It’s Thursday evening and Ryan, Dolly, and I are cuddled up on the couch watching movies as we ride out Ryan’s last chemo treatment. He’s dozing on and off and Dolly keeps bringing me her favorite stuffed dragon and dropping in on my computer. I have to laugh, because from the outside looking in, nothing in this scene seems out of the ordinary, but as I sit here I am realizing how monumental this night is. The worst of his side effects are of course still on their way. We know this from experience, but at this particular moment, I can take a breath. Chemo is officially behind us.
This past week has been filled with a dizzying amount of appointments, x-rays, scans, and conversations after doctors were questioning whether or not Ryan may need to have a dental procedure done before we start our next phase in treatment, radiation. The problem wasn’t in the procedure, but with the side effects of radiation, what it could possibly do to the integrity of his jaw bone or the fact that he’s currently neutropenic, e.g. zero immune system, and that no surgeon in their right mind would operate on someone being that high risk. It’s been the perfect storm of complications. After multiple conversations, x-ray reviews, and a group doctor conversation, all three MDs were unanimous yesterday in their decision for us to move forward with radiation. We let out the breath we’d been holding for the past 2 weeks.
So today we went into our very last chemo treatment with excited but anxious hearts.
The thing about chemotherapy is that its actual physical torture, it really is. You go in to receive this treatment that will make you better in the long term, but in the short term, will make you sicker than you’ve ever been in your life. Watching these men and women receive treatment every week is honestly the bravest thing I’ve ever witnessed. They show up with smiles on their faces ready to fight all the well knowing it will be their hardest fight yet. Because in layman’s terms… the more chemo you have in your body the worse the symptoms (e.g. it gets worse every treatment). These people are warriors in the truest sense. So when we walked in today we walked in knowing that it would be a wonderful, hard, and emotional day. We were so grateful that this was our last treatment, aware that it will be our hardest recovery yet, and emotional that we couldn’t take all of our friends with us.
I hope that when I think about chemo in the future I forget all the yucky stuff, strip away the brutality of it all, and only remember the people we met. We will be forever changed by the men and women we spent so many days with during this season. Yasmin, Don, Robin, Gabriella, Patty, Patricia, and Buzz will forever be our people. We have rooted each other on, shared each other’s joy, and comforted one another during pain in a way that is completely not normal for strangers. It’s what I think heaven will be like minus all the horrible stuff. Just pure love. I’ve never seen a more supportive group of people, the way that they truly celebrate wins for each other even if they themselves have just received a setback. And the greatest thing about this love is that these people, significant others and spouses included, don’t have enough energy to be anything other than genuine – when you are sitting in a chemo chair you are WAY past small talk. The genuine joy and care for one another is out of this world. I wish I could bottle it up and save it.
We had been told once already in this journey that we needed more chemo than was originally planned, which left us feeling defeated and exhausted, so we went into today’s appointment both expecting to hear there would be more to do. But when we were told that it was, in fact, our last chemotherapy treatment, our excitement could not be contained. When Ryan shakily stood up after the last of his 4 drugs had finished our friends were cheering him on with happy tears and telling us how good we did during our fight, all the while still hooked up to a drip themselves. It was the purest form of love I have ever witnessed. I know I sound like a broken record here, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake that feeling.
Today as we walked out of the hospital holding hands, with tears streaming down our cheeks, we knew we had finally made it to the next chapter in the book that we are still dreaming up. Our great story is still being written.
Logistically we will be spending the next 7ish days recovering from this treatment. Even though it does get worse every time, I am nothing if not aggressive about getting ahead of the symptoms. I pride my self in being the most obnoxious nurse in town! 😉 And 2 weeks after that we will be getting our 3rd PET scan which will determine the amount of radiation Ryan will be receiving. We have been told that it will be anywhere from 2-4 weeks so we are praying for the two. From what I gather through the gossip in the oncologist waiting room is that nothing is as hard as chemo, but that radiation has it’s own dark side. We are gearing up for our next mountain all the while celebrating making it to the top of this one.
And for his hair, it’s funny how many messages I receive about it, we are right there with you… it’s so weird that it’s still there! We’ve been told a zillion times over that it should be gone by now, and trust me it’s falling out all over the place, but for the most part it’s hanging on! We took this photo on Wednesday afternoon before his treatment because I felt like we needed documentation of this miracle.