All. The. Feelings. – A Cancer Update

It’s Surreal.

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. 

67 Comments

  1. Marian
    October 19, 2018 / 9:10 am

    Love and prayers for Ryan and you Ashley (and cutie Dolly too). Be blessed!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 19, 2018 / 9:19 am

      Thank you so much, Marian!! You are so sweet!

  2. Shelby
    October 19, 2018 / 9:17 am

    Goosebumps!! Ashley, you and Ryan are amazing! I can’t imagine what you’re both going through but, I pray he will be healed very soon. ❤️

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 19, 2018 / 9:19 am

      Shelby! Thank you, means the world!

  3. October 19, 2018 / 9:31 am

    I was so thrilled to see your video on Instagram stories about his last treatment! You both have been on my thoughts since you first shared the news. Continuing to send love and prayers for you both!!

    xo Taylor

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 19, 2018 / 9:46 am

      Taylor, thank you for your sweet note! xo – AB

  4. Jami
    October 19, 2018 / 9:59 am

    Prayers for this brave man and his, to respectfully quote you, “most obnoxious nurse in town.” Being strong when you’re at your weakest is a gift!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 19, 2018 / 10:07 am

      Haha! Jami, you are so sweet. Thank you!

  5. Sarah
    October 19, 2018 / 10:07 am

    Thank you for sharing your journey ❤️ While I wish that your husband and many others didn’t have to go through such a horrific ordeal, the insight from these posts on what those around us go through while trying to beat cancer has been helpful to so, so many, since you often don’t know what to do or say or how to help. Sending prayers as you both continue on in this fight.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:08 pm

      Thank you so much, Sarah, it really means the world. xo – Ashley Brooke

  6. October 19, 2018 / 10:11 am

    I am so happy to hear that you are all past this stage! You really both are warriors. Tears streaming down reading this because you can feel all your emotions.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:08 pm

      Thank you Jane! We officially FEEL like warriors! ha! xo – AB

  7. Kim
    October 19, 2018 / 11:01 am

    So thrilled for you all to have finished chemo treatment. I too was sitting in the treatment chair yesterday so I empathize with all that you write. I’ll pray for the 2 weeks of radiation treatment for Ryan but know he can make it through 4 if needed! Keep on fighting! ❤️

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:09 pm

      Kim! We are praying for you! There is one thing I know to be true.. we are ALL in this together.

  8. Suzzanne Dixon
    October 19, 2018 / 12:16 pm

    This is amazing! So happy for you guys:) Prayers for the two weeks of radiation, but know if it’s longer Ryan will do great! He is a fighter and is kicking cancer in the butt!!!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:10 pm

      Thank you so much for the encouragement, Suzzanne! means the world.

  9. Patricia Haddad
    October 19, 2018 / 12:41 pm

    I mentioned in your previous post on when Ryan’s last treatment was and it fell on my great nieces 1 year old birthday! If that is not a wonderful sign from God. 🙂 Her name is Mya (we call her Mya papaya) and we are as grateful for her as you are for your husband’s last chemo treatment!!! I will keep sending prayers your way and know that God is listening.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:10 pm

      Patricia! I’m taking it as the BEST sign! Thank you so much for your sweet note! And yes, he is always listening. xo – A

  10. Sarah Stroscio
    October 19, 2018 / 1:38 pm

    Ashley, I am so happy to see you on this side of the first mountain and I’m rooting for you and Ryan with the hopes for 2 weeks of radiation vs 4. Thank you for sharing this very personal story. So many of us walk a similar path and yet we don’t talk about it. Your words are beautiful.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:11 pm

      Sarah, thank you for your sweet words, they mean so much! xo – Ashley Brooke

  11. CorrieMae Hyatt
    October 19, 2018 / 2:24 pm

    Prayers, Prayers for you, Ryan and your family. Cancer sucks. My daughter who will be 35 next month is recovering from breast cancer, it has been a year since she told us and the long road of chemo, double mastectomy and 33 radiation treatments. I applaud you for being the best obnoxious nurse! This is most important, being the reminder person, the cheerleader, the cook, and the nursemaid. I will continue to send my prayers to you. Love and Hugs.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:12 pm

      CorrieMae! Oh, thank you for your note and we are praying hard for your daughter! We are all in this together! Sending so much love your way!

  12. Jane H.
    October 19, 2018 / 2:29 pm

    Great news. A giant step forward. I’m admiring your strength and faithfulness and will keep you in prayer.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:13 pm

      YES!! Thank you so much! xo – AB

  13. Jenna
    October 19, 2018 / 2:34 pm

    Congratulations to Ryan on finishing chemo! I’ve been aptly following along on your journey, which coincided with the fact that I am now four months into my second year pharmacy residency specializing in oncology. You hit the nail on the head with chemotherapy, and it’s that terrible yet wonderful nature of it that makes me so passionate to study it. I’ll continue to pray for the both of you as you enter this next phase. And please continue to update! As a practitioner, it’s always great getting to read the patient and family’s experience of this journey and reaffirms why I chose to study and research onc!

    -Jenna

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:15 pm

      Jenna, thank you SO much for your sweet note, seriously this means the world! What you do is SO important, life-giving, and life-saving. Thank you again for taking the time to comment. Means the absolute world. xo – AB

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:13 pm

      … and we love you!

  14. Kristyn Waters
    October 19, 2018 / 3:02 pm

    Congratulations on reaching this major milestone, and doing so with your infectious positivity intact! I loved watching your stories yesterday. I had tears in my eyes watching Ryan ring that bell. I can hardly imagine the crazy mix of emotions a moment like that must bring, but I am sure JOY and RELIEF are right at the top of the list.

    Praying that this next week will be less awful than anticipated! You’re one step closer to the finish line…

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:20 pm

      Kristyn! Thank you so much your note means so much and you are right… JOY & RELIEF! Thank you for your prayers! xo

  15. October 19, 2018 / 5:05 pm

    Ashley so happy Finally OVER.
    Best of luck for your next treatment.I know you guys are fighters and I pray that everything will be fine.
    As for me I am going to Europe for 2nd opoion .They believe in radiation not chemo and their pet scan directly go to the cancer cell and destroys it.Will talk about this when we meet Hope they accept me.Miss you guys,As for Dolly so cute always camera ready.Did my scan will see the DR next week hope it is okay..

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:23 pm

      Yasmin!!!!
      We miss you! PRAYING so hard for you! Will e-mail your now! love you! Ashley

  16. Sharon
    October 19, 2018 / 5:38 pm

    I’m so happy that you’re on the way to your next phase and most importantly that you have such good, positive energy! You mentioned the dental procedure, (which I’m sure in Ryan’s case is a recent development) and I’d like to comment that I have seen SO many people who do not keep with going to the dentist actually have to delay chemotherapy or radiation for MONTHS because they cannot risk infection from decay in their mouths. We have to give clearance for all types of chemo and some people need massive work to get their mouths healthy! Many people do not understand how many ways an unhealthy mouth can affect your general health!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:22 pm

      Hi Sharon,
      Thank you for your sweet note and kind words. We are definitely aware of the risks and have been taking extra care with his teeth and all appointments. We’ve heard horror stories! Thank you for your knowledge and weighing in… always so helpful to hear from others! His mouth health is at the tippity-top of our list!
      xo – AB

  17. Melissa
    October 19, 2018 / 8:41 pm

    Oh Ashley, so happy chemo is over!!! Praying always and cheering you and Ryan on!! You have given me strength to
    get through something in my own life right now! With God we will make it. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    xoxo,
    Melissa

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:19 pm

      Oh Melissa! Praying so hard for you, we are all in this together. And yes, we are in His hands. xo – AB

      • Melissa
        October 20, 2018 / 4:47 pm

        Thank you Ashley!! Please give Ryan a big hug for me. We will get through this together.

  18. Tracey Deyling
    October 19, 2018 / 9:21 pm

    Praying for Ryan’s healing and for your strength and health to continue to allow you to be his rock and cheerleader.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:18 pm

      Thank you so much Tracey, means the world. xo – AB

  19. Amanda Clark
    October 19, 2018 / 11:05 pm

    I will continue to pray that the next days ahead are not as tough as the ones in the past! A complete recovery in the Name Of Jesus!!!! Send love and hugs ❤️

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:18 pm

      YES! In the Name of Jesus! Thank you. xo – AB

  20. Joan
    October 20, 2018 / 12:17 am

    Love and prayers being sent your way Ashley & Ryan! Praying prayers of healing and strength for you both. Gosh, after 9pm on the West Coast -and after midnight on the East – but prayers are good all hours of the day and night, right?! God’s got this. ♥️ GO Ryan!!
    Virtual hugs being sent your way too ~~~xxx

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:17 pm

      Joan!! YES! We will take them all day every day! Thank you for your encouragement.

  21. Jenna
    October 20, 2018 / 12:48 am

    This is great news to get to join in on the celebration!!! I know these updates only share a small fraction of the gravity of each decision or the magnitude of each emotion. Thank you for sharing so we can pray and praise along the way!!

    Praying for continued healing and amazing recovery!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:17 pm

      Jenna! Thank you so much for your sweet note and hitting the nail on the head! Your prayers and encouragement mean the world to us.
      xo – AB

  22. MaryAnn
    October 20, 2018 / 3:31 am

    So happy chemo is over! Everything you said about the friendships and people you meet are so true! We still talk with friends made during my dad’s 1st surgery. (Which was also dental related.)
    Praying for a complete and speedy recovery!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:16 pm

      MaryAnn! Aren’t those friendships just the best?! Thank you for your sweet note and we are praying hard for your dad as well! We are all in this together!

  23. Selena
    October 20, 2018 / 9:34 am

    So many tears reading this. I’m so happy you’re through this part.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:15 pm

      Thank you so much, Selena! xx

  24. Sarah
    October 20, 2018 / 10:42 am

    Sending you both hugs. I had breast cancer in 2012 and did ACT chemo while pregnant with our son. After he was born I went back and did Taxol and radiation. The one thing I remember being the most difficult about radiation is the isolation. Chemo someone can sit with you, and same when you wake up from surgeries. But rads you’re all alone in a very sterile cold room for (30 in my case) days. Rads symptoms didn’t show up until 12-15, but then it got really painful and bad. Everyone poo-pood radiation as the end of the road, but I wish I would have been more prepared for it psychologically. Happy to talk if you ever want caregiver advice from a former patient. And just like you two, we were less than 2 years into marriage when this all started. You’re right that soon this stage will be blurry, and I’m thankful for that. You are doing the best you can. Hugs.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 12:28 pm

      Sarah! Thank you so much for your note and congratulations on your fight! HOW amazing! Also, yes, I’ve heard Chemo is a physical challenge and radiation is a mental challenge we are definitely gearing up for that. I would love any and all advice. Thank you for your kindness! xo

  25. Emily Windfelder
    October 20, 2018 / 12:50 pm

    Love and prayers for you three. God is the great Healer and loves you so much.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 3:26 pm

      Thank you so much Emily, means so much!

  26. Sandy
    October 20, 2018 / 2:23 pm

    The two of you have been in my thoughts since hearing about your unfortunate journey through the world of cancer. I applaud you both for making it through the chemo treatments and preparing positively for the next steps. God is obviously with you on this journey, holding you and supporting you and providing you with loving family and friends. Blessings, Ashley and Ryan.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 20, 2018 / 3:27 pm

      Mrs. Chamberlain!! Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out, means the world. And thank you for your sweet prayers, we definitely feel them. Love you! – Ashley

  27. Victoria
    October 20, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    I’m sending up prayers for healing for Ryan, and continued strength and grace for you both. Please know that you both are a source of light in a dark world. God is building a new chapter into your testimonies! Hugs!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 21, 2018 / 11:02 am

      Victoria! Thank you for your sweet note, means the world.

  28. Mary Elizabeth Dunlap
    October 21, 2018 / 2:36 am

    One of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine was a woman doctor at John Hopkins University Medical Center, who uses a new approach with immunology in successfully treating cancer patients…….looks VERY PROMISING!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 21, 2018 / 11:02 am

      Mary, that’s amazing!

  29. J Wimer
    October 21, 2018 / 4:09 pm

    Sure that you are receiving more advice than you ever wanted or needed— so this is only offered in the spirit of Love. I just wanted to offer that Pure Lavender oil is so helpful for the skin during the radiation treatments. My mother’s holistic oncologist had her begin applying it to the areas of skin that would be affected by the treatments leading up to and during the period of radiation and it made a drastic difference for her. Many prayers and comfort sent to you both.

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 22, 2018 / 11:14 am

      This is so helpful! Thank you so much. I will take all the advice I can get! xo – A

  30. Michelle
    October 21, 2018 / 10:00 pm

    Prayers for you and your husband!! He’s such a fighter and he’s so lucky to have you as his cheerleader! ❤️

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 22, 2018 / 11:14 am

      Michelle! You are so sweet, thank you! x

  31. October 21, 2018 / 10:54 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post Ashley!!! You and Ryan are so inspiring and I am so thrilled to hear that Ryan is all done with Chemo! Y’all will continue to be in my prayers!!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 22, 2018 / 11:15 am

      Molly! Thank you, it means the world!
      xo

  32. Erin
    October 22, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    Congratulations! I too was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma and went through what sounds like a similar treat to your husband. As someone who is now almost 4 years cancer free, I can say that looking back you will remember the good and the all the wonderful people that helped you and your husband on this journey not the needles, pain or the sickness. My memories of treatment are of my friends, family, medical staff and even strangers cheering me on and supporting me. Good luck with radiation and adjusting to his new role as a SURVIVOR! At first it was hard for me to have that as part of my new identity but it is so empowering and you can use it to help so many people. I have loved getting involved in LLS’s Light the Night walk every year and fundraising, celebrating, honoring and supporting those in this community. Good always comes out of a bad situation!

    • Ashley Brooke
      Author
      October 23, 2018 / 7:58 am

      Erin!!! Congratulations on being CANCER FREE!!! How amazing! I love hearing your story, thank you so much for reaching out, incredibly encouraging. You are amazing and we look forward to being survivors right alongside you. xo – AB

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