The very first advice I received after being diagnosed came from a fellow survivor, several years out from treatment. She took me aside, and told me that I would be continually reminded how strong I needed to be throughout the treatment process, but that, in truth, there was far more grace and growth in accepting what my friends and family wanted to do for me. For the past four months, I have struggled with this lesson, attempting to recognize my limits while accepting the kindness and generosity of the people in my life. No matter how difficult this process becomes, every step has been softened by constant reminders that I am loved beyond words. Not that I ever denied the amazing qualities of my friends, family, and co-workers, I just never expected to be the one to test the depth of their compassion or, dare I say, dedication. I am one fortunate woman, cancer or no cancer, and not one day goes by that I don’t recognize it.
Friday marked my thirteenth infusion, leaving five to go (the countdown continues). Irene accompanied me, toting along a bag of healthy snacks, my chemo quilt, and the ice mitts that I purchased online in hopes of saving my hands from further neuropathy. Although it may be too late to save the nails that are pulling away from my fingers and turning a fascinating array of colors, I may be able to avoid further trauma to my finger tips. So, with fat blue icy mittens on my hands, I attempted to cozy into the treatment chair. Soon after, I was blessed by the fabulously distracting presence of Nayer, a new-found friend from work. Ahhh, the joy of diversions! While Irene went for coffee, Nayer kept me company. When Irene returned with yet another dear friend, Gol, Nayer played music and projected various images of the sea onto the wall in the treatment room. I couldn’t have felt more fortunate, surrounded by beauty and the joy of friends, even as the nurses came and went, checking my blood pressure, monitoring my meds, and confirming my name and birth date. I left my thirteenth treatment feeling like a princess, with a strong desire to dance under the wintery night sky. Although my energy quickly dissipated, my appreciation for friends (and an incredibly patient and loving partner) continues.
For the first time since beginning chemo, I took down the book of blessings from friends and photos of me and Irene from the bookcase. I re-read the tender words that people shared at my blessing ceremony and I looked at the images of me prior to surgery- baring the chest that would soon be altered forever. That Wendi had only a slight idea of what was ahead of her, and yet I can see some amount of strength and courage in her eyes (along with fear). Looking in the mirror today, I see a different beauty- stark, humble, hopeful, and marked by a deep desire to find grace amidst the avalanche of change. On Friday, Nayer asked me what my relationship with this cancer is, and I didn’t have a good answer. I considered the fact that my body made this cancer, and that it is/was a part of me. Because of cancer, part of me has been taken away. And because of cancer, I have allowed the beginnings of grace to grow from the scars.
The deepest gratitude to everyone who shares this journey with me. I can’t possibly imagine what it would take to make it through this craziness without the love, laughter, and presence of my community. Oh, and the meals, cards, emails, surprise grants, and encouragements have been gratefully and graciously (I hope) appreciated. My heart is full of abundance, and I am blessed, blessed, blessed.