April 12, 2011
Relief, that is what it is. On March 30 and 31st, I had my sixth month appointment in Salt Lake City. This trip and appointment was one of great anxiety, I don’t think I was that anxious since my one year post check-up. This appointment was a milestone appointment; if all my tests were clear then Dr. Glenn was releasing me to Dr. Goodman in Kalispell for all future appointments and tests. That is why I was so anxious and tense and quiet . . .
I had so much pent up energy that I drug Dale around Salt Lake City shopping. I shopped both days, right up until my appointments.
On March 31st, we met with Dr. Glenn and she said all was clear and I was officially released. I simply couldn’t believe it . . . released. We discussed my future and had a frank talk about relapse. It was good for me to hear from her what my future prognosis is and it is very positive for a long duration of cancer free living. She said as the data comes in, those who have had my type of treatment are disease free five to seven years post treatment. Such good, good news!
I soundly shook Dr. Glenn’s hand in gratitude and said good-bye to the doctor who saved my life. I hugged Nurse Debbie, said good-bye to Alex, said good-bye to Clinic A and I said good-bye to Huntsman Cancer Hospital. When we exited the building, I turned around and looked at those mirrored windows up to the fourth floor and I thought, “It is over.” And tears of happiness flooded my eyes.
As we drove away, I wrote the following on my Bible study answer sheet; I grabbed the first paper I could jot down my feelings on to capture this moment.
“Exhaling: fear, loss, anxiety, emotion, pain, lostness, confusion, pessimism. Inhaling: a future, an ending, optimism, an appreciation, a message of hope, could I become an advocate of hope?”
Advocate of Hope.
When we returned home and told the kids the very good news, it was like we all shared a collective sigh. For the longest time, my kids, and Carrie in particular, said I must change my personal email address, “survivedsofar”. They all agreed it was too bleak and pessimistic.
Later that week, I sat at my computer thinking and my new email address came to me, email@example.com. Being less savvy with computer knowledge, I asked the kids how to change my address. Within a few nights, my address was changed over and I deleted survivedsofar forever.
And then the concept of Advocate of Hope began to roll down the hill like a snowball collecting a vision, excitement and purpose.
I felt as if I had closed the book on the last three years. Three years of unexpected and unanticipated illness and suffering. My cancer, my treatment, recovery, set back and a long tunnel called depression. The book closed. I looked ahead to life. And I asked the question, “What is my life purpose?” I asked that question the day I was released from Huntsman after my transplant and that question remained unanswered for nearly three years. What is my life purpose now? Could it be an advocate of hope?
I believe I can safely write every cancer patient and survivor’s experience is different; I don’t think one story is the same. My treatment and physical recovery went as anticipated; there were a few set-backs and threatening ones at that. However, my emotional recovery was so unanticipated and I was not prepared for what I went through. Those days and months were very dark, isolating, lonely, questioning and guilt-ridden. I desperately wanted to know if these emotions were normal and if there were other survivors out in the world who were suffering like me.
Advocate of hope. After all I had gone through and experienced could I share my experience with others as a message of hope?
Days later, the thought came to me, why don’t I become an advocate of hope? I could facilitate a support group that is specifically for those of us who have suffered emotionally as we recovered from our treatments. We are a small percentage but we are a percentage all the same, and most of all, we need to know we are not alone and that there are others who know exactly how we feel.