The treatment plan for this cancer patient was a full-time job. Treatment meant radiation, chemo, physical and speech therapy, checkups and more. I was at the hospital every weekday for hours. It was hours upon hours. It’s amazing what we pick up on when we sit back and observe. We’re often busy, too busy, to sit back and watch. I found my time in the hospital to be quite the opposite. There was too much time for thinking so I turned to watching.
It didn’t take long before I picked up on small patterns, symbols and more. Old, young, thin, tall, in a wheelchair, walking with assistance, every type is impacted by and living with cancer. As I watched the folks stream past me, I examined them from head to foot and would take note of their destination. Where were they headed? Which numbered door did they enter after being called up? Where were the scars and bandages? How much hair did they still have? How baggy were their clothes… and so on.
I learned a lot. Patients wearing masks meant chemo, just like me. Patients with white wrist bands headed for the 2nd floor meant radiation, just like me. Patients sitting near bay 3 meant therapy, just like me. I saw individuals become unrecognizable. The weight loss, their sunken eyes, chunks of hair, if not all, gone and the sagged shoulders were a tell-tale sign of patients and their treatment plans. I pitied them. I wanted to reach out and hug them. But, with my long hair, white bracelet hidden in my pocket and long sleeves hiding my scars, it wasn’t me.
Here I was, a positive, young and confident mom in complete denial.
After 33 rounds of radiation and 3 chemo treatments my final treatment day came in mid-August. While I had started my treatment with power and I knew exactly how we were going to run through the finish line, my perspective changed without acknowledgement. Fast forward and I arrived with only my mom. She was so strong and positive. I was not. To swallow felt like I was swallowing knives, eating anything other than liquids had been given up weeks before and I was tired… really tired. We left the hospital without ringing the bell. I went straight to bed, once home, without sending one message, note or text to friends and family. The entire day passed with me asleep. And the next. And the next. And the next. I finally awoke after four days and was forced to greet the chemo-thin patient with hair missing, a swollen and red face and sagged shoulders. There were no more positive and confident thoughts, just the cancer patient I pitied.
Seeing Dave’s reaction was worse than seeing my own. He looked at me, agreed to my written statement and held my arm as I walked to the kitchen. If I drank a bottle of water and a smoothie, I could stay home. He sat by my side the entire day, that man did not move. It took hours, but the water and ensure slowly disappeared. Despite the disparity we felt, something special happened that still makes us smile in complete amazement.
A card arrived that day from a dear friend. It said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain”. The following day, five more cards arrived from family and friends. The following day I received a packet of stars with dozens of hand written notes from friends, family and co-workers. Over the next week, I received even more cards and over 1200 messages were received and sent.
It’s taken months to finish this piece about those few days. Realizing just how sick I was and that Dave had to physically help is overwhelming. Somehow all of you knew. You formed a circle around us as we pushed through those terrible days and it was exactly what we needed. All of the prayers, kind thoughts and so much more gave us both the strength needed to power through. While our shoulders sagged, your broad shoulders bore the weight when we no longer could stand.
No gesture was too small. Everything you selflessly gave made a difference. No one should ever had to fight cancer alone. Thank you so much for standing by and helping us get to where we are today. From stage 4 to remission, thanks to you, we absolutely got this done.
With sincere and absolute appreciation,
Stephanie and Dave
P.S. We would be remiss without mentioning all of the recent tragedies impacting many folks in our community and beyond. We have many reasons to reflect and give back. Dave and I are very aware of the needs surrounding our family, friends, community and so many others. We are committed to paying it forward and have already started doing so. While I don’t yet know what this entails, we are committed to making a difference. More to come. 🙂