Today, for the first time in weeks I do not have a scheduled radiation treatment. Yesterday I completed all of my sessions. There were so many hugs and congratulations that it felt like a graduation! And like all graduations it was bitter sweet. I'm beyond thrilled to be finished but at the same time I met some wonderful people in this process; people who will stay in my thoughts, heart, and in my prayers forever.
For starters there is a very special woman on my radiation team. We share a love for shoes and handbags and she always wanted to see what heels I would be wearing to my radiation. Yes, I know you're thinking, "She wore heels to radiation?" Oh yes I did! Sure there were the occasional sneaker days. But most days, I still strapped on my heels and marched them right into the radiation room. After all, just because you don't feel so well on the inside doesn't mean you can't look fabulous on the outside. But back to this amazing woman. She always made me smile. Her love and compassion were a source of peace and comfort for me during this entire experience. After my session yesterday she revealed to me that she has breast cancer. She has already been through chemo and her scans show that she is doing very well. I have no doubt that she'll make it through this. But she shared with me that she is very private and she does not tell many of her patients what she is going through. I can't even imagine the strength that it takes to care for others when you are going through something so similar if not exactly the same. She is a true inspiration to me and all who are fortunate enough to know her. If you are reading this my friend, I honor you, your strength, courage, and graciousness. Thank you for confiding in me the challenges that you are facing in your journey. Thank you for the gift that you are to me and to all your patients!
Another woman near and dear to mine and my family's heart is the wife of a patient. She accompanies him every day to his radiation treatment and I and my mom, step-mom, and dad got to know her very well. I've nicknamed her Mrs. Pearls of Wisdom. She and her husband have been together over 50 years. She has 18 grandchildren and great grandchildren. Listening to her life's journey was not only fascinating; it reminded me of what's important in life - family, love, faith. We grew so close to her that my parents considered going down to radiation while I was in the hospital to let her know what was going on. We didn't and sure enough when we saw her again she had been so worried that we wish we would have told her. She said to me yesterday, "I don't ever want us to meet like this again. We'll meet somewhere else. Somewhere happier where I can hear all about your wonderful wedding - and the dress!" She's something else. She too put a daily smile on my face and our chats will be incredibly missed. Her husband is almost done with his treatments as well. She is looking forward to a long and relaxing celebratory vacation with the love of her life. Thank you Mrs. Pearls of Wisdom for all your life lessons and your kind spirit! You will be incredibly missed!
Like these two amazing women, there are so many people that I have met in this radiation journey. I feel a kinship with them. They understand some of what I'm going through and I some of what they're going through. I say some because radiation is different for everyone - not just where they have the radiation but also the side-effects they experience from it. But none the less, they have to be there for something that is out of their control. Something they did not ask for yet they choose to fight through.
After all the hugs were given and the goodbyes were said, I left Sylvester thinking about how incredible my experience had been there. The staff, the nurses, the doctors, and the patients all come together with such synergy. As a patient, you feel that you have so many cheerleaders cheering for you success and for your health every single step of the way.
The doctor says that I can expect to get a little worse before I start to feel better. I'll take the 'little worse' as long as better is part of the equation. I know that I still have a journey ahead of me but I'm incredibly optimistic about what this journey will bring.
To all my radiation buddies, I wish you all the best. You are fighters and I know one day this will all be a memory for us. The chats we had, the smiles we shared, and the encouragement you gave me will never be forgotten. You will remain in my thoughts and prayers for a lifetime. Stay strong and courageous and may your beauty always shine for the world as it did for me!