#MyLeftBoob Chronicles: #Chemo Day 80: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Screenshot 2015-06-28 at 7.59.58 PM

My mom had a rule with all 6 of us kids growing up- we each had to take a sport and play a musical instrument. We could pick any sport or any instrument but we had to do both. I don’t know if she did this to get a few moments of peace, to make us well-rounded, or a little of both, but I’m grateful she did. I played violin, clarinet and sang in concert choir and still love to play bass guitar. And I did learn more than one thing from it, the biggest being– I stink at sports.

In high school I was on the cross-country team and I was horrible. I had long legs and was skinny so you’d think I’d be good. Nope. I was always he the last one, pushing myself to finish that last 1/4 mile, wheezing, coughing and struggling. The last part of our practice runs had a huge hill– Judd Ave. in Bethel. They call it “the beast.” The hill has what seems like a 90 degree incline and it’s brutal– especially when you’ve already just run for an hour or so and you’re hot, sweaty, tired and thirsty.

Now I find myself in another race but this one is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and so I must pace myself. In the beginning of my race I bolted out of the gate running full force saying things like, “I’ve got this,” “I’m a warrior,” “I’m strong.” I had my sassy new haircut and my cool, fancy t-shirt. I had a lot of cheerleaders cheering me on from the sidelines. I was ready, full of energy with a positive attitude.

But now I find myself in the hardest part of the race, not quite the finish line but getting there. Some of the cheerleaders have gone home now. I’m tired– mentally and physically. And it’s a lot harder to stay positive when I keep getting bombarded with words like “rare, aggressive, unique, atypical” from the diagnosis of Triple Negative, Metaplastic and now Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia, but I’m trying. I’m focusing on the positives: Stage 1, has not spread, I have an excellent team of doctors, I’m young and strong, God and my prayer warriors are on my side.

I came across this verse this week which is exactly what I needed this week to build me up again. It’s from Hebrews, chapter 1, verses 1-3 from The Message Bible.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

Another version says “let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way” or “hinders” us from finishing our race. In my case this could be people who put fear or negativity in my mind. When people find out you’re diagnosed with cancer it’s like telling someone you’re pregnant. Everyone and their mother wants to tell you every last gory detail of their childbirth story. The only stories I want to hear right now are good ones- survivor stories. I need to stay positive and calm. I can’t let anyone or anything stress me out, or scare me, not at this important part of my journey.

The Bible verse says we need to strip down before we start running the race. Of course the race the writer is referring to is spiritual, but I feel this applies to me right now where I am in my battle. I see myself stripped down when I look in the mirror– no hair, thinning eyebrows and eyelashes, a visible port scar on my chest and a big “X” marks the spot on my left boob where my lumpectomy was, bags under my eyes. I’ve been in a fierce battle and it shows. I have war wounds and I wear them proudly. And now I need to focus on the end of the race because it’s very near.

I’ve had 4 Adriamycin/Cytoxan and 2 dense-dose Taxol and it’s been kicking my butt. I get it every 2 weeks instead of every 3. I’m tired, my muscles are achy and my joints hurt. Think of how you feel when you have the flu. That’s what I’ve felt like for the past 4 months… all the time. But I only have 2 more chemotherapy treatments to go before surgery #3 and 6 weeks of radiation. I’m at the bottom of that huge hill right before the end, looking up and I need to psyche myself up for one more big push. I can do this.

So I turn my eyes upward and ask God to give me the strength to finish my race. I’m not going to worry about the bills piling up. I’m not going to listen to horror stories. I’m going to try to ignore the calls, texts and emails from “well-meaning” people who want to tell me why I got cancer or how some miracle cure will heal me. No. I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on the finish line because it’s nearer than ever.

Even though my body feels weak right now, I know I’m stronger on the inside than I was before. I’m not the same and I never will be. I’m a stripped down better version of myself than before. I’m grateful for my family, friends and every moment of every day and won’t take that for granted anymore. And when I’m all done I’ll be there to cheer others on until they reach their finish line because I’ve “been there, done that” and know how it feels.

And so now I’m lacing up my kicks for Thursday’s chemo #7 and get ready for the last big push. Seventeen days to go. Yeah, I’ve got this.

To support my breast cancer battle on GoFundMe, please click here. Any amount, no matter how small, is so greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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