C + 8 = eight days post chemo treatment. Funny (and sad) how you start to mark your days as you journey through cancer. But here I am, eight days after my first chemo treatment (and port placement). Fighting. Surviving. Desperately wanting this journey to be over, if I’m being honest. But it’s here – authoring this detour chapter – that I continue to find my faith growing, my blessing clearer, my strength building. It’s here I am truly being formed by the fire.
There’s so much on my mind, and I’m really unsure of where to start. When I started writing these blog posts I did it to capture this journey for myself, not really sure if I would ever share it with others (actually still not sure if I ever will). So as I brain dump through this post I’ll be ok with the lack of how it flows, because ultimately this is for me to some day revisit and recall how I felt in the very moment. To write a post that feels a little scattered, all over the place, unclear and “meh” feels kind of perfect, because that’s how I am feeling about this journey physically, mentally and emotionally.
As I write this it’s a Friday night. I’m sitting at my dining room table with music playing in the background. It’s the first time in nine days I have been alone in my home. It’s both welcomed and hard. I’ve lived alone for so long I know the ways silence and being alone can go — leading to the most beautiful, restful, restoring, reflective moments OR overthinking, emotional, challenging, rough moments. Today has been a blend of those things, and in this moment I am embracing that.
Last Thursday as I put my feet on the ground to begin a day I never thought I’d be journeying, I felt peace and strength. Just hours before I wrote the blog post before this, one in which I was full of every emotion a human could possibly experience at one time. Yet as the sun rose I sat on my bed and prayed to God to please be near. I threw on a shirt that boldly declared FAITH OVER FEAR. I really, truly wanted to feel that and live it out (not just on that day but through this entire journey). Before I walked out the door of my home – chemo bag thrown over my shoulder – my dad prayed. I kept it together. I was ready to go.
The short five minute drive to the hospital – a route I’ve driven hundreds of times – felt so different. It felt so short, yet so long. It all blurred together, yet I saw every detail we passed. As we walked into the hospital (my dad was able to be in the waiting room, my mom being allowed in my pre-op room after I was prepped for surgery) I felt peace and strength. Lots of deeps breaths. When the nurse called my name I gave my dad a hug and off I went. Vitals, IV start, talk with surgeon, brief from the anesthesiologist, telling my mom I loved her and then being wheeled on a bed down what felt like the longest hallway I’ve ever journeyed.
In the operating room I remember these things: very bright lights, it being very cold (warm blankets soon helped), everyone introducing her/himself, and then Greg from anesthesia saying he was going to start pushing meds to help me relax and I needed to breathe normally as he placed the oxygen mask on my face. I remember there was peace.
…and then I woke up in that very same room in what felt like only moments later. The nurse told me I did great. It was over. There was still an unexplainable peace in that room.
As they wheeled me back to a recovery room I felt groggy yet so very much with it. My mom was waiting in the room, which was an added comfort. The sweet recovery nurse brought me graham crackers and a ginger ale, which was basically manna from heaven in that moment.
45 minutes of monitoring after coming out of anesthesia, and I walked myself out of that hospital. There was peace, and there was strength.
As we drove to the Cancer Center I continued to feel unexplainable peace. I was terrified of what was to come, yet at the same time I was not fearful (I know that doesn’t make sense, yet that’s exactly how I felt). A generous friend from the Global Staff at my church met me outside the Cancer Center doors to pray with me before I stepped into the next part of this journey, a blessing I will never be able to thank him enough for.
Check in. Sit in a room and walk through paper upon paper upon paper upon paper of the drugs they are getting ready to put into my body. Discuss the endless list of side effects. Being told you’ll be watched with the second IV bag of drugs due to a strong chance of a negative reaction (but don’t worry they can quickly reverse it. Cool. No big deal. *Insert wide eyed emoji face here*). Listen to what the next few days might mean regarding how I’ll potentially feel physically. Get a laundry list of items I should probably have on hand to battle the side effects. Sign papers saying I acknowledge what could happen and they are not liable if it goes terribly wrong.
Then the PA says, “Ok, are you ready?”
Um, I guess. Do I have a choice?
Yet there was peace.
For six hours I sat alone in a chair with my bag full of stuff (shoutout to the sweetest of friends who put together a must have bag for treatments) — water, snacks, my journal, a sweater, a blanket, a phone charger, coloring books, a stuffed Grover doll*.
Take blood to make sure counts are ok to continue with treatment. Ensure kidneys are functioning. Get a gnarly mix of steroids, Benadryl, etc. (seriously, I was basically high out of my mind after they pushed this cocktail), and then watch as the nurse hangs the first bag. Drip. Pause. Drip. Pause. Drip. Pause. It would take 1.5 hours to get through the first bag. Bag done, rinse my IV line. Bag two dripped for 1 hour. Bag done, rinse my IV line. Bag three dripped for 40 minutes. Bag done, give fluids. Flush IV.
…and yet, there was unexplained peace and strength.
Here’s the thing, I may have been physically solo for those hours, but I was not alone. The nurse on my care was a literal angel sent from heaven, no joke. The way she sat with me, took extra time, explained everything, told me it was ok to be a little afraid, offered me a warm blanket, watched to ensure I was ok physically, taught me how to walk to the restroom with my IV pole hooked up — an angel.
My phone never went more than five minutes without a text, videos, links to songs, motivational words. Never for a moment did I feel alone.
Most importantly, I felt God so close that day. It’s not something I can explain, but as I sat in that black leather reclining chair I looked out the window at sunshine, green grass, beautiful flowers…and there was peace.
3:30pm, and I called my dad for a ride home. As I walked out those doors I gave him two thumbs up and did an air checkmark — first treatment done.
…and yet I knew the days to come may not be so kind to me. I knew as the steroids wore off days two, three, four and on could be…well, brutal. I knew I would be back in the morning for an immune system booster shot which would likely bring along more side effects.
But God was gracious. My body fought in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Were the days to come all rainbows and butterflies? No. Were they the hell on Earth I expected? No. Do I look forward to doing this same thing at least three more times? No.
But despite feeling like I was recovering from the worst lingering hangover / case of the flu ever, nerve and muscle pain so deep it would stop me in my tracks, a rash that started to take over, chemo brain that left me unable to put words together, having zero energy after walking up my stairs…there was peace and strength.
There were hours of sitting in the quiet morning hours on my back porch. There were card games played. There were puzzles put together. There were more text messages received. There were flowers delivered. There were answered prayers.
I’m not naïve. I know treatment two is harder physically, with three and four being even more harshly compounding on the body. I feel my hair getting insanely brittle, and I know what that means is just around the corner (in fact, I spent the day texting with my hairdresser to make a plan for how/when we’ll go ahead and say goodbye to my hair). I know every time I look in the mirror or get dressed I am going to see two incisions and a port in my chest (which is a hard thing — a constant reminder I have cancer). The bills keep coming (fun fact: my first chemo treatment was over $9,000. No, I am not joking).
But for now I will shout my praises from the mountaintops for a God who has not failed me yet. Praise for the blessings of THE MOST AMAZING people in my life. Praise for my body pushing through this fight. Praise for all of the ways I am able to get through this — an incredible boss, insurance (though a royal pain in my ass), an incredible medical care team basically in my backyard, a support tribe that’s beyond amazing. My diagnosis would be a literal death sentence in some places on this Earth, and that is not lost on me.
So while I navigate the less than ideal frustrations this diagnosis means (physical challenges, missing my nephew’s college graduation in Georgia, etc.) I will work harder to be cognizant of the beauty woven throughout. I’ll take in the moments of peace and strength that I’m certain are not of my own doing.
I glared at my dad on day C+2 when he took a picture of me – still in pajamas, looking like an absolute train wreck – from across the dining room table as I was shoving pizza in my mouth. He said, “I need to capture this moment, because I never thought I’d be watching you able to sit and eat pizza two days after your first chemo. I’m just so thankful.”
It’s the little victories, and they look different from every person’s perspective journeying this with me. I do not want to lose site of the ways I am seeing God show up, as are others.
I never wanted to author this detour chapter, but I can already clearly see I will come out of this storm a very, very different person. God, please let me come out of this a very different person in the most beautiful of ways.
*For those wondering why I would take a stuffed Grover doll with me to chemo, allow me to explain. As I was growing up I had a ragged, well loved Grover that went with me EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t be apart from this guy. More times that anyone would probably care to count, I’d forget him when I stayed overnight at my best friend Kelly’s house. So bless her dad’s heart, he’d walk down the street to pick Grover up for me (Grover was given a different name thanks to those late night walks, but we’ll go ahead and keep this a PG blog post – ha!). Fast forward to me being 36 with a cancer diagnosis, Chris and Kate (Kelly’s mom and dad) gifted me a Grover doll with the kindest note to remind me they’d be there with me through every treatment. So thoughtful and deeply appreciated! So off to chemo Grover went.
Published June 18, 2021