I'm writing this on Dec. 10, 2014. A year ago today I started chemo and radiation. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was nervous, naive, and hopeful. My stomach turns at the thought of entering the chemo room and having it drip into my veins. It was a beautiful room filled with caring, loving people. I had many deep and sincere conversations in that room with the friends who went with me. But I have no desire to go back. That first day I went with my mom; I remember feeling like her little girl again who needed taking care of, and of course she was there to take care of me. I remember my kids coming home from school with fear in their eyes wondering how it had gone. And I slowly lost the ability to be their mom; the one who could take care of them. My mom and Darryl's mom had to fill in for many weeks. However, through it all, I was able to love my kids: hug them, tuck them in, cuddle with them. My girls always wanted to come with me to the chemo room, but there was a part of me that refused to allow the pictures of that room to be instilled in their minds. I'm glad I made that choice. After finishing my first round of chemo; my mom walked me down to the radiation room. That first radiation experience felt surreal....it still feels like a dream. I always got a floating feel after chemo, which didn't help. The "dungeon" felt especially lonely that first day because I was new at it. It slowly became my routine. As we walked through Cancer Care on that first day, I remember my mom saying to me, "I think when people look at us, they must guess that I'm the one with cancer, but it's you". I spent so many hours at Cancer Care, and it did become a place where you guessed about peoples' stories. I know that some of the people I met there are now survivors, some have lost their lives, and others are living with it, like me. Living with it takes on a million different versions. Today (a year later) I went to school and taught my beautiful grade 3 class. They are so happy to see me every time I visit. We told stories about losing our teeth today and laughed at all the different ways those baby teeth fall out.....such a joyful, fun class. There were no needles to worry about, no rolling veins, no one looking at me and trying to guess my story. I came home thinking about how dependent I became a year ago and how I've regained my independence. I am completely my girls' mom again....I take care of them and love them everyday. Yesterday my mom came to spend the day with me. We remembered our day together a year ago. This year she said, "Somedays I still can't believe you have cancer." This year we went shopping and hung out as friends, not me depending on her. This year we laughed and just enjoyed each other's company. We went to my brother's house for lunch after shopping instead of being assigned to a space at the hospital. This year on Dec. 10 my kids will come home from school happy, and excited about the upcoming holidays, not wondering how chemo had gone. Darryl will come home and kiss me and ask, "How was your day" without dread and sadness. I will walk my dog with my kids as they tell me about their day instead of curling up in bed and wishing it was all over. This year I went to the pharmacy on my way home from school to buy more meds; I was greeted by the staff with a "Hey Mel"....kind of like Norm at Cheers. They all know me there. But these meds don't make me feel sick; they make me feel better. So this year on Dec. 10, I am thankful, so thankful. Tears come to me as I think about a year ago and how much easier life is today. I feel extra lucky that I'm not at the beginning of treatments. However, I'm sad knowing other families are entering this Christmas Season like I did last year, with dread, fear and sickness. For those of you who are dreading Christmas or facing sickness.....remember that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth. He came to earth to save all people. He came to earth to provide a way for all people to someday enter heaven. He came to show us that He loves us and wants to carry you through even the hardest year of your lives, just like He did and continues to do with me.
One extra special event happened today; my oldest daughter went on a field trip to the Forks with her choir. After singing, she got to spend some time browsing the shops. She found a bracelet called "Long Life". It's a braided bracelet with 7 different coloured beads woven in. Instead of buying herself something, she spent her money on me. It's beautiful; she loves me in such a beautiful way. She told me as she tied it on my wrist, "You're supposed to make a wish as I tie it on." I responded, "I'd rather pray than wish"; she agreed. We prayed for a long life together.