Fighting Cancer and Bell Ringing Celebrations

Like many of you I have been wondering how AM was really doing. It’s been a few long months since her diagnosis and it’s been a struggle to be far away when I want to hover and check in and see what the hell is going on with my own eyes!

So for all of you in my shoes here’s my brief take on the haps around here. When I got home and saw her in person the first time, I cried. For a couple of reasons, one because she looks beautiful. Absolutely beautiful, she is bald, with little patches of hair that grows back in between chemo treatments. She has incredible color. I watched her like a hawk and in as much as I can tell she is strong as an ox. I am not even kidding. The first morning I was here we went for a run and I almost died and she slowed down for me. We ran three times this week.

She’s definitely different though. Her strength is chosen and forged. She has three wigs, a sundry of hats and scarves for when her head gets cold. And though the bald head is novel, she is anxious for when her hair will return, an obvious sign of normalcy. She lives her life like normal, amidst all this abnormality. She goes into work, she schedules her appointments around phone conferences and managing programs. She eats out with her friends, mails birthday cards on time, cooks dinner, chats on the phone, surfs her iPad… But life remains anchored to the rhythm of this treatment. There are no weekends away, there are entire weeks that she has to take it easy, not be where sick people or germs are. She hears dates according to how they fit into her treatment schedule. This is not an inconvenience or a burden, this is the silent reality of cancer. She looks great, for the most part she feels great, she is carrying on with life with enthusiasm and optimism, and for four hours today they poured poison into her body to kill this impostor, chemicals that kill this disease.

And that’s the hard part of it all. I love her more than I ever have. She is empathetic and kind to her fellow sojourners. It’s obvious that her doctors and nurses love her. Her friends have rallied beautifully by her side and UK is a steady anchor in the storm. She has her bearing, it seems she never lost it. She is her same optimistic, positive and pragmatic self. She knows the situation and feels a deep sense of relief that she has been so incredibly fortunate. She may have cancer, but she is not a victim. Her life may be upturned, but she just turned it right side up and has created a new normal. This may be ‘hard’ and ‘unfair’ but she simply sees it as incredible fortune that this is the first major bump in her road.

This was most beautifully represented today at her last chemo treatment. It’s a four hour process, she’s in a room with about 8 other patients and their family. They re-scheduled it late yesterday, so she resigned herself to re-scheduling a phone conference and declining another. Then she just moved right along. We arrived, I nestled in next to her. They hooked her up to bag after bag of clear liquid and as each one emptied I could see her excitement build. The patients there have an unspoken bond, and she and the lady across from her were each other’s quiet cheerleader. They competed to see who would finish first. The other lady did. Then, knowing it was AM’s last treatment, she explained to her husband that it they were going to wait to leave… They needed to see her ring the bell. So the woman sat patiently and waited for AM to pick up a bell that sits on a well displayed shelf, the bell you get to ring when you’ve completed your final round of that treatment (she’ll do it again at the end of radiation.) AM rang it joyfully as a room full of people receiving chemo cheered her on. She cried and I cried and my heart felt ebullient for her. She glowed. She had made it. Well, she’s got a few days of side effects ahead of her, but the worst is behind her. Her chemo friend walked out behind us and joined us in the elevator down. She gave me a loving squeeze as I tried to calm my tears down. As we left we wished her luck and celebrated with her when we heard her next treatment is her last!

If you want to know how AM really is, better than ever. Better than ever. Her body may be in a battle, but she is a stronger, deeper, more empathetic, energetic, optimistic version of the woman we all know and love. Just when you thought she couldn’t get better, she did. She even makes cancer something good.

Enough tears and blogging, I have to them cook dinner. You know, she does have cancer…

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