Chemo is the treatment many breast cancer patients go through in the hopes of entering NED (no evidence of disease). Many of us also take a pill for five to ten years after our initial treatment. This pill blocks the hormones that many of our tumors were using as food to flourish and thrive off of. Whenever you strip away and block hormones, it wrecks havoc on your body. I’m thankful I have no signs of cancer in my body. Trust me, I am! But the side effects of treatment create their own challenges along the way. One of mine is bone loss.
Every six months, I have to wade through my anxiety and enter the infusion lab. I nearly have a panic attack every time. I have to tell myself a million times that I’m not going through chemo today. Each time, I am able to convince my brain a little more that I’m telling it the truth.
This shot goes in on the right side of my stomach the first of the year and the left side the last part of the year. It’s a very cold shot, so I always have to sit and wait for it to warm up. While I sit there, I look out into the infusion lab. Some days it’s full of people stuck to IV poles and other days there are only a few, but there is always someone in there. I pray for the day they are empty. This last time a woman was nearing the end of her treatment. Her hair had grown back enough that she had stopped covering it up. I recognized the fine, salt and pepper look. She looked up at me and asked, “Are you here for chemo?” This began a conversation of hope for her. She looked at my long hair after I told her I had my last chemo treatment in the summer of 2015 and smiled, “I hope mine grows out too.” “It will,” I assured her.
The nurse politely interrupted our brief conversation and sat down to slowly push the fluid of the shot into my gut. It stings but it doesn’t really hurt that bad. She puts a bandaid on it and sends me on my way. I’m quick to exit this room. I’m thankful I don’t have to sit and wait for hours for the infusion to drip into my veins. I’m grateful this part of my journey has ended and I pray I never have to walk that path again.
By the time I’m back to my car, my stomach is cramping and my lower back begins to tell me it’s a bit uncomfortable. At home, I help my husband make dinner. There’s this ache that keeps reminding me something was injected into me my body doesn’t necessarily like so much. Within the next hour, I ask Jon, “Do my bones always hurt this much after this shot?” He smiles as he assures me I say this every time. I suppose it’s a small price to pay for being alive.
I stayed up late and it paid off. I was able to sleep without much difficulty. This morning my lower back cries out in pain as I move around and sit. By tomorrow, it won’t be so bad. By Friday, I probably won’t even notice anymore. My bones will thank me for added strength, so the next time I fall down (which is guaranteed to happen because I haven’t stopped living) hopefully, I won’t break anything.
I’m reminded nearly every day of some joyful moment that reminds me why God had me live another day. Finding the joy in all things isn’t always easy, but I’ve learned it is always there. I’m living life with my eyes wide open in search of things to be grateful for – even if it’s a day of thanksgiving for getting out of bed and walking to and fro or for long hair to untangle or for the sun shining on my face. Each day has a blessing waiting on me.