Radiation

At the end of this week I will be halfway through my radiation treatments. I wish I could say they’ve been easy, but the reality is, I’ve been dealing with a new set of side effects since starting treatments. They warned me that I would be dealing with more fatigue, and sure enough, I sometimes feel like I don’t have energy to brush my teeth let alone any other simple task. The worst is tummy upsets though. I hardly know what to eat because it seems just about everything disagrees with me. Unfortunately, it is a side effect that may last awhile even after treatments are done. *sigh*

Still, if I compare these radiation side effects with chemo, these are far more preferable. 😁

Last Friday, I had to wait for my treatment, and I struck up a good conversation with a lady who was battling breast cancer. She had just finished four rounds of chemo and was just starting her sixteen radiation treatments. She showed me pictures of her grandchildren and said, “They are my reason for fighting so hard.” I know what she means. I have hundreds 🤪 of pictures on my iPhone of my kids and grandbabies, and when I am having a challenging day, I scroll through them, and think of the memories yet to be made with each of my loved ones. Cancer survivors and those living with cancer have families and friends who are cheering them on. Loved ones may not fully grasp what we are going through, but their support uplifts us. I never forget about my “cheering section” and thank God for them every day!

As we continued talking and commiserating about our cancer journeys, sharing the similarities and differences, we both admitted to the emotional toll cancer and the subsequent treatments have taken out on us. Only those who have fought the battle can truly understand what it’s like on the battle field. I have discovered over these many years that there is a camaraderie that develops between even total strangers based on shared experience. Though everyone’s battle with cancer is uniquely their own, we can encourage each other because we have shared enough commonalities with the disease to be able to relate to one another.

As I watched the Remembrance Day services on T.V. on November 11th, several veterans were interviewed and a few tried to relate their wartime experience to the young reporters. “You had to be there!” Declared a ninety-five year old WW2 veteran with a raspy voice, as he wiped a tear from his eye. It’s true. We may hear the stories, but we will never fully comprehend what these brave men and women faced, because we did not personally experience what they experienced. It is important we hear the stories just the same, because it is important for them to tell their story, as much as it’s important for us to hear them. Stories have such an impact and brings both the teller and the listener closer to understanding one another.

Jesus knew the importance of storytelling. It was an integral part of His earthly ministry. Whenever Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” He was calling for people to pay careful attention. Jesus spoke in parables, telling stories the people could relate to even if they may not have had a personal connection to, or experience with. Their understanding of the parable was not always determined by personal experience, but whether or not they were willing to listen and hear the meaning and intent of the story.

I will admit, there have been times I have blocked out listening to the stories of those who just want someone to hear them. I have been distracted by my own circumstances, not wanting to get involved. I have even purposefully avoided talking to people because their story would make me too uncomfortable to hear it.  Sometimes, I have avoided telling my story, because the remembrance of some of it is just to painful to relive.  I have learned there is healing in the telling, and in the listening to another’s journey.  It is intimidating to share sometimes, but God does not want us to remain silent if He has allowed us to go through something with the intention to share the experience with others for His purposes.  He would not want us to avoid listening either, if we have an opportunity to hear and learn from their experience.  It allows us a better insight into their life journeys and allows us to lend support to them as well.

In the next few weeks left of my radiation treatments, I will likely have more opportunities to strike up conversations with fellow cancer sojourners. Pray that I will compassionately listen to them; I will have the boldness to share my faith with them, and that they in turn will have “ears to listen” to my story as well.

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What A Celebration!

In July, I wrote a post about “Laughter being the best medicine“.  Well, I had a huge laughter-filled dosage of feel-good medicine last Friday when friends and family gathered to celebrate with me my cancer-free diagnosis and end of chemo treatments.  As each person came through the door, I was surprised by the colourful wigs they wore, or the peach colours they sported to celebrate with me.  I laughed uproariously at the get-ups and by the end of the evening my cheeks hurt from smiling!

My husband gave me strict orders not to “overdo” it, so I was relegated to sitting in my chair, my “throne” as I called it, and people came to me rather than me mingling too much with the throng of well-wishers.  I was still totally exhausted by the end of the evening, but it was sooooo worth it!

My friend, Elaine, wrote on Facebook: “To celebrate a dear friend’s end-of-chemo, I wore a wig tonight…What fun to be around so many neighbours, fellow grads, former students, colleagues and kindreds. A friend and I were deep in discussion for much of the evening, catching up after too many years, but we could hear laughter erupting all around us. It made me smile. What joy to see my friends’ children growing up into such sweet young men and women.  Lynn D, thank you for the reminder to celebrate. Always. Whether the milestones are minor or major. Let us truly live life in all its fullness, and gather our loved ones–and strangers–close.”

Elaine summarized the entire evening so well!  We did a head-count and fifty people had gathered for my little soiree!  My children were there as official hosts of the party.  Thankfully, they also tackled the cleanup afterwards!  My four precious grandbabies, kept us entertained wearing their “My Grandma is my hero” shirts, all the while downloading on left-over Halloween candy.  My brother, church family, and friends, all came with appys to share.  Most came in costume or wearing wigs, but all were as eager to celebrate with me as I was eager to celebrate with them.  Each and every one present had prayed and encouraged me throughout my chemo treatments, and they continue to pray now that I’ve started the radiation treatments.

As I sat regally on my living room “throne” being waited upon, I was humbled and slightly overwhelmed by the attention.  I had been so reclusive through chemotherapy, avoiding crowds in order to not compromise my immunity, and this marked the first time since June, I had been around a large group of people in close quarters.  I had missed the one on one contact.  I had missed giving and receiving hugs and handshakes.  I had missed seeing these precious people in person, hearing their laughter, listening to their stories and feeling the camaraderie of being amongst so many people who love the Lord with all their hearts.  My celebration party may have been the reason we had gathered, but I wasn’t the centre of attention.  Jesus was.  As I listened to my friends and family immersed in a myriad of different conversations, I realized that the main purpose of our gathering was to acknowledge His Presence in our lives, whether we realized the intent or not.  The party was a great excuse for each of us to gather to have fun, enjoy one another’s company, and in so doing, give praise, to thank Him for loving and sustaining us through good times and through challenging times.  We were celebrating Life!  I got misty-eyed when I was impacted profoundly by a sudden thought, surrounded by so many I know and love, that this must be what heaven is like!

On Sunday, I went to worship service at my church for the first time since June.  Still on an emotional high from the party two days before, I was so thankful to be surrounded by my church family again.  However, surrounded as I was by people, I hardly noticed those around me.  My focus was entirely on Him!  I wept openly when we sang, “Christ alone, Cornerstone!  Weak made strong, in the Saviour’s love…”  After coming through the storm, for me this was indeed my personal song of Celebration!

 

 

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Pacing Myself

I have had four radiation treatments this week. So far no discernible side effects except for the ongoing fatigue that continues to plague me following chemo. It is very frustrating to want to re-engage in “normal” activities and not have the strength or stamina to do it. So, I pace myself. I set small goals everyday and try to accomplish at least one new thing each day. It’s slow, steady progress, but admittedly it’s sometimes discouraging that an activity or chore that I once sped through to complete, takes more time now to accomplish. Sometimes I give up entirely and just admit defeat. I have discovered there really is nothing so pressing or important that it can’t wait until the next day.

Hmmmmm…why didn’t that revelation impact me sooner?

Fatigue is the number one complaint my oncologist hears from her patients. In my case, I’m still getting over the effects of chemo, and from what I understand, radiation also causes fatigue that lingers for several weeks after treatments end. I told my kids that I will need their help decking the halls for Christmas this year, and like Thanksgiving, it may be a “takeout” dinner. I guess we will see.

My radiation treatments are my focus now. My daily schedule for the next four weeks revolves around the forty-five minute drive into the cancer clinic at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, the treatment itself, which can take half an hour or more based on wait times, and then the forty-five minute drive home. Since my treatment times vary each day, any other activities have to fit into that schedule. I’m one of the fortunate ones too. We talked to a Hutterite lady who had driven from near Grand Prairie with her elderly father so he could get his radiation treatments. That’s a seven hour drive! They were planning to stay in Calgary during the week, and drive home for the weekends. She sighed, “The good Lord does not give us more than we can handle.” I didn’t have the heart to correct her misinterpretation of that Bible passage, but wholeheartedly agreed with her when she adamantly stated, “He will be with us through it all!”

Tonight I’m gathering with friends and family to celebrate my getting through chemo, and to praise God for His ongoing watch-care over me. It will be wonderful to be surrounded by so many who have journeyed with me over these many months.

Thank-you, readers, for your ongoing prayer support. Please pray my fatigue will lessen, and that there would be no other side effects from the radiation. I’m looking forward to finishing those treatments on December 3rd, so I am counting down the days! I found out I get to ring another school bell that day! Yay!

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