I never thought it'd be so long since I wrote. I wanted to talk about Melanie's "happening" this winter/spring, but it's exhausting to just think of it! I'll do my best.
Melanie discovered an existing mole on her right hand had changed to black. This was summe 2008. She heard enough comments about it that she scheduled an appointment with her dermatologist, who chouldn't see her until Jan 12th, 2009.
She went in and they scooped it out and sent it to the lab. Two days later she was called and informed her she had melanoma. Which happens to be the deadliest cancer. I think because people don't get in and get checked. It's very curable when detected early. I quickly got on the Internet to refresh and learn anew about this form of cancer. I found that it's not uncommon in pregnancy~ which Melanie was.
They told her she would have to have surgery on her hand to remove more tissue for testing, but not until the baby came. He was due March 6th. It's so interesting how my focus changed, from being excited about another baby in our family to getting the baby here so we could operate and get Melanie healthy. It was vital to me that her boys have a Mother- not just any mother- HER. And to insure that, we had to keep moving.
In February Mel had an amniocentesis, which showed the baby's lungs weren't quite ready. But they scheduled her for inducing 3 days later. On Monday Feb 16th she and Greg checked in the hospital and Porter Scott Liddiard was born 2 1/2 weeks early on Feb 17, 2009. He weighed 7 lbs. 4 ozs. and was as beautiful as each of our others, with a deep dimple on one cheek. All went well with recovery that first week and Will was and has been, a wonderful big brother.
One week later, on Feb. 24th, Melanie had surgery on her hand and a 4 inch cut in her armpit to remove lymph nodes. It was about 5-6 inches up her hand, between her 4th and 5th fingers and about 1 inch wide. Try to imagine pulling that thin, shallow skin together- it was glued, stitched and stapled together.
The short story is that it split- which isn't uncommon- but the long story is that it became infected and we had a battle to save her hand from "drying out", due to the open wound and tendons being exposed. We had a doctor appointment but not for 8 days. On the 2nd day I felt so shaky inside and told John we HAD to get her to a doc for an opinion on her hand. We are all a family of "wait and see" and "trust the person in charge" , but I was extremely disturbed and attribute it to the Holy Ghost's promptings. We called friends and neighbors and all worked quickly to get us an appointment. Our close friend, Ross Fulton, was able to get us in with Dr. Robert Fergueson, a cancer and trauma plastic surgeon, the next afternoon at 4, when he had completed his surgeries.
Dr. Ferg. looked at her hand and exposed tendons and gently and calmly began cutting dead tissue away and cleaning and looking. He told Melanie and Greg that she needed to be checked in the hospital then and since she had eaten cereal at 3:00, he would wait and come back to operate at 11:00 that night.
This was the 2nd of what became 4 surgeries. Dr. Fergueson saved her hand, I truly believe it.
Instead of a simple thigh skin graft to repair what could have been a simple split, Melanie had to have a large section of the top of her foot removed, along with an artery and veins, to cover the hole in her hand. She then had the thigh graft on the top of her foot.
An expected 4 hour surgery became 9 1/2 hours as the work was a little more complicated due to Melanie's squiggly arteries! But it went well and she was able to come to our home in a wheelchair, heavily bandaged from head to toe, practically!
A couple days later we received word that the larger tissue had tested clean for cancer. I can't describe the relief I felt. I had been living for 6 weeks for this phone call. I didn't even realize how much worry I was holding in until she left for that appointment. It was an unbearable hour.
During this time, from birth until...I don't even remember now...I spent many hours in their home, caring for all. I spent a couple nights there, and brought Porter home to stay here more. Greg's parents cared for Will. This allowed Melanie to rest and not be bumped by a 2 year old! Every moment she could hold Porter, I would place him in her arms and cushion him so she wouldn't feel his weight. She got up every 2 hours to pump so she could nurse him. She stopped all pain medications sooner than she probably should have so she could get back to feeding him. Her strength and courage and determination were huge. But we've always known that about Melanie.
Her ward rallied around her and meals were coming in by caring and generous people. Notes, flowers, baby gifts from people in our neighborhood, as well. Prayers were offered in meetings we weren't even in. It was a very humbling and touching time.
Ultimately she healed well enough to take care of herself and her little family. Hardest for her? I'd have to say being wise and getting off her foot! It would swell and hurt. But how do you do that with a 2 year old and newborn, both in diapers?!
She recently had her first 3 month cancer check and all is well.
I mentioned I spent time there and here at our home. It was consuming. John was completely supportive, eating his own prepared dinner alone, coming over to visit and hold Porter. The sisters were helps also, bringing dinners and doing what they could.
It is still very emotional for me to even write about. It has taken this long for me to try.
I have to say this, first in humor and then in all seriousness. There were miracles in our lives.
The first I call "The Miracle of the Underwear Drawer". I did enough laundry to keep John in clean underwear and occasionally his other clothing. For myself, I just kept going. The miracle is that every time I opened my drawer there was clean underwear for me!!! Funny, but true. Maybe I have too many!!!
The other miracle for me is that I am 51 years old and the energy it takes to maintain a little family is huge, especially with a newborn's hours. As a new mother you get very little sleep and your every minute is taking care of or listening for that baby. I got up with Porter many times and slept in the bed with him 2 nights (which means you pretty much don't sleep) and I still had energy and patience to deal with the days. That's the miracle. I believe that I was sustained with an extra gift of energy and patience and brain power from Heavenly Father. There's no way I could have done it on my own.
I don't want to make this sound all about me, because it's really about all of us who love Melanie and her family and were able to go beyond our daily duties and stresses and help serve them.
It was a blessing for me. I don't know how many times I thanked John for letting me be a stay home Mom/Grandma. There's no one I'd rather work for than my family.