I am having a hard time writing about the moment I received my good news because I've let so much time pass and now there are many other experiences and things that consume my thoughts...serves me right. Not to mention I no longer have my 'full time mommy service' living with me. Oh how quickly I have gotten back into the role of tired, overwhelmed mom! If only the rest of my recovery came so easily. Buuut that's for another time and post ;)
The other day I met a gal who said she had been following me on my journey, and wondered how I was doing now. When I told her how well I was doing, happy tears filled her eyes. I hope sometime in your life you get to feel the power, love, appreciation, humility, and spirit that comes from a stranger loving you so much. After feeling all of those wonderful things, I immediately felt terrible that I have neglected my blog and haven't let everyone know that I am Cancer Free!!!
As I had a little break in between treatments and receiving my final scan, I tried moving on with life and was feeling at peace, not even worrying about cancer anymore. It didn't consume my thoughts, and I enjoyed my time far away from doctors and nurses. (Though I love every single person who helped me and took such good care of me!!, But you know what I mean.)
As time drew nearer for me to have my final PET scan, then learn my fate, little things were causing me a bit of worry. Like the pains in my chest where my port had been, The migraines that would come, or the strange ache and pain I felt, and still feel, in my chest every time I get in the car that cause discomfort and make breathing difficult. I was getting a little nervous.
I went in for my scan Monday morning, the 20th of July, and thankfully wouldn't have to wait long, and would find out the results the very next morning. The nerves kicked in full force. Monday was a total waste. I moved like a zombie from the kitchen to the couch. I felt numb and so anxious, I tried doing productive things, but always seemed to be back doing absolutely nothing. Jake felt the same way. He was texting me all day long saying, "how am I supposed to concentrate?" He felt sick with worry and did not want to see me suffer again.
That night he gave me a beautiful blessing then we knelt in prayer together. With humble hearts and tear filled eyes, we thanked Heavenly Father for the the miracles that had been wrought the last 8 months, the many earthly angels who had blessed us, the lessons we had learned, for the deeper, stronger love we had for each other, for our strengthened testimonies, and for His hand in the whole journey. He was there the whole time and we knew that whatever happened the next day, whatever happens in days to come, He will always be there, and for that, we were eternally grateful.
After a night of restless sleep, even filled with nightmares of being a cancer patient yet again, at 4 am, I finally decided to give in to the fact that sleep wasn't going to happen. I got dressed and ready for my appointment, that still wasn't for 4 hours, then started washing dishes. Constant waves of nausea came as I stood at the sink, convinced my cancer was not gone.
It was time! Time to find out the result from months of suffering and fighting.
I wish I could describe to you, the way it feels to walk the halls of a place that holds so many memories and emotions. I can remember as if it were yesterday, how scared, anxious, and overwhelmed I felt that first day at Huntsman. Walking the path to my Dr's office, a young healthy mom with thick hair, a heavy heart, and a mind telling me, 'This is just a bad dream. Look around, you're not supposed to be here. Wake up. Run home.' Now, being back as an experienced patient ;), I was full of emotions as I retraced those steps that not long before were so unknown and scary for me. Memory after memory were flooding back to my mind. The smells, sounds, and familiar faces brought me right back to my experiences. I wish I could find the words to describe that moment to you. For one, I was so grateful to be at the "end" of my journey, and two, it was very apparent to me that I was not the same person I was when I first walked those halls.
There I was, sitting in the exact same room, in the exact same spot. Yet again, waiting for big news. Surprisingly, I was feeling really good. Now looking back, I think I was trying to be really strong for my family, just in case the results weren't what we were hoping for. It was so funny, the nurse practitioner, who had helped me in the past, came in and went over the usual things. Then she turned, picked up a piece of paper, and without looking up said, "Well, there was nothing on your scan. Everything looks good." What!? Did she just say what we think she did? Me, my mom, and Jake were all looking at each other waiting for something, when Jake asked, "Sooo does that mean she doesn't have cancer?" "Ya. Everything looks good. The scan was totally clean."
WAHOO!!! We were all so happy, but also a little taken back. It seemed so anti climatic. Where were the confetti guns?!! 'Hello?! Don't you know this is a really big deal?' I think I should put together a group that goes around with balloons, streamers, and any other fun loud thing, to congratulate and celebrate with survivors on their big day.
Even though there was no flash dance mob, everyone was so happy for me. My doctors, nurses, pharmacists, the secretaries, and especially my family. What a feeling. I get chills just thinking about that moment.
*Pure joy and a clean bill of health. *I won the lottery when it came to doctors! See that amazing guy on the right?, It did not matter the day or the hour, If I had a question, he was back to me within 5 minutes. I can't tell you how wonderful he is...he saved my life. Not to mention he has an English accent. *Cute Justine. Everyone at huntsman is a ray of light. I made so many friends while there. I wish I had a picture of every single one of them. They are angels who strengthened me and I pray one day, I will be able to express my deepest gratitude to them. They are heroes. *Cancer Free!!!
Walking back out of that hospital, I felt like a million bucks. We did it! Yes, "we." I will not ever be silly enough to think that I did any of this by myself. It was the total opposite actually. I wish you knew how much you helped me. I was literally carried by you. By your friendship, concern, help, prayers, fasts, optimism, faith, service, and genuine love for me. I have learned a lot this past little while, but one thing that I will never forget and will always be amazed and inspired by, is how good people are. I had the easy job because I was taken care of by all of you. Thank you for impacting my life for better. I will never forget it and always strive to emulate it.
After spreading the good news and eating pizza (that's always my go-to...yum-o) my family and friends kept throwing out suggestions and feeling like we needed to do something fun. I didn't care to do anything special, but what I did was the most special to me. I didn't think that I was constantly weighed down by cancer, and all of the stress and emotion it brings with it. But as I sat, hanging out with Jake and the kids, I realized, for the first time in 8 months, I was completely happy and content. I could not wipe the smile off of my face. I didn't have that worry in the back of my mind, and a weight had lifted. I was exactly where I wanted to be and doing what mattered most. Jake and I took the kids out to dinner then we spent the rest of our evening laughing, jumping on the tramp, and being completely carefree, happy, and feeling so blessed. Tears flooded my eyes that night as we all knelt in prayer, and listened to a little voice, thanking Heavenly Father for his healthy mom. Words cannot describe the heartache that comes from being a sick mom, but they really cannot describe the overwhelming joy and gratitude I felt to know I was a healthy mom again.
So, the plan now is to keep recovering while trying to get back to normal life. I will go in every 3 months for one year to get blood work done. Then every 6 months for two years, then every year after that. Because of the radiation to my chest, I will start getting mammograms earlier, but that's about it. I can't complain about any of that!
I want you to know, that though I am grateful and happy, I am still very mindful of the many people I know, and don't know, who are still fighting every day. I am a lucky one. As I posted my "Cancer Free!" picture, it was bitter sweet, and I actually felt guilt. My thoughts went straight to friends who weren't jumping for joy like I was. I wanted everyone to feel and experience what I was feeling. I wanted to take away their pains and heartaches.
I read this in the Ensign today, and felt the spirit speaking to me so strongly. I hope this story about President Eyring's father, and his experience toward the end of his battle with cancer can help you too...
His parents had taught him by example to pray as if he spoke to God and that God would answer him in love. He needed that example to the end. When the pain became intense, we found him in the morning on his knees by the bed. He had been too weak to get back into bed. He told us he had been praying to ask his Heavenly Father why he had to suffer so much when he had always tried to be good. He said a kindly answer came: “God needs brave sons.”
No, I cannot take away my friends' sorrows, or know exactly how they're feeling, but luckily there is someone who can, and that is Jesus Christ. He suffered utterly alone, so we never have to. When people congratulate me, I sometimes joke, "Whelp!, onto the next trial :)" I crack myself up, but they don't always think it's funny. Funny or not, it is true. I can laugh and be okay with that, because I know the plan. I will go through whatever trial the Lord sees fit for me, because I know He sees so much more for me than I ever could. He is refining me and teaching me during those moments. I know He will be right there helping me through it all, and I will do it, because I want to be numbered among the brave.