Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fork in the Road? Take it!

No one knows what hurdles we'll encounter when we enter this life.
  In so many ways surviving cancer is like starting your whole life over again.
We've got to run the race if we want to receive the prize!

 It's a chance to face each new challenge with a child-like faith.  My mother would tell you that I was a curious kid who always managed to get myself into some kind of mess.  Whether it was drawing on the walls or catching a jar full of caterpillars that escaped in the middle of the night.
Morning would always come and reveal my mischief.

 Over ten years ago, when I got the news that I had breast cancer it was like my world stopped and suddenly all the things that were so important yesterday were not the least bit urgent now.  The only thing that mattered was finding someone who had gone through what I was about to face.  I needed to hear their story so I knew how to prepare myself.  I asked alot of questions and made alot of friends.  I found that one in eight women have fought the battle I was about to fight.  There are woman all around you that have experienced the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. I've been cancer free for ten years but my life has been forever changed by the experience.  

 I immediately determined that I was not going to go
through the trauma of slowly losing my hair.
 I locked myself in the bathroom and proceeded to cut off all my hair.  I was feeling pretty confident about my decision until I discovered that I had created a mullet and couldn't finish the job.   So I called my husband to come and cut the rest of my hair off.
I handed him the clippers and asked him to finish the job.  I had already purchased a wig which was styled just like my hair so the transition would be pretty painless.  I never considered asking my hairdresser.  I felt it was a very personal decision.  So my husband and I went outside after sunset and he buzzed my mullet off.

 I knew I had to tell my daughter who was almost 16 at the time.  When I walked in her bedroom with my head shaved she said, "that's disgusting, you look like Demi Moore."   Her compliment quickly erased the negative jolt.  So for the first time since I was a baby I had no hair.  No hair to wash or fuss over. It was so easy to just put on my wig.  I must admit,  that night I cried myself to sleep but that was the end of my pity party.  I had things to accomplish and crying wasn't going to get them done. 

My regiment of chemotherapy was every three weeks until I had 4 rounds. My white cell count remained high enough to continue straight through to end of week 12.  Everything I ate tasted like aluminum foil.  The days following a treatment were the worst. It was exhausting to lay down.  I had a list of 12 people to call if I needed anything. My church family rallied around our family and provided meals.
My daughter and I seven years after chemo.

 One of the funniest times my daughter and I ever shared together.
My daughter turned 16 while I was going through chemo. My husband didn't have the patience or the time to teach her how to drive.  There were times when I felt well enough to drive.  So I drove her to a vacant parking lot adjacent to a cemetery.  The affects of the chemo kept me calm and my daughter and I laughed with each jerk and sputter that comes with learning to drive a stick shift.  It is one of the funniest times my daughter and I ever shared together.

My husband and I seven years after treatment.

Things weren't always so funny. When the doctor bills piled up and I wasn't working, things began to get tough financially. My husband and I prayed and ask God to meet our needs. Anonymous financial gifts arrived just when we began wondering how we were going to pay a bill.  The amount that we received was often close to the exact amount we needed.

 My chemotherapy doctor  asked me to do a portrait of her and her husband
which paid off the balance that we owed her.

Collection of Dr. Poonam Strivastava 
Cancer Care Center, Selinsgrove, Pa.

 When my family couldn't drive me to my chemo appointments I had a list of friends who offered
to take me.  Having this kind of support was both humbling and convicting.  I promised God that if He would heal me, I would never miss an opportunity to help someone who is battling cancer and to use my artistic talent to bring glory to Him. That is another story for another time.

1 comment:

Patti said...

I am so looking forward to reading your stories here on your new blog!