Monday, February 27, 2012

16 of 16 = Chemotherapy is Finished!

My family has been looking forward to today for a long time. I remember being at my oncologist office last September and listening to him lay out my treatment plan. While he spoke, my mind did the math and I realized that we were looking at 5 months of chemotherapy. With God’s grace and the love, support, and generosity of so many friends and family, today WE can celebrate the completion of the final treatment injection.

So, this is what today looked like:

6:30 am: Opened my eyes to see this one lonely little chain loop hanging to my Chemo Countdown sign.

7:00 am: Got up, dressed, and ready for the day. Put on my special “COURAGE” bracelet that my friend Jackie, who is a recent breast cancer survivor, gave me. I wear this every day. Here is a better look at the ‘poison lines’ that have decorated my fingernails. Kinda cool really.

8:15 am: Our friend and Eric’s boss’s wife, Monica arrived to watch the kids. We left to go to the hospital so that I could have my blood tested.

9:30 am: Enjoyed breakfast at Mr. Perry’s Coffee Shop. Eric and I have gone there before every treatment for a breakfast date. Our waiter Chester, an older gentleman who is as much a ‘landmark’ as the dive… I mean diner is, was excited along with us that this was the last treatment. We will miss seeing him… but that’s okay.

10:30 am: We returned to the hospital for the chemotherapy treatment. Here I am, thrilled to be hooked up to the drip line one last time:

This is a little gift I brought to the nurses as a thank you. I considered baking something… but why do that when Girl Scout cookies have the power to make people crazy happy.

This my thank you note to them:

12:00 pm: My machine started beeping, waking me from my sleep. Treatment complete! Several nurses came over to offer hugs and agree with me that they too hope we never see each other again. Or if we do, it can be at the mall or grocery store or somewhere less cancer related.

12:30ish: Got home to this sign in our front yard:

And opened the door to a surprise visit from this group of incredible friends from our church:

They toasted me with:

And then laid hands on me and prayed for a complete healing.

After the gang left, Nathan and I went upstairs and my boy had the honor of removing the last and final chain loop. Yahoo!

Oh, and my sweet  husband got me this beautiful arrangement:

And then, as if this hadn’t already been a great day, our friends the Kapika’s delivered dinner and celebratory fixings to make Leatherby’s Black and Tan sundaes. Which, if you remember, in September this journey began with a Black and Tan… so this is perfect!

So what now?

Well, I will lie around and enjoy the effects of this last treatment for the next week or so. I have an appointment in a couple weeks with my oncologist to get the details on what follow-up and future scan/screenings will look like. I have the month of March to rest and get back on my feet. Then in early April, I will start radiation therapy. I will go daily (Mon-Fri) for 6 weeks, putting us in mid-May by the time we can actually say treatment is completely finished.

Several people have asked me how I plan to celebrate. Well, I am making plans to get a few items from my bucket list taken care of this summer. (Alternatively, as my friend Claire corrected me, my “LIFE LIST.”) Just to be clear,  I am not doin these things now because I am afraid that I am going to die and I need to get stuff done in a rush. I am doing them because there is no time like now than to start living!

One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 8:15 (GNT):
"So I am convinced that we should enjoy ourselves, 
because the only pleasure we have in this life is eating and drinking and enjoying ourselves. 
We can at least do this as we labor during the life that God has given us in this world."

There it is, a Biblical encouragement to enjoy life! I already have the herb seeds planted, have a group of friends that want to fly in a hot air balloon with me, 2 different friends offering to help make the Yosemite dream come true, and Eric and I are talking about how to go deep sea fishing this summer. I haven’t set it in stone yet, but eating the perfect peach is coming together in my brain. That one is gonna take an extended family effort including blow-up rafts, a picnic lunch, and lots of cousins and their little kids experiencing a secret place we used to go as a family when I was younger. It is a place in my memory that I have gone to many times in moments of stress and despair. Let’s call it my “happy place”. This magical location that will make for “perfect peach eating” is a quiet peaceful crater lake in Lassen National Forest called Silver Lake. During the summer, it is gorgeous and you feel like you are swimming on a mirror. Anyways, one day this summer, I’ll be eating a peach while chillin’ in a raft, taking in the mightiness of the pines and the soaking in the reflection of the most perfect place on earth. Yep, that’s my plan.

Here is a picture of Silver Lake (this pic doesn’t begin to serve Silver Lake justice… look for my pics in late August and I'll try to capture the beauty.):

Thank you to everyone for the love, support, understanding, kindness, generosity, and prayers so many of you have offered my family these past 5 months. We are the luckiest people on this earth. God has been so good to us!

In close, enjoy Psalm 23. 
This Psalm is NOT just for funerals… it’s a truth for today.

Psalm 23
New Living Translation

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 

2 He lets me rest in green meadows; 
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 

4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, 

for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff 
protect and comfort me. 

5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. 

My cup overflows with blessings. 

6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, 

and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

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