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Double Mastectomy: The Day That Changed My Life

In the spring of 1943, the two would be united as one. Life in this time period was simplistic just like Katie had dreamed of her wedding being. Katie had dreamed of her wedding from the time she was a young girl and the reality was it was time to put those dreams into action. She scrambled through old magazines and newspapers to find the perfect venue, the most exquisite flowers, and the delicacies of a desert. Katie knew from the moment she became engaged that she would wear her mother’s old wedding gown. She took it to a seamstress to make it the perfect fit for her slim frame.

It took months for the day to come together, but with those long stressful days behind her the big day was finally here. Close family and few friends gathered at a small white wooden church to witness the commitment that Katie and Carl would give to one another. The little white church represented the innocence of their relationship. They were two naive young adults ready to take on the world with the support of both the living family and the ones who no longer could be there to celebrate. The bride and groom had family ties to the church and ancestors lay in the graves surrounding the outside yard.

The blue skies opened up through the clouds and the sun was shining over the yard as if the ones that couldn’t be there were smiling from above. The church and the scenery were picture perfect. The sun shined down on the flowers that lined a cobblestone walkway. To each of the side of the pathway were white satin dove benches covered with ribbon for guests to sit on. At the end of the walkway, under a manicured floral arbor, stood a nervous Carl, along with his two brothers and the preacher. Family, friends, and the handsome groom waited anxiously for the bride’s arrival. One by one the bridesmaids made their way down the aisle.

After a short pause in the precession a melody began to play. Eyes were drawn to the back of the venue and there Katie was standing at the top of a spiral stair case arm in arm with her tearful father. She made her appearance wearing a head to toe lace gown with pristine pearls adorning her neck. Upon the top of her head was a sparkly coronet that drew attention to her soft, gentle face and twinkling blue eyes. She slowly and steadily made her way down the aisle until she reached Carl’s hands. They both turned simultaneously towards the preacher who acknowledged for the audience to be seated. The crowd silenced and the preacher began to read.

It was on this very warm and sunny day that the two promised their love for one another as they said their vows to become man and wife, in sickness and in health, till death do them part. Through the years of their marriage, they would develop a strong bond. A bond as strong as the mortar that would seal the brick of the small home they shared together. The home was everything Katie always wanted and Carl always dreamed of giving her. It had a wrap around porch, perfect for two rocking chairs and many family events. In this home, they would welcome two delightful children that would complete their immediate family.

The two thrived in creating a well balanced home for their kids Carla and Clark. Sometimes trials were thrown their way through parenthood, but as the years passed of developing careers and raising children they continued to have an undying love for one another. After long days of tedious secretarial work Katie would always rush home by 5 o’clock to prepare a hot, fresh meal in time for Carl to return home to. The meals severed as relief from the cold, harsh winters and blistering hot summers. Preparation of meals was one way the Katie proved her devotion to Carl.

No matter how much went wrong in her day Katie never failed to ensure her husband was well taken care of. It was the constant dedication to one another that allowed them to celebrate 54 years of marriage together. After years of marriage, children’s graduations, and retirements the two established many celebratory memories. The two were lucky to spend many ups with one another, but sometimes every up must come down. The highs of their relationship helped to make the lows not so deep. On a steamy summer day in the middle of May 2002 the phone rang and Katie answered to Doctor Smith who regretted to inform her of some news.

The doctor suggested that they schedule a meeting for the following Monday to discuss some test results. He also, suggested that Katie bring Carl with her. Katie’s nerves were shot at this point, but she patiently waited for Carl to return home from work. Once Carl came home Katie shared the news with him. Carl immediately put his fears away to comfort his wife. The two nights leading up to the appointment felt like two years for the couple as they waited with restless anticipation. On the morning of the meeting Katie woke up with excruciating pain, but blew it off to rush to the doctor’s office with her husband in tow.

Katie pondered many questions in the car on the way to the hospital. She realized that she would never question the test results because no matter what the circumstances, together they would make it through. After waiting in the waiting room for what seemed like forever, it was their turn. They made their way down a narrow hallway into the office of Doctor Smith. The tall, dark, and handsome gentleman made his entrance into the office followed by giving them a sincere greeting. The doctor made his way to a brown leather chair that jerked backwards when he sat down.

When the chair finally stood still the doctor quickly got down to business. Doctor Smith wasted no time informing Katie and Carl, that in Katie’s lab test they found high levels of HER2 that signified Breast Cancer. The couple felt their world crashing down and instantly drew closer to one another to make the devastating news feel less painful. The doctor suggested many alternatives to fight this awful disease, but at her eloquent age of 70 years old and with the support of her loving husband, Katie opted for a mastectomy to stop the growth once and for all.

The breast cancer diagnosis was not the couple’s first rodeo with health concerns. Carl had lived his entire adult life with diabetes and a weak heart. The support Katie had always given him was a standard he wished to uphold in supporting her. In June 2002, it was finally the day for Katie to undergo her double mastectomy. The morning felt as if a snail was dragging it along. It went by slow for the entire family who gathered in the waiting room. Nerves were riding high in the waiting room, when the doctor finally walked out declaring that the surgery was successful.

He spoke of what a wonderful patient Katie was. He ensured the family that she would make a full recovery and be able to live a life cancer free because the entire mass was removed. Carl embraced Doctor Smith as he was overcome with pure joy. After a brief stay in the hospital, Katie returned home anticipating a full recovery with the help of her husband, family, and friends. Katie left the hospital with no signs of cancer, but one reminder followed her home. The one thing that followed Katie from the hospital to her home was a drainage tube that connected to her chest.

She wore pocketed shirts, with the tube placed inside, which concealed all that was left of her traumatic experience. The tube ironically made it’s way back to the hospital, but this time it was not in the limelight. Katie found herself once again in the hospital, but this time at her husband’s side. Days after Katie came home from her surgery, Carl’s health took a dramatic turn for the worse. The doctors at University hospital informed Carl that he would need to undergo multiple invasive bypasses of the heart to give him a chance of surviving an inevitable massive heart attack.

It was no secret that the surgery itself was risky, but Carl and the rest of the family agreed that it was in his best interest to undergo the surgery. On July 8th, just one day after Katie’s seventy-first birthday, Carl underwent open-heart surgery. Katie patiently and nervously waited in the same room her husband sat weeks prior. The entire time Katie waited in the waiting room, she hid the drainage tube in her small pink pocket, which was evidence of the life altering surgery she put behind her to care for her sickly husband.

Weeks went by as Carl remained in the ICU at University Hospital. Carl’s health was like a roller coaster. Some days the world was up because Doctor’s felt he was making progress, but the other days were down. No matter the circumstance of how the day was going, good or bad, one person never left Carl’s side. Katie went on to make a full recovery, but the same fate was not in the books for her husband. On October 12, 2002, Carl Davis Rabun entered into rest with Katie Elizabeth Rabun at his bedside. Their undoubted, never ending love carried them through life together.

From the time they first met, until the last day on Earth together, the love they shared helped them get through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Together they created a family that tells all of the same qualities. My family stays together even when things get tough. My grandparents set high expectations for what it means to be a family. The never ceasing love that my grandparents shared is a perfect example of what a true family is. For Carl and Katie, they chose to be a family and to stick by one another. Whether family be given or chosen, it is best determined and defined by who is there when things are up and down.

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