- 'More than Enough' by Sherri Hildebrandt is available now in bookstores nationwide and online for $18.99. Books purchased directly through SherriHildebrandt.com include a $1 donation to the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation.
Written April 2014 – published Nov. 2015
WARNING: This might be too much information for some. Contains graphic description of woman issues…
The last four months have been spent in a waiting room. Not actual but metaphorical. Well, some time was in actual waiting rooms but most of it felt like someone had pushed a pause button. Have you ever felt that way? Like life was on hold and no decisions could be made or any big plans made because you didn’t know what was around the corner? Like you’re holding your breath and waiting to exhale.
For someone who has been through a cancer experience, specifically breast cancer treatment, you’ll understand. For some of you, this will be too much information. When I was diagnosed, I was 48 years old and not menopausal. I had menopause artificially induced with chemo and then was advised that because my type of cancer was estrogen fed, it would be best to have a surgery to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes to be post-menopausal. This was necessary so I would be eligible to take a chemo drug to prevent recurrence. I needed to be post-menopausal to take it. So I had the surgery and went through a quick and dramatic menopause hell and started Arimidex. This drug also came with lovely side effects which I have been living with for the past 4 and a half years. The main ones were fatigue (not the, oh boy I feel tired…I must’ve done too much today. More like I can’t drive home because I’m too tired to lift my arms up to steer or concentrate on the road) and body aching (Like I’m 80 years old and hit the ski slopes and didn’t train for it kind of aching). The other one which nobody talks about is the lack of any sexual desire and if there is any inkling, the quick menopause took care of any natural lubrication and the chemo drug caused my internal organs to atrophy to the point of activity causing much discomfort and pain.
You’re wondering why is she over sharing?
Because this is all background information to the reason behind this post.
In August of this past summer, the oncologist gave me permission to go off this drug for a while. He called it a medication vacation. We had booked a dream vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary and my five year survivorship. We were going to visit Italy and Greece – taking 3 weeks to take a cruise and see some of our bucket list travel destinations. The doctor suggested that if I went off the drug for a few weeks before the trip, I might have more energy and less achiness to enjoy the trip more and who knows, maybe some drive? The trip was slated for the end of September and I was to be finished my five years of this drug treatment in April so it seemed like a good time to try this. After a time of weaning, I took my last pill on Sept. 2. And we went on our trip.
I hadn’t seen a significant change in my fatigue level or body aching during the trip – it was better but not a huge change. I kind of thought maybe that’s just what normal 54 feels like! Maybe every 54 year old is tired and achy! But I didn’t go back on the pill right away when we got home. I wanted to see if I gave it just a bit more time, I could see if I would feel better than I was. I did. In just a few more weeks, I realized I could run down a flight of stairs without thinking about any pain and I could go all day without feeling like I had been running on empty. That’s when I made the decision to not go back on the drug. I didn’t discuss it with the oncologist. I informed my family doctor and said I had made my decision. And everything seemed to be fine.
Until November. I began bleeding. And I checked out what everyone online said about what it could be. Except I was post-menopausal, remember? And I have no ovaries. Yikes. I called my family dr. and made an appt. to check this out. He said it was not a rush so I could wait until December to come see him.
So I waited
…thinking the worst and wondering how special one would need to be to conjure up a period when one has no ovaries and is deemed post-menopausal.
In December, I saw the dr. and his words to me were – it needs to be checked out because it might be cancer. It may not be, but there is no logical explanation for why you are bleeding and the most plausible explanation is that it is cancer – or polyps or fibroid cysts. But we won’t know until we do a pelvic internal ultrasound and see a gynecologist.
The date I was given for the ultrasound was at the end of January.I managed to have another period with cramping and feeling like a teenager while I waited.
And I waited.
I went for my pelvic ultrasound. That’s a special little test if you’ve never had the pleasure. Please try it for a good time sometime. You’ll feel like you deserve a smoke after. Just sayin’.
The results wouldn’t be available until the middle of February so an appt. was made to see the gynecologist and go over the results then. So I waited.
At this appointment, the gyn. reviewed my history and said plainly that with no ovaries, one does not have periods and so this must be either cancer or something else. She went over the results of the ultrasound and was not happy. She said the results stated that the uterine lining was too thick and this was not good. She wanted to perform a biopsy immediately and advised this should be done NOW. Her fear was that we were dealing with endometrial cancer and the sooner we got the diagnosis, the sooner we could treat it. So a biopsy was done right there and then.
And then we waited.
The biopsy recovery took some time with the cramping and bleeding that comes with it. I made an appt. with the gyn to review the biopsy results in the middle of March. About 2 weeks after the biopsy, the nurse called from the dr.’s office with the happy news…ahem…to let me know that the results had been inconclusive because the biopsy tissue samples had not been sufficient to do a full battery of testing. I was asked to come in for another appt. to do a more invasive biopsy and a hysteroscopy – dilating my uterus and inserting a camera to take a look around. Honestly, I cried while talking to this poor nurse. This was so disappointing. The appt. was made for the last week of March.
So some more waiting.
During these waiting periods, I was strongly discouraged from any more internet searches and I was told “not to worry”. Sure. You tell me I most probably have endometrial cancer and I shouldn’t worry. A quick hysterectomy would take care of it and I probably wouldn’t need chemo. Yes, and pigs fly.
I have been living my life during all of this waiting. And it’s been okay but it’s like there’s another life going on under the cover of the life other people see. And it’s not okay to share with others. Going through cancer once is bad – really bad. You get to experience the worry and anxiousness in the eyes of your husband, your children and sisters and friends and mother and everyone else you decide to share your battle with. And so when you don’t know for sure, you don’t share. Why would you want to put people through something that might not be? Or share it too early and they could be spared a few weeks or months before they need to know? After the biopsy, I decided to share with a few people. I realized that they did care and it felt like the burden was eased a bit by other people loving and caring and praying.
So the day of the 2nd biopsy came. And I was at peace. Thank you to my cheerleaders who were praying for me. I really had no anxiety. My husband was there with me – his shoulders are sagging already from the weight of my first bout with cancer and he has bags under his eyes from sleepless nights. I feel so convicted with guilt that I am dragging him through another medical jungle landmine experience. But he comes. And I appreciate it to the moon and back. God knew who I needed to marry and come alongside me and love me. Thank you, Jesus for this rock of a guy who hasn’t run in the other direction…yet. This is what 35 years of learning how to love looks like.
Now the appt.
– as the camera was sneaking around my private parts, the screen was adjusted so we could see what the dr. was doing and see what she could see. And what we saw was amazing. And what she said, and how she said it, was amazing. She exclaimed – this is healthy. I don’t know why the ultrasound results said what they did because there is no thickened uterine lining here. It’s completely healthy in here. What is going on? I would’ve danced for joy except my legs were up in stirrups and it would’ve been a mess with the saline solution used to dilate my uterus. She did the biopsy anyway – just to be sure – but said this is good news, very, very good news.
So now we’re waiting again.
For the official biopsy results. The appt. is for middle of April. Part of me is still waiting to exhale. I can’t believe it’s true, that’s it’s okay to get on with life. So many decisions have been on the back burner waiting to see what the outcome will be. I feel like I’ve been living with one foot in the grave. And that’s not okay. Spring is coming and I am determined to live life again.
In the past few months, I’ve been told by several people about how my book has impacted their lives or the lives of people they know. Not all of this is positive. And it’s knocked the legs out from under me. Tomorrow is Run for the Cure 2014 and I want to embrace this experience to the fullest. I want to celebrate how precious it is to be at this event AGAIN! In order to do this, I need to process on paper (yeah, I know, this isn’t paper) – which is how I do my processing the best. Kind of a cleansing before the communion – some of you will get this.
I’m going to explore the one story that has touched me the most. Someone told me about a woman who had read my book and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is no longer with us. I was told she had refused any treatment. She said she had read my book and decided she didn’t want to go through that and didn’t want to put her family through it. So I’m trying to figure this out. Do I carry that weight on my shoulders – is it mine to carry?
I don’t think so. This could be something to debate. My intention in writing the book was never, ever to have this happen. This hurts my heart and I wish for this woman’s family that she had not chosen this path.
I need to explain –
My intention in writing the book was to tell my story – unembellished and honest; It was from my perspective (with the addition of my mother’s and my daughter’s). It’s what I went through. BUT and that’s a very big BUT…I’M HERE. I’m doing life!
I wanted to encourage other people who were going through tough situations to hang in there, keep on fighting and with God, all things are possible.
Even if it means the alternative to living – you’ve done what you could humanly do and by faith, leave the rest to God.
So please, anyone who got that twisted message from reading my book. My humblest apologies. I don’t want to hear any other stories of this happening.
Tomorrow is our 6th Run for the Cure. I missed the 5th, last year, because we were celebrating my 5 year survivourship by crossing off a bucket list dream – visiting Italy and Greece and taking a Mediterranean cruise. Yay for doing Life! I’m planning to do the walk tomorrow with my head held high, probably with some tears and that’s okay, with my daughter who has walked the journey with me, a granddaughter who was born in the middle of my treatment year and my husband who has held my hand, cheered me on and is still walking beside me every day. There are other precious cheerleaders who I love and will be making up our team – Remission Accomplished. I’m so very happy to be here and I’ll be joining my fellow sister survivours in a sea of pink t-shirts. What a gift.
I have had the opportunity to speak at two separate Ladies Spring Teas during April 2013. They were in different locations in southern Manitoba. And I am overwhelmed.
Both evenings were remarkable for different reasons.
The event at the beginning of April was at the church my parents help to start in Morris, Manitoba. I grew up there, was baptized there, got married there, ministered there, and then left the community. I hadn’t been back for a very, very long time. And yet, I was welcomed like a queen. I was absolutely thrilled and humbled at the same time. What a precious evening of seeing friends and family and reconnecting with my “old” life. The connections we make are timeless. Many of my friends hadn’t changed much at all. I came away with a new perspective. And they say you can’t go back… I don’t know who “they” are but I think I proved them wrong!
The second event was a few days ago in the tiny hamlet of New Bothwell. I lived 2 miles away for over 20 years and it blew me away that there were so many wonderful women so close to me and I had never met them. We moved away from here last summer and again, here I was, coming back. The remarkable thing about this evening was how many women came! I looked out over the church full of women and wasn’t sure if I would upchuck my supper. I took a deep breath and dove in. What else was I going to do??? It went really really well, in my humble opinion, and I could tell by the expressions and response that women were blessed by my story of God’s faithfulness. It was pretty cool to see the organizers scrambling to set up more tables and chairs for the unexpected numbers of women. One woman told me they had never ever had so many women out for a Ladies Night Out. Yay! What an awesome problem to have!
The other remarkable thing is that I RAN OUT OF BOOKS!
Yes, you heard me.
This hasn’t happened to me before.
The reason it’s remarkable is because as I was packing up to speak at this event, I prayed and said to God – “I did my part in writing this book and here they sit on my shelf gathering dust. Could You please do what You can do and get these into the hands of the people who You think should be reading it?”
So I packed more books than I normally would take to a speaking engagement. I had just told my sister that I only take a few books because people come for the talk, not for the book. I usually take back most of the books I haul in and out of my car and it’s disappointing. So I packed a few extra in good faith.
And the end result was I UNDERESTIMATED GOD!
It’s such an overwhelming feeling to know you’ve been used by God. It’s hard to explain but you just know that you have impacted and hopefully encouraged the lives of others by what you’ve said or done in Jesus’ name.
Thank you, Lord for showing up at these events. I give you the praise and honour.
Hey – it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been quiet because I thought I had nothing of any substance to write about. And then I realized it’s because I’m living a normal life again. Not that normal life isn’t exciting – but the twists and turns of a drama filled life is way more exciting. I’m enjoying the calm. Or at least calm patches 🙂
The truth of the matter is that our lives have been turned upside down since moving last summer. We are in the midst of house renovations, meeting new neighbours, figuring out where to buy groceries, and where to go to church. I’ve been looking for a job closer to our new home and was busy with fun stuff like going through major dental work and cataract surgery – both side effects of Arimidex (the drug I’m still taking to ensure I don’t have a cancer recurrence).
And since moving, we are testing old friendships to figure out who remains and who is loyal after leaving our church family of twenty+ years. You’d think cancer was a good test, eh? There are many who care and love you during a health battle in a church family – the politics are of no significance when life and death are on the line. But when you choose to leave and move out of the community, who sticks with you and continues to maintain communication? It’s been interesting and we love the people who have just been dropping in for coffee when they are in the neighbourhood. Consider that an invitation.
I thought my “author” days were over. Book sales have dwindled – my last royalty check from the publisher was $1.57! And I felt like my story wasn’t newsworthy or current anymore. My boxes of books sit on a shelf in the office collecting dust.
And then we took a trip to Cuba.
There were so many God opportunities at the resort where we stayed. So many times I was able to encourage others with my story and crumble walls and soften hearts. The reality of living life is so fresh and real when I get away from “normal” and realize what a gift I’ve been given – to not just enjoy life but meet people from all over the world. I can encourage others who have their own story – some are in a dark place because of relationships gone bad, or running away from tough situations and turning to a whole lot of alcohol (yes, this was an all-inclusive!) to ease their pain. When the walls come down, I can give them a shoulder to cry on and encouragement to keep going in their own life journey.
When we arrived home from our vacation last week, I got a phonecall and was asked to speak at an upcoming ladies spring tea. So I guess it isn’t quite done yet. I’m excited to be able to share my story – it’s been a while and I’ll certainly need to rewrite what I’ve been sharing in the past. Because God isn’t finished with me yet! He spoke to me loud and clear this past week when I went for my regular 6 month check up with my Breast Cancer surgeon. The ball of puky fear in my stomach returned while sitting in the waiting room. It stares you in the face when you take off “normal” in the office and put on the blue paper gown. But again, it’s all clear and I can breathe “normally” again.
Take nothing for granted – life is so precious and fragile. Treat each other with love.
My daughter living out in Alberta phoned today with some exciting news. One of her friends called her to ask if her mom had written a book. She let her know that yes, her mom wrote a book. This friend was standing in a book store beside a stack of books with my picture on it. We had been visiting our children in Alberta a few weeks ago and attended their church. This friend of hers had been sitting in our row and at the beginning of the service my daughter introduced us. Now she recognized my picture and had to call Jessica to confirm that the author of this book was her mother. There was also a sign on the table beside the books that said this was the book of the month for a local book club. How exciting! I would love to be a fly on the wall listening into the discussions at that book club! It’s so gratifying to know God is still using the book in places and with people I have no knowledge of. And sometimes it’s really nice to find out too.
Well, this year was a bit different than the previous ones. Here’s how:
– This year we ticked off the 5 year milestone walk – WOOHOO!!!
– I was featured in the Winnipeg Community Newspapers. I told my story briefly and why our family does this walk every year – and of course, shamelessly flogged my book 🙂
– This year our team was made up of friends more than family and that hurt my heart. I missed having my other children there with us.
– The venue was changed. It wasn’t bad just different.
– I managed to walk 3.5 km this year/. For some of you, this won’t impress you. For the ones who know how I struggle with the side effects of the chemo drug I’m still taking, and know that for the past two years I’ve only walked the 1 km and turned back…well, it’s an accomplishment. I’m feeling it now, but it was worth every step.
So that’s why this year was different. It was emotional for me again as I walked with my husband and my oldest daughter and granddaughter and the rest of the team. I’m so grateful for life! Tears are okay.
Camping season is winding down out at our favourite summer getaway. Every year we have new summer neighbours and this year we met a wonderful couple who braved the elements in a pop up tent trailer. We made our introductions at the beginning of the camping season and she was wearing a Relay for Life shirt at our first meeting. I asked her about it and she told me that she had been a Breast Cancer survivor for many years. We talked and shared just a bit about our lives. All polite introductions.
Through the summer, we managed to avoid each other. Not on purpose. But they were out the weekends we weren’t and we were out when they weren’t.
This past weekend, we got our act together and were both out at the same time and both without other company. When they arrived on Saturday afternoon, my husband and I were sitting outside enjoying a cup of coffee in the sunshine. They stopped to say hi. I could tell something was bothering her. She was usually happy and cheerful but this was a sad woman standing in front of us. I asked if she was okay. She told me that she had been to 3 funerals that week and she just needed time at the lake to recuperate and process. And she walked away.
I knew she needed a hug. But I didn’t even really know her. Is it appropriate to hug complete strangers?
So the next day, I was washing dishes and looked out my window and saw this lady sitting by her campfire. I felt the nudge. I argued, “You want me to do what? You’re kidding! I don’t even know her.” I waited. I looked out again. She was still sitting there. I dried my last dish and stood there watching her. I knew what I needed to do.
She looked up as I walked towards her. I simply said, “Yesterday when you told me about your week, I knew you needed a hug and I didn’t give you one. That was wrong of me. Would you accept a hug now from a stranger?” She said she would. So we hugged and I knew she was battling something pretty significant. We continued talking and she told me that all 3 of the funerals were women who had been battling breast cancer. One of the women had been her paddling partner for her Dragon Boat racing team. I felt like my insides were crumbling. The reality of the fragility of life. I didn’t want to hear it. But I stayed. I knew that the processing I had been doing in the past few weeks had not been in vain as we shared together how cancer had changed us. The beauty of it is that she is also a believer in the faithfulness of God and how He has walked every inch of this journey with her.
And even in the terror of knowing we could be next for a recurrence, we have the assurance that come what may, He can give us the peace and the strength we need to face it.
So we’re not strangers anymore. We wiped our tears and hugged and exchanged contact information.
Sisterhood of the Breast Cancer Pants (?).
Yesterday was one of those days. I know that others who have gone through life/death experiences will understand. And it happened at Tinkertown. I hadn’t had one of these for a while and I was really hoping that I wasn’t settling into a “normal” life again. Some things happened in the past few weeks that were unsettling and eye opening again – one of them being the passing of the mother of a good friend of mine. She had been diagnosed just before I was and had been battling with breast cancer since then. I followed her treatment from a distance and when I heard she had lost the fight, and gone home, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Something like this can have a profound effect on a survivor. One fellow BC survivor said every once in a while something comes along when your false sense of well-being is devastated and you realize again how fragile life is.
So yesterday, at Tinkertown, my 3 yr old granddaughters were riding on the Merry-go-round. I was watching them and as they came around and I saw the joy and thrill of the experience on their faces, I had that overwhelming sense of appreciation for life. There was no holding back the tears. It came in a swell from deep inside. I was filled with such a thankfulness for the gift of being able to be there in that moment. My daughters stood beside me as we hugged and realized together how precious this experience was.
Congratulations to three Word Alive Press Manitoba authors who were recently mentioned in the Winnipeg Free Press!!
Help put Manitobans On the Same Page
“Ted Hull, a Winnipeg consultant to churches and charities, won a national book prize this month in the category of Christian leadership for his book A Guide to Governing Charities: Success in the Boardroom Starts with Asking the Right Questions (Word Alive Press).
Hull was one of several Manitobans honoured in the 24th annual Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Awards.
Manitobans receiving awards of merit in other book categories were…Sherri Hildebrandt of Landmark for More Than Enough: My Breast Cancer Story (Word Alive Press)…and M.D. Meyer of Norway House, were honoured for magazine articles or contributions to anthologies.”
At Word Alive Press, we are so excited to share this success with you, our local authors!