Friday, November 7, 2014

The Year of Enlightenment

This is it! Today was my very last treatment for breast cancer.  Since September of 2013, I have been making regular trips to the hospital's infusion lab to get treatments.  Initially it was for chemotherapy only.  And then in November of last year, alongside another four rounds of chemo, I began a year of Herceptin treatments, a specific protein blocker. Every three weeks I spent a couple hours hooked up to an IV that pumped this chemical into my body.    

The experience was more than just sitting there with an IV in my arm though.  I've come to know the wonderful nurses and staff that see patients day in and day out.  I love that they remember me and we can all laugh together, hoping to lift others around the room that are suffering through their own trials. Sometimes I see friends I've made, sometimes I see others nearing the end of their life, and sometimes I see the scared new faces of those just diagnosed.  I respect and acknowledge this dose of harsh reality that the world is not always kind or just.  And there are moments that I feel completely guilty for doing so well when others suffer.  I feel guilty for sitting there with my hair, my strength, and now having my health.

But here is what I remind myself.  I too suffered.  I fought an enormous battle for my life.  Not one single day of it was easy. That is not to be ignored, overlooked or diminished. Yesterday, I went back and read some of my posts from the thick of the storm, and I cried for what I suffered.  I never pitied myself while I was going through treatments.  However, to see now, to read my words with this new perspective, I am overcome with grief and sympathy for that woman.



Reading my words from my days of chemotherapy,  "... there were moments this day that I have never experienced in my life. And I actually wondered at the time if I was dying. I kept saying to myself, "Is this what dying feels like?", and I have to admit I was panicking a little. ", makes my stomach turn, because I remember the feeling.  I remember being so scared and feeling so alone in that moment.  Laying on my bathroom floor shaking, asking God if this was it, was utterly terrifying.

And then I looked back at my New Year's post, and how I said, "I know this is the beginning of a new year full of possibilities. Without this struggle, I would lose sight of all the small intricacies that make my life beautiful. I think this cancer is God's way of double-checking to make sure I want to be here, like a parent threatening to take back a gift from an ungrateful child. I get it. And I will fight every single day with all that I have, to prove that I want to be here. 

The pain will go away. The cancer will go away. And 2014 will forever be known as my Year of Enlightenment. It will be the year I started life over with a more grateful and empathetic soul. For others that have walked a path of turmoil and struggle, and come out the other side as a better person, you have my greatest respect and admiration."





As I read my own words of determination to win against this cancer and make this year something special, I now take a moment to look around at what I have.  First, I have the most amazing support system of friends, family and even strangers that look out for me, help me and guide me.  I value every single interaction, and I know that's what got me through the worst time of my life.  I have my children.  I'm still fighting a battle to get them home again, but when I see their faces, I am filled with so much love and strength.  And that means everything in the world.  It makes me want to fight even harder for their return home.


My perspective has also changed over the course of the past year for what type of energy I allow in my life.  I have defined not only what's important for me now, but what I want my life to become.  I no longer let negativity and stress get to me like it did in years past.  That's not to say it's not still present; it just doesn't affect me in the same way. I have surrounded myself with the people I want to emulate, the people that know that kindness, happiness and success come from helping others and not complaining or tearing others down.   

This shift in attitude, and my own self-esteem being raised by the sheer act of defeating my biggest enemy, cancer, has led me to even more wonderful things in my life this year.  Four months ago, I met a man that embodies all the characteristics I value to be essential in my life going forward.  He's humble, kind, compassionate, intelligent, funny and, like myself, is a jack of all trades....not to mention he's gorgeous. He amazes me every day with his thoughtfulness and unwavering support. I feel beyond lucky to have this man in my life, and know it's because my perspective enables me to recognize and appreciate who he is and what he offers on the inside. And he has the ability to see me in a way that I am now seeing myself, strong and beautiful.

Who would have thought of finding such a special person in the wake of something so horrific?  I think it was because I finally saw my own worth, allowed myself to be vulnerable, and had a little bit of help from some guardian angels.  Whatever it was that led him to me, I'm so very grateful and happy.



This past year of cancer has scarred me, both mentally and physically, in massive ways.  At the same time, it has given me more strength, self-esteem and character than I ever thought possible.  I look in the mirror and see a woman that has conquered and withstood so many trials in her life, and I am still standing. I'm filled with love, compassion, gratitude and yes, even forgiveness.  2014 is not done, and I still have a multitude of things to accomplish before the end of the year.  But so far, I have done almost everything I planned.  I am many steps closer to becoming the person I want to be.  I am surrounded by the people that I want to influence me.  And I feel like things will all soon be in their right place.

SEPTEMBER 2013 


OCTOBER 2014 CANCER FREE

So in saying all of this, I am officially done with cancer as of today.  Seven rounds of chemotherapy, five surgeries and twenty-two infusions of Herceptin all in a year's time. Without guilt, I am standing proudly, ringing the bell, and saying, "I DID IT!"  No more treatments. No more cancer. That battle is over and every single one of you helped me win.  Free at last!!! AMEN!    




Hugs and love to everyone at the Infusion Lab!!! 

FREEDOM!


And as a reminder to you all:  Check yourself!!  Please.  Don't wait until they say you're old enough to do a mammogram.  Don't expect the doctor to find anything for you.  Don't avoid it because you're scared of finding something.  Every day I read story after story of women and men my age and younger finding cancer by self exam.  And there are record numbers of younger people getting diagnosed with breast cancer every single day. When they say early detection is the key, that means one single month or even a week can mean the difference between life and death for you.  Sound scary?  It is!  Cancer can grow as fast as you can breathe.  So please, stop what you are doing and do a self exam right now.... unless you're at work.  That might look weird.


3 comments:

  1. You are such an inspiration!! So happy for you!!

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  2. This is terrific news! Please do keep us up to date! You are an inspiration for so many. Prayers and blessings to you!

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  3. I pray for all people with cancer that they might find the same strength as you. Congratulations. You have won the battle now enjoy life. Lovely greetings Jenny.

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