Checkers

My life has fallen into Friday markers.

Three Fridays ago, I went in for a biopsy. Two Fridays ago, I was in Cambria where I received a breast cancer phone diagnosis. Last Friday was the full frontal assault at Moores with the surgical oncologist. As of Friday today, I have traveled a lifetime on the human informational absorption rate timeline.

Last Friday, I felt as if my life was now a scattered box of checkers all over the floor. I was suddenly left with no prediction, no control, no organization. All I could do was pick up the scattered checkers and throw them to a jumble in the box.

But somehow, to get through the week to today’s Friday, I had to do something with the checkers. To survive in chaos is not a choice for me, a Type A totally organized specimen. So, following Jody’s serendipitous intervention on Sunday, I picked up a checker. And I realized I had to start moving it forward.

A pre-op day of tests on Monday found me crying with nurses at Moores. But then I came home and started searching online for some early head coverings and I ordered four. I began reading a breast cancer book that my doctor recommended. I made my first checker diagonal push to a forward square.

On Tuesday I had lunch with my dear friend Amy whose husband has both Parkinson’s and cancer. She is one of the funniest and zaniest people I know. She had me laughing out loud over the advantages of having no hair. She was bored that I had ordered safe coverings, wanting instead to go outrageous hat shopping with me. She wants to knit me some yarn curls to hang from my coverings. Envisioning, I pushed my checker forward again, this time with a smile.

Following Amy, I went to what will be my last regular haircut appointment for a very long time with Heather. She talked to me about good and reasonable wig sources she knows and that she would cut and style anything for me. She volunteered to come to my home when the moment comes to be bald. We talked about hair changes in the future, and hair regrowth and re-losses down the road. Again, I landed on the next diagonal square.

Wednesday found me at another close friend’s home who is herself a breast cancer survivor. Jan chose to fight future fear with the choice of double mastectomies and subsequent reconstruction. Her path was a difficult one with setbacks, but she is happy now. She showed me her chest wall, a previous prosthesis and its accompanying bra. Thanks to Jan, my checker went forward to a square in case I learned on Thursday that I would need a mastectomy. I felt stronger still.

After Jan’s, I went to my weekly Pura Buena Onda (PBO) Spanish conversational class, always a fun highlight. During my previous week’s absence (I was still in Cambria), they had talked about me. They love my laugh and miss it when it’s not in class. There are six of us students and our epic teacher, Danny, who handed me a card. I couldn’t open it until I got home but I knew it was initiated by Carolina, the stellar brains behind PBO. The PBO staff and students are like extended family to me. There were lots of hugs and in the parking lot my classmates told me that if I couldn’t get to class, they would come to me. Push. I cried at home while reading the heartfelt PBO staff and classmate messages. Push again. My cousin Joyce had sent a thoughtful blanket for future warmth. Push again.

Thursday was the radiation oncologist consultation at Moores, and more tests, and the pieces are falling into place. I will be having a lumpectomy, followed by 4-6 months of chemo (determined post-surgery), followed by a month of daily radiation. I continue to hear the good news of how tiny my tumor is, and how there is no palpable detection yet of any lymph node involvement. I am still waiting for a surgery date.

Then more mammogram slides, more ultrasound images. The radiologist underscored the miniscule size and the undetected lymph evidence, but he indicated there are some calcifications near the tumor, which might be a problem. Once compared against previous years of scans from my prior facility, either all will be well or a larger lumpectomy will be done.

My checker is still sliding ahead.

What I have not yet mentioned is all the ongoing support that I receive daily from my family and friends, who reach out to touch a heart that is numb. The emails, the messages, the cards, the calls, and the texts are reminders that I am still a part of my life.

I am grateful for the courageous sharing of cancer journeys, since they shine with blazing hope for me. I know that the coming months will not be fun, but the knowledge that so many others have done it before lets me know that so will I.

Finally, this is the best Friday that I have had in what seems like forever. And, along the way, I have learned that it takes a village to push a checker forward.

20 thoughts on “Checkers

  1. This is beautiful, Terri. I love reading what you’ve written, and am so happy that today is good Friday. May they continue to get happier and happier!

  2. I have hats and scarves to lend you if you wish. It’s nice to have a variety.
    During chemo, I saved money on haircuts, shampoo, conditioner, gel, mousse — enough $$ to buy 2 new dresses and some dance shoes. I gave my hairbrush the ‘brush- off’ for awhile but knew someday soon its day would ‘comb’.

  3. Hi Terri. I’m so sorry I missed you Wed night at class. I would have loved to have added to the hugs and well wishes. I was so relieved to read previously that you received a diagnosis of Stage I. That’s what I had. And today I learn that you will have a lumpectomy. That too is what I had, and lymph node surgery. I had 6 wks of radiation. All went extremely smoothly for me. I am betting on the fact that all will go equally smoothly for you. I was fortunate to not require chemo, and wish we didnt differ in that regard. But with all the love and support surrounding you, and lots of ridiculous hats (well, at least one!) I know you will be strong and soon find yourself laughing your crazy laugh again – as often as you did before this uninvited journey. Besos, tu amiga Cheryl

  4. Beautifully said…all of it. The fear, the worry and the forward movement. You recognize what you need and you are embracing it. Rock On, Ms Hamlin…..you are a star! LKB

  5. I really never knew the whole process, or I should say that I’d never really shared this path, even with my sister, until you shared yours with us today.

    I’m in between laughing and sobbing for you my friend. I thank you for this wonderful blog, for your art of writing and for simply taking time out of a hectic schedule to explain everything. I must say this too, I appreciate the way you still make me laugh!!

    Remember that I’m a platinum Etsy shopper and they have knitted stuff for every body part imaginable-yes, those too! Now that’s a visual isn’t it?

    Relax with Tom and rest!

    Love you…

  6. Hugs, hugs and more hugs. I will be moving g those checkers forward for you in my heart. You can do this! When I get a minute later, will tell you my lumpectomy story. It was a fun and funny experience believe it or not 😀

  7. Thank you so much for writing (and as beautifully as you do! – we are thinking about you each and every day and are sending you so much love. May the journey be smooth – we know it won’t be easy but we pray for as much ease as possible. Love Sandi and Mike and kiddos

  8. Your skill of writing is such a gift and I’m inspired just by reading your courageous words and how you are tackling this dis-ease with taking as much control as you can – one checker at a time. Will any of us ever look at checkers the same way ever again!!??

    Love you and big hugs

  9. You have taken back control of your life! That is a move worth several checkers jumps. Maybe even a king or two. Remember we are all cheering you on to victory. You are such an eloquent and gifted writer. I think maybe you are drawing extra strength with each article.

  10. You already know this, but here’s a reminder… I love your writing, I’m praying for you, & I’m looking forward to seeing you soon. I can just imagine how much the folks at Moores are loving your laugh! I’ll never forget at Rohr how you & I’d meet up in the “middle room” to laugh, cry, or roll our eyes about something or other & walking back into my classroom w/my students’ eyes on me relieved that all was well because they’d heard your laugh & asking things like, “Which one of us were you talking about?”❤️

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