Today is September 14, 2016. This is the last scheduled date of my chemotherapy treatments. I have such mixed emotions. I am so glad that this part of my journey is almost over, yet at the same time I’m dreading it. It takes a lot of energy in your head to get up and go to treatment—rising up and voluntarily walking into an incredibly painful experience. I know it’s my last time, but I have to do it again. These are my real feelings. One more week of a “chemo coma,” as I like to call it. One more time of this, something I wrote but never posted:
The feelings I feel when we pull into the parking lot of my oncologist’s office just bring out the tears. The smell of the elevator makes me choke back vomit. The suspense of waiting in the waiting room on pins and needles for my name to be called. Hoping I get a sweet nurse that will totally baby me, and not stab me in the chest, miss my port, and drag the needle to the port while still in my chest (I still have nightmares about that one). Then going back to the chemo room and waiting for the drugs to be mixed. More suspense. Finally, they come and start pumping me with who really knows what. It’s all poison. Poison that is saving my life. That is adding years back into my family, and keeping a mom around for my children and a wife for my husband. If I didn’t keep going who knows what our future would look like
Then it’s time to go home, feeling exhausted and achy. The infusion drugs help to manage the nausea and pain, but then I get that ridiculous shot of Neulasta 27 hours later and there is just more pain. (NOT THIS TIME, yahoo!!) I have some steroids that I can take for a few days and they give me the strength and energy to get through the pain and have some good days. But those always come at a cost.
When they wear off I enter what I call a “chemo coma.” My Cinderella story is over and it is midnight. The helpful drugs have worn off and I enter this fog of sadness, pain, sick-to-my-stomach, sleep-all-the-time-but-don’t-get-enough-sleep struggle. I can’t think straight; I can’t walk straight. This “coma” is such a struggle between my mind and my body.
I wake up in the morning and look around and think to myself, I’ve got to tackle this pile of laundry, empty the dishwasher, vacuum, pay bills, and then I get up to do it and sometimes I literally fall over. There are days that I don’t really have control of my body anymore. I know this is just a season. I keep telling that to myself over and over, but I’m ready to be over this struggle. Then a few days later it wears off. I’m usually in this “coma” the week in between treatment. It stinks. I’m not a very good wife or mom during that time.
So this is why I say it is so hard to keep going back, especially when it’s almost over.
I am so, so grateful that chemo is almost over. I’ll still have more to do to beat this cancer, but I can at least get off this train soon. There is quite a bit that I’ve learned along the way. I’m definitely not who I was before this all started, in lots of ways and for many reasons. I look at the world through a different filter. I know I still have this cancer in my body and that I’m still actually on the journey of beating it, but there’s something I want to share as I’m on my way.
You see, one year ago yesterday, to the day, we had a very crazy experience. Let me back up just a bit. When Tim and I were married in 2008 we were in debt way past our eyeballs. It really is by the grace of God that we never went to bed hungry, and really that we even had a pillow to lay our head down on at night. We started Financial Peace University at our church after being married for 12 minutes. Kidding.
It only took us a month and half to realize we needed some serious help, and we dove right in. Some of you know this story already, but the first time we sat down to complete and agree on a budget it took us over 3 hours and a lot of tears from both parties.
Now we’re much more of a well-oiled machine, well before cancer, when I had a brain and was aware of dates, and how it’s not June anymore but September. And rent and tuition need to be paid—by a certain date.
Anyway, over several months and years we’ve chipped away at our silly debts (credit cards) and more serious debts (student loan). Since we started we’ve had two babies and bought a house. We made great progress over the years, had to say no to a lot of fun things along the way, even a honeymoon. We still had a car loan and student loan that seemed like it was going to hang around forever.
One day, in January of 2015, I was walking downstairs with a load of laundry in my arms and I just felt such a peace that 2015 was the year we were going to be debt free. Financially it made no sense. We did not have enough coming in every month in order to pay everything off in a year and still be able to eat dinner every night, even just rice and beans. So I prayed about how and what we could do, and just kept on doing what we’ve always done. Fast-forward to the spring, and all of a sudden I had a total heart change towards things. Things. Stuff. Little things. Big things. Big enough like the four walls and roof over my head.
I had experienced this rich combination of prayer for God’s will in our lives, a book I had read the year prior, Rich Dad, Poor Dad (read it) with themes that kept popping back in my head, over and over, and my drive to get out of debt once and for all. That led to me, practically overnight, wanting to sell my house. That was a big deal. Huge. We finally had our dream house. An AMAZING kitchen (only capital letters can be used to describe my love for my kitchen). Everyone had their own room plus we had extra space for guests. We had two play rooms. Two. A living room with a baby grand piano. Tim had his own office. It. Was. My. Dream. I loved it there. Sometimes I Zillow it just to see it again. If you don’t know what that means you are in a really good place in life.
Anyway, the market was hot last spring and homes were going for, in my very inexperienced opinion, much more than they should have been. So, like any good wife, I talked Tim into putting it on the market for much more than we paid to see if we could make a profit and be—drum roll—debt free.
After some time, and seeking counsel from people we trusted, we decided to put our house on the market. We had a floor price in mind that we wouldn’t go lower than, to guarantee that we could pay off our loans. Tim blogged about it here.
We were so ready to go on an adventure. To finally be debt free and be able to save, and more importantly, give was—and still is—so important to us.
Back to September 13, 2015. That was the last day of our contract with our Realtor, Brax. We had more showings than I could count, and a handful of second showings, but no offers. I could not believe that our house was on the market for four months and this was it. It didn’t sell. We weren’t going to be debt free. Something huge had to happen.
You see, I was ready to keep going and continuing to try to sell it. I was so sure and had such feeling that we were going to be debt free, and the sale of our home was the only way to fill in that gap and pay everything off. Tim felt the complete opposite; he was done with showings. At the time our kids were 3 and not even 1 yet. I was working full-time and Tim was working two jobs. So yeah, keeping that house clean and clutter free was like a third job for him.
That morning I was on my knees, not praying that the house would sell, but that Tim and I would come together and our hearts would agree on which direction to go. I did not want to go toe-to-toe with my husband over this. We had decided at lunch that we would take it off the market and move on with our lives. We already had a call scheduled that afternoon with Brax and we would let him know then.
During the call my stomach was doing cartwheels into my throat. I was having a very, very hard time with our decision, but knew compromise was going to be key here. Tim told Brax we had thought about things, but wanted to hear his opinion first, to which we responded that he had another call. Drama, folks, drama.
If you know me well, you know I tend to get sweaty palms at, well, anything slightly dramatic really. I have the nickname swalms (sweaty + palms) because of it, and let me tell you, I was swalming it up during that hold time. After a few minutes Brax came back on the phone and said something like, “Oh my goodness!! That was the other realtor and they’ve put an offer in!!” What? WHAT?!? Are you kidding me?!
Literally seconds from pulling it off the market and BOOM it sold. I still get goosebumps. We closed on October 15, 2015 and turned around and kicked Miss Sallie Mae to the curb just a few hours later.
Our plan was to take 2016 and save, save, save. We moved into a tiny apartment to keep our expenses as low as possible and also to take time to figure out exactly where God wanted us next. What would our new adventure look like?! Like this. Our adventure looks like nothing I had planned for. We were supposed to be saving for our next house. House hunting this fall and moving after the holidays.
Looking back, I believe the Lord was preparing us for this journey that we are on right now. It has been such a blessing to living in this tiny space while I’m off my feet. Tim didn’t have to juggle outdoor work this summer and doesn’t need to blow leaves this fall. We don’t have to spend hours cleaning—just one will do.
And saving. Ha! Cancer is ridiculously expensive. But the Lord has completely provided for us. Not having a student loan payment and car payment has made the expense of cancer not too rough. We’ve also been so blessed by friends and family and complete strangers.
This was not even close to my plan but it is so perfect. My go-to verses are Proverbs 3: 5–6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
So much truth. Trust. Whatever you’re going through, big or small, trust in the Lord.