From an article originally posted August 15, 2012…
We lament often that the last month has been a roller coaster of events, but I like roller coasters. I need a new metaphor. Words simply do not do this summer justice. Jason and I laughed over dinner last night as I recollected, “Remember when we thought our move was so stressful?” Then he responded, “Remember when we shared publicly the stress and fear involved with the fire?” Then we sat quiet, not wanting to introduce Noodles and Company to our gift of tears.
I turned to Jason and said, “Those things were hard, they were extremely hard.” I still look at my unfinished house with stress, and I regularly drive by the burned places a mile up to remember what the Lord brought us all through. It was hard, but we were carried, we were protected. We were walked with by our dear Savior. I often pray, “I know Jesus, you are the only good in me, and certainly, Your nearness is my ONLY GOOD. Please be near to me.” So when struggles come I should not be afraid. I love Psalm 73: I was brutish and ignorant, but You were near. It is all that matters.
This past weekend I had my fun. Loads of 20-somethings, wide open, super relational, yummy food fun. I was asked the sweetest questions from the young ladies wanting to live for Jesus. The blessing of their enthusiasm and energy was really good medicine. I laughed a lot, and made some wicked funny cancer jokes (if I can’t laugh, I can’t live). And most of all I danced. I LOVE to dance, and it’s mostly only weddings where get my groove on. I even learned the wobble. Well, maybe a hybrid Ole Miss version of it. Am I right, Bernard?
Monday started me back to reality in full force. One of my ovaries didn’t look good on my PET scan, so I had an ultrasound where the tech was measuring and measuring things all over my ovaries. I asked (probably should not have), and she said the lumps and blood flow to the lumps didn’t look good. I left with my friend and trusted note taker, headed to Whole Foods, and tried to eat. She said she hated Whole Foods, because we keep going there after we find more cancer.
We then drove right to our oncology appointment, where I was to receive my roadmap of my coming months of chemo. When I reported that my ovary may not have looked good, he was crestfallen. He explained how terrible that would be, he explained how extensive and hard the surgery would be, far worse than a double mastectomy, how we had to deal with that before chemo, and he wasn’t actually sure what chemo would be best. I will call this the lowest point of my week, maybe year.
In this 45-minute period, I could not look at Jason. I had only briefly told him as He walked in the door to the oncologist about my ovary. I had called my poor sister back in Indiana, she was stranded in a Starbucks too tearful to drive. And as I sat on the patient table, lovely with crunchy paper, I thought over and over, This is it, I’m going to die, and I’m going to die in a short time. Later, Jason admitted he thought the same thing. It felt like too much cancer, too many places, with too few options to really find it all. It was not a fun appointment.
About 5 minutes later, my typically melancholy doctor came in about to do a dance. The radiologist told him it was regular reproductive action taking place in my ovaries. It was fun to hear and fun to watch my very frazzled doctor get back on my previous plan. He was clearly thrown off by ovarian cancer. We both kept forgetting things and laughing. I had to keep reminding him of prescriptions. We were a pair.
Then we came back to my plan. He had changed his mind and decided to do something a little more aggressive than he had originally mentioned. I fully support his judgment. It was the day after when the nurse practitioner explained side effects when I grew anxious.
Hearing the laundry list if side effects (many I had been warned about), all at once in a meeting, it was daunting. With each side effect and drug I thought, Okay I can handle this. But as I left, the cumulative list of them all at once swept over me. Thinking how sensitive I am to medicine, specifically steroids, not to mention chemo (which I have never had). I wept the whole way home. I maybe sent a few snarky texts saying I quit this. That I don’t want to do it. I read one side effect that says my pee will be red as well as my tears. I told my doctor I am prone to sickness, or at least I was when I was pregnant. I am now the proud owner of three anti-nausea prescriptions. I think he’s committed to me not getting sick. I hope it works.
At 11:15am today, Jason and I will enter a lovely room where I will receive my first chemo treatment. We have called the month leading up to today as the honeymoon period. Today I have my first 4-hour treatment. Friends have emailed me tips on how to get through chemo, but I have mostly ignored them. I can no longer do that; I need to bust out those emails and make my mouth wash that will prevent sores. I need to look at the recipes filled with bland deliciousness and see if I can find a vegetarian option. But mostly, I have to show up for this first appointment. I don’t want to go. I’m not brave like people say. I want to quit before I start.
My neighbor came over with a card and some press and seal to get my port ready for tomorrow. The card said, Put on your big girl panties, find your grace dress, and get to this appointment. You see this woman truly is brave. Month after month she faces chemo with her precious 2-year-old son. So she can kick me out the door and call me a baby if she needs to, her path has given her the right, and I’m so thankful our paths crossed that neighborhood party a lifetime ago. The best of life starts over a shared solo cup of boxed wine, doesn’t it? It did for us.
My biggest struggle is that I feel so healthy. I think I look healthy. I liken it to natural childbirth. It hurts so badly to push, and when you stop, it stops hurting. They tell you to push, and you think, Are y’all crazy—that hurts. But you get through the pain, and on the other side is a most lovely newborn. With chemo, I won’t get a newborn, but I will get my life back. Well, after chemo and multiple surgeries, but I get to live. I plan to live! I want to live in the midst of this chemo as well. I lived through four pregnancies, I can live through this. God is truly my refuge, and I plan to tell of his works.
Pictures from our eve of chemo celebration dinner and day at the park.