To all who are blessed with life and love.
TOUGH DAY BLESSINGS
By: Suzi Sundquist
It is 5:15 in the morning and the alarm clock is set to go off in one hour. If only I could turn back time, not just an hour or so but more like a year or two. Then, I would not be facing the day ahead and could be spending my time enjoying my six year old daughter, husband of twenty two years and infinite number of friends and family
This is not my reality and I must face the day so I can have many years to come with tender moments to spare.
I rolled out of bed, placed my hat on my head and made it to the kitchen for a large glass of ice water. Although it will taste like everything I put in my mouth, pure metal with a dash of Tabasco sauce, I do it anyway with hopes of curing my issues of dehydration. While, I gathered my daughter’s bag of items, needed for her last day of first grade, my mind wandered into the darkness of my own trials. My daughter, Madi Claire, will spend her day chasing her love interest, Hayden; while I spend mine hooked up to a medical port for chemotherapy.
The nausea is setting in and the bone cramps are getting stronger but there is no time to feel sorry for myself, my family needs me to be strong. So, I jump into the shower, switch a load of laundry and check into the internet to touch base with the world. Now it’s time to wake my daughter, with a smile on my face and a twinkle of love in my eyes, no matter how I feel on the inside.
I greet her with “Good morning, sunshine, what would you like for breakfast?” prepare it for her and dress her for the day. All the while, hugging her every other second and telling her how much I love her. Now, more than ever before those words are like gold, to both of us.
Since my diagnosis of breast cancer, nearly five months ago, my days have been filled with survival. I am fortunate to have a large support group of family and friends who have helped me through but sometimes I feel I cannot let them know how much pain I am in, as they worry about me and I do not like to be the cause of such distress.
With Madi Claire off to school, it was time to face my destiny. As I turned the bend to my cancer treatment center, it took everything I have not to whip the car around, go home, crawl under my sheets and hide from the world. But I can’t and I won’t.
My long beautiful blond hair is a memory, my skin tone is lighter than it was the day I was born and my self esteem has taken a Mike Tyson beating…, Still, I put on my happy face, walk through the large glass doors and greet the family of nurses.
Darci, my chemo nurse and head angel, is the first to approach me with her usual abundance of compassion. She advises me to pick a chair so she can draw blood and get started with the day’s treatment.
The treatment room is rather large with 18’ ceilings and glass windows all around to allow for a beautiful view of mature trees, walking trails and sunlight. They have the most comfortable leather reclining chairs which ease the pain of sitting for three to four hours while receiving treatment. They really do everything they can to make the time as homelike as possible.
And the nurses…, I call them angels! They were sent from above with compassion, understanding and tenderness. Without their kindness and the love of my doctors, I may have never agreed to this chemotherapy idea.
I am 43 years old, with a stage 2/3 genetic type breast cancer. I stand 4’10” and weigh only 85lbs which poses a problem when administering the right amount and type of chemo cocktail. The side effects have been brutal on me and there have been times when I wanted to call it quits, but I can’t. The pressure from doctors, family and friends has left me very few options, I continue with hopes for a cure.
After today, I have only one treatment left, the question is…, can I take it?
Although I have detailed the pain of this trying time, I have not explained the many tugs at my heartstrings that have arose from such an adventure. There are many beautiful things that come to pass from such a time, like people, moments and memories. An enormous number of good hearted individuals have come out of the woodwork to help me, hold my hand, wipe my tears and reinforce my bright tomorrow. I am astonished by those souls who have stepped up to the plate to be there for me and shocked by those I believed would be there, but weren’t.
The love is my antidote to chemotherapy and it shall heal me.
Prior to the beginning of my treatment regiment, I thought the idea of chemotherapy was dark and depressing. I had watched many people I love go through it and it didn’t look inviting to me. Since then, I have met a number of outstanding people who have changed my mind.
As I lay in my chair with the chemo running through my veins, I await my next blessing. Within minutes, the room began to glow with a light of energy, and I watched as one of the most angelic looking women, I had ever seen, strolled in with her wheelchair and oxygen tank to her side. She looked a lot like my grandmother, who passed away many years ago, with her shiny silver hair, skin texture of a woman who had earned her years and beautiful hands that didn’t seem to match the rest of her body, they were soft and tender looking with long perfectly manicured fingernails.
I wanted to meet her and needed to hear her stories, I was sure she had many. I introduced myself and she replied in kind. Her name was Stella and she will remain one of my greatest mentors in life.
Stella is a few weeks away from celebrating her 101st birthday. Diagnosed with cancer for the second time, the first she fought and won in her early fifties, she put up her fists for another battle. I wondered why. At her age, why would you put yourself through all of this?
Until, I asked, “So, tell me, Stella…, what age are you shooting for? How and why are you taking all of this?”
She replied, “I will never give up. How do you think I made it to 101?”
For the past thirty days, she has rolled her wheelchair into the radiation room for severe radioactive treatments, in efforts to shrink her tumors. Today, she sits beside me while receiving the toxic chemotherapy…, all for a little hope of killing any cancer cells floating around in her system. Until this moment, I held onto a little piece of pity in the back of my mind…, just for me. Stella washed that away for me and gave me inspiration.
For the next three hours, I listened to story after story about her strength, courage, tenacity and inner beauty. I learned how Stella managed to escape death many times, faced despare, isolation and hunger but never gave up. She did not find any of her trials to be less than a gift from God. Each and every one, including the tornado that picked up her farmhouse, barns and tractors and tossed them amongst the fields like tiny pieces of paper, was a moment for her soul. Each, indeed a gift. I am forever blessed by Stella grace and because of her; I know I can do this. I will conquer this challenge and I will kill my cancer…, it will not kill me.
Thank you, Stella!