I just sent my kids the following text: "Last chemo treatment is history. Hallelujah!"
I walked out of the cancer center today hoping never to return. I'm not well yet. I'll still have checkups and I must return to Moffitt for one more small surgery, but no more chemo treatments. I can hardly believe it.
The cumulative side effects are going to be worse before they're better - I know that. But somehow I feel I have turned the corner. This time the fatigue will slowly dissipate and not return. This time the swollen feet and sore glands will go away for good, instead of regenerating in three weeks, as they have all summer. It's as if I can finally see the sun through the clouds after more than seven months of wondering if I'd ever find my way out of this fog of misery.
As I sat there at the cancer center and watched the last of that poison flow into my body, knowing it would make me sicker before it makes me better, I still rejoiced because I also knew it was the last time I would be subjected to its assault. The morning devotional I'd read came back to mind. The verse for the day was Isaiah 41:13, "I am the Lord your God who holds your right hand, and I tell you, don't be afraid. I will help you."
I looked around the room at all the other patients, each one submitting to the same assault and clinging to the same hope that somehow, someday, this will all be worth it and they will emerge from the dark tunnel of needles, pills, and pain into the sunlight of survival.
I prayed for each patient and for the caregiver or family member who sat beside each one. They too are hoping beyond hope that the treatment will work and that the long trek through the dark woods of cancer will somehow lead back to the daylight of health and everyday life they used to know.
I looked at my husband, John, sitting there beside me, and once again I praised God for giving me this faithful man to watch over me so patiently. He has been with me through every treatment and helped me cope with the unending parade of side effects between them, including extra surgical procedures and messy home remedies. He has done it all without complaint and with wonderful good humor that lifts my spirits every day.
I felt a light touch on my arm and turned to see the sweet, smiling face of an elderly lady in the chair beside me. She said, "You're that lady who writes the column in the newspaper. I knew you right away." I smiled and nodded as she continued, "I just had to come over and tell you how much it has meant to us to read your column every week."
She pointed across the room. "See that patient in the corner chair? That's my husband. Your column has helped us make it through these last few months. All the things we were feeling but couldn't express, you put into words. Just knowing that someone else was facing the same fears and frustrations has helped so much. I feel like I know you, and I just had to tell you."
I gripped her hand as tears slid down my cheeks. "Thank you so much. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading and whether pouring all my pain onto paper is really worth it."
She smiled. "Keep writing. You have no idea how many lives you have touched."