I am almost done with treatment. Yes, it’s true. Only 6 more doses of radiation and I can say that just over a year of eradicating this disease is over. Five months of chemo, a blood clot, a double mastectomy and what will be 28 doses of radiation plus some maintenance chemo on the side until April. The next big hill will be reconstruction. I’m sure I’ll be pecked and poked a bit with visits to the plastic surgeon to prepare for reconstruction, physical therapy to reclaim use of my left arm/shoulder, and whatever else they want to throw at me to keep me healthy and cancer free. But for the moment, most of this major battle is behind me.
It feels like standing directly adjacent to the train tracks as a train goes blasting by. I could see it coming with the diagnosis last February. Then, the full blast of the train’s horn was shattering my ears as the wheels shook the rails. Then there’s the moment of impact. A blast of wind and force hit me and sent me into this world where all I could do was experience the deafening sound and thundering vibrations racking my body. It went on and on and on and on and on at an incredible volume, the way some of those seemingly never ending trains do. At times, it thought I might just lay down and dissolve into the ground, so tired from fighting to stay upright against the unending cla clunk, cla clunk, cla clunk of the mighty beast.
But now the end is in sight. I don’t have to summon up every last bit of courage and might to get through the day. I don’t have to be afraid all the time. Afraid not just of disease, but of survival, too. My resources are coming back to me. I’m starting to see that I can fight again to gain ground, not just to avoid being crushed by the overwhelming weight of it all.
It’s as though that train has finally stormed by me and I am left standing in the sudden quiet, far too open space of survival. Everything inside me is still rattled and I’m left shaking from being way too proximal to an untimely end. In anechoic space it occurs to me that physical survival is one thing, mental survival is another.
I know what I want. I want to be somewhere quiet with my husband where I don’t have to do anything but breathe. I want him to hold my hands in his. I want to curl up into his chest and feel his comfort and warmth. I want him to be gentle and kind of hushed as he helps me come back to myself.
A lot of this last year, perhaps the entirety of it, has been dedicated to the battle. There has been a lot of numbing, a lot of avoiding other things and needs and hurts just to soldier up and get through another day. I know I need to ease back into myself, that I need to take great care in coming back online. It feels like a fragile existence: a little tired, a little crazy, a little angry and little hurt. It’s going to take time for me to understand who I am now, now that disease and pain have forever reshaped me.
There is no doubt that I will be better from having struggled. I know that. It is weird to now be standing on the other side of this though. I feel like the world’s secrets have been revealed to me and I just have to go about the business of sorting through them and trying on what fits. I feel like a calmer, more still time is coming. I am definitely praying it will be, anyway.
If you want to find me, I’ll be in the mountains arguing with myself and God about what steps to take next, how to make sense of what has happened, and how not to mess it all up. I was given this gift of life, after all. Must do something spectacular with it.
Give ‘Em Hell.
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I’m breathless just watching that train speed off into the distance. Whew! Welcome home. Now let’s get your baggage home and settle back in. Sushi soon?
Katie for president!!!!
HI Katie – The metaphor of the train is a powerful one. I grew up on the hi-line of Montana — in Wolf Point — where the train passes theough daily. It roared through town, but it always passed and its roar became a “distant, faded memory.” This is what I hope for you…that your bout with cancer and the disruption it has caused you and your family will be a distant and faded memory filled with the joy and love of your amazing husband and beautiful little girls. With love and admiration… Kate (aka Music Kate)
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