Facebook memories popped this up on my time line last week. Two Marches ago. Night before chemo #5. Joel and I went on a date. I put on a dress, big earrings, and slapped on a hat and we headed out the door. I ordered a glass of wine and had a delicious piece of trout. Joel and I talked about cancer for a little bit, but mostly we talked about our kids, our travel dreams, our jobs, and what we were grateful for. It was a wonderful night. Like one of the best. Smack dab in the middle of the lowest points of our lives, we had a series of magical moments strung together like pearls on yarn. Seeing this picture brought it all back. I was happy that night. Not take-a-deep-breath-and-force-a-smile-happy, but real to-the-bone-happy.
Important to remember. I’ve lumped most of November-May of 2015 into the “fucking miserable” file, but there were some post-it notes of greatness in there. And I don’t want to forget them.
None of us gets out of this journey unscathed. We will all face loss and tragedy. But the lows of the bottom will be matched by the highs at the top. Spring will follow winter and night will always fade to day. This is a guarantee woven into the fabric of our universe. And even when we are at the bottom, if we look hard enough we will see the flickers of hope.
The morning after this date I got the news that I couldn’t have chemo #5. My blood counts were too low. My body was too weak to knock it down with another infusion. I was beyond upset. My sister-in-law had already left her family to travel to St. Louis to help care for our kids, we had dinners lined up, I had taken sick days at work . . . everything was set for the aftermath of chemo #5, and now I couldn’t get it. I remember saying the only thing worse than getting chemo is not getting chemo when you need it. I was terrified that the cancer cells would reorganize during the chemo break and take me down again. I was so angry. (Like crazy, scary angry).
At some point I went to Whole Foods to get more Turkey Tail mushrooms (a supplement believed to help white blood cell counts), and I saw a magnet that said: “If you are going through hell. . . keep going.” And then another that said, “In the end it will all be okay, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” I remember breathing. I remember my fists un-clenching just a bit. These cheesy slogans were speaking to me. They were saying: keep going . . . it’s going to be okay.
Two Marches later I am home from a week in sunny Florida. I read on the beach, laughed at poop jokes with my kids, wore a swimsuit that covered my scars, spotted dolphins, drank coconut martinis, played football in the sand, kissed my husband during the sunset, and found myself bubbling up with happiness.
So my friends . . . if you are going through hell — keep going. It’s going to be okay. Hold on tight, look for the post-it notes of greatness in the file of “fucking miserable” and survive. You’ve got this.