Leave it to Garrett to come up with something out of the ordinary…I developed an infection two and half months AFTER radiation.  Typically, the infection shows up within three weeks of treatment….not me…I wanted to be different.  The only signs I had that something was amiss was redness around the area where the catheter had been inserted.

Yes, I went to the doctor and was given some antibiotics which didn’t phase the infection.  We went through 8 weeks of on and off again antibiotics, which didn’t work.  Finally I went back to the doctor ready for some action.  My options were to continue as we had been doing or have a mastectomy.  WOW…how could we go from an infection  to a mastectomy.?  I thought mastectomies were for cancer patients.  I didn’t realize it could be from infections.

My dear doctor was more concerned about the removal than I and he assured me I could do reconstructive surgery.  I let it be known at my age, I doubted I would go for another surgery because prothetics would work just fine for me. If I were in my thirties or forties I would have a different mindset but not at 64 years old.

Surgery was July 27th and all is well with me.  The healing process is taking longer than I had anticipated, but I have my health and life is good.

Lesson learned:  it is not how you get there but it is what you do with the journey along the way.

Get rid of the guilt

Yes, this was the hardest thing for me to do with Gene because I wanted to be with him all the time, but I knew I had to take care of myself.  Even if I wanted to take a five minute break and just go walk around the block, I didn’t do it at first because it may appear that I was NOT doing my job or I didn’t love him.

As the journey continued, I knew, I had to get over this feeling.  He might need a reprieve from me too!  Thank goodness my parents lived close by so I could call them to come over and have Dad stay with him while Mom and I would go shopping or even go to the grocery store.  One time when Gene’s son came to visit, I allowed myself to go see a movie just to get out of the house.

There were times I would call some of my girl friends to have lunch with me.  This was fun because I got to feel “normal” again and feel human.  Once again if the inevitable happen, I had no control over this…and would feel this was the way it was supposed to happen.

Give yourself a break and rid your thoughts of the guilt.

Look for the humor

Humor is what is going to get you through this passage.  It may be a little on the dark side but if it gets you a giggle why care?  I will never forget the time when Gene has lost quite a bit of weight and I decided to go on this cooking spree to fatten him up.  One night as we were lying in bed, I raised up and told Gene were we going to have to sleep in separate beds. Of course this floored him and he wanted to know what was he doing to cause me to go to another bed?  I replied…do you know those fat cells you are losing, they are finding their way to my side of the bed to my rear and he had better stop it.  Yes, we got a huge laugh out of this. So look for the bright side and enjoy the moment.  Forget about the what if’s, and live only in the moment.

If you are lacking in the creativity aspect, look for the red clown nose and you can have a lot of fun with it.  Doctors do not know what to do when they walk in and find a red-nose caregiver in thier office.  They love it because it breaks the ice and causes them to realize they are human, too.

Choose your attitude

Choosing your Attitude is one of the most critical aspects of being on this incredible journey. Look for the things you can control and forget the rest. You cannot control the weather nor the diagnosis but you can control your thoughts.

Be grateful for your friends and family members realizing they are going to help you during this difficult time. Remember it is a position of honor to be asked for help This is going to be a team effort so why try to do it all. As Peggy Collins, author and professional speaker, says, “by doing it all, it will do you in.“ You cannot be the best advocate and caregiver for your loved one if you are exhausted and tired all the time.

One of the things I did was review the talents of my friends and made assignments accordingly. I had a friend who loved to cook, so I asked them to bring a casserole over for a particular evening. One of my friends took it upon herself to buy me stamps and thank you notes. So it truly is a team effort and it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength.