A Morning of Mourning…

I’ve learned more in the past couple of months than I had ever hoped to. There are so many things about myself that I’ve never noticed before. Crucial situations can do that to a person. You don’t know what to expect until you’re in a situation. And even when you are in the situation, you still don’t know what to do or what to expect. You find yourself going through life in a kind of “trial by fire” frame of mind, getting burned here, singed there.

I spoke about loss in a previous post: Goodbye to My Girls – https://sporterhall.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/goodbye-to-my-girls/ I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in mourning when I wrote that piece. As a matter of fact, I think I still am. But it’s not the first time. My original surgery date had been scheduled for May 20, 2015. The morning of my surgery was a very emotional one for me. I was not prepared for the wave of emotions that washed over me, literally, as I showered for the last time with all in tact. I found myself feeling overwhelmingly apologetic for my decision to radically address my medical issue. I never imagined I would feel so guilty about it.

I arrived at the hospital, pretty calm as I recall. After all, I had had a very cleansing cry that morning. I had mourned that morning. So I felt pretty clear and a lot lighter. I remember talking to the staff in the operating room. The next thing I remember was the nurse whispering to me gently that the doctor would come and talk to me. I was too out of it to think that there might be something wrong. I felt a soreness on my left side, so I assumed it was from the radical surgery that had been performed. As I emerged from the anesthesia, reality greeted me with the cruelest twist. The surgery had not been performed due to a medical complication. What?!! This had to be the worst kind of joke. Either that, or I must have heard wrong. There was no way that I was put completely under anesthesia for a major surgical procedure, only to awake to find that it had not taken place. The more coherent I became, the clearer the picture came into view. My surgeon made the best call. He didn’t take any chances with risking proceeding forward and I get it. But I wasn’t prepared for the mental fall out of this interruption.

Fate had allowed me to mourn the loss of 2 vital parts of my anatomy and prepare for it mentally. I was thrilled that I had a little while longer to be in tact. But all that really did was mess my head up. I mean, here I sit, writing this piece, and I still don’t feel mentally ready, not the way I did on May 20th. The postponement opened the door for my mind to play tricks on me. I started to toy with the idea that maybe, just maybe, this surgery isn’t necessary at all. Life certainly wouldn’t be so cruel as to play this kind of joke on me, or would it? To say goodbye once is bad enough, but to have to say goodbye again, is more than anyone deserves.

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

Goodbye To My Girls….

Don’t you just hate goodbyes? Just as you get to know someone or get use to the way things are done, the person leaves or the situation changes. I think this has been the story of my life. It seems like I’m always saying goodbye to someone or something. Sometimes the goodbyes are bittersweet, in that people are moving on to bigger and better things, while leaving me behind. At other times, the goodbyes are just bitter, leaving me feeling like I’ve lost a part of me.

Well, I’m about to embark on the biggest goodbye of my life. The time has come for me to say the dreaded two words, that come together to mark the ending of an era. But this is no ordinary farewell. Honestly, even as I’m writing this, I still find it hard to wrap my head around it. How hard would it be for you to say so long to friends that you’ve known your entire life? These girls have rode with me through thick and thin; true ‘ride or die’ chicks. My girls have been there for me even when I didn’t seem to notice or unintentionally took them for granted. When the chips were down, they stood with me in solidarity, while lending there silent yet powerful support. They made me proud and instilled in me a confidence that made me honored to be represented so well by them. I can only hope that I’ve done them the same justice. Yet, the time has come in my life where I’ve come to realize that things can change, even my girls. My ‘ride or die’ crew is no longer what they once were. They’ve become a danger to me to me that cannot be ignored.

Even as I sit here, writing and sharing about how good my girls have been to me, it makes me so sad to think about what my life will be like without them. Of course, there will be newbies that will rise to the occasion I’m sure, but there will never be another pair to replace the originals, in my heart. I know that they would remain if they could, after all, they’ve been with me from the beginning. But I’ve got to let them go and it hurts in a way like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

So, fellow bloggers, please keep me in your prayers and turn up the volume on Wednesday May 20th, as I undergo radical surgery and once and for all, say goodbye to my girls.

Sylvia Porter-Hall

The Decision is In

Well, the decision is in. It happened just like I was told it would. Being faced with the daunting decision of whether or not to remove not only one part of my anatomy, but an additional and equally important part as well. Honestly, I hadn’t been toiling over the decision as much as a person might that found themselves in this position. I mean, I thought about it on and off, but there are always so many other things happening in my life, that my focus ends up in many different places, almost simultaneously. I guess that could be a good thing, because it doesn’t allow me to dwell on any one thing. Instead, I flit around from one issue to the next, sharing little pieces of my attention respectively, much like a bee that buzzes around from flower to flower. After all, there are so many choices. I wonder how the bees decide where to begin.

On the morning of my follow up appointment with my surgeon, I woke up and I knew immediately what I was going to do. There wasn’t any fuss or muss and I saw things with a clarity that isn’t always a part of my decision-making process and for that, I am very thankful. As I lay there calmly, looking around my bedroom, the decision floated into view as vividly as the clouds in once blue skies, that signal the impending rain that is sure to follow.

Okay, so that part is done and I am content with my decision. Well, as content as anyone in this predicament could be. However, the hardest part is still to come. Yes, I have come to a decision concerning breast cancer surgery but along with this knowledge comes the fact that I will be minus two parts of my anatomy that I have lived with my entire life. My breasts have always been a special part of my body and I’ve always valued and revered their beauty, their purpose. I can’t help but wonder what a woman does when she has this mastectomy surgery that removes her entire breast(s)? How does she feel about herself when she looks in the mirror? Does she worry about how her husband/mate, family and friends will view her post-surgery? I am now that woman with all these questions.

I’ve had my share of surgeries in my life time but this one will be the most intricately personal one by far. A woman’s breasts can instill a whole lot of pride or they cause her to bear the brunt of much shame, when faced with their surgical removal. However, I will remain alive and well as a result of this decision. Beauty may be only skin-deep, but this experience will no doubt make me a more beautiful person from within. That is what matters most, right? I’d say, the decision is in!

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

Not Knowing Could Kill You!!

We all have routine things that we have to do and revisit from time to time. For the most part, we can often expect the same outcome. So we go about our business, not expecting any different results. For example: a routine medical appointment. You’ve had several follow-up appointments in the past and usually they have been uneventful, thank God. But then comes a time, maybe two, when you are caught completely off guard.

If you are anything like me, you may tend to do the majority of things in life on your own, flying ‘solo’ in most cases. Now, this may be for any number of reasons. It may be personal preference, or the fact that your usual support system is unavailable at the times when you could really benefit from their physical and emotional presence. For me, it’s a combination of both.

Yesterday, I went to my annual mammogram screening. Actually, I was overdue for my screening which is still a mystery to me. I could have sworn I had a screening in 2014, but records show that I had not had a screening since 2013. Wow! I really missed the mark on that one. I’m a real stickler when it comes to following up on all of my medical appointments, or so I thought. Yet somehow, this one escaped me. Forgive the old cliché in this instance, ‘but better late than never’.

As I sat in the lobby and watched people come and go, I noticed that quite a few women arrived in pairs. I’ve often heard of this ‘buddy’ system when attending mammogram screenings. The emotional support must be priceless. I’ve seen this many times before but for some reason, it really stood out to me yesterday. How I wished I had someone with me, if for nothing but to pass the time away.

I observed quietly while a pair of women would emerge from their testing, receive their favorable results and prepare to leave. They always seemed to be in such high spirits. After all, a clean bill of health in this instance is reason to be jubilant. I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched numerous women come and go, if they would go some place nice for lunch once they left the facility. Did they meet up with other friends to celebrate their favorable outcomes?

I continued to catch up on some reading while I waited for my results. I expected to be called from the left side of the room where those that have been screened are called into a specific room to receive their results. For some reason when my name was called, it came from the right side of the room; where people are called that still have to have their screenings done. My heart started pounding as I contemplated why I was being called from that side of the room. A technician greeted me with a wonderful demeanor and an infectious smile while advising me that a few more images were needed. If only she knew the bullets I was sweating and that she stood directly in the line of fire – an unsuspecting target, much like I felt as we made our way down the lengthy hallway.

This immediately took me back, a kind of de ja vu.  The year was 2001. At that time, I was again waiting patiently for my results when a technician informed me that the doctor needed a few more images. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with breast cancer during the Breast Cancer Awareness Month of that year. Imagine that! Thankfully, it was caught in time. As a result, I am a survivor – a title I only want to hold once as it pertains to this potentially deadly disease.

As I followed the technician down the seemingly never ending hallway, I heard my heart beating loud and clear. I was convinced that the technician could hear it too. Several more images were taken at which point I was directed back to the waiting room. I noticed a few women noticing me return back to the same seat I was in before. I could almost see the questions within their kind facial expressions. There was a silent camaraderie that we all shared and that was both understood and appreciated. We were all there for the same reason(s), whether in pairs or alone as I was. I realized then and there, the beauty in this kind of unspoken sisterhood where no words or conversation is necessary.

Again, I was called from the right side of the room and asked if I was able to stay for an ultrasound. Oh my God! This could not be happening. Of course, I agreed as I couldn’t imagine leaving there without any and all necessary testing being performed. The doctor that performed the ultrasound was a breath of fresh air. He was very kind and thoroughly explained the images to me and the importance of looking deeper into his findings to ensure my health and safety. He even gave me his personal cell phone number to contact him if we miss each other concerning the results which should be available some time today.

By the end of a visit that began at 11:00am on yesterday, I had completed a needle biopsy in addition to all the other testing. I was able to finally leave after 3:00pm with many thanks from staff for my patience. Evidently, some people get really upset when they find they need to stay far beyond what they had originally planned for. I wasn’t happy about spending my whole day there, but I am very pleased and thankful for the prompt and thorough attention that was extended to me. I would much rather allow all the required testing while I’m there, rather than come back and forth at a later time. For me, it’s a no-brainer. Sometimes, we have to be inconvenienced in order to get to the bottom of red flags that we are made aware of when it comes to our health. After all, it’s the not knowing that could kill you, right?

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

June 2017
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