I'm going to dub today Thankful Tuesday.
(Before I get all sentimental and philosophical, I'd like to mention that I wrote this before I waited and waited and waited for Dr. H today. My afternoon was not much fun and I'm glad I got all of this thankfulness stuff out before I got stressed and annoyed!)
I spent all morning yesterday crying from the migraine pain and then all afternoon fighting the nausea that the migraine and pain meds brought on. I don't know what causes my headaches and I hate them with a passion, especially ones like that. However, I know they are temporary. Most often they are helped with pain medication, massage, walking, sleep or a shower, or some combination of all of those. As I reclined on the couch all day feeling low, I realized that my sweet friend A has felt exactly like that (or worse) for months and months, and hers is not temporary. She doesn't have a lot of time left to be a mom to her three little cowboys....what do I have to complain about?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 40 years old. After "seeing" my BFF go through this exact same thing at almost the exact same age, I never in a million years thought I'd follow in her footsteps. Knowing that the sister of my heart had been through every test, every treatment and every surgery I had to face was such a comfort to me.... there was at least one person in my life who not only loves me but knows exactly what I'm going through every step of the way.
The one thing that scared me more than anything else was chemo, and when I found out I was going to be given the harshest chemo regimen, there was a tiny part of me that wanted to refuse. Chemo makes you sick, it takes your hair, it can do damage to your heart, it wears you down. But you know what? I not only survived, I handled it way better than I could have ever imagined. Was it fun? Heck no. But so many women had it so much worse. I spent one evening in the emergency room. My sister-in-law spent days hospitalized after each treatment. My friend's eight year old daughter is going through chemo right now in Canada and her treatment calls for a week in the hospital at a time for chemo..... and radiation at the same time. This sweet girl is K's age. Losing my hair and my taste for diet coke doesn't seem like a high price to pay for saving my life.
I was so emotional at the idea of losing my hair. I spent hours and hours researching cold caps and hundreds of dollars in an attempt to save my hair by using the caps. I tried, but they didn't work, and you know what? The world didn't end. I was bald, I wore hats and wigs and bandanas and hated every minute.... but I got through it. I look in the mirror now and I see a stranger with short hair that sticks out in every direction who looks nothing like the me I'm used to.... but it's the new, cancer-free me. Did you know chemo comes with a 6% risk of permanent hair loss? While I hate my super short hair, I could still have NO hair.....
I've heard horror stories about radiation. Most people say it's a walk in the park compared to chemo. Ok, I made it through chemo relatively unscathed... so I can do this, right? Then I see pictures of bright red, peeling skin and people needing ice and percocet to control the pain toward the ends of rads and my whole body cringes. More than six weeks of daily Monday through Friday appointments sounds daunting. But you know what? I have two.... TWO.... radiation treatments left. My skin is a little itchy and under my arm turned dark, but there is no skin damage and my radiation oncologist was once again surprised when he saw me yesterday. "Your skin is doing very well" is what I've heard almost every day. I've made it through six weeks of daily radiation ..... two more to go and I will be finished with 267 days of active treatment.
Along the way down this dark, long and winding road of surviving cancer I've met some incredible people. My online Bellas have helped me through some rough patches with their love, wisdom and experience. One of them posted the other day about feeling a little guilty because she "only" needed surgery for her breast cancer - so it seemed to her that she got off easy compared to what some of us other women have had to endure. While my treatment has been about as aggressive and comprehensive as it could possibly be, I can relate to her, because just about every day I think "this could have been so much worse". I don't want to jinx myself because I know I will look over my shoulder for the rest of my life, but no matter what this stupid cancer has thrown at me, I've managed to get through it with more than a little help from my friends (and family).
Another of my online groups, my January surgery sisters, are always posting about silver linings. Going through all of this, dealing with cancer and losing body parts and residual effects from chemo....you find you have a lot to complain about. But I wanted to write this post because no matter how bad things get (and with cancer it can get pretty bad), there are always silver linings. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find them, and sometimes they are shining brightly right in front of you, but they are always there.
If there's one lesson I want to take away from kicking cancer's ass, it's to always, always look for the silver lining.