Deanna Dewberry

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7th, 2010 at 8:57 pm by under Deanna's Journey

Today was hard.  It started with the ordinary – getting up, time with God, then the mindless meander to the closet to pick a suit.  I’m a TV anchor so one would think I take great care in choosing the day’s clothing, shoes, and accessories.  Nope.  When I wake up tired – which is most of the time – the rules are simple: If it’s clean and doesn’t need ironing, it’s a keeper.

Ethan isn’t a morning person.  After I’ve told him on average five times to put on his jeans and sweatshirt, he’ll do it, albeit very slowly.  This morning was no different.  And when I told him four times to brush his teeth and he still stood making faces in the mirror, I’d had it.  ”Ethan,” I said firmly, “brush your teeth - now.”

“Okay!” he answered with all the attitude an 8-year old can muster.

And that’s when I lost it. “No, Ethan, it’s not okay!  It’s not okay that I have to tell you to do something a dozen times before it’s done.  That’s not okay!”  I was screaming.  My voice was hoarse and intermittently shrill, and it scared him.  The look of hurt on his sweet, round face made my heart ache.  Immediately I knew that all my worry, my tension, my fear, my repressed rage had been unleashed on my little boy.

We both were quiet.  In the car we reviewed math rules for his test.  He remembered nothing – even though we’d spent hours studying this weekend.  I stopped in front of the school, took a deep breath, and told him we needed to pray.  He was still angry and reluctantly took my hand.  I asked God to forgive us both and help him with his test.  I asked Him to calm and guide my little boy in school.  And then I looked Ethan in the eye and told him I loved him. He mumbled, “love you too,” and shuffled into school.

The drive to work was brutal.  I understood why our morning had been so difficult, and it had nothing to do with Ethan.  I had watched CNN Monday evening and learned that Elizabeth Edwards was gravely ill.  And the reality of what I’m battling settled on me like a thick, unyielding fog.  Her outcome is what every breast cancer patient fears – a remission then a recalcitrant recurrance which slowly takes over lungs, liver, bones, and brain – stealing away a mother of young children.  I thought about Elizabeth all evening – dreamt of her last night – and the fear that she is me was everpresent as I dressed, as I brushed my teeth, as a screamed at the child I love most in the world.  When I told him, “It’s not okay,” I wasn’t talking about the fact he was being annoyingly 8.  I was screaming because it’s not okay that I’m sick; it’s not okay that I might not be here to hold, comfort, and teach him; it’s not okay that he may not have a mother to guide him into manhood.  It’s not okay that I may not meet his first girlfriend, or celebrate his graduation, or cry at his wedding.  The ugly, mean whole of it is not okay.

I cried all the way to work - I wailed - that hard, heaving, ugly cry.  Other motorists must have thought I was nuts.  By the time I got to work I had calmed down.  I walked in and chatted about how cold it was and the snow we expect this weekend.  I went about my day as though the fog of fear wasn’t there.

And then I anchored the 5:00 news.  My producer got in my co-anchor’s ear to tell him that Elizabeth Edwards was dead.  That’s how we started the show.  My co-anchor ad-libbed the story, and that’s how I learned of her death – sitting on set - anchoring live TV.   My eyes filled; my throat ached; I wanted to escape.  I knew we were coming out to a 2-shot in seconds and I bit my inner cheeks, willing myself not to cry.  I finished the show, but remember little of it.

It was exhausting.  My body ached.  And alone in my minivan, I was crying again – head throbbing – regretting the fact I’d promised Ethan’s music teacher that I’d meet her after work to help decorate for the school program on Thursday.  But now I’m so glad I did.  It was just the two of us in the school’s large cafeteria.  She had Christmas music playing.  She’s a beautiful spirit, warm and loving.  She’s passionate about children, and she chatted excitedly about their program and all the kids had learned in preparation for it.  And listening to her as we worked was music to my soul – the sweetness of it calmed me.

God has sent friends and co-workers so many times to soothe my spirit when I’m feeling dark and alone.  I belong to an organization called Jack and Jill.  We’re all mothers who focus on the educational and cultural enrichment of black children.  And when those moms learned I had breast cancer, they became women warriors, rallying the troops, heading into battle with emails, spread sheets, and organizational skills like I’ve never seen.  They’re bringing my family dinner for three months – an amazing gift.  Monday night Ethan got home from swimming class to find dinner had been left for us.  Inside was a little surprise for him, and he danced around like it was Christmas morning. My hope is his memories of my illness are not only the hardships, but also the unexpected blessings from earthly angels sent from God.

Even in times of hurt, and pain and fear, God is here – blessing, comforting, protecting.  And so it is.  God made good friends.  God is good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 5th, 2010 at 6:00 am by under Deanna's Journey

It’s Sunday morning.  I love getting up before the rest of the family.  It’s a wonderful time to reflect on the goodness of God, spend some quiet time with Him, and eat chocolate.  The house is quiet; only Tipper, our wonderful collie, is up with me.

I don’t know how anyone fights cancer without a dog.  My dogs have helped guide me through some of the most difficult times in my life.  When I got home from chemo Tuesday, Tipper was there, tail wagging, smiling up at me in her doggy way.  I was exhausted, so much so that the trip upstairs to bed seemed far too arduous.  So I lay down on the loveseat instead.  And she followed, draping half her huge doggy chest over mine, her nose inches from my nose, dark eyes fixed on mine.  And at that moment I knew she understood my worries, that somehow doggy cognition is deeper than words, transcending the verbal complexities required of man; she knew how much I needed her.

And then - without warning - she burped.  No, it wasn’t one of those ladylike southern gal burps emitted softly behind manicured fingernails that cover closed lips.  No, it was one of those burps your husband lets go after a plate of honey-barbecued ribs and a big glass of sweet tea.  It was a man burp – right in my face.

And then I knew - Tipper ain’t thinking no deep thoughts.  She’s not contemplating the meaning of life and helping guide me to a more meaningful, spiritual place.  She’s a dog.  She simply wants to love and be loved like good dogs do.  And that’s a beautiful, wonderful gift to humanity.

I had a dog named Oliver for 16 years.  Man, I loved that dog.  He was a Lhasa Apso and one mean little cuss, but he sure loved me.  He was with me during my second cancer battle when I was 24; he was there when I got married and adopted a baby, and he endured my career moves to 8 different cities.  We were here in Indiana when I had to make one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made.  Oliver was 18 years old, blind, deaf, arthritic, and riddled with cancer.  So we had to say goodbye.  Days later we adopted Tipper.

One week after my breast cancer diagnosis, my groomer found two large lumps on Tipper.  So on Wednesday, I stood holding my dog’s sweet head while our vet did five needle aspirations of the tumors.  Those cells are being evaluated by a pathologist and early this week we should know whether Tipper has cancer.  I’m angry.  Dogs shouldn’t get cancer.  Their lives are short enough already.  And I’m worried.  I know; I have enough on my plate already.  But I can’t bear the thought of losing my dog – not now.  I haven’t cried over my own cancer in days, but I can’t think about losing my dog without becoming a blubbering idiot.  I haven’t asked God to save my dog.  I dunno – seems selfish somehow.  I’ve asked Him for so much already.  But today, I’m going to pray for my dog.  I need her.  I need her because she’s a dog – a wonderful dog – no deep thoughts, no social etiquette – just a great dog.  So today at church, I’ll pray for my family.  I’ll pray for my friends.  I’ll pray for my health.  And I’ll pray for my dog.

And so it is.  God made dogs.  God is good.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2nd, 2010 at 6:22 am by under Deanna's Journey

Take a good look at the picture posted in this entry.  This is what a good man looks like.  Gary is my partner in the fight – rushing into battle ahead of me armed with his newly purchased t-shirt that reads, “I fight like a girl – A breast cancer survivor.”  He wore that shirt and hat to chemo - a warrior proudly clad in pink.  Yep, that’s a good man.

I asked him if the thought of both my breasts being removed bothered him.  He answered, “Not nearly as much as the thought of losing you bothers me.”  Wow.  That was definitely the right answer.  He didn’t say watching me lose my breasts didn’t bother him.  It does.  I know it bothers the hellouta me.  But he said he loves me  more than what I look like – that what we have, what we share, what we are is far more than that.  And that was definitely the right answer.  Yep, that’s a good man.

So, with that good man holding my hand and another Good Man watching from above, we walked into the IU Simon Cancer Center.  First, another biopsy.  And ya’ll this was the biopsy of all biopsies.  The clinical trial needed 5 large samples.  My surgeon used a tool that looked and sounded just like a cordless power drill.  The sound was – to say the least – disconcerting.  Gary held my feet, smiling up at me as my surgeon worked.  It was so sweet.  Here’s why – I have without a doubt the ugliest feet of any other member of the Homosapien species occupying this planet.  I kid you not.  My feet bark – all on their own.  And my hubby held those ugly mugs like they were some sweet little Halle Berry size 7 cutiepies.  Yep, that’s a good man.

Then chemo.  Wow.  First, my surgically placed central IV line didn’t work.  That happens sometimes.  Just kinda sucks that it happened to me.  They tried everything – injecting heparin, TPA, having me stand, sit, lie down, raise my hands over my head, sing “she’ll be coming round the mountain” - nothing.  So then they had to start an IV.  It took five sticks.  I don’t have great veins.  Finally, four hours after we arrived at the cancer center, the drugs began to flow.  I watched them while watching Oprah. (No worries WISH TV buddies – I switched to channel 8 as soon as the 5:00 news came on).  Then we had to have x-rays taken to try to figure out what was wrong with my central IV line.

Although getting the chemo into me was a challenge – the rest has been pretty smooth.  So far, few side effects.  Your prayers were heard!  I felt a bit odd yesterday - tired and no appetite – but very little nausea.  So I’m going back to work today and looking forward to it.

And so it is.  God made good men.  God is good.

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29th, 2010 at 7:57 pm by under Deanna's Journey

I love typing this. I WAS WRONG! I WAS WRONG! I WAS WRONG! Yep, you read it right. I was soooooo wrong. I was so sure the lymph nodes the radiologist called “abnormal tissue” – those dark, ominous ovals on that grainy ultra sound screen – were cancerous. I saw those lymph nodes as evidence of Fred’s unrelenting persistence and the grueling battles he planned in the war waged against him. But today my surgeon called to tell me that my know-it-all black butt was wrong. Well, he didn’t actually say that. He just said he had good news.

This is awesome. It doesn’t change the course of treatment, but it does mean we caught Fred before he and his baby mama sent their half grown low life kids to live rent free in my lymph nodes. And tomorrow I start chemo. Yep, gotcha Fred. You be messing with the wrong sista. Ain’t God good? Boy, did I need some good news.

I went back to work today, and it was great, but weird. I went about my day – rushing around like that proverbial chicken – all the while thinking, “I have cancer. I have chemo tomorrow. What was I writing about again?”

That’s the thing about cancer; it fills the room, taking up all available space – in your thoughts, in conversations with your friends, in the way you view your place and space on the planet. It’s oddly ubiquitous even when you look and feel perfectly normal. I know at some point I’ll be at peace with Fred’s presence, resting comfortably in the knowledge that he’s about to get the butt beatin he deserves. But right now it’s all so new.

So that’s where we are. Tomorrow I’ll first have another breast biopsy. (The researchers with the clinical trial want to keep my tissue.) Then I have chemo tomorrow afternoon. Please send up a prayer. I’m hoping the side effects are minimal. I’d like to work as much as my health allows over the next several months.

I’ve read every one of the guestbook entries. What beautiful gifts you have left me. I feel so very blessed. Thank you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 25th, 2010 at 11:30 am by under Deanna's Journey

It’s 11:30 Thanksgiving evening, and I’m grateful.  I’ve had a wonderful day with my boys – my hubby and son.  We decided we didn’t want turkey.  Gary does the cooking and said he’d fix us whatever we wanted.  Ethan wanted tacos, sweet potatoes and carrots.  Those of you who know me well, know this Texas girl is straight up country.  I wanted neck bones, sweet potatoes, and cabbage.  And Gary wanted rib tips, dirty rice, and green beans.  So my wonderful husband made this very unconventional Thanksgiving feast, and we ate and played board games all day.  Perfect.

I shared in an earlier post that I chose sunflowers for this website because I admire their ability to track the light – even on days darkened by gray foreboding clouds.  I believe God’s grace gives us that ability – helping us find the light even in the midst of the darkest of life’s storms.

My boys were my sunflowers today – finding the light, radiating its beauty, bringing me joy.  And for that, I’m grateful.

I’m also thankful for the blessing of celebrating another year.  My birthday was November 19th, exactly one week after I learned I had breast cancer.  We got a room at the Conrad (discounted rate thank goodness), had a great dinner at Harry and Izzy’s, and took a carriage ride stopping at Monument Circle to allow Ethan to mail his letter to Santa at St. Nick’s special mailbox.  It was magical.

On Monday I had surgery to have my central IV line placed.  Then Tuesday we learned that my PET scan was clean except for two small lymph nodes in my armpit.  So Wednesday we were back in a radiologist’s darkened room, watching the grainy ultrasound guided image of the needle carefully accessing the black ovals the radiologist called “abnormal tissue” and sucking away samples to be studied by a pathologist.  Gary held my hand, and we both studied the thin slivers of tissue floating in the tiny jars and prayed it wasn’t cancer.  But we both knew it was.  Nevertheless, we’ll wait for results next week.  The blessing is that this time, it won’t be a surprise.

But still, I’m grateful.  I’m grateful that I had a wonderful man holding my hand throughout the procedure, a friend willing to make Thanksgiving neckbones for his countrified wife, a lifemate who meant it when he vowed in sickness and in health.

And I’m grateful that God will give both of us the strength to fight Fred, the monster, once again.   God is Good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23rd, 2010 at 8:48 pm by under Deanna's Journey

It’s Tuesday morning.  I had surgery to have my central IV line placed.  And this afternoon I have an appointment with my oncologist.  For the first time in a week, I’m alone.  Gary and I have been joined at the hip since the diagnosis.  Today, I told him to go to work. “I can handle it,” I told him. Not.

We got the news yesterday – I do have triple negative breast cancer. So this morning I got on the internet – AGAIN. The information about triple negative breast cancer is grim. It scares me. Although I know all things work together for good for those who love God, I’m scared.  And angry. And sad.  I keep telling myself I’m prepared for the fight ahead, and then I read the stories of beautiful women, hairless from chemo, speaking resolutely about their metastatic disease that available drugs are unable to fight.  And I’m just sad.

But through it all, God is good.  He’s here. He’s able. He never leaves us.  I just wish He’d explain why I have to go through this again.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20th, 2010 at 9:05 am by under Deanna's Journey

It’s Saturday, November 20th.  The day after my birthday, and I’ve been living with the reality of a 3rd cancer fight for 8 days.  I’ve been through all the stages of grief and have arrived – finally – at acceptance.

Yes, I have cancer.  Yes, it’s aggressive.  And yes, with God’s help we plan to kick its butt – again.

I’ve named my tumor Fred.  I think it’s good to give the enemy a name I can handle.  The name Cancer is too big, instilling a paralyzing fear in the bravest among us.  Fred, however, is a boy I can beat.

I got the diagnosis on Friday, November 12th.  I had anchored the news and had been told to call the nurse after I was finished.  I was sitting in a comfy chair at WISH TV, my legs crossed, prepared to hear that Fred was a benign growth called a fibroidnoma.  I’d thought to myself – Fred the fibroidnoma – it’s alliterative.  How cute.  But the news was far different.  I crumbled.  And my coworkers were there with amazing, loving support.

Fred is a bad boy bully.   I’ll be honest.  It’s a carcinoma of the basal cell type.  We’re still waiting on the results of one test, but it looks as though my breast cancer is triple negative.  That means it does not respond to any of the three receptors which trigger breast cancer cells’ growth. The cancer is also extremely aggressive.  On a scale that rates cancer’s invasiveness, with 9 being most aggressive, my cancer is a 9.  We have targeted therapies for receptor positive breast cancer.  We don’t yet have a targeted therapy for triple negative.  I’ll likely participate in a clinical trial that has had promising results.  I’ll have surgery to have my catheter placed on Monday, and I’ll start chemo on Tuesday.

After we have shrunk the tumor, I’ll have a mastectomy in mid January.  If the results of my breast cancer gene profile are positive, I’ll have a double mastectomy.

But this isn’t as grim as it sounds.  Aggressive cancer responds well to chemo.  If the chemo dissolves the tumor, and we follow that with a mastectomy, I have a 95 percent chance of survival.

I want Fred dead.  That’s our prayer – that God give the chemo power to annihilate Fred.  Please join me in our daily talks with the Father.  I believe in the power of the prayers of the faithful.

I chose sunflowers as the background for this page, because I absolutely love sunflowers’ ability to track the sun, following the light even on the darkest day.  Scientists call it heliotropism.  I call it beautiful.  I believe God’s grace gives us the ability of sunflowers in the midst of our darkest trials – finding the light of His love in our friends, our families, our coworkers, ourselves.  I thank God for my trials, because through them I see God.

Love, hugs, and healing,