Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 23, 2011

"I woke up alive"

When December approaches, "The Big C" should mean just one thing. But this year, the "other" Big C has played a role that none of us had anticipated nor desired.

Back in November, our family doctor told Mom there was a place on her mammogram that was suspicious and he wanted a biopsy. We hoped it would turn out to be nothing, but the results received a few days after Thanksgiving were not something to be thankful for. Still, the lump was small, so we looked at it as the best version of bad news.

Christmas this year was already destined to be a bit unusual. With sister Gaila's two girls in the United States - one in college in Georgia and one working in New York - I had suggested that she and husband Humberto fly from their home in Bolivia to Kansas. With their girls away from home, they had sold their house in La Paz, but the condo they bought won't be ready for another couple of months. Passing the Christmas season in a small apartment hadn't sounded very festive to me. They agreed, and made plans to come.

I had told Uncle Stan and Aunt Kay they should come, too, feeling it would be fun if they would fly in from their home in California. It would truly be a family Christmas this year. I was thrilled when they decided to come, too.

But Christmas and cancer together make for a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Everyone had opinions. Some felt Mom should wait until after Christmas, while others felt she should take action now. Then there was the decision about what action to take - do nothing, have a lumpectomy with weeks of radiation after surgery or have a simple mastectomy.

Of course, in the end, only one person's opinion really counted. While the rest of us had differing and sometimes shifting views, Mom was steadfast - mastectomy and now. When we had the consultation with our doctor, the only delay she wanted was one day - so she could attend the Christmas luncheon of her retired teachers' group.

But the surgeon didn't have an opening until last Wednesday. That meant a week to prepare for Christmas and the surgery, but also a week to keep running over the situation in my mind.

As the day approached, daughter Katie noticed I was getting more and more scattered. In a single trip with her to campus, I misplaced my keys and dropped my cell phone. Twice in one trip with husband Art, he had to pick up my gloves from the ground when they dropped from my lap after I got out of the car. Sleeping was a problem as well. Awakening in the small hours of the morning happened every day.

But Mom? She was as cool as a cucumber. She addressed and sent Christmas cards, ordered gifts she wanted to give people and then insisted on wrapping them herself when they arrived.

On Wednesday morning, I awoke early, but when we arrived to pick up Mom, she reported she had slept well. On the trip to the hospital, she rode with Art and part way there she remarked, "Well, off to the slaughter!" It's a good thing I missed that remark until Art told me later!

Even when we visited with her right before she was wheeled off to surgery, she was completely focused. Two nurses, the anesthetist and the doctor quizzed her about a variety of things - some medical and some just small talk - and she was correct on every one of her answers.

Time in the waiting room passed slowly for Art and me at first. Then, as noon approached, brother Dave and his brother-in-law Larry arrived from Salina. Shortly after, Mom's friend Stan came.

Soon we were called into the consulting room. The surgeon reported the details of what he had done and then added that she had come through it all very well.

I was startled by how good she looked when they wheeled her into her room. Later, when the effects of the anesthetic had worn off, Mom smiled and said, "Well, I woke up alive!"

I guess that pretty well said it all. Now we can focus on the other Big C! And I think I can safely say that Mom coming through surgery is one of the best presents we could have ever received!

Five days after surgery, Mom Edla, left, focuses on Christmas with daughter Gloria, "adopted granddaughter" and Mariya's spouse Lacey, and granddaughters Mariya, Larisa and Katie.

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Earlier columns from 2011 may be found at: 2011 Index.
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