Last time I wrote it was to announce that I was in remission. So much of life has happened since that last blog post:
- I have gained a son-in-law! Yes! We did a wedding 7 weeks after my last treatment! It was a blessing in disguise as wedding-planning was a nice distraction from side effects and was a very hopeful, positive "project" that infused my days and life with energy. I was so thankful and was and am in awe as to how the Lord provided in multiple ways for the event. At first I felt the need to remind Him that I had not worked for 6 months because I had been doing this cancer thing, which added up to continual hospital bills not covered by insurance, and, remember (?), my husband had been off work multiple days each chemo cycle to care for me over the last 6 months. But as usual, I didn't need to remind God of anything. He reminded me of how present He is, mindful, loving and generous. He provided in multiple ways for the wedding, not only financially (in rather miraculous ways), but down to the details including clothing, venue and my daughter's wedding dress. The day we went wedding gown shopping--again, a miracle that I had energy and was physically able to go shopping with her--they were having an in-store drawing for dollars off a dress purchased that day. The drawing was for anywhere from $25 to $500 off the purchase price. My daughter randomly picked a card and drew the $500 off coupon! It was the only $500 ticket left in the stack of more than a hundred cards! She found her dream dress in less than an hour and spent $500 less than the retail price! Anyone who has put on a wedding, even the most budget-conscious wedding (like ours) knows it still gets expensive. But again, our needs were met and Miss S became a Mrs. We are so happy for them and thankful for our new son.
- I'm going to be a grandma! Our first grandchild, a boy, will be arriving around the first part of November, and yes, it will be the first child for my daughter and new son-in-law. We couldn't be more thrilled. Once again, God is showering us with His grace and goodness. Sadly, at first glance, I questioned the timing of things, and wondered if perhaps I needed to remind God of what the last 6 months had consisted of (I refrained) however, He reminded me of last November. I so clearly remember receiving my diagnosis of cancer last November and at that time not knowing my prognosis, how ill I was or how treatable this cancer was. In that in-between-waiting-time, I had wondered if I had seen my last birthday (also in November), if I was going to celebrate my last Christmas, and if I would ever hold a grandchild of mine. As I sit here today and allow the journey of the last 8 months to wash over me, I feel tears welling up again as I think of the Lord's tenderness and sweetness in blessing our family with this new little life. Again, I am refreshed and in awe as I see the infusion of life and hope after a season of "walking through the valley of the shadow of death."
- I have gone back to work. I've been working for about 8 weeks now! I was so thankful for the opportunity to ease back into work and gradually get my bearings. The first couple of weeks felt disjointed and awkward. I felt like I had to learn an entirely new set of social skills. My Territory Manager and co-workers were so gracious and helpful, and have continued to support me as I get acclimated. The fatigue factor was very present in the first month of work, but now, I feel like I'm barely experiencing fatigue, or at least not to the same extent I was. My energy level continues to increase weekly, if not daily. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to work and focus more on others rather than my own health!
- In July, I began my maintenance therapy. I was a bit anxious at first, not knowing what this follow-up treatment was going to look like; I have only had my chemotherapy cycles as reference. I was very pleased in that the maintenance therapy is much less of a production than the chemo days. This treatment is only 1 element of the therapy I was having in previous months, therefore the amount of time in the chemo chair is much less; about 2-1/2 to 3 hours compared to 5 hours, and very little to no side effects! My biggest side effect was the drowsiness I experienced from the Benedryl they gave me! The appointment still consists of blood draws and talking with my oncologist, but the tone of the appointment is different. It feels more hopeful and optimistic. Certainly there are still the questions regarding possible symptoms suggesting the return of cancer, and the reminder that this battle is not done, but it is encouraging to be in another stage or part of the journey. I will be having this treatment every 2 months for the next 2 years with the goal of keeping me in remission. I will have a CT scan every 6 months over these next 2 years to keep on top of any possible cancer cell re-growth.
- Living in remission is tricky, but I'm figuring it out, one day at a time. In the weeks just after receiving my "remission" status, I felt extremely fragile and vulnerable, even frightened. (My doctor told me this is very common and that remission can almost be more difficult than the treatment phase of things, and that many patients experience Post Traumatic Stress at this point!) I was given a list of physical symptoms to take note of (which may suggest the possible return of the cancer), and also told when to call the doctor. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I easily explained away the symptoms I was having as being viral (the first doctor did too), being out of shape, 'middle-aged female', etc. I didn't feel that awful for how sick I was. Now, fast-forward to being in remission; how do I balance the need for being attentive and mindful of my health, with being practical and calm without becoming hyper-vigilant, neurotic or in denial? It has taken quite a bit of practice and one I have to continue practicing. The fear factor has greatly diminished, and I realize that I just need to focus on one day at a time, enjoying it to its fullest.
- I am thankful for every day and am enjoying the blessings of this life. For example, I have been so thankful for berries these past many weeks. What a joy to be able to go pick them, have the energy and stamina to do so, be healthy enough to pick them and not be out of breath, eat them (my taste buds are back!) and taste all their sweet and sour notes, and celebrate the wonder of their shape, and brilliance of their color. And then there is the return of my hair! Don't get me started, but suffice it to say, I'm so thankful my hair is growing again and coming in fast! It definitely has more gray sprinkled throughout and is a lighter brown than before, but I'll take it! It's all mine!