Last Thursday, September 7, 2017, I rang the bell and completed my ninth and final round of chemotherapy. At the beginning of all of this I was bombarded with so much information that somehow I mistakenly thought I was told I had to do 12 rounds of chemo. On August 17th, the morning of my 8th chemo, I reached my end. I woke up early that morning and prayed like I do most mornings. But that morning was very different. As I prayed, I cried and told Jesus I was finished. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t depressed. I was FINISHED. My children are grown. I had done the best I could to be a light for Him and an extension of His love in every way I could. I wanted my work here to be finished. I pleaded with Him and told Him that I just could not do four more rounds of chemo. His only response to me that morning was, “You can’t, but I can.” Immediately, with an attitude, I stopped crying, pulled myself together and got dressed. His response let me know He still had work for me to do here and although I felt as if I was finished, He wasn’t.
When I arrived at the oncologist that day, my doctor asked how I was feeling. I told him how much harder it had become to recover from the treatments. He said with a smile, “Well just three more weeks and we’re done!” I looked at him puzzled. He clarified his statement by telling me my next chemo would be my last. He said he didn’t know who told me I had to do 12 or how I got confused, but I only had to do nine. You could not wipe the smile off my face! I left chemo that day feeling like I had caught my second wind. I better understood Jesus’ response to my breakdown that morning and I knew for sure with Him I could do it one more time.
My last chemo I took cupcakes and doughnuts to celebrate. Both of my sisters went with me. I wasn’t prepared for the sense of sadness I felt. The staff and rotating group of fellow warriors had become family to me. The thought of not seeing them on Thursdays every three weeks made my heart ache. I received and gave lots of hugs. I told them I’m not going to let them forget me. I’m already thinking of what I will do for them for Christmas. I left that day glad that it was over, but still wondering in my own heart and mind if I really had it in me to continue on through the rest of this journey. Inside, I still felt like I had nothing left and was finished.
The usual after chemo side effects hit me like a ton of bricks. I stayed in bed all day Friday and would have done the same on Saturday except I had committed to going to a cookout with my sister, Leslie. I wrestled with rather I would go or not all day until finally I decided I would push myself and go. I didn’t know why, but I just felt a press in my heart to go. It didn’t start until 3:30. So, I stayed in bed until the final hour and started getting dressed around 2:30.
When Leslie and I arrived at the cookout the beautiful woman who was that host greeted us with hugs. Leslie introduced me as “the one who writes the blog.” The woman then hugged me again with a big, warm hug and shouts, “You are the bomb.com!” She went on to say how my videos on Facebook have been such an encouragement to her and that my voice is very soothing. Later in the day, she shared her own testimony of her battle with a life-threatening disease. I was truly encouraged and inspired by her journey. She is the definition of a warrior!
Today, as I am writing this blog post, it is day seven after my last chemo. Other than going to that cookout, I have been in the bed feeling sicker than I have throughout all of the treatments. As I lay in bed today I thought about all of the words I have heard spoken to or about me. Words like, “strong,” “encouragement,” “blessing,” “fighter,” “beautiful.” I’ve heard statements like, “You don’t look like you have cancer!,” “No one would ever know you were sick if you didn’t tell them!”, and my now all-time favorite, “You are the bomb.com!” As I thought about that today I thought, ‘I would love to meet the person they see.’
The reality is that is not the me I see. Most days I am just barely hanging on. In 2011 when I had a stroke and could read words, but couldn’t understand them I would sit in my closet every day for hours and read Psalm 27, because it was the only thing I understood. Every day Jesus would say to me, “I in you, you in Me; forever and ever. Amen. Don’t worry. I got you on the left. (He said that because the stroke happened on the left side of my brain).” I understood that despite having the most loving, supportive family on this side of heaven, at the end of the day it was just Him and me. And that remains the same.
I used to pray that one day I would look so much like Jesus that I wouldn’t know where He ended and I began. A cute prayer in theory, but in reality I need to ALWAYS know and clearly see where I end and Jesus begins. One of the many things I love about the writings of the Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, is he clearly defined what was him and what was not, always giving all glory and honor to God for His miraculous works. In I Timothy 1:15, he even spoke of himself as being the “chief” of sinners. The line of demarcation was clear. Though I know I am a generally nice person and don’t give up easily, all of those wonderful words that have passed through my ears I have sent directly to Jesus.
In this “selfie”, “followers,” and “likes” generation where so much effort is placed on showing everyone your “best” self and gaining praise for it, I need for it to always be crystal clear in my own mind that the very best of me is Jesus in me. He’s the part of me that is a blessing and encouragement to others. He’s the strength and fight inside of me that keeps me going from day to day. Absent Him, I am certain many of the words I’ve heard over these past months would be quite different. Looking from the inside out, the me I see at this moment is very small, tired, weak, and fragile. But, I know I am safe in the arms of the One who is greater and is everything I am not.
For today, I am comforted knowing were it not for Jesus, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13 NKJV).” Next stop on our breast cancer journey seven weeks of radiation, five days a week…