I've had a few people text or message me asking if things were going okay because I'd been quiet on here. Things haven't felt quiet, but yes, I haven't had much to say here over the past five weeks. After my last post, I think I just went into work mode. You know, the put your head down, do the work, just get through it mode. I knew these daily trips to radiation would be challenging, but there are a lot of unknowns as far as how each person tolerates these treatments, so I didn't really know what to expect. All in all, my body has handled it well. As the weeks progressed, the fatigue, pain, swelling, and overall discomfort definitely got worse, but honestly, I can't complain. Okay, I have complained, but I've tried to keep it to a minimum.
Interestingly enough, one of the things that got to me the most was the daily-ness of this process. My life was dictated by the 3:40 p.m. appointments on my calendar every day, Monday-Friday. Those next 30 minutes became robotic, void of emotion. Each day, I walked in the clinic, checked in at the desk, sat in the chair in the waiting room, waited for the double doors to open, chit-chatted with the tech as I walked back to the small room where I put on the robe, then waited for them to call me back into the radiation room. As another tech walked me back, I would tell them my last name and birth date, set my things down on the chair, crawl onto the table, take my left arm out of my robe and raise it over my head, then turn my head to the right as they placed a wedge pillow under my legs. They put marks on my five small freckle tattoos with a black sharpie, then the machine slid me into place. Three times, the tech would ask me to hold my breath as they checked positioning, then they left the room. As the machine rotated around me through the entire process, I heard the tech give instructions over the speaker as I held my breath off and on for 10-30 seconds. Ten times, in each appointment, I held my breath. I hate holding my breath. If I never have to hold my breath again for as long as I live, it will be too soon. When it's all over, I would get up, thank the nice people for the fun time, pick up my things, go change back into my clothes, say "See you tomorrow!" to the gal at the check-in desk, then walk out.
Over these five weeks, I grew accustomed to the sights and sounds in that room, the feel of the table, and the spinning of the machine. I memorized shadows, ceiling tiles, and the blips on the monitors that told me it was almost time for me to stop holding my breath. I hate holding my breath. Like, I really hate it. It was all routine. So. Much. Routine. The one thing I never did get used to, was the moment the machine rotated into the position just above my head where I could clearly see my reflection. Every single day, I would think to myself, "I just cannot believe I am here." Even after everything that my body has been through over these past 8 months, I still have those moments of disbelief.
Today at 4:20 p.m., I walked out of my last radiation appointment. Hallelujah, Jesus. One more phase, done. Next week, I meet with my medical oncologist to go over the plan for the next phase. Giddy up.
A couple of weeks ago I asked my radiation oncologist what I could say about myself after finishing radiation. Because I still have some work to do as far as treatment goes, I wasn't sure if there was an appropriate label for someone in my situation. Do I still have cancer? Am I in remission? If we're still fighting this beast, do I ever get to say I beat it? Maybe I just wanted some affirmation after all the work I've put in. We talked about things in medical terms and statistics for a few minutes. Then he said, "Basically, you're doing everything you can and I think if I were you, when you're done with radiation, I would celebrate." That was good enough for me.
Today, at 4:30 p.m. I threw a little last-minute party. I invited a few friends to join me, both in person and virtually, in raising a glass to celebrate the completion of this part of the journey. It was beautiful. My friends rock. I told the friends who gathered with me in person, one thing I have become more and more convinced of over the past few months, is that we need more parties. More celebration. More raising of glasses. It's easy to forget the good stuff these days because there is so much bad. But I promise you, the good stuff is there. Sometimes you just need someone to ask you, "What are you celebrating today?" So I asked my friends that before we left. They shared something good in their lives. And while we came together to celebrate the end of my treatment, we left having celebrated new hires, face-timing grandkids, non-profit work, ministry activities, our kids being in good places, weddings, birthdays, and so much more. Then we decided we will have more parties. Yes, please. More parties.