I Am Finished

I’m finished with radiation! I laid down in my cradle, got marked up, closed my eyes, and held my hands together above my head for the last time. My therapists were as giddy as I was. The lights were low and I breathed deeply to settle my nerves. There was a Christmas carole playing in the background. I don’t remember which one. As I laid there preparing for my last treatment I started to cry. Not out of fear this time. Not out of pain. Not out of loneliness. I cried out of an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I’m finished. I’m cured!

When I arrived at the radiation waiting room I was greeted by my fellow radiation buddies, Don, Brooks, Eleanor and her daughter, Carla. It was touching to be greeted with Brooks’ heralding, “We have a celebrity with us today!” She’s on her last day!” I didn’t know whether my elation was appropriate or not, but I giggled and danced a little jig as I headed into the dressing room to change into my exam gown. I stood in front of the mirror and looked at my body. “You know,” I thought, “they don’t let just anyone back into these rooms.” I paid special attention to my chest as I put on my gown. I thought I looked beautiful. “This is what life looks like,” I thought. “This is beautiful.”

Once I got out to the waiting room I visited with Don. The man is 84-years-old but looks about 70 at the most. He’s survived WWII, prostate cancer, an abdominal aneurysm, and Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, or CIDP. Now he’s battling throat cancer. He’s a former pilot married to a woman he’d grown up with. She was also pilot and a nurse. She’s now struggling with Fibromyalgia. For all the challenges in his life his smile is as bright as the sun. And his knee-slapping laugh has kept me cheered up each day for the last several weeks. We hugged good-bye and wished each other well. “Sure am glad to have met you,” he said. “Just wish it’d been under better circumstances.” I’m going to miss him.

Brooks is a kind and friendly retired man battling prostate cancer. He and his wife are hoping to make it down to Florida by mid-January. He’d offered Monday to pick me up in his 4-wheel-drive truck if the weather ever got too bad for me to drive. It’s a trip that would be about 2-hours out of his way and his day. I was touched by the offer. Today, we hugged good-bye and he introduced me to his wife. I was flattered beyond words that he’d want to introduce me to her. We exchanged contact information. I’m hoping we’ll keep in touch. I’m hoping he’ll pass my information on to Don, too.

Finally, Eleanor. She’s a frail woman, probablly 70-years-old or so. Always smartly dressed in slacks, matching top and a beautiful wig. Her daughter explained about 2 weeks ago that Eleanor is dying from lung cancer. She’s receiving radiation to help keep her comfortable. Eleanor want’s to live to see Christmas. Her doctor is amazed at her strength. I’m amazed at her grace. I don’t know that I would be as gracious, as feminine or as kind as she appears if I was in her wheelchair. I’m praying that she’ll make it to Christmas pain free. I admire her courage. Her duaghter, Carla, offered best wishes and hugged me as I got ready to go back for my treatment. Her mom wished me blessings, too.

I was “awarded” a certificate after my last treatment. It’s signed by all the therapists. I teared up as I hugged Brenda good-bye. I told her I was going to matte and frame the certificate. I want it to hang in my office. I’m not an award-status junkie. I don’t post awards on walls, don’t wear pins on my jackets. I’ll brag all day long about my kids’ exploits. I’d rather have the living, breathing kind of proof that I accomplished something significant over a piece of paper, a glass globe, or a plaque. But this one? No award means more to me.

I’m tired right now. For the last 117 days I’ve dealt with eliminating cancer from my life…while I was being a wife, mother, homemaker, business owner, boss. It hasn’t all settled in. I have a lot to say, but I need some time to massage the ideas and put them to words. And I’ve come to believe my experience and those of the other cancer warriors Ive met are sacred. They’re intimate. They’re beautiful. I don’t want to betray the sanctity of our experience. So it’ll take me awhile.

This is a journey I would not have selected for myself. It is a journey I would not give back.

I’ve been blessed beyond words.

I’m thankful.