Day 24: Relief

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My thirty-day blog has one more week left. I’ve loved writing it, but the daily deadline has been rough. I’ll feel a bit of relief when it’s over and will take time to consider how to continue my blog from there. You may feel relieved, too. (I’m grinning at you.) One of the times in my life when I felt the greatest relief was on the last day of chemotherapy! It was an amazing feeling!

Relief is an interesting emotion. When I learned that I might have cancer but didn’t know for sure, I was incredibly anxious and scared. I still felt that way when I was told my diagnosis. When I had my first oncologist visit, I felt a little bit of relief to have information and a plan. Little though it was!

The same type of feeling came when – you guessed it – I was losing my hair. Knowing I was going to lose it, watching it fall out, and sitting while Jeff shaved off the rest were traumatic events. After it was gone, I made peace with it and felt relieved to look ahead at how I was going to handle it and what I would wear on my shiny unadorned head. That’s what got me to the point of joking about it, even though it didn’t make me happy.

As treatment days occurred, then, a few days later, the bad sickness subsided, relief washed over me each time. When I needed help and had no energy, relief came in the form of my husband or sons. Every time a meal showed up at the door, I was relieved that we didn’t have to cook. I had many moments where relief was the main emotion I felt.

None of these moments could compare to that last day of chemo. My memory of the events is vague. Jeff bought me a big chocolate bar that said, “I beat Chemo”. He took a photo of me with the bar and with my Compassion Bag and soft blanket, a special gift from Compassion That Compels that I kept with me every treatment. Even if I don’t recall every moment, I do recall walking out and feeling lighter. I didn’t have to go back the following week! No more cycle of sleeplessness, sickness, and bone aching, round-the-clock tiredness! No more accessing my port or restless legs from Benedryl! I could more fully taste food and not react badly to smells! Well, all in good time. Relief, pure relief, is what I remember.

I still had seven weeks of radiation therapy to go, but I knew that it wouldn’t be nearly as terrible as chemo. I’d need to go through some follow up tests, and I’d be on an estrogen-blocker pill for at least 5 years. I’d continue to see the oncologist on a regular basis. And the kicker: after doing all that, I didn’t know if breast cancer will haunt me again someday.

For that last day of chemo and for several weeks after, I didn’t care so much about all that. I planned a short, easy trip with my family and took a week or two extra before starting radiation treatments. I enjoyed the feeling of no more chemo and no more feeling of desperation. I reveled in the feeling of relief.

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