Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LIFE--Oh, So Good!

Okay, I just have to say from the start that my blog is having issues. It won't allow me to publish as normal, so if the layout isn't great, and the words are all scrunched together, I'm so sorry.

It seems like when life is harder than normal (not that normal isn't hard enough), and I'm groping to figure things out, I find myself drawn to the keyboard. I recently heard on a Dr. Phil show that writing feelings down can be a good way to find answers, resolve issues and move forward. That's my hope, I guess. And if I get to the end of the page and still have nothing figured out . . . well, at least I'll have a journal entry.
Three weeks ago I went to the dermatologist for what I thought would be a simple routine procedure to remove a small bump on my nose that was possible basal cell carcinoma. Four and a half hours later, I left with a huge hole in my face where my nose used to be. Apparently, the skin cancer had been growing deep beneath the surface of my skin for many years, spreading throughout my nose and to the corner of my eye. The plan was for me to walk next door to the plastic surgeon to get sewn up, but after staring at every angle of my face for what seemed like a lot of minutes, the plastic surgeon sighed, and told me there really weren't great options. The cancer had been in the crease of my nose, a very hard place to repair. It had also spread to the corner of my right eye. He would need thick skin for one part of my nose and very thin skin for another part. After taking pictures of me, he said he would study my nose that night and present us with options in the morning at the surgery center. I made the mistake of looking in the mirror before we left. Pictures don't really do justice. I gasped as I saw the deep, red gap in my face and wondered how it could ever be fixed.
(A little graphic--I should have warned you. Worse in real life. Almost to the bone. The tear rolling down my face is because I just looked in the mirror).
It was only three weeks previous that I had checked into the very same surgery center to have a laperoscopy. An ovarian cyst had ruptured and I had a lot of scar tissue built up from a surgery years ago that was pressing against my ovaries, causing pain and discomfort. I felt I was just getting back on my feet and feeling good when I found myself going under anesthesia once again. This time when I awoke I had a huge bandage sewn to my face and the pain had moved from my abdomen to my nose. It was necessary for the doctor to take a skin graft from my collar bone, and then also to make a cut up my forehead to take some thicker skin from there. Of course I looked pretty . . . what's the word . . .scary? But, determined not to let it discourage me or affect my attitude or self-perception, I took a couple of days to recover and then went about life as normal.
(three days after surgery--my collarbone shows where they took one of the grafts)
As I went out in public I experienced a little bit of what I'm sure many people with varying disabilities have gone through in their lives: pointing, staring, whispering, and more. My biggest fear was that my little four-year-old preschoolers would be afraid of me. I warned their parents that I looked a little abnormal, but these darling little children seemed more concerned that I was in pain than that I looked funny. That's the miracle of children. But in reality, I knew every time I left the house that I did look like I had gotten in a fight with a barbed wire fence and lost, and when people stared at me or children pointed, I was so grateful it didn't bother me. Of course I wished they were staring because of my astounding beauty, rather than my lighting bolt scar and blotchy skin graft, but I understood, and it was okay.
My six-year-old daughter, who happens to think appearance matters way more than it should, asked me one day if I was embarrassed to leave the house. When I told her I wasn't, she commented that she sure would be if it was her! My husband flashed the famous scolding look, but I only smiled, unoffended. It was a valid question. I was just thankful that, although I certainly don't look the way I'd like to, that my looks have nearly nothing to do with my life or my happiness. I'm just as happy--just as ornery, just as tired, just as emotional, just as everything--as before this happened. I guess it helps that I've never considered myself beautiful. Either way, life is still so good.
(what I look like now)
I returned to the dermatologist two weeks later to have some skin cancer removed from my back. The darn doctor told me it wouldn't be painful, but he lied. For two days, I bit my lip all day, trying to endure the pain from the incision and wondered if I was simply turning into a wimp. Even now, nine days later, my back is extremely sore. I've decided maybe my pain tolerance has decreased to the point of being intolerant altogether. Either way, I found out last week that I have a torn meniscus in my left knee and will be going in for a knee scope at the end of this week. Even as I write about it, I know how insane it sounds and I've considered cancelling it, but the throbbing in my knee insists I take care of it (and my husband reminding me our deductible has been met is a little hard to ignore as well:).
So, I'm feeling a bit beaten down. Sometimes I go to bed and don't know which pain to complain about--the one in my nose, my back or my knee (so usually, I go with all three, just to be consistent:). But, despite the pain and discomfort I have felt, which is so small compared to what I know zillions of other people have gone through, the part that has been the hardest is the toll it's taken on my family. My kids are sick to death of my problems and my inability to be at the top of my game. And I can just imagine them one day, when everyone is talking about all the great things their moms did, things like, "My mom always had freshly baked cookies waiting on the counter when we got home from school," or "My mom always woke up with a smile, whistling happy tunes all day long," my kids will only have this to say: "My mom always had surgery." Not exactly the legacy or the memory I'm hoping to leave behind.

I've thought a lot about Stephanie Nelson these past few weeks(not that my trials can even compare to what she's gone through). You know, the amazing woman who was burned on most of her body from a plane crash? I remember watching a small video clip about her as she talked about getting back into life again, and how difficult simple things were to do now. I can only imagine the pain she suffered and still does suffer from her injuries. But the part I will never forget is when she said this: "Life is good. It is oh, so good." I would think that would be pretty hard to say under her circumstances. And yet, I know what she means.
Life IS good. It IS oh, so good. Even when it's beating me up. Why? How? Because of what I know. And this is what I know. That I am never alone. That God hears my prayers and answers them in countless ways. That I am his child, his daughter, which means that it doesn't matter what my nose looks like. That He prepared a way for families to be together forever through sacred promises made in holy temples. That very little of what the world deems important matters at all. That I'm so grateful to be a wife and mother, especially now that being a supermodel is definitely out! That I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life; I have a family who loves me despite every reason I give them not to; and that it is enough.

So, here I am at the end of the page, and although I'm just as clueless as when I switched the computer on, I know things are going to be okay. I will get through one last surgery; my nose will eventually heal; scars will fade; and I will get to the top of my game once more. It just may be that the top isn't as high as it used to be!


Christine said...

I'm so sorry for what you've gone through. I'm not sure I would have endured it as well as you have. You're a very strong and wonderful woman. HUGS!

Taffy and Tony said...

My guess is that the top of your game will be even HIGHER than it used to be. I am amazed as I have read about your trials over the past few years and your incredible ability to stay positive through it all. Your "refiner's fire" has definitely left you more refined, and I truly admire you for that!

Julie Thurgood Summerhays said...

I honestly can't believe how many physical trials you have had to go through since I have known you - but you always amaze me with your attitude - I have never seen you truly down!! I know that your kids will remember your positive attitude - how can they not. Thinking of you...

Laurie LC Lewis said...

Thank you for being so brave and grounded. You are the very best kind of beautiful--inside and out.

Ashlie said...

Oh my goodness Lori! I'm just seeing this post. When it rains it surely does pour doesn't it. I love you for your attitude and keeping your chin up. That says more about your character than any words could. You are an amazing woman!