My attitude was not the best, and I quickly responded, “I am not your wife, I am nobody’s wife.” I quickly dressed and left the office.
My parents insisted that I see another doctor, and I made an appointment, this time with Dr. R.H. Scobee. After a very thorough examination, he suggested that I use some black salve on the lump for a couple of weeks and see if that would dissolve the lump. I looked at him and asked, “I’ve seen my brothers use this on the cows’ udders on the farm. Do you think I am a cow?” He just smiled and accepted my bad attitude.
In two weeks, I went back, and the lump had grown, so he sent me to a cancer specialist in Lexington. I went to him, had another very thorough examination, and he told me to get dressed and come into his office. I did as he asked with no smart remarks.
He handed me a long white envelope and said, “Take this to Dr. Scobee immediately and do not open it.” I then said, “Well, what did you find?” He quietly replied, “I am 99 percent sure that it is malignant and must be removed immediately.” Here came the smart mouth again. I asked, “Well, where do you want me to go, and when are you going to do it?”
His reply startled me. “I am going to send you back to Dr. Scobee. He is one of the best surgeons in the state, and besides, you will be at home where that boy of yours will be able to come and visit.”
This was on a Thursday, and when Dr. Scobee read the letter, he quietly said, “I want you in the hospital Sunday night, and surgery will be done early Monday.”
I think I went numb. Remember, this was more than 50 years ago. Women did not have support groups like they do today. I never felt as alone in my life. I went to the old Clark County Hospital, the surgery was done as scheduled, and I finally began to wake up. Anesthesia really puts me under, so on Thursday I told my family who had been with me 24 hours a day to go home, that I was fine. But I wasn’t — the test was positive, and instead of one lump I had three, one coming down from the shoulder, one coming in from the breast bone and the one that could be felt.
My mother and two sisters-in-law, Myrtle and Allie, had been with me the entire time since Monday. They went home, and that evening I had medication to help me sleep. I thought I was fixed for a good night’s sleep. Wrong.
My arm was fastened to a board, much different than today, with tubes everywhere. Sometime during the night, I managed to turn to the right, pushed some of the tubes up through the incision and tore my arm loose from the board. I must have been a contortionist to be able to reach the button for the nurse, but I did. The first nurse ran into the room with her flashlight and screamed, “Oh, my God.” The she ran out, leaving me in total darkness.
In just a few minutes, another nurse came into the room, flipped the light on and said, “Oh, my God.’”
Then she left running up the hall; however, in just a few minutes she returned with a syringe containing a very small amount of brown liquid. When that needle touched my arm I was gone.
When I awoke, I was sewn up, my arm was back on the board and the tubes were back. I had extended my hospital stay by several days.
I went to my parents’ home to recuperate and got a lot of get-well kisses from my 3-year-old. One thing I remember about my convalescence was that I was bathing and my younger sister came into the bathroom. She had never see my incision, and she quickly said, “My God, Betty, cover that thing up.” I remember I quietly told her, “Molly, you saw it for just a minute. I will see it every day for the rest of my life.” And I have, and every time I see it, I thank God for it, because without the scar, I would not be here.
Through the years, things have changed. Breast cancer is out in the open, no more whispers, there is reconstructive surgery available, there are support groups and there are different types of surgery.