1. My Oncologist.
This is the 2nd time I've met with him. He practiced for several years in the UK before coming here in September. There's something about him that makes you feel that he's "in the moment". He's present. And you are not just another number in the queue. When he looks at me, I feel like he sees me. I'm sure most people have experienced "feeling like a number" so you know what I mean when I say he made me feel like a living, breathing, human being. I'm not at all suggesting that my previous oncologists have been anything less than kind, but this oncologist is exceptional in that department, I think.
I asked him about some of the side effects I'm experiencing ... old ones and some new ones. I happily told him that my joints, while not 100%, have improved greatly. I asked him about the fatigue I still feel. I had expected that I would mostly be over that ... it being a year since my last chemo ... but he says that many people are tired longer and that the Tamoxifen can contribute to feeling wasted, too. I told him that I can't tell anymore what is a lingering side effect of treatment and what is from the Tamoxifen. He paused and looked at me ... really looked at me ... with warmth, kindness, and understanding in his eyes ... and said something like, "You should know that you don't have cancer anymore. You are normal ... like me ... like anybody. You are cancer-free. Everything troublesome that you feel now is just from what you need to do to prevent cancer from recurring, but you are cancer-free and you will feel better". Cancer-free. He said I was CANCER-FREE!! I WILL feel better. I WILL! So what did I do? I wept copiously, of course. When I could finally get some words out, I said to him, "Nobody has ever told me that". The kind and knowing look on his face also sent me a little over the edge, too. Kindness. It's so powerful. I've had so much but it never fails to move me. He either knew from experience or he had an intuitive sense that these were words I needed to hear. I didn't know I needed to hear them until I did and then such a heaviness left me that all I could do was cry.
Previously, when I had asked how I would know if the treatments were working, I was told, "You won't. You'll only know if the cancer doesn't come back". I've been mostly warned to be vigilant. I understand that this remains true but to hear from an oncologist that I am, for now, cancer-free is such a gift. It doesn't really change anything ... on the other hand, it somehow has brought on what feels like a monumental shift in my thinking and feeling. Monumental. I've been feeling the impact of it all day and have been leaking tears off and on all day, too.
2. Lisa of Lil Fish Studios.
I got home to find a package for me on our doorstep. It was the acorns from Lisa of Lil Fish Studios! I had an email from her recently so I knew they would be arriving soon. As you might recall, Lisa had noticed (via technology) that I had posted a link to her Flickr photo stream for her creations and she volunteered to send me some acorns from her woods to play with, which was so very sweet of her! And here they are! See the photo at the top of this post. See how beautifully they're packaged? I was expecting some acorns in a box, which would have been plenty thrilling enough but I was wide-eyed tickled to bits to find her little note ("Have fun! -- Lisa") and the acorn caps packaged in a little handmade drawstring bag and one of her own perfect woolly acorns -- one with a coppered top ... AND one of the little felted mushrooms I've so admired, too! I already fitted some of the little felted balls into the caps and they look very cute! Some of the caps are very tiny and they're going to look adorable with teeny felted acorns in them. I can't wait to get at it! Thanks, Lisa, for your extraordinary kindness.
Also on our doorstep when we got home after work was a meal from Sylvia! A hearty, warming stew and mashed potatoes! It hit the spot and allowed us the time to get some things done. I got groceries tonight ... finally! And Kevin met with Bob Patterson who gave us an estimate for refinishing our stairs and ... ACK!!! ... he's starting tomorrow morning!! It's the only gap in his schedule until the middle of December so we didn't hesitate on giving him the go ahead. So Kevin is doing some baseboard prep tonight. Thanks, Syl, for the nice meal. That was so kind and thoughtful of you. And so helpful.
Kevin very kindly drove me to my medical appointment this morning so I wouldn't have to walk the equivalent of 6 blocks from my parking spot to the Cancer Centre, which is the building next door to where I work. And then he picked me up. And when we got home he gave me a great big hug. And I cried.
5. The Nurse Who Poked Me.
I can't attribute this to kindness ... probably just luck combined with skill ... but when she took my blood, she hit a vein the first time. This meant only one poke! It didn't even hurt. Usually when they do hit a vein, it hurts and my blood drips out so slowly that it hurts for quite a while and then leaves a nasty bruise. This time ... one easy, painless poke and no bruise. Very quick and over with.
6. My Colleagues, Friends, and Family
The people I work with are such a pleasure to spend time with. They didn't know how emotional I was feeling all day ... I knew I couldn't say anything without blubbering - a lot. But feeling the way I was and having the security of such a warm and safe environment is very comforting. And, of course, friends and family. I feel them even when I don't hear them. I'm blessed to have so many kind, caring, thoughtful people in my life. Thanks, everyone!
It would have been Dad's birthday on Saturday.
And now ... me and my cancer-free self had better finish putting the groceries away. I had to take a "hot-flash break".