It's an overcast Friday night when writing this. The NFL Draft is on, and the work week is done. This recollection is helping me to process everything again, and I hope it can give you a glimpse into what goes on.
Time to continue the story. Last time, we talked about the diagnosis and surgery. As it turns out, that was the easy part.
Chemo. Saying it can give you chills,especially, if you are the one who will receiving it.. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body. Chemotherapy is most often used to treat cancer, since cancer cells grow and multiply much more quickly than most cells in the body. That is a straight definition. To me, it meant the woman I love was going to go through a long, hard process that I wish I could take on. My first line was prayer and information. Of course, by now, word had been out to Shari's friends and family, her church in Ohio, and our church in Palmyra. Plus her family and friends. Many had been praying for us--for Shari and her surgery. Prayers to remove the cancer. Prayers for healing and recovery. Prayers for our family.
An aside. I have been a member of Gravel Hill United Methodist Church since 1997. Over the years, I have become more involved in the internal and external ministry of the church. It has become like another family. I was about to find out the extent of that family during the chemo treatments.
To prepare for the chemo, my wife needed surgery to install a port. This would essentially "feed" the chemo drugs directly into the bloodstream. I didn't realize that while the Chemo finds and attacks cancer cells, I also attacks other healthy, fast growing cells like hair and eyelashes.
The surgery was outpatient and went well. Her chemo treatment was 16 weeks, with chemo on a Monday every 2 weeks. So, in October, she began her first treatment. I am grateful for the help she received with getting rides to and from the cancer center at the hospital. That was the first gift we received. The gift of kindness and caring from Shari's female friends for the rides she received.
The chemo treatments also included a Neulasta shot the day after Chemo. This required another visit t the hospital. This is where we received the 2nd gift. My wife made a connection with a woman during treatment, who is married and lives one street over. Her husband is a nurse and qualified to give the Neulasta shot. So, he would come over every other Tuesday, saving a trip to the hospital.
As I found out, a routine began to develop with my wife. Week one was the treatment and shot. This was followed by sever fatigue, muscle pain, soreness, change in appetite. This would diminish during the following week, and by the 2nd weekend, was feeling better....just in time to have the next chemo treatment. During this time, she took other medications to counter the medication she was taking. To me, it was crazy. I learned you have to be a strong person to go though this. I never really told my wife how I admired her courage and strength during Chemo. When she could, she would go into work. She still had school work assignments to complete. I would have crumbled underneath all the weight. But I saw a tremendous faith at work. A personal faith that only comes though trial. I am extremely proud of her.
One of the biggest gifts we received from our church family were the meals. I found out that people really wanted to help. They were not sure what to do. One of our friends from church organized meals to be delivered during Shari's chemo week. These were for our whole family, and were adjusted to allow what Shari could eat. See, my wife is a true Italian. However, during chemo, you need to avoid spicy foods and acidic foods. That meant no red sauce, for example. Pizza was replaced with white pizza. (She does not miss that now) We were and are very grateful for the meals we received. Some were delivered anonymously, others called us in advance. This was a way for others to help. It was quite an outpouring.
I made a decision that I would shave my head when she lost hers. She was told that with this Chemo, she would lose her hair and her eyebrows. As her hair started to fall out, she first cut it short, and it looked cute. Then, as it progressed, there came the evening when she asked her son, Noah, to shave it off. After that, it was my turn. She told me I did not have to do it. I made a promise and told other people about it, including all the guys in my men's group, so I could not back down. Noah was excited to shave my head, and my other stepson, Phil filmed it and took pictures. In a few minutes, I was bald. All my life, I had hair, and was losing it up front. I was not expecting the comments I received at work, church and when out. I was told it looked good. That I was no longer hiding my receding hairline. That I had the head shape for it. Well, it sure is easy maintenance. I just shave in the morning and good to go.
Well we got through the Holidays and Christmas. Here is our Christmas Card in the midst of the Chemo Treatments. A group picture with my daughter, her boys and the dog and cat.
There was some real excitement around her last Chemo treatment the end of January. She made it!! It was an exciting time. No more steroids to take. No more treatments. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Things were looking good.
Ultimately, this was another step on our Journey though Cancer. When the treatments ended, the pain slowly reduced, and some of her energy returned, she faced another decision. The Chemo did it's job, and will continue to be working for a while. Given that there was a small amount of cancer in a Lymph node, her surgeon recommended radiation to add a 10% change of a non-occurrence. This would make it to a 95% change this type of cancer would not return. She prayed about it and decided to go with the radiation.
She had her port removed first, and then 5 weeks of daily radiation on weekdays. She was able to drive herself, and continued to work and handle school work. However, there were new challenges. The radiation made her weak and she would tire easily. And personally, I think they over radiated, as she became very red and burnt like a really bad sunburn. Things are healing better now, but she is using a regimen of different creams, lotions and medication to help the skin heal.
There is more I could go on about. The continuing side effects. The exercises to prevent Lympademia in her left arm. The ongoing physical pain. But Hallelujah, her treatments are done!! Now she can continue to heal, and in time, have reconstructive surgery.
I know where were many praying for us and some who continue to do so. I am grateful for their prayers and we have been blessed during this whole ordeal. I hope that you never have to go though something like this. I saw my wife's character and nature during this process. She is a fighter, a strong women, and a victor.