Radiation’s Glow: Killing Cancer’s Final Frontier
Note: This post was finished weeks ago, but never got published due to a brain that functions at half capacity — much less than it is capable of when cancer arrives on the scene.
A single train of thought continually leaks through the crevices that once held them tight. Ideas and full sentences break off mid-stream and I am left wondering if I’ll ever get them back again. As I laid vulnerable on the radiation table for the first time, this modern robot maneuvering around me, I held back the tears of feeling alone again. My chest bare and written upon, my arms overhead in complete surrender, I have no modesty left as I bare it all. So many nurses, technicians, and doctors have touched, poked, lifted and smashed my breasts that, if I cared about that at one point, I now have to pretend that I don’t. The set up is precise and exacting. Two to three people in the room to evaluate latitude and longitude and move me to the slightest degree right or left, or up or down all the way to perfection. Then, all at once they all leave the room because they don’t want any of what they are giving me. Alone on the table with only my thoughts that don’t stay put, I can see my exposed reflection in the glass of the machine as it exposes me to radiation. Man, I hope they know what they are doing. Every treatment brings one question to mind: Will they think that this treatment is still the proper treatment 10 years from now? They tell you all the risks, but who can look into the future to really, seriously evaluate those risks up against the present situation. And for me, at this stage of life, I listen to the experts and do what I am told, because to say “no” would always lurk in the back of my mind at the greatest risk of cancer’s return.
It is an invisible treatment. No light rays. No focused laser beam. And certainly no glow. It is timed and precise and yet completely unseen. So much of the past seven months has been about the unseen. Living in a realm that most of us don’t like to be. It’s not practical and it’s not tangible. It’s beneath the surface and that makes us uncomfortable. I am finding it hard to process all of it unless I write. Writing seems to be the only avenue to keep my thoughts in a single place, and as they fall to the page I finally get to process them. But what category do I process them into? Healing? Depression? Hope? Joy? Loss? Sadness? Fatigue? All of the above? Left to myself I would be lost in it all. Many parts of it I have to give over to God and allow Him to carry them because I am not capable, no matter how much I try.
I have been feeling fatigued and a bit depressed since chemo and surgery have been complete. The worst is over and I still can’t get my emotions and energy under control. I have three female doctors and one male doctor. I so appreciate the women doctors because they seem more concerned with my mental health at times. My Radiological Oncologist is very sensitive to what’s going on in my head as well as my body. She’s the first one to tell me that depression following all of this is a normal side effect. In some ways I didn’t expect that, nor did I want that. I have suffered from hormonal onset depression for the past 25 years, but by the grace of God have that fairly under control. Now it rears its ugly head again. My feelings aren’t logical. I am cancer free, I should be ecstatic and yet I am lethargic and overly concerned about many issues! Oh those nasty feelings. They can’t always be trusted. And yet so much of the time we do. We make decisions about who we are or how we should act by the way that we feel. The problem with that, as most of us know, our feelings change — a lot.
Over the past few years, I have developed a system of writing out what I am thankful for – mostly because I don’t naturally go there and I am forgetful about all that I am blessed with. When I started this, I used a roll of adding machine tape (because a grieving, praying mom that I read about was doing the same). It is an ongoing list, now longer than I am tall. I write down the ordinary and the extraordinary things that God does all day long, all around me. It is pretty easy to be thankful when life is going good. It takes a whole other discipline to be thankful in the midst of chaos, or suffering, or feeling out of sorts. But it always tends to snap me out of grief by being mindful of my Father’s loving heart towards me. It reminds me and reinforces into me that my God’s goodness does not change due to my circumstance. And that my circumstance doesn’t define God’s goodness. His goodness is always good no matter how I feel.
I don’t want to trust the way I feel, it tends to make a mess out of me. But, it is really hard not to go with my feelings, because they feel so real and we are constantly bombarded with the message, “If it feels good, do it!” You know what I mean? This week I have been reminded of Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Our hearts (also known as our feelings) are untrustworthy and constantly changing. It isn’t an accurate gage of truth. But, if I fix my thoughts on Jesus, just as Hebrews 3:1 tells me, I get a perfect picture of who I am and who He is to me. His Word is the perfect gage of truth, especially when my feelings want to rule me.
Note: I have finished my radiation treatment of five-days-a-week for four weeks. I have a swath of bright red skin (AKA BURNED) across half of my chest and under my arm. And now I am shedding that layer of skin. Makes me wonder about all those professionals who told us to wear sunscreen so that our skin didn’t burn. You know . . . because it causes skin cancer. Humm, wonder how this is different? Awe, I am way to tired to think about it!