“What happened? Where have I been? Why don’t I write anymore? When will we see more columns in Focus? Sure do miss those.” These are questions many people have asked me over the past few years.
Well, I was abducted by the mothership a few years ago! When I returned, I found myself sitting naked in a yard chair out in the backyard. I looked up to see the undulating lights on the craft spinning at warp speed and then, suddenly, the craft was gone! Poof! Just like that. It would have been nice if they had dropped me off in a nice warm month like June, instead of February. I was literally freezing my butt off. But, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of it left! Those green space critters probed my mind (talk about cheap entertainment) and stole my muse! The nerve! I demand to talk to the high commander!

After that what happened?
Well, after that, I wasn’t quite the same for a while. I was closing in on a retirement from the state and the last two of the 20 years I was employed with the government left me so drained, bereft of creativity and so burned out I was down right crispy. I retired in July, 2017 and hobbled through the rest of the summer and fall. I had previously had problems with my right knee and went to see the orthopedist about it because it was bothering me … I thought. The hubby went with me on this appointment to make sure we got the facts straight. “Tell him about the pain in your groin,” he said. (I kinda figured the “ladies special parts doctor would be the one to tell this to, but I went ahead and told him about the aforementioned pain in my groin.) “Oh, that’s your hip, not your knee,” he said. Carumba! “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yeah, we’re going to send you over to X-ray right now to see what’s going on.”

Twenty minutes later I had the answer. Yes sir, that hip joint was bone on bone and I would require surgery on it ASAP. The operation was performed on Nov. 30, 2017, and I got a 5-day stay in the hospital. I returned home to recover through the Christmas and New Year holidays. Thank you so much for the new hip Santa and thank God for Amazon because without it there would have been no Christmas. I have a friend that I have known for 40 years. We are both Aquarians, and scarily very much like one another. I didn’t have to ask her for anything. She showed up in the middle of a torrential downpour one day with Japanese food and a container full of her special homemade chocolate Christmas candy, just when I had started feeling sorry for myself. Heck, that chocolate did more for my pain than the oxycodone they had given me!

I got through that episode with the help of my darling husband and good friends and neighbors.

And then what happened?
By the time I had recovered with my fresh hip 2018 had rolled along. I spent time with my family, attended church regularly and watched a lot of Netflix and basically rambled around feeling glad to be retired, but with not much to do. As spring came around, I was happy to be outside with my dogs, potting flowers, playing fetch and trying to keep Levi from jumping into the goldfish pond every day.

Early in April, I went to my internist for a regular check up at which point he discovered something irregular and sent me to a bariatric surgeon for a biopsy. I was full of trepidation, and the news came on Friday the 13th of all days. The surgeon phoned me personally to say, “You have squamous cell cancer, but we are going to get you through this.” I was home alone at the time and I felt like I had just been shot.

I remained calm, however, I didn’t see how losing all my cookies over it was going to be of any help. I was assigned to an excellent oncologist who shoots straight from the hip. There would be no sugar coating. I wanted to know the facts and how they would be dealt with. The treatment is chemotherapy and radiation. This guy is highly qualified and revered in his field. My husband asked the physician’s assistant if I should get a second opinion. “Sure, you can do that if you’d like to go to Baptist,” she said. I looked at both of them and said no. It is what it is.

And then what happened?
I was admitted to the oncology wing at the local hospital and for one full week was given chemo 24/7 along with daily radiation. I was discharged but still had to report for radiation for the following week. After getting a brief break from all that, we reset the schedule once again to be the same as it was previously for another round of the same thing. I continued to remain calm and with the support of my pastor and church congregation, my siblings and friends, we all prayed. I was on several prayer lists and people I didn’t know were praying too.
I drew much closer to the Lord as I lay in that hospital bed. I had plenty of time to think about the things I had done in life and the things I needed to do. I needed to be a better wife, a better sister, aunt, friend and citizen of the human race. I could literally feel the love all around me coming from those who were praying for me. It was so strong it was palpable. I can tell you, for a fact, that I believe in God. I believe he was with me and still is every moment of every day.

And then what happened?
I had my last radiation treatment on Oct. 1, 2018, and a couple of follow ups with “the team” thereafter. The team being the surgeon, the radiologist and the oncologist. The radiologist told me “Everything looks great. Some cancers are easier to cure than others. We’ll see you in July.” The surgeon told me, “All looks good, we’ll see you for follow up in October 2019.” And, the oncologist told me, “We are done with you Mrs. Deal, no need to come back. I hope you don’t ever need us again, but call us if you do.” It was a tremendous relief, but the hard part was having to walk back through his packed waiting room seeing many people I knew for a fact were far worse off than me. I said a prayer for them and the minute I hit the door to the parking lot I nearly dropped to my knees and began to cry, truly cry for the first time, thanking God out loud until I got to my car and sat for another 20 minutes crying and thanking God.

And then what happened?
Spring came and this time it came with joy! Joy to be free of the shadow of cancer, joy to see the flowers and trees come back to life and joy to see the birds building nests, bringing new life into the world. Joy to see the Mawyer family and hug them with all my might each time I do. Joy to be with my in-laws. Joy to be around friends, and joy to worship the Lord. Joy to be with the man who saw me through all of it, the guy who said, “I’m with you every step of the way,” my dear husband Dave. And, of course, joy to be with my two special loves, my constant companions, my dogs Gus and Levi. At long last, I have regained interest in the things I loved to do: read, write, crochet, draw and paint.

As it turns out, I won’t be needing to call the high commander to wage a complaint against his greenies for stealing my muse. Sometimes, all it takes is a few kind words doled out at just the right point in time, seemingly out of the blue, to bring it back. They came to me the other day: “Please start writing again. I miss seeing your columns in the paper” wrote George Mull, a Facebook friend of mine.

Thank you so much George. I really, really needed that!