As of today it has been a month since I completed my last radiation treatment. Since that wonderful day, November 20th, I have celebrated Thanksgiving with many of the people I love most and on December 3rd I stepped over the threshold of my 47th year of living. In fact, I have spent most of the past month doing all I could to simply celebrate finally being finished!
This morning I was thinking about how different “finished” actually looks and feels, compared to my idealized version of it a month ago. I started taking a medication called, Anastrozole, which I will take for five years. Just as my oncologist warned it has been causing me muscle and joint pain, along with heightened menopausal-type symptoms. I’ve yet to regain my pre-radiation energy level or pre-chemo appetite. I still take what amounts to a series of 20-30 minute “cat naps” throughout the night. And most days I can count on waking up in some level pain and ending my day completely spent no matter how much or how little I have done throughout.
Somehow, in my own mind, completing the most rigorous part of the breast cancer treatment meant I was finished. I was “me” again. I could get back to my life. Well, trying to build one. I wasn’t at all prepared for the journey of FULL recovery that still lie in wait for me. This new revelation had not reached my full awareness on Thanksgiving. It had only been three days since I completed my last radiation treatment. So, it was okay that I didn’t feel great. I ate like a bird and just enjoyed my family.
By my birthday, I fully understood there was still quite a bit of road left to travel on this journey. And since then, my mood has been a little less than overjoyed. I told God I am tired of being sick. My daughters kept trying to get me excited about my birthday asking me what I wanted to do and what I wanted for a gift. But, I couldn’t come up with anything. I spent the morning before my birthday at the MVA renewing my driver’s license (I felt super accomplished when I aced the vision test without my glasses! 🤓). While standing in line, I glanced at my Facebook page on my phone and “Memory” from December 2, 2010 popped up. My status that day in 2010 read: “Woke up thinking about how fragile life is and really thankful for mine. Not sure if it’s turning 40 tomorrow or just another moment to stop and say, ‘Thank You, Jesus!’”
I could never have imagined exactly two months later I would have a stroke that would forever change my life.
As I stood in line thinking about the past seven years since I wrote those words, I was suddenly able to take all of the overwhelming pain, sicknesses, losses, and more devastation and disappointments than I can list here, and instead of viewing them as individual events they just looked like one long season. It wasn’t a thyroidectomy, because of tumors on my thyroid gland, a stroke, rehabbing for a year just to be able to be someone I’m still learning, not being able to return to my job, my husband divorcing me, losing practically everything I owned, having breast cancer… They weren’t individual events. It was just a season. And as with every season, when it is time, one season ends and another begins.
That day, standing in line at the MVA, I finally knew what I wanted for my 47th birthday. I told God I wanted to take the year off! I have not worked at a job where I have received a paycheck in the last seven years, but I have worked harder than I ever have in my entire life just to stay alive and stay sane! I am tired now. While standing in line, I was talking to a very nice woman in front of me about my battle with breast cancer. When my birthday request jumped into my spirit I said it out loud. She turned and said to me, “You know what you should do?” I responded, ‘What?’ She said, “Whatever you want! Travel! If you can’t travel far, travel wherever you can!”
I believe with my whole heart God not only heard, but responded to my birthday request with a resounding “YES!” I announced to my family that I am off for my entire 47th year! “Have to” is not a part of my vocabulary this year. I will only do things I WANT to do. At the top of my “want to” list is I WANT to be WELL! So, I decided I am taking the year off from being sick. I just have to convince my body to do the same! 😁 To help it along I have connected with a wonderful woman I met at a friend’s “Pretty In Pink” event in October who is in phenomenal health and shape, a real sweetheart, who truly inspired me! She has given me tips on how to get started with exercise and resistance/weight training, which the oncologist said will go a long way to counter the affects of the medication I have to take. I have also found a nutritionist who I hope will be able to help me ease back into a healthy diet that my digestive system can handle. Right now my goals for 2018 are to become an avid hiker and to go horseback riding! I may even try some mountain climbing (why not aim high?)!
So far, during the three weeks of my 47th year, I have attended a wonderful holiday party where I got to get dressed up and wear sparkly heels I was able to keep on all night and had enough energy to do one line dance, which was a MAJOR victory! I’m going on a road trip for a few days after Christmas. But, the highlight of finishing out 2017 for me is taking Christmas stockings filled with some small gifts and candy to my fellow warriors still in the heat of battle at the Infusion Unit where I did chemo and the Radiation Oncologist where I did radiation. My two sisters, my five year old granddaughter, and I are taking them tomorrow. I hope we’re able to make them smile!
For today, though there is still more road to travel on this breast cancer journey, I’m going to keep my eyes focused on the atmosphere instead of how I feel. I’m looking for signs that the season is about to change! In 2018 I’m looking for nothing, but rainbows and sunshine! Anything else is just scattered showers or isolated thunderstorms. But they will pass. You need the rain for the rainbows to appear!