My last chemo was over two weeks ago. I thought finishing it would feel like the end of a race. Like running over the finish line through the balloon arches, into the cheering crowds.
But it feels more like limping over the line, only to realize this isn’t just a running race. Joel says it is a triathlon. And he is right. I just finished the first leg of a three part journey. Chemo was probably the biking part. I’m not a very good biker and have never been in a bike race. I’m glad it is over, but it was just part one. I’m getting water, eating a banana, and changing into my swimsuit.
And you. You’ve been cheering me along. You’ve been screaming and waving signs– and your arms are sore and your voice is hoarse. You are tired, too. And I hate this part. The realizing that you are tired too, and I still have two more legs of the journey to go. I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t need you still. But I do. You’ve made me meals, taken my kids to swim lessons, sent me cards and gifts, left me voicemails, bought me dinner, shoveled my walk, done my laundry, cleaned my house, rubbed my feet, taken me on walks, listened to me cry, and been my hope when I couldn’t find mine. You’ve loved me close up, and from a far. You’ve carried me when I couldn’t even crawl. And I hate that this isn’t over for you either. I know you are tired, too.
I guess surgery is the swim. I’ve swam in races before. I was never great, but I was good. I know a little about the needles, the pain meds, the beeping of hospital machines. I have some experience with surgery. I will need to hear your voices when I come up for air. I will need you to dry me off and help me put on my shoes while I wait to hear if my lymph nodes are benign or tainted with cancerous tissue. The swim could end with news of needing radiation. I will want to quit. Don’t let me.
And next: the run. This part involves ovarian suppression shots and hormone blockers for the next five years of my life. This is a long run. But I am a runner. I know how to push myself when all I want to do is stop. I know the thrill of finishing the race. And I pray that this will be my finish. I will be 41-years-old in five years. And I pray that I am cancer-free and remain that way for the rest of my life. I need to believe that this is how the triathlon will end. I need to picture myself crossing that finish line, and running through the balloon arches. Maybe I’ll even have enough hair for a ponytail.
Will you be there still? Can you cheer that long?
I find out on Wednesday if my white blood cells are moving in the right direction. Please pray that they are.
Cancer has humbled me. This would be an impossible journey without you, and without my faith. I am grateful beyond words. I am so lucky to have you. Please know your gentle words of kindness, have lifted me up in ways I can’t explain. No small act has gone unnoticed. Each stone ripples the water reminding me that I am not alone.
Today I had to shave my armpits. A cruel irony that my armpit hair is growing faster than the hair on my head. But this is progress. Armpit hair, blossoming flowers — both signs of spring.