I Rang the Bell

I’m still here.

I know it’s been a while. Teaching kindergarten can be life consuming, and when you throw heavy chemo on top of that…

And then a little situation where you need to move your classroom for two weeks, then set it all back up again…

It’s been two months.

Yesterday I finished the chemo treatment. Those diagnosed with stage four cancer never “finish ” as they are in treatment for life, playing whack-a-mole whenever it pops up. Our hope is that this is an oligometastatic case, I’ll get scans next week, the cancer is all dead, surgery can be scheduled for mastectomy, then remission for years and years and decades.

I’ve been posting on my Facebook every day, and apologize for not keeping up here.

I remember when I was first diagnosed I searched high and low for blogs of women with stage four breast cancer . Inevitably, they would just stop. Then I would search for obituaries and find them.

I don’t want anyone who has been recently diagnosed to go through that with me for about forty years… so if I stop posting, just imagine me off living my best life.

Deal?

Here is my post from today…

I rang that bell.

It was so emotional.

I left school and took selfies with staff. My secretaries Lisa and Mirta carried me through, and Lisa wasn’t there. My former Secretary Julie was filling in, and as I left, she was on the phone with Lisa. We took a selfie and I felt happy that I managed to have Lisa there in spirit.

I got home at lunch and started the prep, pulling out frozen peas and blueberries, getting the benedryl and Pepcid ready, boiling the tea and getting the special drink ready I have to drink during chemo, and just breathing. The cookies that Merry’s Cakes made for the staff at the hospital were beautiful and perfect. I wanted butterflies because I was told by Jennifer Williamson that they are a sign of the Holy Spirit, and I chose a mint color because my former superintendent always jokes with me about mint and makes me laugh every time.

Mint never gets old.

I stopped at the Meetinghouse Deli for my food, and gave the ladies my shield necklaces and some flowers. They didn’t charge me once this whole time for any of the food. The kindness of others has been amazing and carried me through this time.

We got to the hospital and it was busy. The girl at the front desk said the ribbon cutting for the new cancer center was yesterday. It will open to patients in January and apparently it’s beautiful, even with a fireplace. Comfort matters.

I got lots of hugs from all of the nurses and staff, and one told me to contact her when I’m ready to have babies because she is a doula.

We laughed and she was shocked when I told her I was going to be 46 years old in two weeks. She thought I was in my late twenties/early thirties. That felt good.

I was brought to my infusion chair, and it was the same exact chair I started in four months ago. They have a lot of chairs, and i never was scheduled for that chair after my first treatment.

I saw my friend’s mom and gave her one of my necklaces as well as a cookie. She said she was so happy for me that I was done, but it was nice seeing me whenever she went because she felt like she had family with her. I held her hand and sent her all of my energy, and said we can meet up at a better place next time.

The nurses were so busy yesterday, and I caught glimpses of some of former nurses.

My favorite one was away at training, but she ended up stopping by at the very end. She was in Israel on a “Walk with Jesus” tour this month, and prayed specifically for me. I also gave her one of my Joshua 1:9 shield necklaces. She got me through my hardest days there.

My friend from high school has a sister in law who I met November 15 two years ago when she took me aside before the biopsy and walked me through it. She came by and we discussed next steps.

The chemo ended and it was time. My favorite nurse stayed so she could bring me to the bell, my nurse from yesterday came, and another nurse who was so great after my port placement stayed as well. I had wanted to say something eloquent, about hope and faith. About how I was ringing the bell after being told I only had weeks or months left. How I hated that bell and what it stood for, because I would never end treatment. How I decided to ring the bell because it’s a celebration for simply being alive and finishing four months of hard chemo, and even though I don’t know what’s coming next week…

I had that moment in time to choose joy and celebrate.

Instead, I cried.

I thought of all of my friend who I have lost in these two years. I thought of my friends who have continued to thrive and write their own miracle stories. I thought of all of the men and women with all types of cancers at all stages.

I thought of my children and rob.

They said to ring it loud, and no one was in the waiting room. If there had been other patients, i wouldn’t have rung it loud out of respect.

But it was empty.

So I rang it over and over.

I didnt count, but when I watched, I rang it thirteen times.

I had thirteen treatments.

When I was done, we all hugged, and my nurse said that the hard part will be the mental part. To remember a cold is just a cold and not cancer. An ache can be just an ache. To move on and live.

I go on Tuesday for the scans.

Wednesday for results.

The tumor board may be meeting Friday to discuss my case and see if any surgeon will touch it, as long as scans are clean.

They will move fast, because they have to operate when cancer is all dead.

So the clock has started to tick.

The next week will be huge.

I’ll keep breathing and teaching and living.

I went to my niece’s birthday party and got hugs from my family and friends. Paula, Alli and Jill have helped me keep my sanity the past few months. It was good to see them, as well as the rest of my family.

All of the kids were in costumes, and they had fun. I saved a few cookies from the nurses platter for my kids, and we sang.

I had so many signs yesterday, it felt like in A Christmas Carol, or It’s a Wonderful Life.

We listened to Christmas carols all day yesterday.

After chemo we got into the car and “White Christmas” was on. My nan loved that song. The next song? “Oh Holy Night”, which was my paternal grandmothers favorite song. I never met her as she died from Cancer when my dad was nine, but he told me about the song and I learned to play it on the piano for her. Then the next song? “Have yourself a merry little Christmas “. The song I played over and over two years ago.

Three songs in a row.

We also got to the hospital at 1:11.

It was November 1…11/1.

We ended and pulled out at 4:44.

Lots of signs to fill my heart with peace.

Today I’ll go to work and drink a lot of water. The last weekend was hard, and it’s been cumulative. I’m thankful

I’ve been able to function and plan to continue to do so.

I’ve got a Thanksgiving Feast, a Field Trip, and report cards due…then parent teacher conferences.

All in the next three weeks.

It’s going to be a whirlwind, along with scans and results and plans for next steps.

And let’s throw my birthday and cancerversary in there as well.

I’ll be busy but I’m thankful.

Because I’m here.

And plan to be here for many many many more years.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

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