Thursday, June 28, 2012


Barbara Ward-Finneran
Scarlett... cherry... candy engine... even blood red. I love those colors lacquered on my nails or shinning on my lips. That flash of a power color that can scream confidence when it wraps around you with just the right fashion statement or lifts you to new heights in the perfect strappy stiletto. Red's my perfect color. Any shade is my favorite...

I tell the woman that I have rolling veins as she ties off the tourniquet on my arm and swabs antiseptic at the soft flesh of my inner elbow.  "This will pinch a little." All the thoughts and emotions had already begun to hurt long before she  manages to hit a vein on her first attempt.  Is it better to hurt or feel nothing at all? I twinge.  My fist tightens and my long nails jab into my palm as I watch her push the needle deeper into my arm to make the blood pour out.  The dark red color flushes the tube and fills it quickly.  The "tech"  effortlessly switches from one tube to the next.  Usually I'd turn away, but I can't break my glance from watching.  Almost feeling like I need to observe and see, so that it doesn't seem so surreal.  It's been over two years since I've done this and it all resembles some sort of an instant replay in my mind.  I was lucky last time. No, blest would be a better word.  Now I wonder, will lightening strike twice?

Sure, anyone who knows me, knows I love red.  My power color of choice.  Watching it fill up a vial so it can be screened to answer the cancer question leaves you feeling anything but powerful.  Watching it be labeled and tagged with numbers, it's just a number to the lab, yet to me it's so personal.  Personal enough to effect the rest of my life.  The tubes are so covered with stickers now that the beautiful rich hue of the blood can hardly be seen.  The "tech" makes small talk about it going around the country.  First to Tampa and then to California.  Once there in some magical medical place it will be screened with a state of the art process.  Professionals searching this life giving liquid for the proverbial needle in a haystack.  Searching for microscopic markers, and/or tell a tale break away cells, and/or hormonal changes, in a sample that contains billions of normal blood cells.  I have no comprehension of how many "markers" or cells will tilt the scale.  Make this concern of malignancy all the more real.  I hate tests that I can't study for, I much prefer to be in control of my ability to ace it.  Right now, I have no control.  The score from 1 to 10 is out of my hands.  "The mass has grown and changed, it is more solid, more textured"... the doctors words echo through my mind.  I can't shake something in her tone.  There is just an inflection in it that robs me just the slightest of feeling as confident about this as I did in round one back in 2010. 

I'm not even sure it's her voice as much as my own gut, just knowing something is different.  I knew.  Before the sonograms that confirmed the changes  had even been performed - I had already told a friend it'll have to come out this time.  I knew my waiting and watching time was over - this time the ovarian mass/tumor will be removed.  I was right.  Seeing the doctor's caller ID on my phone after hours the day of the sonogram made my heart beat slightly out of rhythm for a moment.  Hearing the doctor's voice on the phone confirmed my instincts before her words could define the situation. Her words changing from positive to worse case scenario in brief moments.  More tests and surgery scheduled in less then five minutes flat. 

Surgery scheduled just five days before my current medical benefits end.  After 18 years of dedication, service and ministry at my job, I became "victim" to a reduction of force.  My position, if I return to it, will be part time and all benefits will be banished at the end of the current contract.  I certainly won't be ready to report back to work on the 7th day following my surgery, ironically, I also lost all of my many days of acquired sick time.  None of this gives one any kind of warm fuzzy and this double whammy has packed quite a punch. 

Honestly, I've been kind of reeling some days.  Fighting for hours with the insurance company with endless phone calls and 800 numbers. That to which I don't think you'd believe unless you've "been there and done that", in your own attempts to advocate for coverage for yourself or someone you love.  Optimistic and positive the majority of the time and had many moments of needing to hug my kids "right now" in that intense way that a cat has to be from point "A" to point "B" in a nano-second. 

Yesterday the diagnostic tests were done.  The fighting with the insurance company has reached a cease fire while they review the documentation (although they already called today looking for more paperwork) for my gap coverage exception.  More irony and a whole other blog about how the thousands and thousands of dollars that I pay for my family's medical insurance still can get you nowhere if what you need isn't on the plan or in the right network. 

But today it doesn't matter.  It's all "done" now.  I feel a little lighter despite the wait.  Despite the wonder of where I'll score and if meeting and oncologist is in my immediate future.  At this point I have done all I can do and it is what it is.  I have been embraced by my friends and family and I know that no matter the road ahead they will be there every step of the way. With every twist and turn, "Jesus take the wheel".

Yet, I've been having trouble writing... feeling like the posts all sound the same.  Feeling "fake" trying to wrap my head around inspiring words that would be read worthy. Trying to push my usual genre of "pollyiana positive"... yet you can't force what isn't there. Quite frankly, it's been a little MIA some days.  "You gotta write what you feel", a friend recently reminded me.  As profoundly positive as I am that I will be okay.  Those feelings linger that okay may be redefined.  At one moment I'm ready to face it head on and in another I'm flushed with emotion and wishing the tears would come so I could have that soul cleansing release.  Yet I can't cry.  The tears won't come.  And, I don't know and can't explain why.  Even running in the driving rain, one of my cure alls for the need for a good cry, hasn't dispensed the bowing dam.  I guess the tears will come when they are ready.  When I am ready.  Maybe they won't come at all.  (I haven't cried since that week last month.  The worst emotional week of my life since I buried my Dad over 18 years ago. In five days I had a falling out with a very dear friend whose permanent absence I couldn't fathom but seemed very possible, and left me gut wrenchingly numb.  Followed by being served with the inevitable but ever looming papers on our home. To knowing that my tumor was rearing it's ugly head to finishing on Friday with a severe reduction of force where I work.  Watching people I love be laid off and other positions "cut" to part time. Sadly, this wasn't new or surprising. Those of us who still remain on the job have already seen way too much of this before that Friday.  I didn't cry then, or at all that week. Days later I did, running on the beach in the rain.)  
Is it better to hurt or feel nothing at all?  Maybe I'm gut wrenchingly numb again.  Yet that hollow hole I felt in the pit of my stomach that emotional week... I feel nothing there now.  Perhaps those tears will surface during my last ever PMS.  (Oh, did I mention that with this surgery comes full blown menopause.) Eh! Screw the tears! (I'm sure they will have their time) Bring on the chocolate and the wine - and look out world - I'm thinking the last period of you life you can plan to be a b*tch in heels!  LOL......  Who knows.  It could happen. Anything's possible!  


  1. Barb, There are lots of us thinking of you. Some of us have had the same betrayal by a place we loved and served for many years.(in my case 30 years)and we feel your pain and frustration. Just know that there are many voices raised in prayer and we're here for you if you need some moral support and definately some chocolate!

  2. Even in the throws of all your emotional turmoil, you can still get to that place that allows you to get your feelings out in your writing and it is really good. I read this and I feel your anxiety, your questions, your doubts. Maybe it isn't the "glass half full" kind of writing you usually do but hey, sometimes the darn glass is just half empty and that is all there is to it. That being said I can be at your place in ten minutes with a nice chilled bottle of wine and top that glass up at anytime. We'll face this dragon down together girlfriend. No fear.

  3. thinking of you xxoo

  4. A million thanks... The thoughts, prayers, positive feedback and encouragement here and in other "places" means more then words can say. I am surrounded with support and love... all will be fine! :)