It is over, or at least some of the really hard stuff is over. Tomorrow will be the first alternate Monday in six months where I will not head to Sterling to receive chemo. Now that is pretty amazing! What is funny, is I do need to head to the hospital to drop off the pink flag (I’ll tell you that story in a bit…)
On Sunday, August 4th, we laid down the boys for bedtime and I started feeling anxious about the day ahead of me. That was a pretty normal response with a pending chemo treatment, but that anxiety came out in the form of tears. I cried and cried and cried. I even cried myself to sleep. I became increasingly frustrated because I couldn’t pinpoint why I was crying. Even though, not knowing the answer to the question, “Why?” has been part of the life lessons I have learned through this journey, I still found myself trying to decipher my emotions and answer, “Why am I crying?” Monday morning I woke up and the tears began almost immediately. I normally could get a grip slightly before walking into the doctor’s office, but this day was different. This was going to by my LAST treatment. I found myself questioning, “Have I done enough for God’s kingdom through this journey? Maybe I need to continue to make sure I have completed the task set before me.” I really tried to release that idea quickly… I was not interested in chemo being a part of my life’s continued testimony. I was willing to fight the good fight, but I am really hoping that I NEVER HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN!
That final treatment on Monday, August 5, 2013 felt just as awful as the previous treatments. I knew there was incredibly disgusting, yet life-sustaining, medicine coursing through my veins. I knew I would feel like a rotting sack of potatoes, but I managed to get through that one final treatment. We spoke with my new oncologist that day and he stated that I didn’t need to get my Neulasta shot on Tuesday. WOO HOO! That sucker stinks and has horribly painful side effects. August 5 hit right in the middle of the Logan County Fair. It was heavily underway and I needed to get in motion. Fair was probably the best and worst medicine for that week. It made me push through (or I did that to myself, as I have a way of never ceasing to work). Looking back it was a bit of blur. Monday I did go home after chemo, but by Tuesday evening I was in town for the bull riding, Wednesday night we had the junior rodeo, Thursday and Friday were PRCA rodeos (which I actively help with the production of these events), Saturday was the parade, luncheon and concert and Sunday was the demolition derby.
There were a couple of very cool things that happened during fair this year, that I must share with you! Throughout this year I began working on a royalty reunion. The Logan County Royalty Program was established 65 years ago and I thought we should celebrate. With the help of others, I found past queens and invited them to come back to their fair. I was able to round up 28 past queens to join us. Friday night we kicked off the rodeo with a grand entry which included a horse-drawn carriage for the oldies-but-goodies, and 19 other gals horseback. My favorite was Phyllis McNear, who is 81-years-young, who came into the arena on a horse… boy did the crowd go wild for that one. I was so nervous to tell the stock contractor that I had that many queens lined up, but what was he going to do? Kick me out? Nice try… I just survived six months of chemo. BRING IT ON! This became all a figment of my imagination, and the fight was not nearly so bad. This mostly went off without a hitch (well I did have one past queen get bucked off, but what better way to start a rodeo?) We continued the celebration of these past queens with their appearance in the parade on Saturday morning, and we honored them with a luncheon that same day.
That’s a lot of past queens…
The second cool thing that happened on Friday night was that I got on a horse again. Ken Meis (rodeo committee chair) and I had discussed me bringing in the Tough Enough to Wear Pink flag into the arena. This is the PRCA’s way of supporting breast cancer research. At the very end of the rodeo, myself and Dorothy Unrein, got on our horses and gladly represented cancer survivors of Logan County. There were lots and lots of people in the stands (potentially 2500) and as we rode around the arena, they rose to their feet, giving us/the cause, a standing ovation. I thought I was going to burst in to tears. It was such an honor. I was completely exhausted after the week I had, but there was energy in the stands.
It was an honor!
Thank you Sara Atkinson, with Misara Photography, for taking these pictures. All images are hers.
I am going to finish today’s blog with some unsolicited advice… to you… I received mounds and mounds of well-meaning bits of advice as I went through this journey, so it is time to give back 🙂 When you find out someone has cancer, do something. Actively do something. Here are some ideas:
Pray and pray hard and pray regularly.
Bring a meal.
Send a card.
Send a gift.
See them through until the end. Sometimes there is a lot of support at the beginning. And we need a lot of support at the beginning, because we are scared and unknowledgeable about our disease. But don’t forget the end. By the time we get to the end, we need just about the same amount of support… because we are tired… or sick… or both.
Ask them how they are only once per conversation. Then ask a different question. Maybe something that doesn’t relate to cancer. We all have a lot of life we are living beside fighting cancer – we would way rather talk about that.
Don’t be afraid to call. That feeling you have deep down in your gut that you should call… follow that sensation and pick up the phone. If we are too busy or too sick, we won’t answer the phone. But leave a message.
I am sure there are plenty more suggestions I have, but I will end there.
Now to truly finish off the night with a good ranch story… So, I am tired. I am really, really, really, REALLY tired. My oncologist said that it will likely be three months before I really feel “normal.” I am not certain I will remember what normal feels like, but I digress. Fair ended on Sunday night, August 11 and by Monday morning Roy had me up at the folks getting horses ready for the vet. I drudged up there with the boys and I leaned against the vet’s pick-up and pretended to do something functional. I flipped through our horse book checking ages and registered names of the horses we are taking to the sale on August 24. Tuesday morning got serious. It was time to kick training into high gear, which for me was four-wheel drive and low gear, and start halter breaking five colts. We have five babies to work with in two weeks, so the heat was on. All five colts are blue roans and in my sleep-deprived delirium I am required, as a good rancher’s wife, to decipher which baby is which. I managed that feat. The second goal was to squeeze up the two motherless babies into the circle and get halters on them. Note: they are motherless, because their mamas are awful, rip-snort type of mares that are unsafe and not halter broke themselves. So we have these two babies squeezed in the circle and I am pushing with all of my might while Roy is precariously balancing on one of the gates, leaning WAY over to get a halter on one of these wild creatures, when all of a sudden, one of the babies kicks a leg through the gate, and pulls it abruptly toward itself. With all of my weight leaning forward in a deep lunging position, when the colt pulls the gate forward I fall to my knees and end up on all fours. The scared little gal begins to kick frantically to get out of the gate rung, and proceeds to make contact with both my head and my shoulder. “Okay, I just got kicked in the head.” Unfortunately, my exhaustive level does not allow for a very quick response time and with the tweety birds dancing around my head, I quickly (and I mean slower than a turtle) muster myself to my feet. Roy asks, “Are you okay?” At this point I want to burst in to tears AND punch him in his nose. “No, I am not okay! I just got kicked in the head.” “Oh, honey, I am so sorry.” I decided tears would be the way to go on this one. This day also included me getting bumped off a gate and landing on my ribs and trying to get out of the way of a wild baby and falling over backwards in to the hay feeder. I have NEVER in my entire life had that clumsy of a day. I think it goes to prove my exhaustion level, but I really don’t have much quit in me. Wednesday I took it a little easier 🙂
Final words: My PET scan is scheduled for September 11th at 9 a.m. in Greeley. I will meet with my oncologist on September 16th to go over the results. I have full faith that God’s favor has already been demonstrated, but we continue to ask for your prayers as we finish out this phase of this journey. I did reach the summit, but ONLY because of God’s unfailing, unwavering, never ending love, compassion and kindness and the wonderful support of family and friends. The Lord Jesus Christ is a mighty healer and we continue to proclaim that. Chemo has drawn to a close and I firmly believe that, but I do believe that the journey is not over. I know that God is going to use this experience for His greater good and I think the best is yet to come. I am so thankful that I went through this, partly because I have a much deeper understanding of the cancer experience. I am even more thankful that chemo is over 🙂 I am thrilled to continue to learn and grow and find out the plans the Lord has for me. It is going to great and that is why it is not over! Many blessings on you.