Finding My Joy Again

weekend nature walk

It’s been awhile since I posted. It’s been hard to write a post about joy because for a short time, I lost track of mine. In January I was diagnosed with a  ovarian cyst with a malignant tumor inside. It was a very large cyst, the size of a basketball. They removed it on Valentine’s Day and after 2 weeks in the hospital, I went home to recuperate. I started chemo in April. In 20 days, I will have my last treatment. I’m doing well. The tumor was encapsulated, and I had an excellent surgeon who took the cyst out without rupturing it. My prognosis is really good.

Surprisingly, during this time of very mixed emotions: pain, frustration, anger, denial, bitterness and fear, I found my joy again. At a time when I felt my loneliest, I found myself surrounded by love, acceptance, and hope.

I found hope from my doctors and the infusion nurses, the women I volunteer with, my neighbors, friends, complete strangers, my nephew, and most of all, my hubby, Greg. Everywhere I looked there was a helping hand up, along with a smile. They gave me the courage to accept where I was and face the steps of my treatment.

I was afraid of the chemo and all of the side effects. I felt like I barely had a chance to recuperate from my surgery before I had to begin to flood my body with poison. I was afraid that I didn’t have the physical strength to handle the process. I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. My primary care doctor patiently reminded me how strong I was and how our bodies can handle so many things at the same time. He went through all of the test results and while everything looked good from the surgery, he helped me understand how having the chemo was like an insurance policy to stay healthy. It was worth doing.

I started my chemo therapy. The infusion nurses are some of the kindest and most joyful people I have ever met. The love and support they exude daily is life changing to those of us one the receiving end. They patiently answer questions, treat us like gold, and are amazingly gentle in their care. They want to know every little pain or discomfort you have so they can give you the best possible care. It is humbling for me. I’m used to supporting others. Being on the receiving end is a challenge.

Quite a few of the ladies I volunteer with have had their own cancer scares. As I told them about my story, they have surrounded me with hope and love. I have made new friends and developed closer relationships with old friends I already had.

My neighbors and friends plunged right in to support me as soon as I went into the hospital. Sometimes they would just hug me when I had no words to say how I was feeling, or, they would text me during the day just to say hello and let me know they were thinking of me.

At one of my infusion treatments, I was talking to another patient. She had this beautiful purple blanket that I had admired. We had a fun conversation about life and love. When she had finished her treatment, she came over and gave me her blanket. I was so shocked. She told me that this blanket had given her a lot of comfort, and she wanted me to share in that. I treasure that blanket. It’s on my bed and I use it daily. It’s a reminder, not only of a stranger’s care and compassion, but an encouragement for me to share that compassion with others.

My hubby has been amazing. He is my rock. I know I was not easy to handle during the hospital stay. But he quietly listened to my rants and crying, holding in his own fears, to support me. At times I felt unworthy of his love because I was behaving so badly. It’s been a long road so far, and one that we didn’t plan on going through. But we have come through this time closer and stronger in our relationship. I am so blessed.
My nephew came up the week after I got out of the hospital to give my hubby a break from all of the extras he was doing. Chris kept me smiling, and Greg knew I was looked after during the day while he was gone. My relationship with my nephew has also gotten closer through this time, as well. We talk on the phone more and share more about the important things in our lives.

I love all of these angels in human form. I never expected this unconditional out-pouring of love and comfort. Each time I experience it, I am awestruck and humbled. The feeling are so overwhelming, I feel the need to pass it on.  I guess that is the true power of love. It’s unstoppable.

In the beginning the cancer scared me. It still does. The chemo scared me, as did the thought of losing all of my hair. Then one day my friend Lisa worked with me on ideas for wigs. Another friend, Renee showed up with a perfect one. Lisa trimmed it up and it came out lovely. I get so many compliments and Lisa and Renee are thrilled they brought some joy back to me.

The side effects from the chemo meds have been a challenge, each round brings a different set of happenings: numbness in my fingers and toes, a wonky balance, bloating from the steroids, changes in how things taste, and chemo brain. But I’ve learned to embrace it and accept it. I try to keep in mind that these things don’t last. They will pass. And they do. My hair will grow back, I will lose the weight from the steroids, my head will clear, the numbness will go away.

I’ve learned to be proud of my body and how strong it is. It’s protected me even when I ignored the messages it was sending me that it was sick. I’ve learned to tell it now on a daily basis how miraculous it is, instead of finding fault with my presumed imperfections. It amazes me constantly.

One of my care givers told me the other day that she looks forward to seeing me. She said she loves seeing the smile on my face and our laughter. I hadn’t thought about it, until she mentioned it. But I do laugh now. My heart is lighter and I look forward to each test and visit, because it’s bringing me that much closer to my goals.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? But for me, I’m learning to live in the moment. I’ve learned that there are some things in life that we just have to go through. We can fight them or we can accept the process and learn from it.

So I’ve got my joy back. It was definitely not in a way I ever expected. Who knew?

I’ll be writing more again soon.

Thanks for listening.

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