An optomist sees the proverbial glass half full.
Someone who has a sense of humor is blessed to find a laugh, sometimes bordering inappropriate, in situations which may otherwise be very serious. I’m an optomistic comedienne of sorts.
Keep in mind that my sisters and I have experienced a lot of stuff that didn’t kill us but made us strong – or laugh. No disrespect intended in these words you are about to read. The situation involves a serious health malady my oldest sister, Jackie aka “the matriarch” is experiencing.
Which is also the reason her winter stay in balmy Florida was cut short. Culminating the need to establish a Plan B for my exodus from Miami to Safety Harbor.
For more than a year and for reasons that are personal – not mine to share here – Jackie kept a secret. Not just any secret. A BIG secret. A HUGE secret. She told no one. Not even one sister. None of her kids. None of her friends (that I know of); not even her Doctor!
Up until a few years ago, Jackie had not ventured onto the cyber super highway. I kept encouraging her. I told her that anything she wanted to know was just a couple of key strokes away. As it turned out, she instead established voice activated communication with Suri – the friendly know-it-all-voice in her cell phone. With the assistance of Suri, Jackie self-diagnosed breast cancer.
I am uncertain whether or not Jackie asked Suri about treatment options for breast cancer in the year 2015. Instead, Jackie made her own independent decision and choice. To do nothing. Which was how her secret plan was formed. No need to tell anyone because she opted to do nothing.
Ah, but her plan began to unravel. Only a few days after their (Jackie, Barb, Alan) arrival in Miami, Jackie’s cancerous lesion began to bleed. Initially, the first morning episode was when Barb saw “it.” Shortly before they left Illinois, Jackie did mention that she had a situation, and maybe she wouldn’t make the trek this winter. Barb thought Jackie may have painted the picture larger than it really was; so encouraged her to ride along.
Yikes! Jackie had to recruit Barb’s help to stop the bleeding and clean up the trail of blood – before I woke up. The two of them were to accompany me to a volunteers holiday luncheon that afternoon. Jackie begged off saying her stomach was a bit upset. Dang, I should have known she was lying but I let it go.
Barb and I went off to the luncheon. When we got home, the blood was flowing again. That was my first look. Whoa! It may have been at that moment I proclaimed that the lesion had the appearance of an alien. It was bleeding a lot. Applying pressure was not easy because it was literally bursting out / growing on the lower outer surface (visualize 5 o’clock) of her left breast. It was a bit larger than a cutie/halo tangerine. It had an open hole resembling a fish mouth. It was bleeding. A lot.
While Barb held a small towel over the alien, I tried to wrap an Ace bandage around Jackie to apply steady pressure. That was slightly successful. It became clear that the bleeding was not going to stop. We were all calm, maybe not laughing yet but I made the decision. We have to go to the ER.
Jackie has some mobility issues. While I lined the front seat of my car with a towel, Barb and Alan helped her down the steps and into the car. South Miami Hospital is a short distance from the house. Saturday afternoon traffic not heavy along the way. I pulled up to the emergency room entrance, Barb grabbed a wheelchair. While Jackie was being triaged for vitals, I parked the car.
By the time (only minutes) I got into the triage area her blood pressure had been taken. It was dangerously high. Very high. Stroke any minute high. Now the emergency became acute hypertension…even though Jackie has been on blood pressure meds for several years.
Whisked her away to CT, MRI of her brain. Saw a small area of suspicion for blood clot or aneurysm. Deal with that. No one in the ER had yet met the alien.
Once Jackie’s blood pressure was stablilized, they sent in someone to unveil the wound. The make shift dressing Barb and I applied was tossed in the red container not without comment from true professionals. I really wanted to see the look on the face of the person who got the first glimpse of the alien life form emerging from my sister’s breast. In a way it looked like a third breast – with a mouth. And dried blood.
I was shooed away when I tried to get a picture even though Jackie said I could. Determination and timing was all I needed to snap proof that aliens exist. Then I enlarged the phone image and made the mouth move – like a fish.
Indeed it was a sight! But it was one of those things that was just so unimaginable that I couldn’t stop messing with the captured image.
No doubt this was a serious situation. Not only was Jackie harboring an alien, she could have a stroke too. Nothing remotely funny. But then, there was this alien …
Because there were then a series of emergency room visits over the next few weeks, I don’t recall the exact order or timing of events. Jackie was admitted for monitoring and for consultations.
The alien was diagnosed as stage III/IV triple negative carcinoma. It was too large to be removed because the tissue was necrotic. Not enough healthy skin to even suture the fish mouth hole let alone close the gap that removal would leave.
The agreed upon plan of action was to reduce the lesion (neuter the alien) with chemo treatments and then perform a radical masectomy.
Jackie was discharged with orders to limit exposure to crowds. A visiting wound care nurse would come every other day to clean/change dressing and chart the growth of the alien. Most of the time, the alien bled in between visits. Barb was in charge of the bleed through patches most of the time because I was still working full-time.
The gauze and other stuff the nurses left seemed inadequate for patching. So, Barb and I discussed creative options. Initially, I suggested stuffing tampons in the fish mouth. Barb said no way to that. But it opened up our creativity to include maxi pads and baby diapers and tape. A lot of tape.
And so it goes.
After arriving home via Riverside Hospital in Kankakee, Jackie is now undergoing chemo treatments. The alien is essentially dead and much smaller; no longer bleeding. The medical plan is after a total of six treatments each three weeks apart, the radical masectomy will be performed.
Jackie’s initial plan did not unfold as she imagined. So, her plan B is being developed as treatment progresses. I keep mentioning the close proximity to the pool here in my little piece of paradise. Water aerobics officially three times a week. But I know where the CD player is and have a key to the clubhouse. Any time I want, I can do exercises in the pool. With noodles.