Prior to heading into her last radiation treatment, she went online and logged onto Facebook. She saw a notification that it was Rod’s birthday. Tears came to her eyes, as she realized that her dear partner-in-treatment still found a way to be there for her, even from Heaven.
For her final treatment, she had a substitute radiation technician since her usual technician was at a conference. That technician unfortunately hadn’t been relayed some necessary information about how to treat her. She went into the treatment room dancing and smiling because it was her last one. She left dry-heaving, crying from the pain and cursing like a sailor.
A day later, adrenaline thankfully kicked in and she walked with other cancer survivors in the Critters for the Cure fashion show. The event raised $25,000 for uninsured DC-area women battling breast and gynecological cancers.
Photo Credit: Fido Journalism
She looks at that picture and still doesn’t recognize herself. One might think that almost six months without her long red locks would have changed that, but that’s not the case. She wonders if it’s her own way of coping. As much as she was the poster child for not covering her bald head during treatment, that doesn’t mean that she has liked what she sees when she looks in the mirror.
Friends have commented about her perfect head shape, how good she looks, and how inner beauty is what matters. She responds with a smile, a simple thanks, or by saying, “I can’t wait for my hair to be back." Deep down, she knows her friends are right. But, emotions, vanity and a desire for her old life to be back often outweigh logic.
A year ago, she looked like her avatar.
And, now she doesn’t.
Her appearance serves as a constant reminder of how much has changed over the past year. Her fingernails are half-dead. She's now sporting a buzz cut and doing her eye makeup differently to compensate for her lack of eye lashes. It’s taking a lot longer to lose the chemotherapy weight than it did to gain. Her blood counts and blood pressure are still low, and she’s exhausted and weak.
On Saturday, she felt especially sick. Her friend found her in the bathroom, lying on the floor. While at the doctor's office yesterday, her blood pressure was a very low 80/40, and she had the chills. She sat there shaking, even though she was wearing a hooded coat and silk underwear, and holding a hot pack in her hands. Radiation might have ended, but the side effects continue.
Two weeks ago, there was an afternoon when she felt good. Really good. She looked at her friend, smiled and said:
I’m done! I don't have to have anymore chemotherapy or radiation!
She knows that there will be more and more moments like that with each week. But, she still isn’t ready to celebrate that she’s done. Her heart, body and mind just aren’t there yet.