Today marks the 2nd year anniversary of my last chemo treatment. Eighteen days of my life were spent in a beige, leather recliner underneath a chemo pole. What could I possibly miss about the entire process? People! Yes, I miss the people. I miss the nurses. It takes a special person to work in oncology. We come in looking healthy and leave looking sick, yet they have faith that it worked and was worth it. I loved their positive attitudes and the majority were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I miss this old man that came with his wife. He looked like Santa Claus without most of his teeth, but he was a joy. He was always passing out something. What a sweet man. I miss this lady that always had her grandkids with her. Sometimes one of them but often both of them. I loved how they were just present. There was a teacher who graded papers. She taught math. She would grade until the stack was finished or until she went to sleep. Chemo seems to make many of us a sleepy. She made me thankful for my team at school that took care of all the school stuff while I was away. Melissa was a part of that team. She was my constant cheerleader and a vital part of my support team. Thank you. I miss the pharmacist that apologized every time Jon picked up my meds for me. He knew better than many just how much of a finiancial burden cancer could be. He was kind. I loved that my husband was there. It was boring to sit up there for hours and hours surrounded by others sitting beneath the bags of cocktails and chemo, yet he came time after time. I never sat alone. I never had to do chemo by myself. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. I actually miss that the most about chemo. The hours and hours of time spent together. There’s nothing that can ever take that precious time away. The keenness he always had. His care and kindness. His passion for protection over me. He was my Prince Charming. Exactly what you pray a husband will be but without the cancer, chemo, and almost dying part. I don’t think anyone dreams of that!
So what do I miss about chemo? People. What you do makes a difference. Be kind!
Today’s message at church was on strength and faith in God’s timing when you’re going through the tough stuff in life. It reminded me so much of a conversation I had with God. I had just been told I had cancer. I remember sitting across from the breast surgeon. I listened intently for the fastest way to get away from cancer. Oh, how I hated that word. Cancer was a curse and I didn’t want it, yet here it was.
I walked away convinced a horrific surgery would take it all away and that would be the end of it. No chemo. No radiation. No years and years of medication. Not for me! I remember praying for the cancer to be gone. No chemo. No radiation. No long term medication. God said to trust Him.
The CT came back, pathology came back, and genetic testing came back. Everything went back on the table. A port was inserted days after surgery and chemo followed shortly there after. I was NOT happy! This was NOT what I signed up for at all. I even remember telling God something along these lines. He said, “I’m here for you. Trust me.” I did.
In retrospect, I’ve wondered why. Why didn’t I argue with God? That’s who I was when my dad had cancer. In today’s service, the preacher was talking about a conversation between two men. One man had cancer. The other man stated something along the lines of fearing he wouldn’t have the grace to deal with cancer like the man with cancer had. And the one with cancer said something like, “Of course not, you don’t have cancer.” When we are walking with God, He grants us the strength and grace we need when we need it. I also found He granted me patience when I gave up control and allowed Him to do things His way instead of my way. It wasn’t always pretty and it was far from easy, but I look at the growth that came from it.
In a few days, I will have tumor markers done, blood drawn, a CT scan, and several doctors’ appointments to ensure I haven’t had a reaccurance. The results to these tests often come 7-10 days after the tests are done. The waiting can be exhausting. But regardless off the results, I know I’ll have the strength needed because when I am weak He is strong.
Hey, Cancer. It’s been a few months since I had much to say to you or even about you. Lately though, you’ve been on my mind. That’s the crazy thing about you people who’ve never had you probably don’t really understand. To be honest, I don’t understand it much either. I had hoped once you were dead and gone, I’d forget about you. Unfortunately, you’re a really hard thing to forget. Every 3 months, there’s blood drawn and office visits. And now another CAT scan. Each visit, prick, loud noise, or X-ray brings a major increase in my anxiety. And guess what, Cancer? I blame you! I started making plans for my future, so don’t even consider messing them up. I’m beginning to go at least a week without someone calling asking for money I don’t have. No one looks at me anymore with that pitiful look people give other people they think are dying. I haven’t missed you at all. You know that, right? You’re not my friend nor are you welcome back, so just stay away! Yet, whenever I drop a few months, a bruise shows up I can’t remember how it got there, when my chest hurts or the back of my shoulder makes me want to saw off my entire arm, or when my breaths are labored for any reason whatsoever – I fear your back to torment me. And then, then, I remember, that I’m not in control. But you aren’t either. And life is just too short to worry about your next move or even if you’ll ever move back in again anyway. So adios, Cancer. You aren’t welcome here! Out of sight, out of mind, and out of body!
About a year ago, I underwent my last cancer surgery. I had felt as though I was a small sliver of the person I once was. But what is life like now?
- I no longer exist. I live life to the fullest!
- I can rise before the sun and stay up until midnight and still function the next day.
- I’m not sickly.
- I sleep most nights.
- I roll with the waves of life a lot better now.
- The sun can turn my skin red in less than 30 minutes with or without sunscreen.
- I take a hormone blocker every day. Chemo in a pill.
- I’m still in remission.
- I live between a 2-4 pain rating every day. I’ve adjusted. I’ve learned to cope. Some days I’m numb to it all. Other days, it takes every ounce of determination I have to get out of bed. It’s my new “normal”.
- I have hair long enough to put in a ponytail. This is a good, good thing especially during this icky hair stage.
- The scars and unnaturalness no longer freaks me out or takes me by surprise. To be honest, two tattoos changed my self conscious.
- My memory is returning thanks to brain games and a daily structure to reconnect all the wires inside my brain.
- I’ve started to slowly, let me stress slowly, lose some of the weight I packed on while on chemo.
- Nothing warms my heart more than hearing from other women about how Courage to Conquer Cancer’s Recovery Tee helped them through their journey against breast cancer. These words alone help me see why I went through what I did.
- I’m not perfect. I never was. I never will be. But “…we also find glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance:perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4). I could have quit. I could have taken an easier way out. Instead, I’ve praised God through the months and years of storms and in return He’s shown me beauty in the ashes of a life not destroyed but restored! He asked me to have faith. He asked of nothing more from me. My journey has been a miraculous trek from believing I was in control to having a desire to be a faithful servant.
- I am complete.
God had a plan. It saved my life in every sense of the word!
While at Casting for Recovery, we are all encouraged to write a letter to ourselves. We were told we would receive them sometime within the year. Today, I received mine. It was weird to stare at an envelope with my own handwriting on it and wonder. To be talking to my mom when I opened it made it a little more special because she could tell I was perplexed. I think we both laughed. It was great to be reminded during this time of year when my job is one deadline after another to slow down and enjoy the small, yet precious, moments of every day. If there is one huge thing I learned from cancer, it was to stop and enjoy the small stuff because it really is the big stuff.
A warrior is a firerce fighter. I’m thankful for the many warriors that help fight breast cancer. Millions of people have joined this battle. Not just women or those closely touched by the disease but people from all walks of life out to make a difference. Fighting cancer isn’t easy. The emotional, physical, mental and spiritual toll is unbelievable. It takes many to help one cancer patient survive. So this is my thank you to all the warriors that help support those fighting the war against cancer. It’s a battle best fought surrounded by an army!
The hustle, the bustle
The constant demands of life
Keep our minds spinning
We never seem to slow down
We struggle to sleep
Find it hard to get up
Sluggish and confused
Weak, tears and blah
Then there’s that
What is that?
Maybe it’s nothing
Too busy to notice
Too busy to care
But Something’s not right
What is that?
Could that be why?
Worry too much
So call a doctor to see
Wait, Wait, Wait
Test, Test, Test
Wait, Wait, Wait
And then there’s the news
Talking, options, decisions
Surgery, Surgery, Chemo
Chemo, Surgery, Surgery
Surgery, Surgery, Surgery
And then it ends
But it doesn’t
Bills, Bills, Bills
Pain, Pain, Pain
No More Cancer!
More days to love
More days to care
More days to be
Not so busy