed. You don't see the pain in her body from the terrible surgery she had.
Scars from the breathing tube, port catheter in her chest for chemotherapy drugs (https://www.google.com/search?q=port+catheter&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=H23kUNSQIoPe8ATEnIGABQ&sqi=2&ved=0CEoQsAQ&biw=1920&bih=932 , scars from the needles ... you can't see anything like that in this photo.
I can see for a moment a woman who found her fighting spirit from words her husband said to her... said out of love, not real anger. Words that gave her hope, words that put steel in her spine ... though here... you can't see it.
Those words made her get out of bed, begin seeing that she 'meant to live'... she dug her heels in... she was going to hold her ground.
This woman, 'me', Granny Gee/Gloria.... was diagnosed with cancer... non-Hodgkins lymphoma in July 1998... I was close to death when finally, I was diagnosed.
Skip carried me from one specialist to another ... at first, they didn't know what to diagnose me with. My first diagnosis was sarcodosis... (http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/sarcoidosis/)... it was quickly changed after the fine needle aspiration. (http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=nlungbiop.)
When I had the fine needle aspiration procedure done ... it was inserted through my back, into my right lung. The doctor who performed it, caused me such pain, became nervous. She had to let another doctor do it. Just after ... my right lung collapsed.
My body was so weak, I was so sick, I was ... dying. Skip was taking me back, forward for tests to determine what was causing me to not be able to breathe, I couldn't speak above a whisper. Steam from the showers 'suffocated' me, panicked me.
I had a PET scan, more tests.... (http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11912).
I lost weight rapidly, I began to stay in bed, I wasn't able to stay up. I stayed so cold ... oh, how I remember how cold my body stayed. Skip would pile blankets on me ... I still stayed cold.... in one hundred degree weather....
I itched .... my whole body would itch ... in the darkness of my mind ... where 'I was' ... I would scratch here, there. No relief did I get from the itching.
I had developed a cough... I had a bronchoscopy... my bronchial tubes were closing up. Breathing was difficult for me. http://www.medicinenet.com/bronchoscopy/article.htm
I had CT scans (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/computed-tomography-ct-scan-of-the-body), Muga scan (http://heartdisease.about.com/cs/cardiactests/a/muga.htm), and many other tests.
I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The mass was on the outside of my right lung, resting on both heart and lung. I was very ill.
On July 16, 1998, Skip took me for surgery. After the surgery, before I could see through the drug-induced fog, before I could be sat up (Skip and the nurse were helping me... I was in a upholstered chair before I became aware of ... myself).... I heard what I can only describe as an impression of a 'big' woman, with a loud voice.... hateful voice.
First, I'm hearing someone crying ... it was me. I began to feel the terrible pain... then, I have the impression of a 'big, tall' woman come into the room. She was saying something to me ... the strange thing was when she spoke, I was actually seeing in my mind.... letters, about a foot tall.
She told me I had 'CANCER'... I could see each letter in my mind individually.... C A N C E R ... each letter was a foot tall. I never saw her face, to be able to recognize her when I next saw her.
She told me that she was my oncologist, that I'd be having chemotherapy in the near future. She also, told me that I had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma... that she couldn't promise me anything. I could live, I could... die.
I vaguely remember looking up into Skip's face, turning my head to look into the nurse's face ... both looked angry. I was crying, weeping ... my mind had went to the word 'CANCER'... I was dead, already. I was afraid for the first time in my life in a medical setting.
My memories are dark while being in the hospital... I remember nurses I couldn't see ... holding me, comforting me while performing a bone marrow biopsy. (http://www.medicinenet.com/bone_marrow/article.htm). The pain was so great from this procedure. Tests, needles, so much was constantly going on ... to save 'me'... to save my life.
I remember my blood pressure staying too low, my nose bled... oh, the pain ... the pain was mostly what I knew. I'd had a thoracotomy. It was done by a cardiothoracic surgeon. I had a thoracotomy. (http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/St-Wr/Thoracotomy.html).
One year later, I had a second thoracotomy on my left lung... a small portion of lung was removed. I had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma... it came back. I went through being ill again, chemotherapy, losing my hair, all the tests ... nightmare... once again. Now... the pain I lived with ... was doubled.
For now, I will stop here, give you the symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma ... and tell you this, though it doesn't lessen one bit what you would go through, or lessen the severity of the disease....
I was told over and over this: 'if you get cancer, this is the cancer you would want.' The chances are good that you can go into remission... for years.
The symptoms are at this link: I had them all, when I began to get sick ... it happened rapidly. http://www.medicinenet.com/non-hodgkins_lymphomas/page4.htm#what_are_symptoms_and_signs_of_non-hodgkins_lymphoma
I first became alarmed when my blood pressure would stay low, but....... my pulse would be so high. Deep down, I knew it shouldn't be that way. I was exercising, walking... eating right at the time. I always look back to this time ...before....
Then, the cough developed. Not a bad cough, not a noticeable cough ... I'd always had allergies... It was one of the first symptoms I noticed. I was diagnosed at first with ... pneumonia, when we went to the Emergency Room.
I do remember the night sweats... I would be so cold. The itching.... I remember laying in the 'dark of my mind'... wondering why I was itching... but, I didn't focus on it, I 'just knew'.......
A doctor at an urgent care saved my life. He ordered an x-ray, talked to us, sent me on my way ... to saving my life. That was when the specialists, tests began...
The weight loss... I'll never forget Skip's face looking at me in shock at the weight I'd lost so quickly.... he didn't realize it because my clothes were very loose. One day when I was changing clothes is when he noticed.
I thought I was eating all the time ... in reality, I wasn't eating at all. Only when Skip was there making sure I was... he had to work, care for me... too. We had no one to help us. When he asked me if I ate .... I'd automatically say I had... I thought I had.
Looking at the photo above ... I looked closely to see if you could see the pain I suffered, the grief of knowing I had cancer, the grief of how 'friends, family' would go quickly in the opposite direction when seeing me .... do you know what I see when looking?
My eyes see an 'impostor' ... not 'me'. I see the beautiful wig Skip purchased for me. He took money we could ill-afford to purchase me a very expensive wig, to be as close to my hair as possible. In the photo... I didn't 'see anything' to make me run in the opposite direction from a friend. Do you? If so, honestly tell me... I would like to know.
One friend, I'd had for many years, met up with us in an aisle at the supermarket... he came around the corner, ran into us. He couldn't talk, he was flustered, talked fast (we never understood him)... turned around, he took off in a different direction. He hurt me deeply.
That man is dead now... I wonder if when he became sick, before he died..... if he thought of his 'friend' that he ran from? I wouldn't have ran from him ... or no one who was fortunate enough to beat death.
I see in the photo .... my eye lashes, eyebrows are ... gone. I see me holding onto the gate that at the time, kept our Pups 'then'... from going into the living room around the Christmas tree. I was weak, but... I had become determined to 'survive this thing.'
You can't see the 'steel in my spine'... but, it was there... it came back. You can't see my feet flat on the ground... you can't see my 'fighting spirit'... but, it was just coming back. I won.... but, it took quite some time, and oh my God, the pain... pain that I live with ..today.
I was looking at my face ... I can 'see' how my face looked 'washed out' from 'all'.
I look one last time at 'me' in the photo.... my eyes still look 'soft, caring'... so, a 'part of the real me was showing' in this photo. I had on a beautiful wig... I just needed some eyebrows, and eye lashes to stick on, too. :)))
I told you about the time my wig got caught on the tree limb! Yes, I walked under that tree never thinking I'd lose my hair ... then, it happened. I quickly grabbed it, stuck it on my head fast. I looked at Skip, asked him did I have it on right.
He told me, "move it to the right!" I had put it on 'lopsided!' I had to trust him to tell me how to keep moving it... until it was 'just right!'
I know I looked ridiculous when that wig was on my head 'all crazy'... I smile gently now, thinking about it. Skip never minded, he always said 'it's just temporary for now.' He was my hero, my everything. He made me feel like I was going to live. He never stopped caring... his calming voice... I always heard it, when I couldn't see him.
There was gentle humor, where we could laugh, tease me. I had to tell Skip and Tommy that we needed to find humor in a nice way. Skip named me the Gerber Baby. Tommy would tease me about the one curl on my head... in the sweetest way.... Humor, laughter is healing.... that's not to say...
That I laughed, found all kinds of things funny during that period...
Far from it... I did my share of crying... and a time or two, when I was alone, I .... screamed at God, only to later be ashamed.
I tried not to feel anger, but... it happened from time to time.
Remember... I said I'm not perfect, I'm not an angel ... I'm mean, sometimes. :))) Even when ... I'm sick.
My words in no way can reflect the shock, grief, fear..... that comes from being diagnosed with cancer. In fact, if I tried to color my words with those emotions... I'd come up short. I can't think of words powerful enough to make you 'feel' .... how it feels.
My words would be colored 'pale' in comparison ... to being told 'you have C A N C E R, you have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma!