“Find a place inside where there is joy and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

The end of radiation is near and I will be so relieved when I’m finished! As I’ve said before, compared to chemo, radiation is nothing to complain about but it has been much harder than I thought it would be. Taking care of myself and balancing the demands of work and the needs of my family have taken a toll. The physical effects are cumulative – mind-numbing fatigue and the evidence of radiation on my skin are more noticeable (and shocking!  Holy crap – what are they DOING to me?!) every day.  Sometimes I have felt as if my body has betrayed me – my mind is searching for the silver lining but my body is spent!  My doctor warned me that the last week of “boost treatments” would be harder on my body than previous weeks.  The first day of treatment was a surprise – I thought he said BOOZE treatments and was looking forward to a crisp glass of chardonnay or an umbrella drink in the waiting room (ha ha)!  Day two was a bigger surprise – in spite of the boozeless treatment I FELT like I had a hangover and didn’t even have any funny stories to tell or pictures to share!  Needless to say, many other people have been picking up my slack and I am grateful to the awesome women I work with and for who have my back – encourage me, make me laugh and send me home to bed when I’m so tired I’m in tears.  I am blessed to have friends and family who know when I need a hug, a meal, or a word/text of encouragement to keep me going.  And I couldn’t have faced any of this without my husband and my sweet and understanding kids.  We have all grown in unexpected ways from this experience.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12

I left the hospital yesterday and arrived home feeling overwhelmed.  To my amazement, I had a message from my new friends (and jungle family!) at Selvatica Adventure Kingdom in Mexico.  They have been taking care of and watching closely the seed I planted on Christmas Eve.  In spite of the challenges we have faced the past few months, HOPE is growing – both literally and figuratively.  God is good.

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” – Caroline Myss

I am nearly halfway through radiation treatments and haven’t updated the blog but, the truth is, I have been struggling.  Struggling with my goal of sharing this experience and keeping it real vs. my belief that “if you can’t say something positive, don’t say anything at all!”  Needless to say, I haven’t been feeling very positive.  Radiation is really not a big deal and, compared to chemo, I have nothing to complain about – I just don’t like it.  Side effects, so far, have been minor – the hardest part is the fatigue.  Mostly, I struggle to turn off my brain and trust the process!

“… she was always deeply moved by the kindness of strangers and saw in them the shape of a greater grace.” – Dean Koontz

 What I’ve forgotten that I learned early on in this journey is that being present helps me to SEE the people around me and gives me perspective.  Walking into treatment today I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself and was greeted in the patient waiting room by smiling faces who looked genuinely happy to see me.  Right away I was approached by a little girl with an armload of super soft socks.  She explained that her dad was treated for cancer last year and his feet were always cold.  Her ministry (ministry?!  a kid KNOWS that?!) now is to give socks with prayer cards to patients being treated for cancer – she’s demonstrating her gratefulness for her dad’s health now by caring for others.  How cool is that?!

I am grateful for the amazing people I am meeting along the way during this journey – the ladies who treat me and laugh with me every day, the other patients I am getting to know and care about, my doctor who genuinely wants to know about my support systems and if I’ve been treated by his staff like a person – with respect, and my awesome family who keeps picking up the slack around here, loves me and takes care of me (and us) in spite of my tiredness!  I realize now, that while I refuse to make this experience part of my identity and I’m not adopting pink as my signature color (although I do like pink!), I am and always will be connected to certain people because of our shared experience.  My heart goes out to the woman who told me in the waiting room today that her momma doesn’t have much time and for the woman who told me the kind words her mom had for me.  Her words brought tears to my eyes but gave me the encouragement I needed to leave with a light, thankful heart and a smile.  I am so very grateful and I am certain that God already has plans for me to pay it forward – I can’t WAIT to see what that looks like!

“Kindness extended, received or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved.”  –  Wayne Dyer

“In each moment the fire rages, it will burn away a hundred veils and carry you a thousand steps toward your goal.” – Rumi

A vacation to the beach between surgery and radiation was the perfect escape but made it even harder to come home and face the next hurdle.  Conventional treatment for breast cancer typically involves surgery, radiation and/or chemo – sometimes called “slash and burn.” I have been assured by many people that radiation treatments are no big deal. Side effects are mild – usually fatigue and sunburn-like symptoms but I can’t get past the “slash and burn” imagery! And then I was reminded,

                 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you…” – Isaiah 43

Today was supposed to be a practice run for radiation but ended up being my first treatment too!  I was grateful for the reassurance from Isaiah and channeled beach memories while the machines and staff did their thing.  It was over in less than 20 minutes – 19 treatments to go… 🙂

I woke this morning feeling unsettled and did the only thing I know to relieve stress and beat fatigue – I ran!  It was brisk outside but I had this really awesome moment when I spied a fox and he spied me and we stared at each other.  He’d take a few steps and I’d do the same and we just watched each other.  It was super cool… and then I realized there was a dog in the distance behind me and the fox was really keeping an eye on it!  I had to laugh – it was like nature’s version of the old bar joke, “I’m not checking you out – I’m looking at the clock over your head.”  Have I mentioned how much I think God must get a kick out of watching human antics?

I go back to work tomorrow – looking forward to getting busy again, doing what I love – just praying for endurance!  Happy New Year!