Ring that Bell!
I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances – Martha Washington
It's November 22, 2017, I have my last chemo today. Let me write that appropriately: I HAVE MY LAST CHEMO TODAY! It’s finally here! When I began my journey with chemo on July 12th – November 22nd seemed light years away. How was I ever going to survive this? When I think back at when I first began my treatment I had so many emotions. Fear was prevalent. Fear of the unknown was killing me. What was the actual process of administering chemo? How would it feel? Would inserting the needle into my port hurt? How would my body handle the chemicals being put in my body? How will my body handle the side effects? Ugh – the side effects! Will I be violently ill? How will I feel losing my hair? Will I lose weight? Will I lose my finger nails, eyelashes, eyebrows? Just how much hair will I lose? Will I experience neuropathy? Will I mentally be able to handle something that seems so overwhelming?
And then through all of this – I have my son’s wedding. Will I be able to attend? Will I feel well enough to enjoy it?I find myself overcome with so many emotions today. I woke up crying. A little bit of me is sad and angry that I had to take this journey. I mourn for the old me, I mourn for my hair, I mourn for my body which has been cut and scarred, I mourn for the time when I thought I was done with cancer and life seemed a little bit more carefree. I mourn for the journey yet to come. Eventually those sad, angry tears turned to joy realizing how far I have come. How much I've accomplished.
The fears I started with are long gone. I’ve learned that apprehension is worse than reality. I’ve experienced the “red devil” and survived. It doesn’t hurt when the needle goes in the port – thank you numbing cream! I didn’t feel the chemo going into my system. I never once threw up. I gained weight (thank you steroids!). I lost all my hair – everywhere! I didn’t lose my fingernails. I have neuropathy in one finger (appropriately my middle finger) and two toes. I attended my son’s wedding (albeit with no taste buds and no hair) but I was there and enjoyed every precious moment of it.
I’ve survived chemo. I have experienced debilitating nausea, praying on those days just to get through. Constantly reminding myself that this is just temporary. That the side effects were something I signed up for and a part of my healing process. That I’m grateful to be able to have chemo.
I was watching television last night and a commercial came on for Neulasta (a drug given to help build your immune system after intense chemo). Bob looked over and tears were streaming down my face. He asked me what was wrong and I said I can’t believe I went through this. This has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to experience. I look back on the days where I would say to Bob, “I’m so tired of feeling nauseous and exhausted - I can’t wait to feel good again”. And I’m almost there. I will have my last chemo today and I’ll be tired and slightly nauseous. My taste buds will still be gone but it’s all temporary. In next few weeks I’m hoping to get some of my old self back. How great will that be?!? I’m lucky enough to have the month of December “off” before I begin my next phase of treatment and I’m incredibly thankful for it. What a holiday it will be for my family!
Even though chemo has been difficult, it has given me so many precious gifts. I come away from this a changed person. One who has grown, one who has learned once again just how precious life is, one who has learned I’m stronger than I thought and that a sense of humor can get me through anything. I chose to look at this journey in gratitude (warts and all) for the chance at a long life. I have the gift of an incredible husband who has been with me through it all especially for my chemo treatments; sitting by my side, giving me his energy and strength to cling on to. A family who has been incredibly supportive and loving. Friends and even people I haven’t known who have cheered me on in my journey. I’ve had an incredible oncologist to help me navigate my way through this. My nurses and aides – where do I start? I knew them before when I volunteered but during chemo have gotten to really know each and every one of them. I’ve learned about their lives, their careers, watched their commitment to helping people like me going through a difficult journey. During my visits they’ve taken me in hand and made me feel comfortable (love my warm blankets!), safe and even made me laugh. My chemo treatments were enjoyable because of them. They are truly angels on earth.
I’ve adjusted to not having hair and I don’t cringe anymore when I look at my body in the mirror. I’ve completing the toughest part of the process thus far and I survived. I think I may have even thrived because of all the love and support I have felt. Looking back today, yes it was difficult but not as difficult as I imagined. As I have said throughout – it was “doable”. My life continued despite the chemo, I lived and felt joy. So today, when I go for my last chemo with my husband and children by my side, sadness will be gone and my heart will be filled with love and gratitude. Love for all those who have been with me on this journey and gratitude that I was given this journey in order to have a life. I still have more to go on my journey with the Big “C” but today I feel like I’ve just climbed the highest mountain and I’m standing at the top. So when I’m done with my treatment today and as many have done before me – I will proudly “ring the bell” to signify the end of my chemo treatments. I DID IT!!! Today is a great day!!!