Friday, June 12, 2009

Four Oh

Today I turn forty years old. Today is also exactly four weeks since my last chemo treatment. I've decided enough is enough - no more whining! This has been the most unbelievable year of my life, and you know what sounds so weird? I'm not sure I would change a thing.

A completely real conversation that really did happen:

RC: Really, Sheri? Do you hear what you just said? You wouldn't change getting cancer again? The hell your family went through, because of your cancer. Explain yourself.
Me: Because of this cancer I created this blog which caused me to meet someone who told me to join facebook - joining facebook caused me to reconnect with YOU and many other people from my past.
RC: Nice try! Cancer can kill you and you could have missed out on watching your children grow up.
Me: But it didn't kill me. The blessings I've received you wouldn't believe. Remember my last blog post? The one in which I whined like a big ol baby?
RC: I remember. I thought about sending AS over with her new hoe to pop some sense into your head.
Me: Yeah, well, that blog got 28 comments, 37 facebook book comments/emails and 91 emails. Most of those emails were from people I don't even know. People who said they loved me and have been praying for me from the beginning. I've received messages from entire churches across the country telling me that they heard about me through my cousin's friend's sister (or however) and have sent out word for prayer from other churches in their area. People around the world have found my blog and have written to tell me they are praying for me. I truly believe hundreds of thousands of people in this world (mostly people who don't even know me) are praying for me. This is the most humbling and truly amazing thing that can ever happen to a person. I got breast cancer, but I've never felt more blessed in my life.
RC: I'm sorry I questioned you. I had no idea. You are a remarkable person and I'm honored to know you. I'm also sorry I was mean to you in elementary school. I only acted that way because you were the prettiest girl in the whole school.

This has been a year that would be impossible to forget. My last birthday should have been a sign to the kind of year I was going to have...

June 12, 2008

It started out a lovely day and the kids and I decided in the afternoon to do some shopping. We had an early lunch and by the time 5:00 rolled around we were pretty hungry. We're in a store and while we are paying for our items we hear thunder rolling outside. Not just any thunder either - the kind that sounds like it's hitting right on top of you and makes you jump out of your shorts while it rocks the building you're in. When we get to the door to leave we notice a crowd of people standing around peeping outside. We manage work our way through the people and see the most unbelievable rain coming down outside. I stood there with my mouth hanging open watching a storm that's caused the outside time to appear to be midnight rather than 5 pm.

I tell the kids we are parked really close and we are going to make a run for it. Of course that's when the hail started. And we stand there watching as the ground becomes covered with ice, so much so that you can't even see the ground anymore. Ok, we won't run for it. When the hail finally stopped, the rain was still coming down in sheets, but I told the kids we were still getting out of that store - no one else was leaving, but I refused to spend my 39th birthday trapped in a store. I grab a child's hand in each one of mine and just as we are about to set foot outside...tornado sirens.

A store manager came up and was explaining that there was a tornado on the ground in the small town about 5 miles outside of Topeka. He went on to tell us that the basement of the store was available and started leading people people to it. Oh no, there was no way. I was grabbing my kids and we were out of there!

We get in the van and I realize I forgot to find out which direction the tornado was heading. If it wasn't even heading toward Topeka, we may as well go out to eat. I turn on the radio and all I can get is station after station telling everyone in the listening area to seek cover. Well, that's not helpful. I guess that means we're going home. But we're hungry and I don't want to cook on my birthday! I tell the kids we're going to stop and grab something at first place we see on our way home. I pull into the Sonic and push the little button. Someone comes on the speaker to tell me that they aren't serving people right now, because we're under a tornado warning. Really? You're in Kansas! And if you're not going to serve people just because of tornadoes you're going to lose a lot of business!

Finally we are able to get some food at Burger King and take it home. We settle down in the basement to eat our fast food and wait for the storm to pass. The kids are getting a bit scared because the stupid sirens have been going off for almost an hour now and it does tend to get a bit nerve wracking. I flip on the TV in the basement to see if the storm is close to passing. It wasn't. Each time a huge storm cell would pass, another one would explode overhead. Tornadoes were forming everywhere and the rain was pounding.

Too much rain at our Topeka house was a bad, bad thing. I hold my breath and say a prayer as I step into the back room of the basement...still dry! As I turn to walk out, the window catches my eye. It looked weird. Upon closer inspection I notice the window well was about half full of water. Oh, God, please let the window hold! I say a pray and walk out shutting the door behind me. There was nothing I could do. The kids were crying. The rain won't stop. Tornado sirens making me crazy. Enough! It was time to call Tom. He was about 45 minutes north of Topeka on an Indian Reservation. Because the day was going along so smoothly, of course I couldn't get Tom on his cell phone. The reservation is a dead zone.

Obviously we made it through that storm unharmed, but that was just the beginning of the fun filled year I had. Blowing up a trash truck; our house selling too quickly so I only had one weekend to find a new house; my van being wrecked twice; the day we had to be out of our old house, the mortgage company calling to say they made a mistake and we couldn't close on our new house that day (the old house was packed up and the moving truck was there); and, of course, being diagnosed with cancer. What a year!

Today I'm feeling very blessed to be turning 40. I believe I'm ready for whatever God has in store for me this year. I'm certain it will be exciting.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The End

This has been an extremely emotional last few days for me. I'm still trying to recover from my last infection which left me completely wiped out - add that to the menopause that chemo created - plus the huge decision I made this past's a wonder I've still got any sanity left at all. Some may say I don't. At this point I won't argue.

This blog is going to be the hardest blog I've ever written. I'll start where I left off from my last post...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I went to bed with unbelievable dread inside me. I knew when I woke up it would mean it was time to get more chemo pumped into my body. All night I tried to sleep, but couldn't. I threw a pity party and cried a little, but mostly I did absolutely nothing all night long except think about what the next week or so was going to be like. I had to remind myself that millions of people have gone through these treatments and were able to handle them and dang it, I could handle it, too! My thoughts were on my children and how much they needed me and how desperately I needed to be there for them. Just two more treatments. For Allison and Jacob. Destroy the cancer and stay alive!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The sun rose without me getting one moment of sleep. My dad had gone back to Florida and it was my mom's turn to drag the emotional wreck of a daughter to chemo. We get to the hospital early and I try to remain calm, but I feel myself falling apart. I found myself praying a lot that morning, but my mind was such a mess I wasn't sure what I was praying for. I was just so sleepy and sick and sore and wishing I was anywhere except at that hospital. How was it possible three weeks had passed since my last treatment. Another hospital stay in between treatments. The stress this was putting on Tom and the kiddos. I hated, desperately hated, my babies having to watch me go through this.

Time came finally and I got called back to the infusion room. My port was accessed, blood was taken, and I peed in the little cup. All that was left for me to do was talk to Dr Young then I would be hooked up to the IV so the poison could start flowing into my body. I have to leave the infusion room to get my quick exam done by Dr. Young. I don't have to wait long - the good doctor studies my chart and we chat for a moment about my latest hospital stay. It's at this moment that Dr. Young reminds me that I've already had four treatments - which was her original recommendation. She tells me that in those four treatments I've managed to get two pretty severe infections plus hospitalized for countless number of days. She doesn't think my body can handle much more. As of right now, none of the infections have affected any of my major organs. Let's quit the chemo now, she says.

Quit? I didn't even think about it. Yes, I told her. I was crying. I couldn't do another treatment. I was fighting the fight, and I was losing. There was no more fight left in me that day. Quit. Yes. I will quit. When I agreed to quit the treatment, I didn't think of anyone but myself - I just knew that right then and there I couldn't continue on. I also knew I didn't want to celebrate the news. Usually when you finish your chemo treatments there is a big production of ringing the bell in the infusion center. I felt defeated. I lost the fight. I didn't want to ring the bell - I didn't feel I deserved it.

The nurses cheered my news when they heard I was done. They probably thought I was crying happy tears, but I wasn't. I had to sit back down in the infusion room while they deaccessed my port. I wanted to scream that I changed my mind - that I wanted my poison. But I couldn't. What was I doing? My thoughts were so muddled at that point, I was almost hysterical screaming on the inside while trying to remain calm on the outside. What I wanted more than anything was to run back into Dr. Young's office and tell her I changed my mind. But I couldn't. I couldn't. I couldn't. I was ashamed that I couldn't.

Don't get me wrong...I knew what Dr. Young was saying was true. Chemo was all but destroying my body. It was getting harder and harder just to walk, because of the muscle pain it was causing me. There were many days I didn't leave my bed except to go to the bathroom. I'd read a lot about the drugs I was receiving and talked to a few people who had received the exact drugs - it seemed to me that these drugs were ravaging my body more severely than it did to others. I still sit in amazement thinking of the people who never missed a day of work while receiving the very treatment that caused me to spend half my time admitted to the hospital. But still...I had done four treatments. Two more? I couldn't do two more? For my family? I had this great life planned out ahead of me for when I finished my treatments. Six treatments of three chemotherapy drugs! That was the plan! If my cancer came back - I would know I did everything in my power the first time around. But I quit.

I can still call the doctor and tell her I changed my mind and get my next dose this week. I can't bring myself to do it though. Very few people have been told that I quit, because I can't talk about it. Most people are ready to celebrate my news. I'm just not there yet. It's almost impossible to explain exactly what I feel. But I know I don't want to hear congratulations, because right now I am sure I don't deserve that. Maybe all I need is time for this to sink in that it's finally over and I can move on to a subject that isn't cancer. There's a crazy thought. One thing is certain - this is the end of my chemo. I won't be changing my mind.