The past few weeks after my last chemo treatment have been days solely devoted to getting physically stronger. However, I decided to treat myself to a fun photoshoot with my dear friend, Dahli Durley.
I asked her if she would capture this season in my life, not out of vanity, (heck, who can be vain when they look like a bald, fuzzy, baby bird), but out of reverence for the lessons God is teaching me through this trial. And I simply don’t want to ever forget these dark days.
Dahli beautifully captured both the pain and the joy of these past few months, and they will be images I will treasure for years. I was also incredibly thankful for my friend, Brooke Weber, and her makeup expertise. She helped me feel “normal” again. She gave my thinning eyebrows and chemo-hacked eyelashes a little love. And I have to say getting my head powdered was definitely a first!
But, the next big hurdle in this “cancer beating” game plan that I needed to clear after I completed chemotherapy, was surgery. To be honest, after how difficult chemo has been, I thought that surgery would be a walk in the park. And strangely, I found myself looking forward to it. I think it was because I knew there was a possibility that it could signal the end of this very long and hard road.
So one week ago, I packed my little overnight bag and made my way to the hospital bright and early. I was scheduled to be my surgeons’ first case of the day. After approximately five hours, which thankfully felt like two minutes thanks to my amazing anesthesiologist, I was greeted by my wide-eyed husband and concerned parents in the recovery room.
I slurred through some drug induced hellos that I don’t really remember, and my family began to inform me that the doctors had given them glowing reports. They said that the surgery couldn’t have gone better, and they were both very pleased! Yahoo! Hurdle, officially cleared!
So my job this week, now that I am post-surgery, is to keep my pain under control and my upper arm movement to an absolutely minimum. So if your child is having a dinosaur themed birthday party and you need a T-Rex impersonator, I’m your girl.
I have completely mastered the, “glue your arms to your sides, bend at the elbows, and only slightly move your hands” motion. Let’s just say, I am quite a sight. But, what has been even more fun is watching my children put toothpaste on my toothbrush and button my pajama top each night. Oh, how the roles have changed!
But here is where it really gets good. Yesterday, I received the phone call that the pathology report was in from my surgery. This typically comes one week after the procedure, and is used to determine if there are still viable cancer cells present in the breast tissue that was removed.
And if so, how close those cells are to the margins of the skin. This determines if further treatment, such as radiation, is necessary. I could bore you with all of the medical fancy talk but, instead I will give you the results in my own words:
THE CANCER IS DEAD!!!
Yep, like dead, dead. Dead as a doornail dead. The tumor was toast. And just like that, this journey that started with a phone call just ended with a phone call. It is a surreal feeling to be told that you no longer have cancer after living so deep in the trenches fighting for what seems like an eternity.
You don’t know if you should laugh or cry, so you do both. And then you sit in amazement at God’s faithfulness and his unwavering fulfillment of his sweet promises.
I continue to struggle through the continued rollercoaster of physical recovery, which will still take quite awhile, but I find peace by praying Isaiah 40:31 over myself frequently.
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”.
For awhile, I found myself focusing more on the last part of that verse which promises renewed strength and physical vitality. Only recently, did I feel completely hit with the first part that states how this renewal comes to those who WAIT. Hmmm….yeeahhh….not one of my strengths. Patience. But, I see now how important it is to wait on God, still do your part, then wait on his perfect timing for all things in your life. Even if it’s a strong body and a clean bill of health.
Sometimes, things take time, and his timing is always better than our our own.
So there you have it. I can confidently and gratefully say with tears streaming down my face….
I am cancer free.
Thank you, Jesus.
Battling cancer is not only a physical fight, but it’s also a mental fight. Keeping my mind focused on healing, and staying positive throughout this incredibly difficult journey is one of the biggest challenges I have faced.
But, I am pleased to say that I was given a mental game changer about eleven days ago. It came in the form of five simple words spoken by my oncologist as I was sitting in her exam room.
“This is your last treatment.”
(Insert instant tear explosion and a loud, “Thank you Lord!”, from the turban, fancy earring, and hospital gown wearing patient……here.)
After collecting myself and going through a good box of rough hospital Kleenex, it started to sink in that this treatment would be my last. I could finally begin imagining what a true recovery may feel like.
Toward the end of my “drip session”, which is the lengthy act of receiving the chemotherapy drugs that is as about as exciting as watching paint dry, all of the amazing nurses in the infusion center surprised me with a celebratory song complete with maracas and bubbles. It was like being sung “Happy Birthday” at a Mexican restaurant, minus the sombrero, but WAY better! I am so grateful for all of those wonderful caregivers, and how well they took care of me during my time there.
Up until this point, I wasn’t sure if I would need four or six treatments and it was weighing on me heavily. I had fervently prayed that I would only have to endure four cycles, and had asked many times that God would give me peace during the agonizing days leading up to knowing for sure.
I knew in my heart that four cycles would be my course, and there were many signs I felt God revealed to me to offer reassurance, but I’ll be honest, there was still a slight fear that I could be wrong. I am grateful for the treatments and will forever be thankful that they are ridding my body of this horrible disease. But, the physical toll that chemotherapy has on you literally and figuratively takes your breath away.
It has been by far the hardest thing I have ever faced. But through it all, I felt God calling me to simply trust.
I needed to trust in the doctors that they have my health and best interest at heart as they use their knowledge to develop and execute a plan. Then trust in the incredible friends and family that continue to surround me with their support through meals, caring for my children, or simply praying for me.
But most importantly, trust in God. He alone holds me in the palm of His hand and will never let me go. Trusting is believing in His promises no matter what the circumstances, and one of His promises is “perfect peace”.
Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you”.
I trust that He loves me and He will heal me. I trust that His perfect will is at work in my life even if I can’t see it right now. I trust that no matter how hard this gets He will see me through to the other side.
Trust has been the most important weapon in my arsenal as I fight this battle. There have been many times lying in my bed struggling with so much pain, discomfort, and fatigue that all I can find the strength to do is whisper in my mind, “I trust you. I trust you.”
In situations like this, I believe this is all He desires of us. A simple whisper of trust, especially in those moments when we are unable to physically muster anything greater.
As each day passes I feel my strength slowly beginning to rise, and I’m finally able to say, “That was my last day 3 post treatment, that was my last day 4 etc.…”. I still have some hurdles in front of me, surgery being one of them, but my best weapon,“TRUST”, is still cocked and loaded.
So, I’m still here to tell cancer it’s time to say goodbye to it’s final days, and to watch out….
This girl is packing heat.