I am logged into Sheri's blog from a computer kiosk just outside her room at Saint Lukes South in Overland Park, Kansas. Surreal, huh!
It is surgery day! It doesn't seem real that it's been almost two months since they first discovered the lump in Sheri's left breast. Two months from that first alarming finding to this, a day that would bid farewell to her breasts.
Our day started with us hastily getting ready for our early morning trip to the hospital. We arrived around 9:30 AM, with Sheri in a full-blown tizzy. Our Pastor was there to meet us. Sheri was falling to pieces, with tears streaming down her cheeks, that ashen look on her face, and nervous shudders rippling through her body. This is what utter helplessness feels like!
We had just enough time for the Pastor to say a quick prayer and then off to Sheri's room for preparations for the procedure that has become known as the dreaded sentinel node test. Sheri's research on the 'net and her talks with doctors and nurses had built this test up in her mind as the ... MOST PAINFUL TEST ON THE PLANET! To hear Sheri talk, you would think that Dr. Mengela himself invented this test! Sheri has stressed repeatedly that she was more worried about this test than the double mastectomy. Okay....
They weren't going to give her anything other than a little lidocaine creme to "ease the pain," but Sheri's tears and obvious nerves forced their hand and they finally gave her a little something to "take the edge off." Then the test....
A really sweet seeming lady injected four radioactive isotopes around each areola, which means that Sheri had to endure four needles poked into each breast with precious little pain killer. Our first blessing of the day was that it didn't hurt NEARLY as badly as Sheri's extremely active imagination had her believing it would. Mind you, it hurt, but even if it was a 10 on the pain scale, that's far below the 1,000 that Sheri expected it to be. Suffice it to say, she made it through, giving the lady a minimal scowl on her way out of the room.
An hour later they took Sheri to radiology for the test itself. They came back with the word, we found her sentinel nodes. In the distance I imagined faintly hearing the Marine Corps band playing that crowd favorite, "We Found the Nodes!"
Now, for those of you following this silliness, finding the nodes was merely a step in the process, but not THE step. Come surgery time, still hours off, the surgeon would remove the sentinel nodes and do a quick handoff to the path guy, who will do a quick looksee for cancer. Depending on how many, if any, nodes have cancer, they take one or two more (as a precaution). Given Sheri's MRI results, the oncologist said it "was 80 percent" that Sheri has cancer in at least one lymph node. But I'm getting ahead of myself. It was only 11:00 AM and surgery would not be for at least 2 more hours.
Between 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM, I went back and forth between Sheri's room and the waiting room, where our wonderful children patiently (and at times IMPATIENTLY) sat waiting on this day to end. Finally at 1:30 PM they wheeled her to surgery and we hit the door running to Bob Evans (Jerry Owens, for you Dallas folk) and then we zipped home to let the evil rat dog out to pee.
We got back in plenty of time for more waiting. Tick, tock, tick, tock. A kind lady from our church joined us in the vigil. In fact, she had been there for a long while before we got back. (I felt bad for her having had to wait alone.) Finally at 5:45 PM Sheri's surgeon came out smiling. I quipped, "Well, you're smiling. Hopefully that means that you didn't lose her." She said, "No, we didn't lose her." (Let's count that as a big blessing.)
She then went on to say that Sheri was in recovery, talking, doing well, etc. She said that they didn't find any cancer in the lymph nodes on either side. Thank God! Of course, she reminded me that pathology will continue to look in the days to come, but that quick initial test during surgery showed no cancer. What more could we ask for?
Between pain and nausea, they've given Sheri lots and lots of drugs since she came out of the OR. She has not spoken 20 words to us since. It's three hours into her recovery and she just took her first sips of soda and ... right back to sleep.
Sheri wants me to tell you all how much we both appreciate your prayers, your love, your gifts, and your kind offers of help. You all have been so gracious! I want to say that we don't deserve any of this, but if Sheri were awake she would say, "Hey! Speak for yourself!" So, I will. I don't deserve this.
Lord willing, Sheri will get to go home tomorrow. Lord willing, Sheri doesn't have any more cancer than we first knew about. Lord willing, Sheri is on her way to a full recovery. Lord willing.
Thank you all for everything. Your kindness means more to Sheri than you will ever know. Lord bless.
Tom (for my beloved Sheri)