On March 27, 2011 during the
night, Billy put his arm around me.
When he did, his hand went right to a knot on my breast.
Up until then, we were not aware of it.
But at that moment, he said “Did you feel that?”
I said “Yes.” We lay there the rest of the night wide awake
with no words. We went
for days not touching it or talking about it, hoping it would go
away. (My last
mammogram was January 2006.
We had decided that I wasn’t going to have any more
mammograms.) I tried
different things (no caffeine, etc.) and just kept checking it.
In the meantime, April 13, I found out that my gallbladder was only functioning 36%, so we were trying to decide what to do. This went on for a few months.
May 27 thru June 4, 2012, we went to Vail, Colorado for a week… We had no idea while we were out there what we were about to face (But God did)…. (Help is on the Way)
Then finally on June 28, I went to surgeon Dr. Greg McDonald (about my gallbladder only). While I was there, I said, “I have something else I want to ask you about.” He said, “Okay.” So when I showed him the knot, he said, “Well, we need to get this checked out. The gallbladder is not life threatening, but this could be.” So he set up the mammogram and ultrasound to be done at the same time in one appointment, Friday, July 1st.
Then on Tuesday, July 12 we went back to Dr. McDonald and he wanted to set up a Stereotype Stereotactic Breast Biopsy. That appointment was set up for the same week as Vacation Bible School. I had to make sure that I would be able to go to VBS if I had it done at that time. We didn’t tell Rhonda or our parents yet because we didn’t want anyone to worry.
On July 21st we went to have the biopsy. The doctor said he felt like he got it all. We left the hospital after 4:00pm and went to Chick fil-A to pick up fruit for VBS. We dropped it off at the church and went back home to get ready. We were able to return to church on time. Recovery went well and the scar was no bigger than a pin head.
The next day, we went back to work as usual and later, on that day, Billy called me on the phone and said he wanted to share something with me. God spoke to him about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and brought the scripture to mind. The scripture teaches that they were going to be thrown in the furnace and they weren’t going to bow down. They said our God will deliver us and IF He doesn’t, HE IS STILL GOD! This is how we felt at this point in our lives.
KJV Daniel 3:17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
Then on July 26, on the way to the doctor that morning, I decided I would read my Daily Devotion. It was titled “Joy in the Morning”, I read it, shed a few tears, and said to myself, “I don’t need that this morning, I know everything’s ok”… I didn’t even mention it to Billy at that point… But, many times since that morning, I have re-read that same daily devotion, because the truth is that “I did need it”….
Joy In The Morning
July 26, 2011 by Dennis Fisher
Read: Psalm 40:1-5
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. —Psalm 30:5
Angie could not see through the fogged-up windows in her car. Inadvertently, she pulled out in front of a truck. The accident caused such damage to her brain that she could no longer speak or take care of herself.
Over the years, I have been amazed at the resiliency of Angie’s parents. Recently I asked them, “How have you managed to get through this experience?” Her father thoughtfully responded, “In all honesty, the only way we have been able to do this is by drawing close to God. He gives us the strength we need to help us through.”
Angie’s mother agreed and added that around the time of the accident their grieving was so deep that they wondered if they would ever have joy again. As they both leaned upon God, they experienced countless unexpected provisions for the physical and spiritual care of Angie and their entire family. Although Angie may never regain her ability to speak, she now responds to them with wide smiles and this gives them joy. Her parents’ favorite verse continues to be: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).
Have you experienced extreme sorrow? There is the promise of future joy amid your tears as you lean upon our loving Lord.
New mercies every morning, Grace for every day, New hope for every trial, And courage all the way. —McVeigh
Leave your sorrows with Jesus, the “Man of Sorrows.”
When we in, Dr. McDonald explained the results of the biopsy showing a low-grade cancer in the right breast, mucinous subtype. He recommended the sentinel lymph node biopsy. The tumor measured 7 mm in greatest dimension. (Mucinous Carcinoma, nuclear grade 1) -- Estrogen receptor 99% positive, progesterone receptor 97% positive, HER2/neu-0-negative—He spent a long time with us that morning and was very sweet to us.
Oh Lord! That was something you NEVER want to hear. We were so brokenhearted when we left there.
We knew we had to go and tell Rhonda. We wanted to be able to tell her good news but, anyway, I told Billy we could not tell anyone until we went to her job and told her first. We got to her office and when she came out she took one look at us and lost it. We all three did! But we knew God was still in control.
Billy and I went on to work. On my way to work, I called Mama to tell her and Billy called the office so they would know before I got there. I just felt like the love and concern of my co-workers would help me feel better. I cried all day that day. Then Billy called me again at work and that’s when God reminded him of the same scripture again. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fire. God DID deliver them Billy said “Baby, we’ve been thrown in the fire but God will deliver us!
Next, we had to go and tell Grumps and Granniemama. They had just found out the week before that Grumps had Prostate Cancer. We really had a hard time keeping them from knowing what we were going through ourselves. We went to their house and told them. We took Grannie with us and we all prayed on the way over that we would not cry while Billy was telling them. Everything went well. God was so real in that situation. God just gave Billy the words to say. Then we took them and went to Cracker Barrel. Then we went back to Shaun, Rhonda and Mason’s house to bond with them.
When I woke up the next morning, and really felt a lot better. Not very many tears for me that day. This is when I told some friends, “You have heard people say they felt prayers.” Well, that was a time for me that I really felt the prayers!
So at this point, the doctor suggested that we go ahead and get the gallbladder out (because of my physical and emotional stage) and do a sentinel lymph node biopsy to see if the cancer had moved to my lymph nodes.
On July 28, we went to the hospital at 7:15am. I had to go to radiology first and they said that I would be there for 4 hours. They ran the blue dye into my lymph nodes on the right side. (Right axillary sentinel lymph node biopsy) There was supposed to be at least one that would turn blue. Some people have 16 or 23 that turn blue. I only had one. They said it didn’t mean there was cancer but anything else that was there should show up within 4-1/2 hours.
They took me back to surgery outpatient where I got to see my family. There were numerous family members and friends there. It really made me feel good.
At 1:00 they took me back to surgery. Dr. McDonald took out my gallbladder and also did the sentinel lymph node biopsy, (removing 2 lymph nodes) a 2-1/2” incision.
When I came out to recovery, the first thing I remember is FREEZING!!! I was shaking all over and my teeth were chattering! All I remember was Carol Sue putting blankets around my head and rubbing my head. Gail was rubbing both my legs and I was telling Rhonda, “Just hug me.”
They said, “Other people are out there, do you want them to see you?” I said, “I don’t care, but y’all don’t leave me.” I didn’t want Billy to see me that way. It would have upset him. When I finally got settled down, I had 8 blankets on me. The nurses told me if I could get up, then I could go home. I tried, but I was lightheaded.
They brought me 2 saltine crackers and a Shasta.
I gobbled that up and said, “I need food.”
I was weak because I hadn’t
eaten since 10:30pm on Wednesday night after church.
Billy and I had our dipping cookies in coffee.
Rhonda said that Valarie had brought a sack of snacks to the
hospital and there were some peanut butter and crackers. I said, “where
are they, I’m hungry.” I
ate some of those and said, “I’m ready to go home.” They put me in the
wheelchair to go home.
When we got home, some people from church had food there for us. I lay down on the couch and Mama brought me a plate. I ate peas, tomatoes, creamed potatoes and a biscuit for my first meal with NO GALLBLADDER!! WooHoo!!!! ….And it didn’t make me sick or hurt!
Now we had to seek the Lord for his guidance to know where we would go from here.
Well, it’s been a month since I got to write, but we have been busy. I had my surgery on Thursday, July 28th and stayed home Friday. Our meals were brought to us for 10 days from Mt. Tabor Baptist Church and Taylorsville Baptist Church. It was such a blessing. Everyone has been so good to us.
On Saturday, July 30th, Rhonda, Mama and I rode over to Taylorsville Baptist Church. They were having a fund raiser for Relay for Life. That was very emotional for me. God revealed something to me that day that opened my eyes. I felt God’s holy spirit just cover my body that day.
On Tuesday, August 2, we had another appointment with Dr. McDonald at 8:20 a.m. He said the gall bladder surgery went great. He told us that one of the two lymph nodes that he took out was cancer. After he explained our options (he recommended lumpectomy and radiation and probably chemo. He would set us up with the Hope Center to meet with radiation oncologist and medical oncologist…) He talked with us for about 2 hours, and then we walked out of his office. I barely got through the door of the Harbin Clinic and I lost it. I fell apart. Billy, Rhonda and I were standing in the walkway. Billy called Shaun. Shaun got Bryan to bring him over from the fire station. We just sat in the parking lot for probably an hour. The worst part was that Dr. McDonald told me I might not have use of my right arm if they take out any more lymph nodes. Oh my goodness! I cannot imagine being unable to play the piano and using the talent that the Lord gave me. I wasn’t able to go to work that day. Billy and I went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. When we walked in, there was Carol Sue and Ray. I was so glad to see them that day. Then we saw Pastor Don Hattaway. We talked with him a little while and he prayed with us.
After we left there, we came home and lay on the bed in the dark for about 2 hours just talking, meditating and praying. We did some soul searching. I never questioned God “why” because I know that He is in control. But I did question that if I am doing something wrong, I want to fix it.
Billy was crying and asked me, “Willene, is there anyone that you have a grudge, ought…anything against anyone? You’ve got to search your heart. Don’t let anything stand in the way of God’s healing.” At that point, I said to him, “Billy, I don’t know of anyone or anything. But, I will tell you that I DID have a grudge against someone, but on Saturday, when that person hugged me, I felt God’s peace come over me like I cannot explain and I knew that all was free and clear.” Billy said, “Willene, God will heal you now”. Until then, I had not ever shared with Billy that I even had a grudge against anyone and I had not shared with Billy what happened on Saturday. I feel that this is when I received my healing --PRAISE GOD!!
So after we lay there for most of the afternoon praying and talking, I said, “We’ve got to get up now.” We opened the blinds and I took a deep breath. I felt like a load had been lifted. Now granted we have had many emotional days since then, but the main focus is that GOD IS IN CONTROL and the honor and glory is HIS.
I went back to work on August 1st after the gallbladder and sentinel lymph node surgery. On August 4th and 5th I had to take off from work and rest. It had been an emotional week and I just had to get some rest. Carol Sue was at home trying to get me set up with Emory. I told her it had to be quick because we wanted to get it done as soon as possible. In the meantime, Rhonda was working on getting a recommendation from the doctors she works with for a Breast Cancer Specialist. They recommended Dr. Kristen Corgan. I realized that it was God’s will for me to be at home resting those two days because the phones started ringing. It was the appointment coordinator at Emory. (Carol Sue had done all they would let her do because of HIPPA regulations). Dr. Corgan’s office also called to set up an appointment. (Rhonda had done all she could do, too.) I had to start getting all “54” pages of paperwork from the last two weeks and faxing them to both places.
This is how God works. How quick can you normally get doctor’s appointments, even if you have the flu? We had an appointment with Dr. Corgan for Monday, August 8th, and at Emory on Wednesday, August 10th. WOW! That was fast! They wanted all my films from the mammogram and ultrasounds and the doctor’s notes from the biopsies and sentinel lymph nodes tests. Mama went to Rome that Friday to get all the records quick enough so that we would be able to take them with us Monday and Wednesday.
On Monday, August 8th, Billy, Rhonda, and I went to see Dr. Kristen Corgan (Georgia Breast Care, Kennestone) where we met Kristy Howard and Dr. Corgan. We really loved them from the beginning. From the start, Billy went ahead and asked them, “Do you believe in the Lord?” They both immediately said “Absolutely”. They were very informative and really helped us to have more knowledge about the situation. Some of the things they told us were:
1. You have a good cancer, if there is such a thing. But it is acting up by going over to that one lymph node. The other good thing is that it’s the same kind of cancer which means it hasn’t come from somewhere else.
2. It was non-aggressive.
3. It’s an “old people” cancer called “Mucinous Cancer.”
4. The first and most important thing she would do is a breast MRI (if we decide to use her.) This is a very expensive procedure and could not be performed with everyone. The MRI shows everything above and beyond any mammogram or ultrasound. If the MRI comes back “clean,” she would want to do a lumpectomy/radiation. Then the medical oncologist would decide about chemotherapy after the auxiliary dissection, (removal of more lymph nodes) which would be done at the same time as the lumpectomy. At this time, the MRI would be the most important to her.
On August 12, 2011, we went to Lakeview Revival tonight, and Mr Waits said he wanted to tell Billy that he knew I was gonna be all right… But he knew we were upset and didn’t know how Billy would take it. He said “I’ve known that little girl a long time and God will not let anything happen to her being able to play that piano”. He told us that on January 15, 2012….
Wednesday Morning August 10th, we got up really early and headed to Emory. My appointment was at 8:30. They told us to bring snacks and drinks because we would be there a long time. I carried one bottle of water and one sleeve of Ritz crackers for both of us. We thought we would find a place to eat breakfast, but we had to eat at the hospital because we couldn’t find anything else.
We went to our first appointment with the breast specialist. They sent in the Physician’s Assistant first, then the doctor.
One of the very most important things to us was (and still is) the beliefs of the doctor we chose. She started talking and Billy told her that we had a question. She said, “No, wait until I finish my spill and then you can ask questions.” So when she finished her spill, I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Her recommendation was a lumpectomy/radiation or mastectomy, you can choose. Well, we didn’t want to have a mastectomy unless it was necessary. She mentioned a test done in California (Onco Type DX) that would determine if they would want to do chemotherapy.
Billy told her he had a question that was very important to him. He asked, “Do you believe in the Lord?” It was important to him that the doctor that was working on his wife believed in the same God that we do. She said quickly that she did not discuss her personal life with patients.
Then we asked for doctor’s notes for insurance purposes. She put in her notes, “Accompanied by a husband who expressed his deep religious beliefs.” I’m proud he’s my husband.
Then we moved on to the next doctor’s appointment, the Radiation Oncologist. First, we saw the Physician’s Assistant, and then the Doctor came in. They were very nice and the doctor said the first thing she would want to do was a PET scan of the whole body.
Then we went to the Medical Oncologist. So far, this was the longest wait we had. Our crackers and water was almost gone and it was already close to 1:00pm before we got in to see her. Billy said his stomach was gnawing on his backbone. The Physicians Assistant came in first. Billy ask her, “Does what you eat have anything to do with your health?” She told us that your immune system is not any way affected by things you eat. She also said, “Eat all the cheeseburgers and fries you want to eat.” Billy and I have been studying about “cancer” and your immune system.
We are firm believers in the old saying ‘you are what you eat.’ We have done a lot of research about foods. We stopped eating red meat and pork, and we eat very little chicken. We eat more fish, salmon, raw vegetables, frozen vegetables, and dried beans. We try to avoid processed foods. Sometimes it’s difficult, but Billy is very supportive when it comes to doing things (or not doing things) that will help me or improve my health.
When the Medical Oncologist came in, she explained that the results from the Onco Type DX test would be the determining factor on whether the chemotherapy would be needed or not.
We spent a long time at that doctor’s visit because of the nutrition subject being of interest to both of us. By the time we left this appointment, it was almost 3:00pm.
Now we were really starving to death.
We left Emory that day with “minds boggled.” By this time, over the last few days, we had visited with eight doctors. I really didn’t feel like we were in the right place that day, but I never said anything to Billy.
It was Wednesday, August 10 and the decision has to be made before Friday,
August 12 at 10:45 because we have an MRI scheduled with Dr. Corgan. She set up an appointment for us (just in case we chose her) so that we would already be on the calendar.
So now the decision has to be made. So, we went home praying. We didn’t want to do anything on our own. We wanted to be led by the Lord.
In review, they all were nice and basically had the same suggestions. The only exception was the MRI that Dr. Corgan suggested. Billy kept saying all along “if we could just get more testing”…
Billy said from the beginning that whatever decision I made that he would support me.
He was not going to give me an opinion for fear that it would influence my decision.
Rhonda felt the same way.
So we only had 31 hours to decide whether to go to Dr. Corgan at Kennestone or Emory. Wednesday night when we went to bed I said, “Billy we have got to make a decision.” He said, “Willene, let’s just pray that God will lead us both in the same direction.” So we continued to pray and seek the Lord for the answer.
Thursday Morning, August 11, Billy was driving down the road coming home from work praying and meditating. God spoke to him and reminded him of the scripture where the woman is the weaker vessel. (I Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together as the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.) Then about ¾ miles down the road the Lord reminded him of the scripture, Ephesians 5:23. (For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.) Billy started crying and said, “Lord you sure are putting a lot of pressure on me.” But Billy knew what God was telling him – so that night (Thursday) as we lay there talking and meditating – I said, “Billy what do we need to do? Which way do we need to go?” Billy started crying and said, “We’ve got to go to Kennestone Hospital.” He was being very supportive and would back me 100%, but he wouldn’t influence me. I said, “That’s exactly the way I feel.” God had already spoken to me but I hadn’t shared that with Billy.
On Friday morning, August 12th, Rhonda called to see what we had decided. When I told her Dr. Corgan, she said, “I am so glad.
So that day, Friday, August 12, we had the appointment for the MRI at Kennestone at 10:45am. It took about 2 hours. Afterwards, we met Rhonda for a 2:00 appointment with a Medical Oncologist from Marietta. She spent 3 hours with us that day and was one of the sweetest doctors we had met. She spent a lot of time with us. Her recommendation was to do chemotherapy awaiting results from the surgery. She said and that pretty black hair of yours WILL fall out.
But in our hearts, we didn’t have peace about her. At least we didn’t have to decide about any of this until after my surgery. (I will talk more about this later).
On August 16 at 2:00, we met with the radiation doctor at the Hope Center in Cartersville. The doctor was very nice. If I had to do radiation it would take 6 weeks, 5 days a week. Thank God, I didn’t have to.
On August 18th, we had to go back to Dr. Corgan/Kristy Howard, PA for the results of the MRI. The night before, Billy and I were talking and I said, “Billy if there are more spots, we can’t say that’s bad news because if there are more, we would want to know.” The results did show 2 more spots and Dr. Corgan/Kristy Howard, PA suggested the MRI biopsy.
On Wednesday, August 24th we went for the MRI biopsy. It was a long day. That appointment took 4 hours. I was in some pain when we left. We still got home early enough to go to church. I guess that was the only time I didn’t play the piano.
On Wednesday, August 31st, we went back to Dr. Corgan/Kristy Howard, PA for the results from the MRI. The 2 spots were positive for cancer.
Dr. Corgan/Kristy Howard, PA said, “You have a bad breast.” They recommended removing the breast. They would not do 3 lumpectomies, there would be nothing left.
Then the doctor explained the process of the mastectomy. (We hadn’t researched that.)
We would need to meet with a Plastic Surgeon before I had the surgery. We told her we would pray about it tonight and call her in the morning about having the double mastectomy. We asked them to recommend a plastic surgeon. They recommended Marietta Plastic Surgery. While we were in our appointment that day, I asked Kristy Howard, when would she be able to say I was “cancer free”? She thought for a second and said, “Probably never.” My heart sank for that moment..
Billy called the pastor on the way home and said, I got good news and bad news... The good news is “God is still God.” The bad news is the two spots are more cancer.
We called her back the next morning and told her we would do the double mastectomy. I felt that would help me more emotionally, because 1) I would not have to worry about the other side and 2) they would both look the same
So she called Marietta Plastics to set up an appointment.
Let’s go back to the night, August 11th that I told Billy, we had to make a decision, where Billy said, “We’ve got to go to Kennestone.” If we had not trusted God and obeyed HIS will, then the two spots that the MRI showed would have still been there growing. Thank the Lord for guidance.
Proverbs 3:5-6 King James Version (KJV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
On September 4, at church, Gene Cantrell, hugged my neck and said, “Willene, you are gonna be just fine, God has done showed me. So don’t you worry, God showed me.” Gene has always been like a 2nd Daddy to me and I’m proud he shared that with me. Because he would have never told me that if God had not showed him.
On September 7, at 3:15, we met with Dr. John Symbas, Plastic Surgeon. He was very nice, but this was an overwhelming visit for me. He was very understanding and informative. Billy asked him about his beliefs with the Lord and if he believed in God, Dr. Symbas said “Absolutely.” Dr Symbas spent a lot of time with us today helping us to understand the process that we would be going through.
September 9th- Today was the Relay for Life. Billy and I were meeting Rhonda and Mason at the park for the relay. When we drove up, I got a great surprise! We have some friends from North Carolina, Mark and Lynn Murphy, that we met on vacation in 2009 with Rhonda, Shaun and Mason. Billy and Rhonda had been keeping them posted about me and told them of the relay. When Billy and I got to Dellinger Park, they were arriving at the same time. Words couldn’t express what that meant to me that they dove all the way from North Carolina to walk with us that night. They called for the balloons to be released at different times based on how long a person had cancer. I was one of the first ones to let my balloon go since I had been diagnosed only 6 weeks before this day. I really can’t express the thoughts that went through my mind that night when we walked the survivor walk. Gene Cantrell held my hand all the way around the first lap and then the next lap my family and friends got to walk around with me, too.
We didn’t know what the next few weeks and months would bring for us, but we KNOW GOD is in Control!
After we left the relay, we took the Murphy’s to Applebee’s before they left to go back to North Carolina.
In the meantime, one of Rhonda’s patient’s daughters who live in Germany started sending me cards and letters, and sending up prayers from across the waters, too. They had a relay over there and she walked in honor of me. She sent me pictures, a shirt, and signs that they used in their relay. That was precious.
Then on Monday, September 19th, we went back and met again with Dr. Symbas and Ashley Decker, RN. Ashley explained the After Surgery Care details to us and took “before” pictures. She gave me 6 prescriptions: muscle relaxer, pain medicine, antibiotic, one for yeast infection, and one for nausea.
She said the muscle relaxer would be “my best friend.” (Except for Billy) Dr. Symbas explained the surgery details to us and about the expanders. He said that we would come in each week for the expansion process and how the skin would stretch. When the breasts reached the desired size, we would have surgery to remove the expanders and replace with implants. Then, we would have another surgery, for the areoles. I kept asking, “Can we be finished by Christmas?”
We left from this visit and went over to the hospital. We thought that pre-op wouldn’t take long, and then we would go have lunch. When we got over to the hospital, they said it would be at least 45 minutes. If you want to, you can go over to the cafeteria and eat lunch. So, we did. When we returned, a lady came and told us it would be about 45 minutes if you want to go eat lunch and come back. We just laughed. Billy told her we had already done that. So about 3:00 they finally called us back. This didn’t take long after all that. The lady that we met with was very nice. Dr. Corgan had ordered a chest x-ray, so I had to do that while I was there.
So now we are ready for the surgery.
We knew the time was coming up for the surgery and we knew we still had to choose a Medical Oncologist. Remember previously, we said that we didn’t have peace about the one that we met with. So I called Dr. Symbas on September 20th and asked for his recommendation. He said, “You need to feel comfortable with your doctor.” He called me back with a lady’s name, Dr. Gena Volas-Redd. So I just held on to that name until after the surgery.
Billy wanted to take me away on a little trip a few days before the surgery. So on Sunday afternoon, after church, September 25th, we went to Young Harris, GA to Brasstown Village Resort. This was a nice place and we just tried to relax and enjoy the quietness. (Prayer and Meditation) I can’t explain how we felt knowing what we were facing in a couple of days.
We came home on Tuesday, September 27th and went to pick up Mason from Pre-K. We wanted to spend some time with him before the surgery.
Mason’s first field trip was going to be on Wednesday, September 28th, the same day as my surgery. That put Rhonda and Shaun in a situation where they would have to choose whether to go on the field trip or be at the hospital. I told Rhonda to go with Mason on his field trip and come to see me later. So they worked it out. They are such a blessing.
On Wednesday September 28th, we had to be at the hospital at 6:30am. We met Gail Fowler in Taylorsville at 5:30am. When we got to the hospital they were waiting for me. I didn’t even get up to the desk. They took me right in as soon as I told them my name.
As soon as I was prepared for surgery, Gail, Tom and Angie came back to see me. Dr. Corgan and Dr. Symbas also stopped by.
Rhonda and Shaun made it to the hospital before they carried me back. Then they went back to Cartersville for Mason’s field trip.
After they had me ready to go, Billy followed me in my bed down the hall. He said that was the hardest left turn he has ever made when I went one way and he went the other.
When surgery was over, they came out to get Billy to come back and see me. He said he was scared of what he would see because he doesn’t like to see me hurting. He said when he saw me, I was laying there smiling. I asked him for some ice. I told him to raise the cover and look. He said, “Naw, let’s don’t look right now.” They told him he would have to go back out. Soon after, they took me to my room. I had visitors off and on all day. At one point, Billy was beside me and I raised the cover to look and again he said, “Naw, let’s don’t look right now.”
Gail had made plans to spend the night. All of the visitors had left. The only people there were Gail, Rhonda, Shaun, Mason, Carol Sue, and Billy. I looked down into my gown and I said, “Oh my word! Billy, come here!” I could not believe my eyes. I was not at all bandaged up. I had 2 pieces of tape about ½” x 4”. It really looked good. Thank you, Lord! And thank you, Dr. Symbas and Dr. Corgan.
The pressure on my chest was like an elephant sitting on me. (Just like the nurses told me). I guess I expected throbbing pains and I didn’t have that. I had IVs with morphine, fluids, antibiotics and muscle relaxers.
Sometime that afternoon, they told Billy and Gail that only one person could spend the night. I got sick to my stomach. I really wouldn’t have let Billy leave, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to stay awake if he had to stay by himself. When Rhonda and Shaun got ready to leave, Rhonda went out and asked someone about Gail staying and about the applesauce I had asked for and never got. (The nurses were probably busy)
After the nurse said that only one person could stay, it was about 7:30pm Gail was in the room trying to get in touch with someone that was going to church to ask them to pray that they would let her stay. She got in touch with her Mama, Carolyn.
So when Gail and Billy went out to ask and mentioned the applesauce, they immediately said they both could stay. I almost cried when they came back in the room and told me that because I knew that God heard our prayers.
Gail was a lifesaver that night. Every time I moved she got up and came to see what I needed. I didn’t have to ask for anything. We were awake most of the night. At 6:30am Thursday, Gail had to leave and go to Rome to the hospital with her mother-in-law. I told her that morning that she was a great caretaker but I hope I never get to pay her back. I found out later from Peggy that Gail is not the one that can stay awake all night. Well, God took care of it that night. Thank you, Lord! And thank you, Gail.
I had 3 of the “Jackson Pratt” (JP) drains that had to be drained at least twice a day. That was probably the most uncomfortable part of it all. Dr. Symbas told me when we could get it down to 20 ml for 2 consecutive days, they would remove them. The one on the right was the worst one. They said that’s because they did so much on that side where the lymph nodes were removed.
On the second day at the hospital, the nurses came in early around 9:30 or 10:00. They removed the IVs. They said I would do the meds by mouth that day and that I needed to walk as much as possible. The night before, I didn’t press the button for pain medicine too much because I don’t like medicine. That morning the nurse said, “Do you want to press it one more time before I take it out?” So I did. I think that the morphine made me sick because I started being dizzy and had nausea. They brought medicine for the nausea and antibiotics to take by mouth. I couldn’t eat at that point so I finally told the nurse I wouldn’t be able to take any other medicines until I was able to eat something. So when I was able to eat, I had some peanut butter and crackers.
The peanut butter and crackers became my 2nd best friend, muscle relaxers being the 1st. (Billy being my BEST friend) I had them in the little 4 pack size and I would eat 2 every time I had to take medicine. I took the meds that morning on an empty stomach and I guess that’s why I was sick. Being sick kept me from getting up to walk like the nurse told me to. All I wanted to do was sleep. When I was sleeping I didn’t feel dizzy and sick.
I had a lot of visitors that day, but I slept most of the day. Al Turner came to see me and I told him I didn’t feel good and to ignore me if I fell asleep. I think I slept most of the time he was there.
God spoke to me so real and said, “Have peace. You don’t have cancer anymore.”
I opened my eyes and looked around and closed my eyes again. I had been praying a lot about all of those lymph nodes coming back without cancer because otherwise, the Medical Oncologist would want to do chemo. I didn’t want to do chemo and I knew if the lymph nodes didn’t have any cancer that I could say no and feel good about it. When people told me they were praying for me, I would tell them to pray for “clean” lymph nodes. “Let’s be specific.”
Well, I couldn’t tell Billy or anyone else about God speaking to me. I felt like that was something I had to keep to myself at that time. (I will speak more about this later).
A few minutes later, while Al was still there, I rose up in the bed and said, “Billy set me up, I feel better.”
Then later, when Billy and I were by ourselves, he had just laid down. Just as he closed his eyes I said, “I feel like I can walk now. I think it was about 5:30pm. So he got up and walked around with me in the hallway. On our first round, Mama and Bonnie came off the elevator so I told Billy to go back and lay down and they would walk with me.
Rhonda had arranged to work in Marietta that day so she could come by and see me on her way home. She even got to bring Mason to see me, too.
Remember when the nurse said they would give me the meds by mouth? I should have been getting Motrin, Robaxin, an antibiotic and Percocet. I didn’t know I had to “ask” for the pain medication (Percocet). So every time the nurses came in she would ask, “How’s your pain?” I would just say, “Lots of pressure and discomfort.” (I was expecting something like toothache or earache pain.) I would always ask them what they were giving me. I never heard them say Percocet. The day and night went on with them bringing meds. At 2:00am Friday morning I got up to go to the bathroom and could barely raise up. I didn’t have the strength to pull the toilet paper off the roll. Still I had no throbbing pain, just a lot of pressure. I went back to bed, of course, sleeping on my back. Friday morning when I woke up, I was really stiff and sore. I could hardly move. But our sweet little nurse got me some of her “special coffee” and I sat up and ate breakfast. So since 10:30 Thursday, I didn’t have anything but Motrin, Robaxin, and antibiotics. Dr. Symbas came in and I was sitting in the middle of the bed. He asked how I was doing. I told him I was doing well except for all the pressure. He asked how I did with the Percocet. I said, “Dr. Symbas I don’t think I’ve had any Percocet. He said,
“You have to ask for it. I am so sorry. You’ve had a double mastectomy and no pain medication in almost 24 hours except what we would give you for a sprained ankle.
And you are sitting in the middle of the bed with a smile of your face.” So he immediately pressed the button for the nurse to get me some Percocet. When she came into my room, I had to “ask” her for it. The doctor said after we see how I do with the Percocet he would let me go home. I ate 2 more peanut butter and crackers and took 2 Percocet. I didn’t get sick and I did begin to feel better, so they started getting me ready to go home at 11:15am.
The staff at the hospital was just great! I wish I had written down all of their names and I would mention them.
When we got home, on September 30th, my sweet little 81 year old Mama was there waiting to take care of me. She stayed day and night for 2 full weeks. That was really a blessing. (Thank you, Mama).
Saturday, October 1st, the youth was getting together at the church to decorate bags for the Hallelujah party. I rested all day so we would feel like going over for a while. We had company in and out for several days which was such a blessing. You never know what it means to have phones calls and cards until you are the one on the couch.
Sunday, October 2nd (4 days after surgery), God allowed me to play the piano at church Sunday morning and Sunday night! Felisa Gentry plays the organ and we traded out some because I didn’t have to move as much to play the organ. Dr. Symbas said he encouraged me to play because the more I moved about the better I would heal.
On Monday, October 3rd, I went back to work for 3 hours .Mama was carrying me and while we were on the way we were sitting at a red light and got hit in the rear end. That really scared us. We were okay though. So, I went on to work and then she came back and got me. I still couldn’t drive, so I depended on Mama and Bonnie to drive me back and forth. For the first two weeks, I worked three hours a day, then on the third week I worked six hours a day. The fourth week, I went back to eight hour days. That was a little bit difficult because I was missing my afternoon naps. (and Dr Oz)
On Tuesday, October 4th, we went back to Dr. Corgan and Kristy Howard for post op. This was for follow up and results from pathology reports and lymph nodes. Kristy said, “Y’all have heard nothing but bad news. Are you ready for some good news?” Billy and I both said “Yes!” Rhonda was on her way, but hadn’t got there yet. She said, “All of the lymph nodes came back negative and all of the pathology reports looked good and said “Cancer Free” twice in the same visit. Billy was crying and I was shouting! By this time, Rhonda got there to rejoice with us. We could never thank God enough for what he has done for us!
Now remember, back in the beginning what God showed Billy about Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego? Well, the Lord spoke to him again and reminded him that he delivered them and when he did, they didn’t even have the smell of fire on them and I don’t have cancer! Now, if you will study the scriptures, you will find out that when the king looked in he said, “Did we not cast three men in?” They answered, “True”. He said to them, “Lo, I see four.” So you see, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not in the fire by themselves. God was with them. Neither were we. We didn’t go through this all by ourselves. God was with us ALL the way! It’s all about HIM!
Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
70 days from the day we were diagnosed, the Doctor said we were CANCER FREE… Ain’t God Good!!!!
On October 6th, we went back to Dr. Symbas for post op. He said all was doing well. At this point, I will start going to see Dr. Symbas every Thursday for the next few weeks. The nurse will be adding saline to the expanders (50 CCs) until they are the proper size.
Then, at that point, we will have to wait a week or two before having the change surgery for everything to settle.
Now that surgery is over, it’s time to go to the medical oncologist, Dr. Gena Volas-Redd. On October 10th, we went to see her. We immediately liked her. She came in and we found that she believes in the same God we serve. We really felt comfortable with her. She said she would send the pathology to California for the oncologist test that would check my genes and from that, she would decide what I need. She said, “Chemotherapy is not for everyone”. She did not think that with the type of cancer I had that I would need chemo. She said, “God home and take your Juice Plus.” We would follow up with her in four weeks.
On October 13, I went for my first expansion and that was really weird. The only “pain” I felt was a little needle with lidocaine to deaden the spot. Then they used a bigger needle to insert into the _________ with a little tube attached to a syringe with 50 CCs of saline injected. That was a little weird feeling but you could tell immediately. This was also they day of Shaun’s Knee surgery. So, when we left the doctor’s office, we came back to the Cartersville hospital to sit with them until we knew Shaun was okay. That night, we went to Appalachian Grill with John and Debi Davis. They were very understanding of the muscle spasms I was having.
On Friday October 14th, I woke up feeling much different. I don’t know…just refreshed, renewed, ___, ____. I went to work and two different people at work said I looked like I had a glow about me or my eyes were sparkling. Then, when I got home from work that day, Billy said the same thing.
Saturday, October 15th- I drove for the first time today. That was really hard but I was glad to be able to drive again. I still didn’t wear a seatbelt, yet.
Monday, October 17th, I drove to work and worked for six hours. I did well and I just feel SO MUCH better
By Wednesday, October 19th, driving was starting to get easier and this morning, I started using one of my wonderful little pillows under my seatbelt so I could finally wear it. I’m getting better every day! Today, Billy and I had lunch at Ross’ Café and a man
walked in and said, “How are you?” just being nice and then he took a second look at me and said “HOW ARE YOU?” I thought he must have recognized me and so I said, “Getting better every day.” He said, “We have been praying for you”. I said, “I appreciate that. I am cancer free and I don’t have to take any treatments.” He said, “Well, praise the Lord, you just made my day. I am so glad I saw you and hear that news.” I still don’t know who he was. God is so good to us.
October 22nd- The Hallelujah Party was today. I threw a little corn hole- I was really careful though!
November 5th- I had my 50th birthday! Who would have ever thought?
November 7th- I went to Dr. Volas-Redd today. She walked in the door and while closing the door she said to us, “I’ve got good news. I got good news, praise God! Y’all want good news? The oncologist type OX test that was sent to California came back great! This confirms my decision on not needing chemo!” Oh my word, that was great news! God has really answered prayers for us! She told us that day that a little red meat would not be bad for us, so Billy decided to take me to Ruth Chris Steakhouse that night for my birthday. We still ordered salmon. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to order steak even though the beef is grain fed. Mason’s birthday was today. Billy was at the fire department.
For six weeks, every Thursday, I have been going to Dr. Symbas getting expanded, 50 CCs at a time. It is getting harder each week. The more they are expanded, the more pressure there is. I call them my Rubbermaid containers. The muscle relaxers have been my best friend, like Ashley Decker, RN told me.
On November 23rd, (I had to go on Wednesday because of Thanksgiving) he said he had done enough. Whew! I was glad! I didn’t see how I could stand anymore that week. So now, he said I would be read for my exchange surgery in about three weeks.
On November 24th, Thanksgiving Day, we went and ate with Grumps and Granniemama. Then, we headed to Leeds, Alabama for a few days rest and to work on our story. Oh, it was also our 32 year anniversary!
Tuesday, December 13th- Well, tomorrow is the exchange surgery. I went to see Dr. Lukas, chiropractor, today after work and had to be adjusted. I’m glad I went before I had my next surgery. After I got home, Billy and I went to Longhorn to eat my good meal for the night (no food after midnight)! That’s hard for me because I like to eat. J
Billy has been pretty quiet tonight. I feel hyper; I don’t know…maybe anxious. I hope I can sleep well tonight. Mama was sick today. I told her to go see Dr. Lukas in the morning, so she is going to let him check her. Hope she feels better tomorrow.
Our Christmas party and retirement party for Glenda and Ceil is tomorrow and I won’t get to go. But, I’m still proud of them.
December 14th- Well, today is Happy “B” Day! Wow! At 6:59 this morning, Brittany text me to wish me Happy “B” Day. She told her mom, Krista (at work), the other day, “Me and Ms. Willene can both have a Happy B Day” because today is her 14th birthday and today is my new Boob Day!
I’m not as hyper and anxious this morning as I was last night, I slept well though. Billy got up before me and closed the door so he wouldn’t wake me. I didn’t even know he had gotten up. I stayed in bed as long as I could since I couldn’t have any coffee or food.
Gail met us at the fire department in Taylorsville to go with us. Rhonda couldn’t get off work today. Grannie feels better this morning, but I still told her to stay home and rest because I would need her worse when I got home. Grumps and Granniemama wanted to go, but Grumps can’t do all of that walking.
We had to be there by 10:30 and surgery was at 12:00. It was about 1:15 before we went back because of another emergency. Surgery was over by 3:00 and everything went well.
Billy went by Cracker Barrel on the way home and picked up food for us to eat when we got home. Granny was there to help when we got home. After we got there and rested a little, the kids came by and Grumps and Granniemama came over.
They are definitely soft now. I was so glad to exchange the “Rubbermaid containers”! After this surgery, I told Billy I could see where I could hurt myself because I felt so good, so of course I went back to work quickly fulltime and was about to take a new position at work so I really didn’t want to stay out. But when I went back to Dr. Symbas for my follow up, he said, “You need to slow down and rest. Do I need to write you out of work?” I told him “no” and promised I would rest for two weeks, and I did.
I only had to take one pain pill this surgery. It kept me wide awake the night of my surgery. I just lie really still and watch a Christmas movie. At this point, I have to start massaging the implants and using the Vitamin E oil on them to help with scarring.
This is not the ending…. This is December 2011, there’s still more to the story that we will finish soon…. It’s been almost 4 years now, and I probably am in better health now than I was in before we even knew….
God is Good…
If you would like to speak to either of us: please feel free to contact us.
Billy & Willene Ward