HITTING THE WALL
Earlier in my blog I promised you that I wouldn’t get cliché on you, but I think I spoke prematurely. You see, at this point in treatment, with only 8 left, I have hit the proverbial “wall”. Those of you who have run marathons (let the cliché begin) know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t know, it’s usually around mile 18 – 20 that your body decides that it has had enough. Both mentally and physically you feel like you have hit a block wall. But the thing is, you have to break through that wall because you still have a 10K to run. Now, realize that most people will never run a marathon, let alone a 10K, so think about having to do it after already running 20 miles…not fun.
As I mentioned, I have hit my wall. I haven’t shared much about my treatments over the past several weeks, but let me tell you what hitting the wall means to me. My wall includes exhaustion. As someone who has spent the last 10 years of her life being extremely active, it is hard to be tired all the time. It is hard to watch the people around you doing things for you, because you just don’t have the energy. Truthfully, I feel guilty about that. I shouldn’t, I know, but I do. I feel like I’m not doing my share. But I have come to the realization that doing my share means getting rest so that I can heal and get stronger as soon as I can. Yes, I am exhausted.
My wall includes dizziness. There are many times during the day that I feel dizzy and like I’m going to faint. This weekend, back in Austin, we wanted to take Katie (my dear friend who was visiting from CA) out on the boat for a quick tour around Lake Travis (I was too exhausted to do much while she was here, so I wanted to do something fun!) I went prepared with water, my wide brimmed hat and stayed in the shade the whole time (we were only out for an hour). Unfortunately, my pension for dizziness anyways, compiled with the 104 degree temperatures, were too much for my radiation riddled body to handle. We were hoping to have lunch at the Yacht Club, but a wave of dizziness and hot sweats cut our lunch short. As I tried to walk to the front door, all I could see was the floor and I couldn’t help but wonder when I was going to hit it. Luckily I made it to a bar table where I laid my head and hands across the table like a limp biscuit. The restaurant gave Katie a bag of ice to put on me to cool me down. I thought it helped. Will had pulled the truck up front, and they had to hold me up as once again the dizziness overcame me. They laid me in the back of the truck where I put my feet and arms in the air (thanks, Chris, for telling me the proper way to handle faintness!). We got home and once again I headed to lie down on the couch. Because, yes, I was exhausted and dizzy.
My wall includes fear. There is fear as my body reacts to the fact that it has just been put through the ringer with 5 chemo treatments and 25 radiation treatments to date. Just like during a marathon when your body reacts to the fact that it is being pushed beyond normal limits, you struggle to find a way to push through. As the knee pain became too much to bear during one of my marathons, I kept on running anyways, because the alternative is not an option. Quitting is never an option for me. When the tears and fears and asthma made it almost too much to bear, God must have been carrying me through. And, now, when the jaw pain and mouth sores and nausea, along with the exhaustion and dizziness, bring me tears and fears once more, I know for certain that God is carrying me when I don’t have the strength to do it myself. Jim Murphy texted us a line from a song at church this weekend. “When there’s nothing left, let your healing come…You are a Savior. You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful.” Isn’t that the truth?
My wall includes a bald spot. When I started treatment they told me that the low dose chemo probably wouldn’t make me lose my hair. I had decided that it didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting better. And I still feel that way. Four and a half weeks of treatment had gone by and their initial assessment had remained true. However, last week I started to notice hair on my hands when I would wash it or run my hands through it. It wasn’t in clumps or anything, and actually my daughter Meghan loses more hair than the 15 or 20 that come out each time I touch it. But a couple days ago, all the handfuls of 15 or 20 hairs finally added up to a bald spot. The hair loss isn’t from the chemo necessarily, but from the one beam of radiation they had to aim through my brain to avoid my cornea. Lucky for me, I have very thick hair and it is in a location that it can be hidden with a slight comb over. Yes, you heard me right. Let me apologize now to anyone with a comb over. It’s true, I may have asked under my breath why they didn’t just shave their head. I now understand their thinking ;)
When you hit that wall, during a marathon or life, it’s the people on the sidelines yelling your name and cheering you on that gives you the push and determination to keep on going strong, when you think you have no push left. Each card I receive and text I get are my sideline cheerleaders. All the verses I read are like the signs that people make to give you the courage and faith to persevere despite the pain. Each drink or shake I struggle to get down is like my Gu or Power Gel giving me strength to make it to the finish line. Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and hear and put their trust in the Lord.”
It’s interesting to note that I started out on my ‘athletic’ journey just over 10 years ago by running my first marathon with Team in Training. Team in Training is a charitable running group that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. Prior to that I’d never even run a 5K (go big or go home, I guess!). It’s also interesting to note that my cancer most likely started to grow about this same time. Looking back, it seems so clear to me that this wasn’t a coincidence. This was the true hand of God. It was both a mental and physical preparation for my cancer journey that would come 10 years later. It provided an awareness of cancer that I hadn’t had before. It had me looking beyond myself to do something (raise money) for those with Leukemia or Lymphoma. It was a realization that doing for others did so much for me, and would be returned to me 100 fold when my time came. It was the beginning of 10 years of marathons, half marathons, triathlons, mud runs, Gladiator races, Warrior Dashes, Foam Fest, Tough Mudders, Bicycle tours, etc (many of these with Team in Training). And these all did as much for me to physically prepare for this journey as they did mentally. There were tough times during some of these events, but there was never a finish line that I didn’t cross. And when I did, I cried tears of joy and pride at the fact that through any struggles I never gave up. I achieved something so big, so unexpected, so difficult and so rare that any pain along the way is a distant memory when you raise your arms in victory to the one who made it possible! With God all things are possible. I have my cancer finish line in sight (8 more radiation treatments, 2 more chemos). And while I have definitely hit the wall, I will forge my way through it with the strength granted to me by the Holy Spirit that dwells inside of me. Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Every race, every finish line, every challenge is a lesson in growth, faith, maturity and strength, leading us to the ultimate finish line and ultimate prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24 ‘Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.’ While my treatment finish line is in sight (just another 10K), it will still be at least a month or more before I am my chipper, active self. But I’m planning on doing a Warrior Dash in October…a symbolic return to physical and mental strength (even if I have to walk it). A declaration of my inner Warrior who conquered cancer. A proclamation of the grace of God and the new race he has set out for me to testify to the gospel through this experience. I plan on doing this race with the people who have supported me and loved me. Will you join me???Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.