—  Ken and Vesta  —

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Shannon’s Journey, 5

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As I’m sitting at my keyboard listening to Norah Jones, I’m looking at this photo of Shannon taken before her surgery, and I can’t imagine the calm, the bravery.

She’s been through much of what she’s going to face before, but much is new. Last time, even though she had to suffer chemo and radiation, she knew she was going to come thru it all with her body intact.

Not so this time.

And yet there is not a hint of fear in her. Well, I’m sure there is plenty of fear in her, she’s just not showing it. That takes a special kind of bravery.

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But having said that, I’ve come to realize her special bravery, isn’t so special after all. It’s brave, don’t get me wrong, but not special. Not special, because it’s the same bravery, the same quiet conquering of fear, thousands of women face every year, every month, everyday.

Yeah, everyday a woman in your town is being told she has breast cancer. That her body is going to be mutilated. That she has no choice, because if she elects to stay whole, she dies.

In the above photo, Shannon’s putting on the same brave face tens of thousands before her have put on and tens of thousands after her will wear.

It’s not fair. Life isn’t that. It’s hard too, life is.

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In the above photo you can see the drains. Just looking at the photo sends shivers knifing from the base of my spine to back of my neck.

Vesta and I were in a horrific accident, because of a seventeen year old drunk driver, who hit us head on. We spent a lot of time in the hospital. We were in massive pain. We had surgery. We survived. But that was nothing compared to this. First off the accident and the pain were inflicted on us in an instant. We didn’t have to go home with results which told us everything we were going to have to go through to get better. Everything sort’ve just happened to us as we lived in kind of a sleep fog.

Our silver lining, if there can be one in a situation like that, was that the accident happened while we were living in New Zealand, so at least we didn’t have to worry about a ton of medical bills on top of everything else.

Shannan, as I’ve mention before, is a single mom, which is driven home to me every time Vesta and I see her, because she always has one of her daughters with her for support. She has to worry about how to feed her kids, pay her rent, keep her lights on and everything else a mother has to do when she’s raising a family by herself.

We didn’t have that worry. All of our bills were covered by the Kiwi government, including the physical therapy during our recovery. True, a single mother would still have to make the kid’s lunches, but in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and so many other developed countries, she wouldn’t have to worry about going bankrupt even before she heals.

I know it seems like I’m ranting about our system here, but our system is part of Shannon’s story, so it needs to be mentioned here and mentioned more than once.

Back to the photo. The white bandage on Shannon’s back is covering the incision and the sutures where the Dr. Janiga had to remove some skin to cover where the nipple was on Shannon’s right breast.

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Here is what was under the bandage in the prior photo. She’s gonna have a scar.

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In this photo, Shannon’s holding her drains. She has four of ‘em, with tubes running into her, sucking blood and puss out. Brrr.

And look at the game smile she’s wearing. It shows first hand that bravery hundreds of thousands of women worldwide wear. It’s hard to believe such a short time ago, breast cancer was something hidden. Actually, in all fairness, most cancer was hidden. It was something people didn’t talk about, as if talking about it might cause you to get it.

But especially breast cancer. It was like people didn’t wanna know.

I remember visiting my mother in the hospital right after she had her surgery. We talked about it for a bit. Then the day after she came home, she put on a smile, poked her breasts with a finger and said something like they were gone, but she was still the same person.

And we never talked about it again, as if it never happened, as if it was something to be ashamed of.

Thank whatever god you pray too, that reconstructive surgery is so good these days, because if it wasn’t woman today would have to go through life disfigured, like in the photo of Shannon below, like my mother had to.

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