I have sat idle this month and listened to God. I have heard many sermons on forgiveness and patience and thought that would be my post, but tonight as I was getting ready for bed a taste appeared in my mouth that gave me a memory I would love to forget. Chemo memories, nausea, metallic tastes:(
You are probably asking yourself what is she talking about. I could only make my body swallow certain juices when I was sick and going through chemo. The tastes of many liquids made me so sick I couldn't make myself swallow no matter how hard I tried. This past week I have been fighting my yearly kidney infection (yes I seem to get one a year and they are always heck to get rid of) and I have been drinking lots of cranberry juice. Don't ask me why this particular time and this drink sparked that taste, but it is one you never will forget.
Many have asked me my story so here it is: November 2010 I drank three sips of champagne and had the most horrible pain in my chest and neck. I was positive I was having a heart attack. I was scared to death, but soon the pain subsided and I felt light-headed. (Note: there was no phone service where we were and I didn't want to be left alone to find a phone). The next morning I felt fine but decided to call my sister-in-law, (she is an amazing midwife, but that day she was my angel, the reason I breathe, see my children grow older, and enjoy life today). I told her alcohol tried to kill me and I was never drinking it again. She laughed and said alcohol in that amount won't do that, tell me your symptoms. Well, she is our researcher and she started looking up adverse reactions to alcohol. A crazy thing happened, Hodgkin's Lymphoma popped up.
The few weeks up to my first chemo treatment were a blur. Thanks to my sister-in-law following her gut and advising with doctors who advised a CT, we discovered a mass on my heart. (the reason the pain was so intense on my heart) Now don't go researching my stats because I am not a stat person. If I remember correctly my oncologist said only 2% of patients with Hodgkin's have this reaction and 98% of them are positive for Hodgkin's. We moved like lightening from doctor to doctor, test to test and all I can tell you is our amazing God gave me peace only He could provide.
I had a partial sternotomy (I will talk about this miracle surgery another time), port placed in my chest, and began my six-month journey of 12 rounds of chemotherapy. People asked me, did you have options. Yes, I did...fight like crazy!! That was my option, my only option. I had a Kindergartener and Fourth grader and they needed their Momma.
That amazing sister-in-law I spoke about stayed out of work and drug me from doctor to doctor. Holding my hand, as I almost broke hers, while the oncologist performed a bone marrow biopsy, sat with me during my first chemos, talking me through each step, all the way to the end. I can't tell you what ABVD stands for, but she can. I can't tell you their side effects, but she knew. I didn't know they made numbing cream for my port, but she did.
Every step became a fight, a competition for me. If I am honest I didn't think I could ever recover from the initial surgery, but I did. Did you know you use your sternum when you pee? (just a humorous, or painful, sidenote there) I spent days pacing my hallway repeating, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." I know I said that verse thousands of times over the 6 months. I am just a bit stubborn and hard-headed(ha!ha!) and don't like pain meds. Well, I would sometimes wait until the pain was crazy before I would take meds and that never turned out good. I was so proud when ibuprofen became my friend and nothing stronger was needed. (TAKE YOUR PAIN MEDS AS NEEDED!!)
So to the chemo....it saved my life for sure, but I am sure the after-effects of it harmed parts of me too. I can only imagine what is in that stuff. My first few chemos were rough. I lost 16 pounds in a little over two weeks (I am not a person that needed to lose that much weight) and truthfully told God this task is going to be impossible and I can't do it! Chemo is calibrated to your weight and they don't like to have to redo it. I was told to eat anything and everything I could keep down. I did too on my good days, but somewhere after my third or fourth chemo I became severely constipated. I BIG no-no with chemo!! I literally could feel the poison burning my insides. The pain was crazy!! (Note to anyone out there reading this and going through chemo now, take the Miralax or whatever they give you). I ended up with my precious second Momma taking me to the chemo lab where they hooked me up to a morphine drip all day and the pain barely subsided. I woke up to see her on her knees praying and crying as I was near screams from the pain. Anyone who knows me knows my pain tolerance is very high. This was a crazy kind of pain, pits of hell kind of pain. (If you are having stomach pains with chemo talk to your doctor. Nexium truly saved my life!!)
I was determined to work during my treatments. I truly think we as humans must have a purpose in life. For me, my purpose was my students. I missed them so much when I wasn't teaching. They gave me joy. The wonder and pure love from them were healing. After chemo number two my hair was falling out in clumps. That is a very emotional time or it was for me. I remember being in the bath and my second Momma coming in to check on me and I was sobbing. There was literally hair floating all in the bathtub and stuck all over me. She knelt and begin scooping up handfuls and taking a washcloth and removing the stuck pieces of hair from my body (by the way modesty goes out the door when you are experiencing the wrath of cancer). She took care of me and reassured me my hair would come back. My hair had always been one of my best assets and the emotional aspect of losing it was more difficult than I imagined. The following day we decided to have a shaving party and shave my head. It was so liberating!! I think I could totally rock being bald! My showers were cut in half, no clogged drains, no nicks from razors, and no 20-minute blow-drying. The greatest gift was the day a student asked me to go bald at school and not wear a scarf. I said I would think about it. I am only human and was nervous about being bald. Do you know the following day those sweet babies went all morning and never even realized I was without a scarf? One student raised his hand and said you look good with no hair. The others were oohing and aaahing over the fact they had just realized I was bald! It was such a beautiful gift from God! I started only wearing scarves out and not at home and sometimes I even went out without one:)
I could literally write a book on my experiences (who knows maybe I will one day), but I can tell you this: whether you are facing cancer, another health issue, lost job, broken marriage, disobedient child, or just a tough life, know the one truth, the one constant is our Lord and Savior. Without Him, we are nothing and can accomplish nothing without Him. Cancer was a season, it was a chapter of my life that I am honored to have walked through. I am the person I am today because of it. Do I want to do it again? Absolutely not!! Would I? Of course, as many others have. Cancer is like anything else we face in life, it allows us to lean into God and trust Him to get us through. Don't give up! Know He loves you and no matter what you are facing, you can and WILL get through it!
"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
**sidenote: There is so much I haven't touched on. If you are going through cancer and I can help in anyway please reach out to me. I am praying for each of you in your fight! You CAN do ALL things through Christ!