I rang yet another bell on Tuesday signifying the end of my radiation treatments. My husband took me out for lunch for another congratulatory seafood meal, both of us thoroughly pleased my treatments were at long last done. My kids, friends and family sent their well wishes and I thought now we could all get back to normal.
But what is “normal”?
No sooner did I walk through the door after lunch than the nasty tummy side effects that had plagued me throughout the radiation treatments hit me once again and the oncologist’s warning that things might “get worse before they get better” rang true. I had been told that radiation “peaks” ten to fourteen days after the last treatment. It means I could expect the side effects to continue and even worsen during that time. The euphoria of being done treatments quickly dissipated.
I had promised my daughter, Carmen, to go with her and her future mother-in-law that evening to see the florist who would be doing the flowers for her July wedding. As much as I wanted to share in my daughter’s wedding excitement as the florist showed pictures of beautiful bridal bouquets, my heart just wasn’t in it. It was an endurance to stay focused and I felt guilty I just wasn’t prepared yet mentally or physically to help plan her wedding. When the topic came up of matching corsage colours with the dresses of the mothers of the bride and groom, I blanched at the idea of going in search of a dress for myself. How would I ever muster up the energy to do that? Although still over a half a year away, I wondered if I would ever be back to normal by the wedding day.
I had planned to update my blog on Wednesday, but to be honest I didn’t have the energy or the words to write. I wept before the Lord that morning. I prayed He would see each tear as an offering to Him, instead of my wallowing in self pity, but I’m sure He saw right through my attempts of giving Him feeble praise. Guilt pounded at me, as I tried to thank Him for getting me through treatments. I tried to be grateful in my heart, but I had little thanks to give as I felt my stomach cramp up and I sprinted towards the washroom yet again.
Later in the day, my daughter, Laurelle, texted me and I shared with her that I was having a tough day. “I thought it might be challenging,” she said. “It is a new type of normal again. You went through almost 8 months of just fighting and now that the fighting part is done, you have to pick up the pieces that were thrown around during the battle. Think of it this way, it took less than an hour to destroy the World Trade Centre (on Sept. 11, 2001), and years to pick up the pieces and rebuild. For you, it took months to battle the cancer and now it will take months to clean up the mess it left behind.”
She floored me with the reality and wisdom of her words.
Just like in 2001, I am now faced with a “what now?” scenario. Life after cancer. The Tom Baker Cancer Centre has a small book and even a course they provide to all of us who have completed treatments. On the first page of the book it reads: “Finishing cancer treatment is a time of change…As you move forward, you may have questions about what is coming next, what you should do to take care of yourself or how to make your well being the best it can be.” They also provide links to help you “live your best life with and beyond cancer“. I have spent these last few days contemplating and praying for direction, asking the Lord some “what next?” questions. Interestingly, He has answered through my friends and family. It’s one-day-at-a-time answers for now.
My daughter, Carmen, learning I had a tough day following our appointment with the florist, tenderly reached out to me and encouraged me to “take time”. I needed to hear that from her because I have felt so disconnected about all the wedding plans. I want to jump in right away and get into full-scale planning mode with her, but I am so frustrated that I just can’t until I’ve regained more of my strength. “It’s more important that you look after yourself, Momma, and feel better! We have lots of time!”
My husband, fighting a rotten cold this week, was keeping his distance so I wouldn’t get sick. “I don’t want you to catch a cold AND deal with your side effects too!” He said. He validated my need to rest, recuperate, and not feel guilty about not springing back to “normalcy” right away. “You’ve gone through a lot, Lynn. Take your time, and don’t push yourself too hard.”
I was blessed to have five ladies from my Bible Study/Prayer group visit me on Thursday, and they brought lunch and then we had a wonderful study on DE-stressing Christmas. It was just the visit and message I needed! Again, God spoke to me through that gathering to emphasize the need to be “at peace”, and focus on Him, not on my circumstances, and not try to do too much over the Christmas Season. That’s a tough one for me! I tend to be a “Martha” during Christmas…well, at any time really, and I just can’t go into full-Martha mode this year. In a way, it takes a lot of pressure off of me!
I have a “new normal”. I have to accept the new changes. For right now, it’s day to day progression. I am moving forward, maybe more slowly than I’d like, but it’s still forward! My son-in-law, Matt sent me this Scripture on Tuesday after I had rung the bell, reminding me again what is truly important!
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”