I’ll be quite honest with you: I haven’t written much on these days because day 70 depressed me.
Depression mutes me. Literally. I am usually quite the talker, but I speak less, write less, communicate less when saddened. My roommates know that I may be mute on the outside, but my heart inside of my is chaotic and frantic, racing with worry-thoughts.
I am still silently riding these roller coasters of thoughts named Worried, Concern, Frustration, and their tracks are whole-force pushing my body and mind down, down, down and twisting and sharply turning and flipping me upside-down. When will the ride stop? When will my silent screams stop?
PAUSE and REFLECT.
I will tell you of what I remember of these distant days 68 and 69 before recalling day 70.
The best of the trinity of chemo days.
I start my campaign to see Dr. Nick, asking everyone I see of his staff to come see me again at some point of the week to give me more detailed, potential post-treatment options for, well, more treatment. You see, I know Nick, and I remember that in the past that when chemo cycles are nearing to end, he likes to add more treatments. Not to torture me, but for my own health. But I have been recently trying to assess and re-assess what will life be like, look like, how to return back to “normal” life. And I can’t do that fully if there are secret passage ways of more treatment that I just don’t know about in my future.
After treatment, one of my best friends Hannah and I hang out. We roam Lucky’s Market (of course), assessing the produce alongside assessing each others lives and thoughts. Hannah is a great inspector of my thoughts, my emotions, helping me to decide if they are worth keeping like the produce in our hands. She is a friend worth keeping.
Josh picks me up later from Hannah’s house, and we together are off to see a Columbus Clipper’s game with the rest of the AYA population. AYA: Adolescent and Young Adult. We are this age gap of cancer patients and survivors, typically defined as 13-39 year olds. We own this awkward, teenager-almost-adult (when do you become an “adult”?) stage of life, of surviving and thriving life with cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery…Already trying to become an adult is hard, but to then incorporate cancer as well, oh my.
My doctors, medical team, and pscyho-social team at Nationwide Children’s are truly wonderful; they are so passionate about us, about this age range that could honestly be forgetten about in a children’s hospital (and in a “regular” hospital as well.) Instead of forgetting us, we are remembered and sought after. The team has created an AYA program targeted for survivors like myself to meet other survivors close to my age, talk, connect, and experience some fun together.
Today’s fun: baseball!
And while in the car with Josh, I still can’t believe that he wants to go with, is driving me to this AYA event. This is my life: I am a cancer survivor. And the medical, pscycho-social team, and other survivors are a significant part of my life. Two significant parts of my life—Josh and these people, this illness—are going to co-mingle and co-habitate this same space, this same moment for a length of a baseball game. This is significant indeed. He’s meet successfully met my parents. But now its time to meet the cancer family, another family indeed.
I see so many survivors I do know and many that I don’t. Which is always a wonderful and sad moment. Wonderful to meet more people, make more friends. But sad because your friendship arrises out of betrayal, your body’s own self-betrayal. I see my medical family, my brothers and sisters of survivorship, and then there is Josh alongside them.
Looking at them now, they are pieces of my support-system puzzle that click and snap together with each friendship and relationship added. This puzzle is expanding; my heart is expanding alongside it.
I only have to look down at my both of my arms to remember this day. One bruise per arm. I haven’t bruised like this up until now. Veins blowing because of so many IVs. They can only handle so much. (I can only handle so much.) Veins blowing and bursting into bruises: blue-green-yellow on my left, and dark purple-blue-red on my right.
Dear veins, together with time we will heal and be restored again.
Dr. Nick comes by on the last day of treatment, Friday, day 70. He is a consistent man, truly. One that constantly cares for his patients, is willing to encourage and inspire hope and remind you that you are a human being, and not a medical stastistic. (Oh, how that is hard to remember at times!)
Nick comes with the news that I’ve been waiting for: are there going to be more chemotherapy treatments he wants me to do come after August? And he gives me instead of a singular pathway, there is now a five-pointed star he hands me. His handwriting on the paper outlines for me 5 options, 5 different directions that may or may not provide the desired results we both want and hope for: a cure. Nick reminds me that I have beaten this cancer beyond the average, statistical expectations, but that because of that, I am on the lower end of the high-survivorship statistics.
And the words that stamp onto my heart for the next month: “It’s not a matter of if you will relapse but when” a reality that I sometimes forget, that I must remember and live and breath in.
That small faith of a mustard seed is buried somewhere deep, deep under the pile of worry-leaves. Remember, leaves decompost. So will these fears, these doubts and they will in fact (though seemingly paradoxically) nurture your mustard-seed hope.
I am honestly trying to look for that small faith of a mustard seed that is buried underneath all of these doubt-leaves, worry-leaves, now suffocating me under these piles and piles of leaf-thoughts. It’s dark under these leaves friends, and the depression wants to weigh on me with each new leaf-thought that drops itself onto me, onto the pile that is burying me.
Remember, leaves decompost. So will these fears, these doubts.
Mustard seed of faith, grow alongside and within the nutrient-rich decompost that is surrounding you despite all of the dark depression you see.