Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Overflow

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At some point during the summer, about halfway through the chemo treatments, I dubbed this process of kicking cancer-ass, "the world's longest endurance race." So I guess it makes sense that I'm always comparing it to my sixteen hour dirge attempting to earn the title of "Ironman."

Momentum has taken hold of this little life of mine, the days seem to fly by me and I continue to be filled with gratitude and joy - for life, and for my amazing, growing village.

I had my 12th radiation treatment today. The whole thing is wild, and as I expected, I've grown to feel grateful for the experience, to learn more about medicine and treatments, and mostly to have met more of the people who make up my medical army. They have told me that I will burn and that I will get tired, but so far I've been lucky enough not to have any of those side-effects yet. I've ridden my bike to about half of my treatments. (They say the side-effects start to show up about 3/4 of the way through.)

So they're using a new fancy machine to radiate me, basically, it looks (and acts) just like a CT scan. I have a little mold that they made for me just before my first treatment, it is my "pillow," and it forces my head and right arm to be in the same position every time they radiate (my right arm above my head, head turned to the left).
My "pillow." See the lasers???

The tube! You can also see some of the laser beams on the machine. 
The process takes about 20 minutes. I go in, they lay me down, they line the markers on my skin (markers have been there for a month now and are covered with little waterproof stickers) up with lasers that literally shoot across the room in several different spots and down from the ceiling (it is SO COOL!) Once lined up, they put me in the tube for 5ish minutes - they actually DO a CT scan every time they radiate me. They align the scan they take each day with my very first PET/CT scan so that they can see where the cancer was in relation to where I am now (this is because I had a 100% response to chemo, so no cancer shows up on the new scans). Once they've done my scan, they pull me out of the tube and I lay on the table for two or three minutes (perfectly still!!!) while they do the analysis of the scans. The REALLY cool part is that my head is turned to the left when I'm having all of this done, and the computer monitor is on the left side of the room, so I get to see all my scans as they do their crafty work. It is AWESOME. Once they've completed their scan work, they send me back into the tube for another seven minutes or so - this time for the actual radiation. I can't feel anything and I can't see anything... the only thing that makes it different from having a scan is that it sounds like rats are running around inside the tube... weird. It's not a big deal, really.

In my head I apply the concept that the doctors use with the scans to my life. I take my experience in the Ironman and I overlay it with the experiences I've had (and continue to have) in my ultra-super-duper-long endurance race (for life). I can see the challenges and emotions lining up perfectly. I see the struggle to find my stride in the water and crying, holding onto a paddle-board, wondering how in the world I would finish the race if I couldn't get through the first hour. The overlay being the weeks after my first treatment, realizing that this was going to be much harder than I thought, realizing how sick I was, having Dan disappear, and clinging to my girlfriends as they (literally) held me and wiped my tears. I didn't know how I would make it through this race.

One step in front of the other, for sure. Constant forward motion.

I struggled through the race until mile 4 of the marathon, when I met my angel in the blue shirt and he was able to flip a switch I didn't even realize existed. When I realized that not only would I finish the race, I would finish STRONG, I began to exude energy, almost without choice. My body was depleted, my muscles had reached their limit, but I was bursting with life.

And here I am... 1/3 of the way through radiation, 90% through this process cancer-ass kicking, life hasn't just returned, I am overflowing with life. I'm at mile 20 of my marathon, I can hear my village and "Mr. Ironman" cheering me into the finish line...

I see now, looking back, where the cancer was. It's gone now.

I found out yesterday that I've been selected to be one of Air New Zealand's Great Walkers. I am one of four, the only woman, and the only person chosen from the US. I am shocked. Overwhelmed. Happy. Sappy. Ecstatic. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed. I had settled my head with not being one of the chosen four, I was fine with the "everything happens for a reason" part of it. It's been 24 hours since I found out I won. I just sit here and think about it and cry. Not just because I won. But because I feel like I've won the ultimate lottery. I am here, I have life. I am gaining my muscles back, and the body I used to know. I can run trails. I am able to ride my bike to radiation. But then, on top of all of that, I have the most amazing, most supportive family. And then on top of that, I have the most amazing, most ridiculously fun and endlessly supportive village made up of friends, neighbors, old colleagues, and now acquaintances and friends of friends. I am absolutely on cloud nine. I have it all, and on top of that... I am going to spend nine weeks exploring the beauty that is New Zealand... My cup runneth over.

Amazing.
HA!!! I still can't believe it... so I just keep staring at this and thinking "REALLY!?!? WHOSE LIFE IS THIS???"