Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Strength in Numbers

I am a strong person.

I can take care of things.

And I do.  Take care of 'things'.

On Saturday, I met a fellow breast cancer survivor.  She is 8 years free.

She said something that I have been ruminating on.

She said that, during chemo treatment, she wanted to go alone.  All by herself.  To prove to herself that she could do it.  To prove to herself that she was strong.

I was amazed.

In awe.

"Really?  You wanted to go by yourself?"

Her Mother kept asking to go with her, to take her to her treatments.  And, finally, she realized that her Mother needed to go.  For both of them.

She realized that by allowing her Mother to be a part of the treatment, she was letting her 'help'.

I told her how, just in the last three months, I have been brave enough to go see Gerry without Don accompanying me.

As I have been thinking about the simple conversation from Saturday, I realized something.

My strength in cancer, even though I didn't recognize it until just now, may have actually been in my extreme and overwhelming weakness.

Strength in my terror that allowed others to comfort me.

Strength in my tears that allowed others to cry with me.

Strength in being vulnerable enough to put my innermost thoughts (at least some of them...) into my notes...and then allowing you all to read them.

Maybe you all needed to help me almost as much as I needed to be helped.   I don't know.

I do know this:

It is together that we are strong.

Just like links of a chain.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Please and Thank You

It is good to be 'cancer free'.  

It is.

And I feel like a very small person to complain.  Shouldn't I just be thrilled that I am alive?

Yet, I still have those moments.

Those days.

Of realizing that I will NEVER be 'cancer carefree'.

Because the gift of cancer keeps on giving.

Good things.

And not so good things.

Today is not so good.

Nothing terrible.

Just struggling with the newest 'gifts'.

Hearing loss.  Almost time for an aid in my left ear.  Thank you, chemo.

Fatigue.  Sometimes, still, severe.  And today?  Today, I was informed that the fatigue could be my companion for many, many years.  Yes, I'd been told before that it 'takes a long time' for the fatigue to fade.  But "many, many years?"  Please.

Hair loss.  Mild in comparison to chemo, but loss just the same.  And today?  Today that hair loss was given a name.

Male pattern baldness.  Um, excuse me?    Caused by inhibiting estrogen.


Other things, too.  But you don't want the details.  Trust me.

So, as I drove home from the doctor appointment today, I realized that I am still mourning.  And I was surprised.

Mourning the physical effects of cancer and its treatment on my body.

Still grieving the mark that cancer has left on my family.

It has been almost two years.  

Shouldn't it be over? 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Thursday brought my 2nd (annual) diagnostic mammogram.

A watershed day for me.

I went alone.

The last time I was there alone, it was a terrible day.

This time, it was not a big deal.

Ok, I admit, I was a bit queasy. But not a big deal.

Kathy was my mammographer.

She asked me if I discovered the lump that proved to be breast cancer, or if it was found through a routine mammogram. When I told her that I had, indeed, found it myself, she congratulated me for doing regular self-exams.

Um, no.

No regular self-exams here. Not even routine mammograms.

I told Kathy that I found the lump because it was burning, throbbing.

She expressed surprise...and then asked what stage I was diagnosed at.

Stage 1.

"Early stage breast cancer is painless..."

And "I've never heard anyone say that before..."

"I guess something wanted you to find the cancer..."

My response?

"Actually, some ONE wanted me to find the cancer."

Kathy just shook her head in disbelief.

Then, after a number of those great photos, she had me sit and wait while she had the Doctor look at the results.

Waiting what seemed like a long time.

And as I waited, I thought "what will my reaction be if she returns with news I don't want to hear?"

The answer was quick and strong.

I would be upset.

But I wouldn't be defeated.

And I wouldn't be nearly as terrified as before.


Because strength and courage have shown themselves to me. They are my friends.

When Kathy returned, the message was that the Doctor wanted more photos.


"This spot here, on your left breast..."


More photos.

A twist here, a compression there.

The verdict?

Just glandular tissue that looked suspicious in one take, but the twisting and compressing made it clear that there was nothing there.

Not a big deal.

Except the appointment and the interaction with Kathy confirmed to me, yet again, that God is in the details. That He cares for me. That He gave me the gift of pain to lead me to discover the nastiness of cancer. That through the nastiness of cancer, He has given me the gift of a renewed appreciation for life, for family, and for friends.

That is a big deal.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Thank You from a Reader:

Today I was surprised to receive an e-mail at work about my book. The writer, Natalie Van Hook, is a woman who works at Clackamas County, and whom I have met one time...when she purchased "Strong & Courageous" at our County Craft Fair. Her words brought tears to my eyes...

"My" people know that the reason I even considered pursuing publishing of "Strong & Courageous" was the hope that my writings, in book form, could be of help to someone...even just one. Natalie's e-mail to me, besides bringing tears of joy, brought affirmation that publishing was a good thing, the right thing to do. '

So, Natalie, I thank YOU.

"Hi Drenda –

We talked briefly at the Craft Fair in December when I purchased a copy of your book. I recently finished reading it and just had to send you an enthusiastic thank you for writing and publishing it.

I am an 8 1/2 year breast cancer survivor and can’t tell you how much I could have used a book like yours when I was going through treatment. I was amazed at how accurately you captured the thoughts and emotions of the treatment process. They were spot on, and I can honestly tell you this brought me back to those days with amazing clarity and a sense of peace. I am fortunate to also have very supportive family members and friends, but only someone who has made the journey can truly understand the emotional and physical aspects of treatment. You may never know the full impact of Strong and Courageous, but I can assure you that you did a very good thing.

By the way, have you seen the videos on http://pinkglovedance.com? The original videos circulated a while back, but now there is a sequel.

Thank you again, and continued good health to you!

Natalie Van Hook"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Television Star?

So, I did it.

I was strong.

And courageous.

I accepted the invitation to appear on the local, live, television show, KOIN's Studio 6.

I was interviewed by Anne Jaeger. And it was fine.

When it was over, she asked me to sign her copy of my book.

And then she said, "you should come again..."

I responded, "ok, call me!"

To see the interview, go to www.koinstudio6.com