I don’t have much to say right now except a list of a few things I know:
- That the hardships this year have transformed me in ways I would not give back. I am at a good place with God.
- There has been a divine timing to absolutely everything that has happened. The Lord provided for my needs before I knew I needed them. Whatever the future brings I trust this will continue.
- I have been praying for there to be light in the darkness, for satan to be bound and for chains to be broken…I didn’t realize how dangerous this prayer was…the darkness is dark and the chains are thick. But again the Lord has been faithful and will continue to carry me through this. I would pray that prayer again.
Those are my thoughts on this Friday afternoon…off to radiation.
“Alone amidst a desert in Bahrain, there is a tree that defiantly stands with its roots deep in the sand. It is called the “tree of life.” Its source of water is unknown and none have been able to understand how such a symbol of life can survive in such a desolate area. Its leaves are full of color and it is a remarkable testament to fortitude in the face of adversity.”
Earlier this summer I was scouring the internet for inspiration on how to use up my store of chip beads. I had them in a variety of colors but had no real vision for what they could be. I happened across a design for a “Tree of Life” pendant and immediately had my direction. The image of this tree stubbornly surviving and thriving in the harshest of environments seemed to embody my life. I am this tree. Right now my life is a desert devoid of anything that promotes life. But deep deep in my heart I am tapped into my life source. Jesus will help me not only survive but thrive in this season. There is beauty in the desert I just need to find it.
It’s been three weeks exactly since my final chemo infusion. I woke up thankful that I didn’t have to prepare my “chemo food” or worry about the IV and side effects. It feels good to know that every day I will get a little bit stronger and I don’t have another infusion coming to knock me back down.
I spent the morning getting some things done around the house and putting things back in order. My plan was to work around the house in the morning, run some errands in town in the afternoon, write this blog post…then go to my first radiation appointment at 6:00 pm. Things were running along smoothly. It was a beautiful afternoon here in Groningen so I took a longer walk through the center and the park enjoying the sun and trees. I made it back to the house around 3:50 tired and hot, grabbed glass of water and sat down to relax and write for a couple hours. I checked my phone just to verify the time of the appointment…Oh crap! My appointment was at 16:10!! (dang that 24 hour clock) My brain had turned that into 6:10 pm when in fact it was 4:10 pm…in 20 minutes. Good thing I checked and good thing the hospital is close. So much for relaxing! I threw my shoes on grabbed my bag and was off for my date with a snorkel.
The appointment didn’t take long…10 minutes getting everything set up and aligned and 1 minute of actual radiation. Here’s a photo of the set up Jonathan took when I was practicing.
It’s quite involved. Nose plugged…weird mirror glasses so I can see the screen the nice lady is looking at…panic/control button in my left hand…and the snorkel. It’s not that bad. I actually spend more time thinking about the sensors they use to monitor my breathing and the code behind LabVIEW program controlling it all. Here’s to the next 6 weeks.
Today I officially end my final chemo cycle. Yay! I will take the last pill of my regimen this evening at 8 pm. After that I can empty out my bucket o’ meds and return the unused drugs to my friendly neighborhood pharmacy. Good riddance.
I also had my first consultation with the Radiation oncologist to begin preparing for the next phase of my treatment. I had done my research ahead of time so I was prepared more or less for what to expect from the radiation treatment. Before they begin treatment they use a CT machine to isolate the “radiation field”. The angles of the radiation beams will then be directed so they only hit the field and not the surrounding tissue…obviously this won’t be 100% but they make a considerable effort to focus the treatment. The technicians use 3 tattoos to mark my body so they can position me in the same orientation every day. So yes, my first tattoo is a constellation of 3 alignment dots scattered over my body…I suppose maybe that’s appropriate for an engineer.
I did have a few surprises though:
1. Apparently I have to do 25 doses rather than the 15 I was told earlier. Not a HUGE deal but the difference between 3 and 5 weeks. I will start next week and will be done at the end (rather than the middle) of September.
2. Since I am getting radiated on my left side this hospital uses a technique called “Active Breath Control” to move my chest wall as far away from my heart as possible when the radiation is active. Thanks for that. Basically, they will only turn the radiation machine on when my lungs are full of air and I have to keep the air in my lungs until the dose is done…or hold my breath for 25 seconds or so. What this means for me practically is that my nose is clamped shut and I have to breath in and out through a snorkel so they can monitor the air flow. It’s a little awkward but also not a huge deal. I will just imagine some fish and look at it as excellent practice for the next time we go snorkeling.
I want to thank everyone who has been thinking and praying for us as I finish up this last cycle of chemo. I have been asked “What did you do to celebrate?” quite a few times and the honest answer to that is: nothing…yet. There is definitely a nice dinner and bottle of wine in my future but I am not currently in a place where I can fully enjoy it. Mentally it is nice to know that I wont have to go back in for another flush of chemicals but physically I am still riding out the side effects of the infusion. And truthfully I’m not riding them out very well. It was easier for me to give my body the rest it needed when I knew I had more chemo in my future. I wanted to recover my energy and strength before getting kicked by another round. Now that the last one is behind me I want to slam the book closed on the “chemo chapter” of my life as fast as possible. I am beyond ready to begin reclaiming my life from being a chemo puddle. This feeling of “getting on with it” is so consuming and unless you’ve personally had the giant cancer/chemo pause button hit on your life…is impossible to understand.
A little crass…and I do feel patience is a virtue. But somehow it fits.
However, I have learned that my body doesn’t go from 4 months of
poison chemo –> normal activity in a week. Shocked? I’m not either but I desperately wanted it to be true. Yesterday, the weather was great and I had been gradually feeling better…so (1 week after my final infusion) I went for a 6 km run/walk around the city, stopped in on a friend with a new baby…came home showered and ate lunch quickly…hopped on my bike for a 12km round trip ride to my physical therapist…stopped by a cafe on my way home and read for 2 hrs…did some shopping and then made dinner. Today, my body told me that that was too much too soon and I earned a little extra couch time. OK, fine. I give.
Anyone who knows me well is probably rolling their eyes and shaking their head because, honestly, it’s not surprising…please resist the urge to tell me to take care of myself. I REALLY do get it and promise will be more conscious of giving myself grace and attempting to be more accepting of the process. I am just so ready to feel like myself again…
Well folks the time has come…number 6. I have my last heavy duty chemo infusion in my treatment plan tomorrow. It has managed to come fast and slow at the same time and, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. Don’t get me wrong I am SO excited to not have poison pumped through my body every three weeks. I am ready to de fog my brain and re grow my hair . But it is odd to get to the end and wonder if I accomplished anything with this challenging process. Emotionally and spiritually I have grown in profound ways but I will never know if the chemo actually did anything. I just get to the end, walk out the door and wait…hopefully wait years without any sign of the cancer returning.
When I started on this cancer journey it seemed like running a half marathon/marathon was a good metaphor for the process. I would be tested physically and mentally and would have to rely on mental fortitude to push to the finish. There are many similarities but where the comparison breaks down for me is at the “finish”. Tomorrow I will be done (minus the side effects) with the tough chemo but my journey with cancer will continue in a different capacity. There is not an “I made it” moment and now I get to leave this all behind me. I get to leave this particular physical challenge behind me but the race is not done. I am now thinking a better metaphor is a long distance hike and I have just crested a summit but the trail continues before me. There will be times that are more physically demanding and others I get to stroll along enjoying the scenery. However, I am now on a cancer path and it will forever influence me.
But, that wont stop me from having one heck of a celebration after cresting this “chemo peak”. After all this I’ve learned you have to party whenever you have an excuse.