Done! I am done with radiation treatment. One of the other patients gave me a framed painting she had done. She still has several weeks of treatment to go, but she was rejoicing with me for my grand finale. The technicians gave me this certificate pictured above, congratulating me on my 'achievement'.
I lay on a narrow steel table and let them shoot dangerous doses of radiation into my chest. Achievement seems a little over-the-top. Maybe Endurance. Certificate of Endurance would be more appropriate. I endured six weeks of daily radiation, not too terribly the worse for wear. My skin is peeling in a couple of spots, but no open wounds, and not very red anymore. I took two naps over the six-week period, which was the extent of my radiation fatigue.
It seemed like there would be more fanfare and drum rolls in my head with my last treatment session. There was not. Just a vague sense of relief that it was done, and no more terrible things remain for me to 'achieve' or to 'endure', at least for now on this cancer journey.
I chatted with my cousin Carol to let her know I was considering adding a side-trip on my Victory Trip North. If I have the energy, I want to visit her and my other cousins, but I told her I wanted to stay at a hotel near the beach. Could she recommend one? The ocean (all bodies of water, in fact) bring me so much peace. I need peace now. It has been a long six-months since diagnosis, much of it filled with pain, uncertainty, turmoil, and fear. Carol understood exactly what a hotel on the beach meant to me.
Get this. Not only did she recommend one near her, she instantly used points her family had accumulated for a free hotel stay and booked me at a hotel just a mile from the ocean. How blessed I am for the people I am related to!
So I leave this morning for my great Victory Trip. I made it through a terrifying discovery of a lump in my breast, to a more terrifying diagnosis of breast cancer, to the first surgery removing the breast, to the day after surgery having three potentially life threatening blood clots land me in the E.R., to a second surgery to reconstruct the breast, to 6-weeks of radiation with a broken rib from a bad bike accident thrown in to season the calamity...to the grand finale yesterday. It's over. I am done.
I read a study on fear of pain and death by C.S. Lewis that really hit home for me. A brief excerpt highlights the salient point as I look back on the past six months:
Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’
Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.
The most calm and even joy-filled moments over the past six-months have been when I inexplicably relaxed and trusted God that even though this was decidedly NOT a journey I would have chosen to embark upon, if He deemed it necessary, then it would end in GOOD. When I struggled and railed against what was happening, I only made it worse. C.S. Lewis is exactly right. Do I trust God in all things...or only in the pleasant circumstances? If I trust him, let go, knowing He will catch me.
But for now, there is a respite. No more surgeries or invasive procedures. Oh, there is still medicine I start in two weeks and will take for the next five years, and check up visits, and probably more tests along the way to be sure the cancer stays gone. However, all the terrible things I was certain I could not, and would not survive...I did, and they are DONE.
So here I am, about to embark on my Victory Trip. I will visit loved ones, sip wine by the ocean (which is not allowed my cousin warns me but everyone does it anyway....), go on long bike rides on new bike trails, and hike uncharted paths. I will hug my parents, my sons, my daughter in law, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my cousins. Maybe an aunt or two, as well. I will see the first colors of Autumn sprinkling trees in New England, and breathe deeply (now that my broken rib is healing and I can breathe deeply again) of the cool air sweeping down from Heaven and across the beautiful world God made. (PS- Thank you dear hubby for continuing working so I could do this blessed victory lap.)
I will pray without ceasing. I have so much to be thankful for.
In the middle of my wonderful day yesterday, I got a text from a mom that I had counseled many weeks ago at the abortion center. She chose life that day, but we considered her a 'shaky save'. She told us for now she would not abort. She did agree to let me send her daily Bible verses. I tried to contact her a few times, but she never responded. I was pretty sure she had aborted. Nonetheless, I continued to send her daily Bible verses. If she had aborted, she would need God's comfort more than ever.
The text yesterday said, "Hi Miss Vicky. I decided to keep my baby. It's a girl. I thought you would want to know."
Hope has a way of sticking its head out of the mud and completely transforming what you were certain would never be anything but a dismal, lifeless swamp. God, though not visible, is always present, and where you least expect Him is often where He does His most redemptive work.
Let go, He whispers, Trust me. I will catch you.