What I’m Thankful For Blog Post
By Betty Bolte
At the beginning of 1996 I thought I had my entire life before me. Having completed my bachelor’s degree requirements in December, it was time to focus on my writing and family instead of textbooks. My hubby and I planned a 7th birthday party for our daughter to take place the first week of February. Our son was 5, full of life and mischief. Life was good. Until the morning when I did a self breast exam and found the lump.
Writing those last three words still causes my stomach to clench and my heart to drop. My mother and grandmother had both died from breast cancer and related complications. In fact, Mom died the fall after my daughter was born. She took great delight in playing with her while she sat in bed. They share both their middle names and their birthday. Sadly, my daughter never really knew my mother.
Now I was faced with finding a doctor (having just moved into a new house in a new town), and soon. At 33 years old, surely it would be nothing to worry about. But with my family history, my new GP didn’t want to take chances. She examined me, found the same lump, and then ordered the mammogram, which came back clean (keep that fact in mind…). But she didn’t stop there. She sent me to a breast surgeon. He too examined me, finding the lump. He did an ultrasound and couldn’t see it clearly. So the next step was a needle biopsy to test it. I left his office determined to not freak out while I waited for the results. I went home and started puttering around the house, putting away toys and straightening up. Something to do to keep my mind off my worry.
When the surgeon called later that afternoon, the news was not good. The tumor was malignant. OMG. I was home alone, the kids not home from school and preschool yet, hubby at work, and my father (who lived with us) also at work. I can’t recall if I cried then; I don’t remember breaking down or anything. But my fear had been realized. What would happen to my kids if the cancer won? How would my hubby manage? What would happen to my dad? Would he continue living with my family if I died like my mother had? So many dreadful questions flashed through my head it’s hard to grasp.
The surgeon met with me and my hubby the next day to go over my options. I chose a lumpectomy and scheduled the outpatient surgery – for the day before my daughter’s birthday party. The party would not be canceled though. I refused to let my condition ruin my daughter’s big day. Thanks to a good friend who came to fill in for me, the party happened. I stayed upstairs in bed, listening to the laughter and squeals of the children playing, happy that my kids were happy.
The surgeon removed the tumor and several lymph nodes to test to see if the cancer had spread outside the breast. The answer: yes. The type of cancer was a very aggressive estrogen-linked kind. My chance of survival? 50-50. There went my heart sinking all over again. I could die? Never be with my family, my hubby, my children? No. Not if I could prevent it. I signed up for a study, one using a combination of strong chemotherapy drugs in higher and fewer doses. If I was going to die, at least the next person who was diagnosed with cancer would have a better chance of survival. All together that year I had two breast surgeries (the first one they hadn’t taken enough tissue out to have “clean margins”), a separate operation to remove my gall bladder which decided to fail and to install a portocath (to administer the chemotherapy), four doses of IV chemo (hair loss too), started oral chemo in the form of Tamoxifen (5 years total), and radiation treatments.
Throughout all of the treatments, the resulting sickness, and fatigue, I wrote. Putting my thoughts on paper proved very therapeutic for me. I wrote in a journal as well as on a book. I determined to teach my children everything I could to ensure they could take care of themselves if I did die, but I also made plans for the future. I would not go down without a fight.
So what I’m thankful for this and every year, is being alive to share with my loving hubby, and to see my children grow and mature into self-sufficient adults. They have both graduated from college and are gainfully employed, in their own apartments, and living their lives. I’m also thankful for finally publishing my first novel in April of this year, and three more in October. It’s been quite a bountiful harvest, that’s for sure!
Paulette O’Connell is focused on building her costume and home decorating business in order to ensure a stable home for her unborn child. When she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost, he demands she needed him and must learn the reason before he’ll reveal how to banish him. Meanwhile, a sexy chemist desires her attention despite her refusal to act upon her heart’s desires. After all, following her heart only lands her in trouble.
Zak Markel journeys to Roseville in the desperate hunt for the missing ingredient for the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight and career. But he discovers more than he bargained for when his search turns up the gorgeous woman of his dreams, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.
Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?
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