When my Mom was going through treatment for breast cancer, we celebrated every win. We had a party any chance we got. From surgery parties tto finishing parts of the treatment plan parties and so on. Because it was so long ago (yay!) and COVID wasn’t around we got to have little mini parties in hospital waiting rooms too. I remember showing up to one of her surgeries in pink fuzzy flip flops along with others just because it made her smile.
My Mom and I are a lot alike, but in this scenario after my diagnosis, I wasn’t feeling the same. I didn’t want any sort of parties, I didn’t want to celebrate anything. I was so angry I couldn’t imagine finding anything to be happy about. I didn’t want to feel like I even had to pretend to be joyous. I’m authentic and genuine and I can’t fake it. I couldn’t post a smiling “I’m gonna beat this!” pic for the life of me. She reminded me that it was okay and it was my own journey and I didn’t have to do it the same as she did. I needed to be me, and get through this whatever way worked for me. I didn’t even want to see a stupid blue ribbon for “my cancer”. I didn’t want to talk about ribbons. I was not in a space where I was able to find anything good anywhere.
But, truth be told, my family likes to party. We like to celebrate little wins and big wins ALL YEAR LONG. Made it through a hard week? Let’s rent a movie! It’s fall?! The best season ever?! Let’s have a fall celebration and walk around Jacksonville in the leaves and get apple cider and a pumpkin candle. It’s your birthday this month? Let’s find little ways to celebrate you ALL MONTH LONG!
What can I say, we get excited about all the things. It brings us joy. Like I said, at first I didn’t think I could find any joy in this situation but God has been faithful to bring me joy in so many ways. Slowly I warmed up to the idea of embracing parts of my new story and then looking for ways to make them bearable, to make them attainable and then to celebrate the heck out of getting through them.
So my guys made a paper chain for every day of radiation, with encouraging words inside and at the end of each week (5 in total) we did something to celebrate. Maybe it was ice cream or maybe it was a movie night but we did something. And our boys got $10 Amazon cards at the end of each week too (thanks to my Amazon Wishlist Buyers!)
When I finished radiation and oral chemo we went to the coast for two nights. Best. Ever.
When my guys pick me up after I get Poison Ivy removed (the name I gave my chemo pump) we go get a fun drink from a coffee drive thru. It’s something we can all look forward to and say “Hey! We made it through another awful no fun thing and we did it together and we are alive and let’s choose joy”.
I had my first follow-up with my Radiation Oncologist yesterday. I can hardly believe it, but it’s been 7 weeks since I wrapped up that phase and the appointment snuck up on me.
I was given a full physical in addition to the standard post-radiation questions and at every one of my answers or checks he said “Wow! This is awesome! This is amazing, you’re doing so well!”
I have no lingering side effects from 5 weeks of pelvic radiation. That apparently is quite amazing. Everything looks great as far as that part of the treatment goes and he and his nurse both said I’d made their day! Talk about a shot of encouragement and joy!
So, I took a smiling selfie....
(Can I just pause here and ask, why do people apologize for selfies? I want to see my friends faces online and usually the only way that works is by taking a selfie! Why can’t you say, I feel great or I’m happy or this is me and take a picture of yourself? Stop apologizing for selfies. Take more.)
ANYWAY- I took my masked selfie in the room and then I walked out of there with a little bounce in my step (which felt great after four really rough post-chemo days) and took myself to Hobby Lobby.
I have been in a grand total of I think three or four stores since COVID hit- and two of them have been in the last two weeks. When your oncologists and doctors and nurses tell you to stay away from people and places because your immune system is shot due to chemo and there is a (not fake) pandemic that preys on weak immune systems- you listen. But also, I have to find ways to take care of my mental health, so it’s been a balance in doing some things cautiously like: private showings at the theatre with friends and masked socially distanced coffee dates in my backyard. And not doing other things at all like, not going into work because I don’t have an office I can be self-contained in to do my work. Or doing most meetings from ZOOM because they are often held in smaller rooms where exposure is greater. And also not frequenting stores where people are touching everything and not wearing their masks over their dang noses!!!!
So I went to Hobby Lobby and walked up and down nearly every aisle just for pleasure. And then on my way home I grabbed a peanut butter milkshake from one of my favorite coffee places. To celebrate. To celebrate a doctors appointment that didn’t make me feel anxious after I left. To celebrate good news and happy doctors and another win in this stupid cancer fight. Next month I have chemo ON my Birthday and you better believe I’m already planning on how to celebrate.
(I’m sorry, but you CAN still tell when people are smiling with a mask on. Real smiles always show in the eyes anyway)