A Life and Death Milestone

Sometimes your life can change in the blink of an eye, and if you didn’t see what was coming, it can rattle your cage for quite a while afterward.

My life had already undergone pretty big adjustments. Little did I know it was going to change even more dramatically that I could ever have imagined.

“Drastic” is the word I often use to describe what happened when I was thirty-two years old and divorced with two sons. My boys were registered atSt. JohnsCollege, a local military school. They did not live on the grounds but came home everyday. I was trying to give them the best schooling possible.

When I was a little girl I remembered seeing my Uncle Bernie at that school when my family attended one of his school events. The students all wore military uniforms, held rifles and strutted about just like the Army Reserves. I watched Bernie and the rest of his classmates moving with the sound of the band music and it left quite an impression on me. I told myself then that, if I had sons, I would give them that same kind of education.

St. JohnsCollegeis run by the Christian Brothers and when they spoke, you listened. Because I was divorced without an adult male in the house, I felt that a military education would offer good discipline for both boys. Brother Albert was one of the head master teachers there and my older son took a great liking to him and I did too. In fact, years later he was a great comfort to me when I needed a strong shoulder to lean on.

At the time, I was proprietor of my own data entry service bureau. It was a home operation and I called it Jan Rey Keypunch Service. My employees worked in their own homes key punching and key verifying work that Jan Rey supplied from quite a few corporations. This business was five years in the making.

To complicate matters, I had a personal and business relationship with one of my clients and was very much in love with him. We merged our two businesses in one office space but I kept Jan Rey to myself. I ran his office and mine at the same time but made sure my own business was controlled by me only. This was a good thing but when your heart is involved much can happen that you don’t see or understand – or maybe possibly you don’t want to see or understand.  

I was on birth control pills and had been for twelve years. I was told that if I continued to stay on them, cancer could occur. I did take a break from the pills for a year and a half and then continued again. It always astonishes me how you can hear what the doctors tell you but for whatever reason it doesn’t always sink in.

I would have Pap smear tests every six months to make sure everything was normal. Dr. G. was my doctor then and I always liked him. He would take the time to speak to me after each test. I was home one morning when the phone rang and when I answered it, Dr. G. was on the line to tell me the results of my recent Pap test.

I don’t recall if he asked me to sit down first or not, but during that call he told me I had cancer of the uterus, it was in stage four and I needed to come to his office so he could explain it to me in detail.  

My head started spinning and all I could hear was the word “cancer.” I thought I was going to pass out. I think the fact that he broke this devastating news over the phone with no regard to my feelings really upset me more than the appearance of cancer itself.

I pulled myself together and told him I would be there the next day. I got off the phone and sat down. I stayed sitting for a while. I was home by myself because my boys had already left for school. I was going to work but I hadn’t been in a hurry. I picked the phone up and called Charlie, the man I had been seeing these past three years. I told him what the doctor had said and asked him to go with me the next morning. He said “of course,” no problem. We met with Dr. G. and he explained everything he possibly could about the “cancer.” He also informed me that I needed to have a hysterectomy and I had to do it soon.

I looked at the doctor and basically said nothing. I just listened while thoughts raced through my mind. How could this be happening? I was speechless.

You see, in my heart I knew I was going to have a daughter. I even knew what her name was going to be. A hysterectomy would alter everything I knew to be true about my life and would eliminate the possibility of giving birth to another child. I remember telling the doctor that I would get back to him with my answer because I needed to go home and think.   

I did more than think. I talked with Charlie that evening and told him I wanted one more baby. I then asked him what his feelings were on this, knowing I was asking for quite a lot. What I have not mentioned is that Charlie was married with four children of his own. I had been the “other woman” for the past three years.

I understood what I was doing and, while that did not make it right, he had always indicated that he would leave his wife to marry me. His stated “intention of divorce” is what kept me in the picture.

In fact, Charlie spent more time with me than at home because we worked long hours together at the office. After much conversation, he did agree to allow me to get pregnant if that was what I wanted. I knew above all that I wanted that daughter – the girl who would be called Maiteland after my mother.

I had another meeting with Dr. G. to let him know what I wanted to do. I told him I hoped to deliver one more child before the hysterectomy. He was not happy with my decision and gave me many warnings. At the same time, he also told me what kind of surgery might help safely deliver a baby, given my cancerous uterus. He prescribed a DNC with much scraping of tissue, followed by packing with gauze for the following day. Then we would wait to see the results.

I never did tell my sons that I had cancer but I did inform them I needed to have a DNC because of some female problems. Their dad wasn’t in the picture for them and I didn’t want them to think they were going to lose their mother, too.

After the surgery I had one more checkup with Dr. G., who let me know that everything looked good, but that there were no guarantees. He informed me that I needed to retain a lawyer for a living will and to find a new doctor were I to get pregnant. Dr. G. had decided to give up his medical practice so he recommended Dr. B., a surgeon who could handle any complications of my pregnancy.

The lawyer I would have to find myself.

When a doctor tells you to write your will, a rather large lump lodges in your stomach. But I was adamant about continuing with my plan to have another child. I met with Dr. B. who outlined the tests I would need to have over the course of my pregnancy, just to make sure everything was going smoothly. The doctor was also able to recommend an attorney friend of his to handle the living will. 

I had two miscarriages in the very beginning. It had been eleven years since my last son’s birth and, even though I was healthy, my body was not accepting the pregnancy. Dr. B. put me on birth control for a year, this time with a diaphragm, as he thought that my body needed to recover at least that long from the DNC procedure.

It was January and Charlie and I were inNew York. It has been quite a year and I just knew I was pregnant. I thought precaution had always been used but somewhere along the line I must have “forgotten.” I remember so vividly being in that hotel room telling him I was pregnant and asking if he was still onboard with it. I knew he had agreed well over a year ago, but I wanted his feelings on the situation now. I was prepared to do whatever I had to if he didn’t agree this time. He let me know it was fine and let’s just move on. I knew he loved me… I really did. It wasn’t until later I learned it was for all the wrong reasons.

You know there are times when things are meant to be, even when situations are the hardest.

I gave birth to my daughter in September of that year. I was happy she was born in September because it was the same month as my own birthday. Exactly as I knew I would – from the time I was eight years old – I named my beautiful daughter “Maiteland Marie.”   

Three months later, I finally had the hysterectomy.

Even in the face of a cancer diagnosis, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Today, I feel I am quite cured and am so very thankful for how everything transpired. I still make sure to have the tests on schedule, but decades have now passed and my daughter has made me a grandmother twice over.

When something is meant to be, the Universe somehow lines everything up in our favor. In my case, I had exactly the doctors I needed who were willing to go along with my wishes. And I am so grateful to my daughter’s father for allowing me to take that chance with his own future.

What could have been a death sentence for me ended up bringing new life into this world. And here I am all these years later, adding this milestone to my ongoing life story… which isn’t over yet – by a long shot.