We'd like you to meet the first of our two 2021 Maureen Clarke Grant winners.
Hi, my name is Stephanie Kennelly. I am 38-years-old and live in suburban Minnesota. I am mom to 6- and 9-year-old boys. I was diagnosed in November with Stage 2 breast cancer. It has been no joke having two surgeries and chemo in the middle of a pandemic while juggling working from home and trying to homeschool. However, I have found many positive moments in the journey. Even many opportunities to laugh. I love to write and connect and have found this to be an opportunity to explore both.
I had been laying in a recliner for seven days since my double mastectomy. In and out of oxycodone-induced sleep. I stood up, ready to shuffle into the kitchen, when I doubled over in pain.
The thought occurred to me. I hadn’t had a bowel movement since before surgery. Not good.
My husband scoured the local pharmacy. Miralax, Dulcolax, Colace, Senna, Senokat, Magnesium Citrate, Milk of Magnesia. We tried it all. Three days later, it was still like the iron curtain up there. Sealed off. The pressure built so terribly that the stomach pain was registering at a 9. The cramping was far worse than the mastectomy pain. I begged my husband to take me to the ER. He called my doctor. I watched him on the phone nodding. “Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Okay, thank you.” He looked at me with raised eyebrows for a few seconds. Then explained, “With COVID numbers way up, she thinks we should avoid the ER at all costs. We need to try a home enema.” Back to the pharmacy he went. When he returned, he read the directions aloud and we both looked on at the cartoon image on the instruction pamphlet. It showed a man, smiling nonetheless, laying on his side, head resting on an outstretched arm, one knee hugged into his chest. We both stared at this image for a long time. Remember, 10 days post double mastectomy, I could not lift my arms. I could not put on my own socks or even stand up without serious effort. I still had four drains, sewed into my sides, bringing excess fluid out of my body. Without another choice, my husband brought in a variety of pillows and blankets into the bathroom, attempting to create a supportive nest where my body could, somewhat, match the man on the box. We positioned my drains so they wouldn’t be jostled. My husband snapped on latex gloves. Before we started I declared, “I know this should be funny. I know someday, we’ll laugh about it. But not now. Nothing resembling even a giggle should come from your mouth.”
“I’m going in,” he declared. He administered the enema and set the timer on his phone for 5 minutes. “How long has it been?” I winced. “Uh, 45 seconds,” he reported. In that moment, 45 seconds into an enema, laying on a pile of blankets and pillows, between an empty enema box and cell phone, I found the depths of true love. The enema worked. We avoided the ER. We can laugh about this moment now. My husband took a photo of the man on the enema instructions. Sometimes, if we are having a bad day, he’ll text it to me. And we’ll laugh.