80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:
It’s been a whirlwind week in the land of the “cancer-free”. I have celebrated grand new beginnings and bittersweet endings. I’ve been wined and dined and entertained. I’ve put up a tree with twinkling colored lights and adorned the house with the festive colors and scents of Christmas. Here’s a peek at what transpired…
First, I finished radiation last Wednesday. After 28 sessions of daily nuclear warfare, I got a Certificate of Completion signed by all the staff at the radiation center, and Dr. Rad came out of an appointment with another patient to give me a hug. This was in stark contrast to the complete lack of acknowledgement I received at the oncology office for finishing chemo. Not a word. I will really miss these wonderful, caring people.
I actually had very mixed emotions when I left my final appointment. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to be done with treatment. Yet, a kind of sadness washed over me. I felt as though I’ve been treading water non-stop for 9 months, and the entire focus of my life has been staying strong and surviving. That final appointment was like I had finally been rescued and could collapse and let it all go. And let it all sink in. I tend to downplay the effect all this has had on me, but it has been a lot to endure. And, in that moment, I had to pause to grieve for what I’ve lost.
Here is a picture of my skin post-radiation. It looks a lot worse than it is; I’ve really only had some minor tenderness and itching as it heals. The new skin is coming through as the top layer sloughs off. I’ve put lotion on religiously, and I think it has paid off. My skin feels soft and smooth. I also want to stress the importance of stretching the irradiated area as much as possible to keep the scar tissue from taking hold underneath. It can get quite tight if it isn’t exercised.
On Thursday, I went to the very posh and eclectic Red Stag Grill at the Bohemian Hotel in downtown Asheville with two friends, one of whom just had major surgery. I thought I was just tagging along to visit her and catch up, but she surprised me by turning it into a celebration lunch for the end of treatment. It was a wonderful treat. The restaurant has the feel of a formal hunting lodge, with dark woods and rich leather seats. The chandeliers appear to be made of antlers, which you’ll see in the picture below. I half expected to see Teddy Roosevelt come through the door and belly up to the bar.
Friday brought a new beginning. I took the plunge and signed a lease for my chiropractic office space! Ironically, that is the name of my practice, New Beginnings Family Chiropractic. I chose that name years ago, having no idea what it would come to mean in my future. I’m very nervous and very excited. I want to offer holistic health care focusing on nutrition and supplementation in addition to chiropractic. I would really love to help people through the cancer journey and beyond. I might fall flat on my face, but I owe it to myself to give it a shot. I now have a shiny set of gold office keys on my keychain.
Saturday night was spent at a large Christmas party at the home of a new friend. There was every kind of chip, dip, fruit, carved meat and appetizer you can imagine, and an open bar. The house was beautifully decorated for the holidays and had a very warm, inviting feel. There were several local bands who took turns playing informal gigs in the living room. The music ranged from Bluegrass to the Beatles to Christmas carols. What a perfect evening, sitting in a comfy chair with a glass of wine while being serenaded by candlelight.
Finally, today we took the kids to our local Farmer’s Market to pick out a Christmas tree. We’ve been getting our tree from the same family for almost 20 years, and they recognize us when we pull up. The patriarch of the family has aged quite a bit and has mostly turned the hard labor of the tree farming over to his sons now. He was in very poor health a couple of seasons ago, so we always breathe a sigh of relief when we see that he’s still around. Below is a shot of us together about four years ago.
Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind at work. I’m looking forward to that like an impacted wisdom tooth. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 5 days, more so than I have in a long time. I stopped to smell those roses, and I felt content, and at peace.
I put “cancer-free” in quotation marks because that is an illusion. None of us is ever truly “free” of cancer. There are always micro-clusters of cancerous cell floating around in us, waiting for our immune systems to fall asleep at the wheel. Now that I’m “cancer-free”, the real work begins. I have to figure out why cancer set up shop in my body and how to keep that from happening again. All of these treatments have slowed the cancer down enough for me to have a fighting chance, now let’s get busy fighting!