Good morning and Happy New Year, everyone!!
If you’re not on Facebook (I get it), I’ll catch you up quickly: On December 14th, I finished my last radiation treatment and I totally rang that bell. It was a tangible, ceremonious, special gesture, rooted in the tradition of hundreds of women before me - and it lasted about 3 seconds. But dang, it felt so good! It symbolized a major victory on the cancer front and it celebrated the beginning of a new chapter of recovery and survivorship. I felt flush with feathers in that powerful moment.
(I’ll freely admit to more than a few tears being shed that day. ;-))
And speaking of awesome moments…I finally made it back across the pond and reunited with Matt and the kids on Dec 20th. To say we were elated to see one another is an understatement! I made it home just in time for tree decorating with hot chocolate and even a little snow! I did have to readjust to frosty temperatures and total darkness by 4:30pm, but all in all it’s been a smooth transition. Our Christmas together was quietly glorious, peaceful, and highlighted by a beautiful Christmas Eve carol service at Ely Cathedral, one of my very favorite cathedrals in all of Europe. Not too shabby. ;-)
So, I’m good! And I’m grateful. Just so very grateful. Without a doubt, I know that deploying to Houston for the second phase of my treatment was the absolute right thing for me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - MD Anderson was incredible, and it’s easy to see why they’re known worldwide as the #1 place to go if you want to beat cancer. Even so, being away for 8 weeks was no joke. We did, however, see silver linings all over our circumstances. In my absence, the kids shared a whole host of unique experiences with Matt; and those special bonds and memories will last their lifetimes. Meanwhile, not only did I achieve mission success, but I spent some sweet, quality time with all kinds of family and met up with several dear, lifelong friends - all of which was both precious and cherished.
Going forward, we’ll consider my cancer beaten to a pulp unless indicators give us reason to think otherwise. WOOOOHOO!!! YEEEHAW!!! AND HALLELUJAH!!! I’ll have to pay a little better attention to my body than I used to, since the protocol for monitoring recurrence involves mostly subjective, self-observation for symptoms (extreme fatigue, pain that won’t go away, weird rashes or new firmness or swelling in lymphatic regions, etc.). This lobular carcinoma stuff was sneaky. Considering imagery didn’t catch it early, and I had no recognizable symptoms until I was already Stage III, I’m admittedly a little nervous about not relying on a more definitive, technological way of ensuring I’m cancer free. But, I’m already navigating the mental/emotional/spiritual side of recovery and determined to just go on LIVING, not in fear. I don’t want to panic internally every time I catch a bad cold or wake up with a pain in my neck. This year, I’ll be transitioning into a new “normal” - a responsible, reasonable attentiveness to my body; and, realistically, it may take me a little while before I feel good and settled into this part of survivorship. I’ll have regular follow-ups with my oncologists at MDA every six months for the next 5 years. And I’m still seeing my doctors here in the UK, too. I’ll continue with hormone therapy drugs for the next 10 years (a VERY effective tool for my ER/PR+ pathology). And, I’ll plan to undergo the oophorectomy here in the UK as soon as it can be scheduled. Last but not least, I’ve still got several surgeries ahead to complete my reconstruction (my surgeon wants to wait at least 3 months to allow full healing from radiation before we do the next step). But that’s the scoop!
So, it’s been January 1st here for nearly 18 hours, and I can practically taste the hope and promise of new beginnings that this new year brings. I know it’s a bit Pollyanna to ignore the hard issues that still exist in our global and personal worlds…so I look forward to this year, not out of ignorance, but out of hope, determination, and optimism. Truly, sincerely, my heart is full just thinking about of all of you: friends, family, and friends-who-are-now-called-family. You’ve seen me (us) through one heck of a 2017. THANK YOU. I cannot imagine 2017 or 2018 or any other year without you. I’m praying God’s gracious blessings upon you this year, as the plans for you unfold one day at a time.
This year, more than ever, I’m grateful for life, for adventures, for the comfort and joy of home (and home base), for feathers dropped, given, and earned, for valleys that make summits sweeter and summits that make valleys seem distant and small. I’m grateful for provision and protection, for daily bread, for my steadfast family and friends, for the blessing of freedom, and the hope that comes from the One Who Hears me. And to that One, I say, “Speak, your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10.
I’m ready. Bring on 2018!