Thursday I had my final radiation treatment. 33 treatments in total. Just this short time later, the nerves are finally calming, the pain is lessening, and the burns are healing. I am on my way to having my body, brain, and life back.
The last day of treatment for a cancer patient is both exciting and sad. I was so happy my treatments were over, that now I get to have my afternoons and evenings back for other things other than treatments, work or resting. I will actually be able to get back to all the writing, photography and other plans that were derailed in April. It hardly seems possible that almost four months has flown by since the initial mammogram that set all this in motion, but I will gladly take what these last four months have given me – perspective and insight on my life that has been saved from cancer.
Given all that I was excited about Thursday, I was also sad that my days would no longer include trips to visit those work at the chamber of radiation. Each person I encountered always smiled, had positive things to say, and were huge sources of encouragement. I hugged and chatted with everyone as I left, but as I was leaving, I was especially sad to leave AJ, the receptionist. I have never met a receptionist who actually viewed their duty as a calling rather than a job. AJ always greets with a smile and can lift spirits of those who are facing the dark realities of their condition. One day when he was not at the office, I walked in just as the lady who delivers the mail said, “He’s not here?” and I saw her shoulders droop. “He can always turn my day around.” These are the people I am leaving behind to return to my life.
I’m certain I will be more prolific at what I’ve learned the past four months in the coming days. I’m still wrapping my brain around the fact that I am no longer a visitor to the chamber of radiation and I sincerely hope this is my final tour through the ordeal of cancer. I know many people right now who are facing a breast cancer far more fierce, who are losing but still fighting. Each person who navigates this road will have a completely different experience and set of circumstances, and if I ask of you only one thing is not to compare one person’s experience with cancer with another as I have tried to do the same.
This journey, as I have been reminded, is far from over. There are follow-up appointments and regular visits to the oncologist in the coming years that will ensure I do not forget my life is no longer the same. I will, however, continue to do what I need to do so the cancer does not return.
I do not wish to return to the chamber of radiation – ever.
Now, I am going to try and figure out what to do next!