(Above: My twelfth and FINAL chemotherapy treatment! These are five of the nurses who were responsible for my care during treatments. Absolutely love these women! More like a second family to me than anything else)
(Below: My mother was holding back tears in this photo. It was such an emotional day for all of us; the nurses, my mother and myself.)
The day before yesterday was my twelfth and final chemotherapy session. On the way to the hospital, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. It was one of those divine timing kind of things. The song was “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and the Supremes. The song took me back to my childhood. I thought of the loved ones I’ve lost, imagining they were there with me. Angels by my side, protecting and encouraging me.
The nurses grew accustom to my goofy shenanigans over the last seven plus months. My first day of chemo, one of them pulled back the curtain to my little infusion cubicle to find my mother and I taking “chemo selfies.” In the very beginning, there were all kinds of jokes about the IV pole that held up the chemo bag & other meds. “The only pole you’ll ever need to dance with,” and so many others. I even got my sister in on it a few times, not the dancing, just the joking.
One day I noticed how the base of the IV pole branched out like spider legs, with eight wheels, one at each end of the metal extensions. After that I thought, I am so using this thing as a skateboard! Luckily, I didn’t want to be a bad influence on the other patients or I would have followed through with it.
When I pulled out a graduation cap, yesterday, and a huge sign to hold up during photos–the nurses weren’t the least bit surprised. “You know me ladies! Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go out with a bang!” We all laughed as we tried not to cry. After photos, I couldn’t hold back the tears for long. I hugged each of the nurses. Every single hug released more tears from both me and the nurses. These women wrapped their arms around me with such compassion and hope. They were there for me, taking care of me for nearly eight months now. My heroic, healthcare, champions.
Nearly eight months of chemo, finally reached completion. The euphoria I felt upon returning home that day, indescribable. I felt cleansed of all negativity. Triumphant, that I never gave up on myself or my will to survive. I came so close to quitting around my six and seventh sessions. When I reached treatment number ten, I knew I had to press on. I gave it everything I had, to keep the crazy train moving forward until I reached Grand Sanity Station.
There’s no way I could have gotten through this without the emotional support I received from friends, family, total strangers and my healthcare team. I mean, I’m sure I would have found some way to get through this process.
All I know, is that between maintaining a positive attitude and having this massive emotional-safety-net to hold me up, I got through it. I’ve managed to kick 2014’s ass between being a full-time single mother, part-time student and a cancer patient. I did it all with a heart full of gratitude and a belly full of laughter.
Of course there were tears shed here and there, I’m only human after all. On the drive home from the hospital, I did my best not to cry in front of my mom. When I cry, she cries and vice versa. I was just so elated, ecstatic, joyful to be done with chemotherapy treatments. So indescribably grateful to the Universe that I made it this far, that it was finally over.
My mother looked at me and said, “You know Amber, it’s okay to cry. For someone who’s been through as much as you have, I don’t think you’ve cried enough.”
Such a surreal experience, like living through a lucid dream. Even though I had symptoms of a “dis-eased” body, went through chemotherapy and major surgery–the fact that I had cancer still doesn’t truly resonate with me. I had cancer? It doesn’t even feel right saying it. Throughout this entire process, I’ve held the visualization of my body being whole. I’ve seen myself as a healthy individual, with a strong body and a sharp mind.
Even on the days that I felt like poo, yes I said poo. (When you find yourself spelling out cuss words…in front of other adults…with no children present…sure sign of being a parent!) Even on those days when I felt like never getting out of bed, I still saw myself with an image of wholeness and full health. I visualized how good it would feel to not have to take a week off from the gym, twice a month, because of chemo. Or the energy I would have to keep up with my children, everyday, not just the weeks that I didn’t go through treatment. I imagined all the free time I would have when I no longer needed to have so many trips to the hospital. I practiced gratitude and thanked the Universe for healing my body, for putting the right people on my path to uplift my spirit.
Chemo is done now but I still have the road to recovery to embark upon. For the next two to three years, I have to go in every three months for routine blood work. My surgeon, who removed the tumor, has me scheduled every three months as well–for the next 18 months. There’s also the oncologist, GI specialist and my primary care physician who I’ll have to follow up with for the next two to three years.
As with all endings, come new beginnings. Finishing chemo feels like a period of great change. I’m entering survivorship now but it’s so much more than that. This isn’t just the beginning of a new chapter; it’s a brand new book altogether. My spirit, my soul, has been transformed. This end only marks the beautiful beginning of the best years of my life and the lives of my children. In the words of Old Blue Eyes, “The best is yet to come and babe won’t that be fine?”