I finish radiation tomorrow (Monday) morning, so this is my final blog post. Compared to chemotherapy, radiation was a piece of cake. It was also far better than recovering from my lumpectomy and axillary node dissection; three weeks of wearing a drain was no picnic. The radiation caused mild swelling, but very little fatigue. The bony areas of my chest which have been exposed to UV rays reacted with an itchy, scabby rash. However, I experienced no skin irritation under my arm, nor anywhere else that the sun has never touched. I’ve been told that the unpleasant side effects will most likely peak a week after treatment ends, then improve. I can do a week! When all this started last July, it seemed such a long, arduous journey…but here I am at the end!
April 19th, six weeks after my last chemo treatment, I glimpsed the beginnings of eyelashes! Visible only with a 10x magnifying mirror, mind you. Lots and lots of fine, super-short, colorless hairs madly sprouting from my eyelids. My eyebrows too, are returning. Oh happy day! The hair on my scalp is nearly an inch long. At a half an inch a month, I have a ways to go. Still, a little hair makes a big difference. I never got used to the reflection of my alien head in the bathroom mirror and progress is progress! After losing my locks, the few dreams I had about growing hair, centered on my legs. Bizarre, as I have not missed shaving at all! This past week or two I graduated to dreams of brunette bangs and long, dark eyelashes….both appearing overnight. That is more like it! Dreams should not be about mundane tasks; they should be extravagant and fanciful, right?
Just scratching the surface, I know that cancer has altered my perspective in many ways. I experienced a battle. Not so much against cancer as that war was fought by my medical team. My fight was in sustaining myself while the weapons deployed to destroy the cancer wrecked havoc on my health, appearance, and psyche. As the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation diminish daily, my struggle is winding down. I am not bitter from the experience, nor am I terribly frightened by my odds of reoccurrence. I am very, very thankful to have caught it before it progressed further and grateful beyond measure that it was not detected until my kids were grown and launched. I am also much more aware of the gift of health and feeling good. It is huge!
What I have gleaned during this detour, is that though we are often powerless over events or other people, we always have control over how we react. Fear, anger, and bitterness are such draining forces. Joy and optimism can best be secured through prayer and faith in a higher power. Handing it all over to God was key, and in my situation, pretty easy to do. Let’s face it, one has no control over cancer. You either treat it or eventually die from it. Though it defies logic, thanksgiving in all things, both the good and the bad, does change one’s perspective. Scripture (1 Thesalonians 5:16-18) seems to understand the human soul better than I. Giving thanks for my situation when I felt miserable was odd, but I did it anyway. At the very least I could trust that He had a purpose beyond my comprehension. Counting your blessings is a stellar way to boost positive energy. Living in a first world country, we have much for which to be thankful!
I look back with a grateful heart for all the precious, generous friends and family that eased my way through treatment. Imagining a single woman doing this alone sounds dreadful. Thanks to a network of caring people and a loving God, I never felt alone. I am blessed beyond measure and will do my best to pay it forward. I’m uncertain whether I can ever properly show thanks for the many kindnesses I received. Please know that every card, gesture, bouquet, word of affirmation, balloon, gift, ride, meal, phone call, text, email, prayer, visit, lunch out, invitation, comment here….all encouraged me and made my flight less turbulent. For the rest of my days, I will carry the memory of just how completely I was embraced when my health betrayed me. Truly, you have all been the wind beneath my wings! Thank you.