On Monday, November 20, 2017, I crossed the finish line of my final radiation treatment! It was a wonderful day. Much like September 7, 2017, my last day of chemo, I was a ball of all kinds of emotions. I woke up Monday expecting to feel over the moon with excitement, but instead felt kind of somber and reflective.
I took doughnuts and balloons with me to celebrate the wonderful staff. I made a silk flower arrangement for the receptionist. I wanted to do something special for her, because she greeted me and all of the patients each day with a big, bright smile and infectious joy that really lifted my spirit on the days I just barely made it there. I was greeted on Monday, with hugs and gifts. One of the nurses gave me a beautiful hat she made (the one I am wearing in the picture above). I was also given a pink gift bag with some goodies in it and a certificate commemorating the completion of my treatment. I made it through the entire cycle of treatments with minimal damage to my skin and two relatively small areas that were burned (which is normal). I will see the radiation oncologist for a follow up appointment on December 21st. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again.
After my treatment I went for a walk at the lake. There I celebrated just Jesus and me. I thought about all that has occurred this year. It is still mind boggling to me all that has happened, actually happened. Not only did it happen, it happened to me! Various snapshots of the year passed through my mind. I thought about how utterly defeated and devastated I felt as they wheeled me into surgery in January. I saw myself and my daughter with our bunny ears on handing out candy bags during my second chemo. I recalled the complete detachment I felt from everyone and everything on the morning of my eighth chemo when I asked God why other people could have strokes and cancer and they got to die, but He kept keeping me here. As I tried to process all that has occurred this year my only thought was, “Did I represent Jesus well?”
Two weeks ago I visited a dear friend’s church and the pastor preached a sermon called, “It Costs to be a Disciple.” During the sermon he said, “Salvation is free, but it costs to be a disciple. Everything it costs you, you didn’t need anyway.” Before breast cancer, I wasn’t much of a crier. Breast cancer has cost me more tears than I have cried my entire life. It cost me my pride. I was forced to ask people for help and admit I’m not as strong as I appear to be. It cost me my plans. I’ve had to learn how to surrender my plans to Jesus, and let His will, not mine, be done. It cost me some unforgiveness I didn’t know was hidden in my heart. It cost me my hesitance to trust Jesus fully in all things, knowing He knows what is best for me. It cost me my stubbornness. I’ve had to relinquish the “control” I thought I had in my life and allow Jesus to lead, while I simple follow…
Along with the mountain of medical bills I am still working my way though, I am still unpacking all that breast cancer has cost me. In a very real way, just like the stroke I had in 2011, who I was before January 9, 2017, the day I got my breast cancer diagnosis, died. Yesterday, as I was thinking about coming through what I consider to be another monumental death experience that left me feeling kind of sad inside, Jesus said, “Lisa, the caterpillar has to die so the butterfly can live; The seed has to germinate and essentially die so the flower can live. You see what has occurred as one monumental event. But, dying to self daily is how you walk out your salvation and begin to look more like Me. Over the process of time, if you let Me, I will prune away all of the dead things so nothing hinders your growth or progress, because if you’re not growing you are already dead. On the other side of every ending is a New Beginning. Embrace the endings and rejoice in each New beginning.”
For today, I’m holding on tightly to all the lessons I’ve learned thus far, doing my very best to leave the luggage behind, thanking God the most rigorous part of the journey is over, believing with my whole heart I am healed and will never have cancer again. At the lake on Monday, I thanked Jesus for allowing me to partner with Him in ministry through breast cancer, I told Him I truly hope I represented Him well in the midst of my pain and was not a hindrance in any way for Him to reach every person He wanted to reach through me along the way. Though there are more scans to do, many more tests and follow ups ahead, I’m going to do my very best to focus on the butterfly, not the caterpillar; the flower, not the seed. I’m looking forward to the adventure that lay in wait for me on the other side of my New Beginning!