Friday, June 11, 2010

Stop, Look, and Listen!

Well here I am…home from the hospital with the painful reminder of the new station of my breast cancer journey…MASTECTOMY RECIPIENT. It is difficult to describe the emotions that have flooded my mind and heart in the last few days. They range from grateful and resolved, to marred and weepy. I would like to share some of the experiences that I had in the hospital with those that I love.

We arrived at the hospital at about 7:45am and walked into a patient waiting room full of people; people with different stories and reasons for being there, but all converging in this one place at this particular instance, and all of our diverse realities coming together in one moment of time. I looked around the room and felt the need to look at each of the people in the face and acknowledge our similarity and shared experience.

Then I saw Brenda and Christi Parker, they had come to show their support. Brenda would be there all day and into the evening and Christi was just coming off an all-night shift at the hospital. I was so grateful for their comforting hugs and words of encouragement, but my emotions were varied and raw and tears were right at the surface. This experience with cancer has taught me that tears are OK and some of the most valuable conversations in this life are had in the middle of an embrace when tears are flowing. I felt grateful for my support system.

I realized as I was looking around that room and waiting my turn that a thought kept running through my mind… “STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN!” This is the phase that I have been teaching Eli and Isaac when they are crossing the road or walking down the sidewalk at the end of driveways. Before this moment, “STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN”, had always meant stop walking, look all around for cars, and listen for any sign that a car may be moving. So why was it coming to my mind now?

Then I realized that no matter how old I get, my Heavenly Father would be whispering in my ear, “STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN!” I paused for a moment, took a deep breath and committed to do just that.

When I “STOPPED, LOOKED, AND LISTENED” as I was changing into my surgical gown, I saw an elderly couple, the sweet old man bent and twisted in his back, patiently helping his wife prepare for knee surgery. His loving compassion moved me to tears as I moved into my own dressing area and I listened for the lesson… No matter what happens in this life, love remains! That is not to say that love is not often altered by pain and stress because quite frankly, I think pain introduces us to ourselves, and sometimes we have to take a long and painful look, but through the craziness that can oft times accompany our journey through this life, LOVE REMAINS.

After I got dressed we were introduced to our sweet pre-op nurse, Teresa she and Justin were quick friends, as they bantered back and forth, his playful, joking mood really lessened my stress as I approach the injection of the radioactive isotopes, which several people stated would be one of the most painful parts of the surgery…thanks for the info!

Nonetheless, the time passed and I found myself laying down waiting to be injected and receiving all of the disclaimers of the procedure, like the radioactive isotopes will be injected in four different sites just under the skin, there will be no relief from a numbing agent because the pain comes from injecting 1cc worth of radioactive fluid just under the skin, and the burn will continue until the fluid has dispersed itself into the lymph nodes. The Radiologist continued on and explained that in his experience, women had screamed out in pain during the procedure, pinched him to the point of blood, swore at him, and so forth. I was told that all of these outcomes were acceptable. He went on to tell me that though it was radioactive I would not be harmful to those around me…he did not laugh…so I didn’t make a joke…everyone is so serious about radioactive fluids…come on!

My mind froze again on the idea, “STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN!” As I did, I realized that even in the middle of an unnumbed (probably not a word!) situation, I still had power to choose how I would react, so as the isotopes were being injected, I fixed my eyes on the ceiling and just breathed deeply and bit my lip.  As I listened, I knew that I had more power over pain (physical, emotional, and spiritual) than I thought, I just had to recognize my own power. Sometimes it takes intense pain to teach us that we are:

“…Stronger than we seem; braver than we believe; and smarter than we think we are!”

After an hour of the blistering burn of the radioactive isotopes, I was wheeled into another room to take pictures of the lymph nodes. I was hoisted up on a new, cold table and then lifted several feet into the air. I was instructed to lay as still as possible, as plates with targets circled my body and the lymph nodes were marked for removal. I STOPPED, LOOKED, AND LISTENED again and heard a lesson clearly. There are specific experiences that Heavenly Father knows we need in this life to become what we can. They are targeted and direct and we are individually marked. Our experience in this life is unique and special to us and one of the greatest evidences of a loving and concerned Father in Heaven.

When I thought about how much God loves me and the sacrifice that Christ made, I couldn’t help but cry and I did. My tears continued until the moment I lost consciousness in the operating room. Just before losing formal reasoning I thought about my sweet grandma and aunt who had forged this path before me. I thought about the unspoken pain and fear that their lives had held and the connection that I was feeling to them now. When I STOPPED, LOOKED, AND LISTENED I recognized that this experience was a piece to my life’s puzzle; something that would further my knowledge of who I really am and a thought from my good friend’s blog came to mind:

You will never know how strong you are until you have been in a fight with yourself!

I slowly woke up from the surgery throwing up and chattering my teeth (an inherited gift from my mom), and as Brenda describes it, “as white as the blankets that you were wrapped in!” I was not able to consciously think of STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN at that particular time but in retrospect I know that there are times in all of our lives that it is difficult to “wake up” from the grogginess of a situation, but if we are able to pause and look around us and listen, we will be able to focus again and do what is right.

As I was taking in my new surroundings I looked at my wrist band. I had two bands…one had my identifying information and the other was bright yellow and read, “Fall Risk”. At the end of a life altering experience, the last moment of STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN that I would like to share has to do with the absolute truth that all of us, as children of God and as fallible human beings are “Fall Risks”. If we take our eye off from the prize we are in jeopardy of falling to the enticings of the devil, who desires us to be unhappy and miserable like he is. I am so grateful for the Savior and his Atonement for the possibility it gives all of us to return and live with our Heavenly Father.

So, to this I humbly state, “STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN!” I know that none of us will live perfect lives, but we do have the ability to save ourselves from some of the self inflicted pain of sin and when we have pain in our lives that is not of our own making, we can trust that we are in the midst of a divine tutorial and our personal unfolding is at hand!

Love to you all,



  1. What and incredible experience! The little lessons in life that we are able to learn if we have the spirit with us and we listen closely to what our Heavenly Father wants us to learn! Thank You for sharing your experiences and testimony with me, it stengthens mine so much! You are such a strong person that has made it through so much and will continue to push through this trial! You are a true angel of our Heavenly Father! I love you!

    Love always

  2. You really are the most inspiring person I know.. through all of this, you are the one teaching us lessons on how to overcome hardship and love and recognizing Christ in all things.. you are simply amazing and I pray for you and your sweet family every night! I hope you are recovering well..

  3. You truly are an angel and I am so glad you are my friend. Our prayers our with you daily.