Steve Schappell-My Blog

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cancer and Camping....they shouldn't mix

I never really liked camping.  Oh, I remember doing it in Cub Scouts, and at church retreats.  Most of our "camping" was going to the Poconos, and staying in a friend's lake house.  That was not roughing it.

So imagine my surprise when I married a camper and kids.  They like camping for the outdoors, and the cost savings.  As a blended family, we sent to the shore in 2014 for day trips.  That led to Shari and I going for an overnight and staying in a hotel.  Last year, we decided to do long weekends in June, July and August and camp out.   We like Avalon, and Stone Harbor, NJ--Cape May and Ocean City.  So, we bought a tent that can sleep 10, Queen air mattresses, and other related gear.  We packed up the van, and headed out on a weekend in June. 

This was a new experience for me.  Setting up camp in a group campsite.  Making all our meals and leaving everything behind when we drove to the shore.  Taking showers in a bath house and going for nite mini golf and ice cream.  That weekend in June was a good time with family.

It was a little before this time when my wife felt a lump on her left breast.  She was sure she felt a lump a year before, but during her annual mammogram, they dismissed it as "fibrous tissue."

However, this year, it was different and more pronounced.  She made her appt for the Mammogram and while there, was offered a 3-D Ultrasound for an additional $35 more.  She agreed, and had this done.  A short time later, she was contacted for schedule a biopsy.  They thought they found something and wanted to make sure.  I was a little nervous.  "Not all biopsies are positive, right?" I thought.  I did not want to think about Cancer.  I went into denial and prayed about it.  Shari prayed and, as she does, she trusts God will take care of it.

She arranged to have the biopsy the week of our next shore weekend in July.  This was so she could receive the results by Friday, when we were on our way to the shore.  The biopsy went well.  She had a friend take her and offer support while I was at work.  We packed for our trip and loaded up the van Friday morning with my daughter and Shari's sons that live with us.  Also following were her daughter, husband and their 2 young kids.

The drive was uneventful, until she got the call.  As I remember, it was surreal moment.  I am driving and trying to listen, but not listen.  Shari sounded clinical, asking questions and taking down information.  She was thanking people on the phone and starting to cry.  I tried to hold her hand and say silently "No.  Not her.  Not now...Not her...Not fair..."

When she got off the phone.  She needed some time to gather her thoughts and then she told us, all of us in the van.  The biopsy was positive for breast cancer.  They found a single mass on the left side.  They wanted her to come in the following week to go over the results.  We were in shock.  Stunned.  Silence in the van.  She said not to say anything to her daughter until we were at the campsite.  There was some good news from the call.  They told her about a women's health program in the state of PA for women with breast cancer that could help cover most or all of the costs with surgery, treatment and reconstruction.    She was going to Pinnacle Health Cancer Center in Harrisburg.

We got to our campsite to get set up.  She broke the news to her daughter and then we started to make dinner.  Imagine the range of emotions we are feeling.  Shock.  Denial.  Anger.  Sadness.  Things were not going to be the same again.   I remember my wife tapping into her faith, and belief that this was not the end.  She would sometimes cry, other times ask why was this happening.  She was finishing up school work at a local college in order to start a degree completion program in the fall.  "Why was this happening now," she told me.

That first night, when everyone had turned in for the night, there we were, on the mattress in the tent and looking at the stars between the trees.  We were sharing a set of ear buds, listening to her favorite artist. Bebo Norman, and thinking our own thoughts.  I fell asleep sad but hopeful.

The rest of the weekend included telling other family members by phone the results and next steps.  Of course, there was school work for Shari to complete.  And time to go to the beach, out for ice cream and mini golf.  Going to the pool at the campsite and making smores by the fire.  It was the start of a new chapter in our lives, framed around family, and held together by love.
Now, this is primarily about my side of this experience.  Believe me, I hope you never have to go though this.  My wife does not wish this on anybody.  Being the person she is, she was glad this did not happen to her children or myself.

Thanks for reading.  More to follow about the next steps in the process and the road to recovery.

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