Ringing the Bell – Endings and New Beginnings…

I had my last chemotherapy treatment this week. I am getting disconnected today, just in time to pass out treats for Hallowe’en. Tuesday was the first time my kids have been to the cancer center with us, and I think it was helpful for them to see what exactly has been going on all these months.

While I was in the hospital getting the first part of my infusion, Krista texted me and said, “Three years ago today we were running the East Coast Trail Ultra-Marathon, and now you are finishing your marathon of treatments! Wow!”

My amazing chemo nurses and pharmacist – Lesley, Janine, Vanessa, Yours Truly, Kerri-Lynn and Natasha. I cannot begin to explain how important their support has been.

As a matter of fact, the timeline of this whole experience has been pretty interesting. Diagnosis – my son’s birthday. First radiation treatment – my Grandfather Taylor’s birthday (also, April Fool’s Day). Surgery and hospital stay – Easter time. Commencement of chemotherapy – shortly after Victoria Day Weekend and just in time for my birthday. Now I am finished my 12 rounds of chemotherapy (with no delays due to illness or infection, I might add!) on Hallowe’en, and the results of my December scan will be handed to me, hopefully, right before the Christmas break.

We’ve had a lovely fall in every way. My herbs are still flourishing on the back deck even though tomorrow is the first of November. Asher’s parents came to visit and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with all four of my kids’ grandparents in fine form. How fortunate we are! My old friend, Robin, was in the area for three weeks and we had some quality time together. Even though I’ve often been sick, uncomfortable and fatigued, I’ve enjoyed these moments.

Melanie and I celebrating my disconnect. She is one of the wonderful nurses who did my post-surgery care and bi-weekly chemo disconnects.

When I look at the simple jack o’ lanterns my kids carved after our celebratory dinner this week my heart fills with joy. They carved these pumpkins happily together at the kitchen table like they do every year, but we had a new lightness of spirit. They had just watched their mom ring the bell at the cancer center, and what could be better than that?

My oldest son began volunteering at the hospital this week and went off to school this morning dressed in costume as a doctor. I think we are all quite enamored with doctors, nurses, and pharmacists these days.

I have some healing to do now to get my body, spirit and mind back in working order. I’m not going to sugarcoat the cognitive effects of chemo – I don’t go out much because I am avoiding germs and don’t always feel well enough, but I ventured to my book club meeting last night where I had trouble understanding two-part questions. I also described Cleo as a “dog who started out as a puppy,” a comment which garnered some laughs! All joking aside; however, according to my nurses and many people I’ve spoken to who have been through this, it takes quite some time for your body and brain to rebound from these treatments.

This healing is a labour of love, and I have a fine team around me. I cannot thank everyone enough for the support, the food, the hugs, the cards, the visits, the chats, and the calls and messages.

I also have a new perspective. The day before my chemo this week, during a long, slow woods walk, I discovered upon returning to the ski trail parking lot that I had lost the keys to the van. I started to get panicky, because I was already quite tired. But then I thought, “Hey, it could be a lot worse. You could be back in hospital. You could be facing many more treatments. This is minor.”

So Cleo and I slowly retraced our steps, me scanning frantically with my blurry steroid-laden chemo vision, kicking leaves all the way. Of course the proverbial saying “this is like finding a needle in a haystack” came to mind.

I thought, “What would mom do?” and, of course, I said a prayer to Saint Anthony.

Dear Saint Anthony, Please come ’round. My keys are lost and can’t be found.

All Newfoundland Catholics know this one.

On we lumbered, me scanning and Cleo sniffing and then, there the keys were. Cleo stood next to them triumphantly and I whooped. It reminded me of the whoop I let out months before when Cleo and I were snowshoeing and I received a call on my cellphone from one of my doctors telling me the spots on my liver were just common cysts. But this week my whoop was about a set of keys, and that earlier whoop was about living versus dying. The difference could not be more stark.

As I collected my keys, smiling, I couldn’t help but murmur a certain phrase …… You know the phrase, dear reader!!!! SOME LUCKY!!

I’m not sure who spotted the keys first but Cleo is definitely taking all the credit.

26 thoughts on “Ringing the Bell – Endings and New Beginnings…

  1. Congratulations on ringing the bell. Another fabulous blog. I love your positive attitude. I love how you decided to let your children experience the “clinic” part of your journey. They probably learned more from that then we imagine. Keep the faith. Live the life. You go girl. Lol.
    P.S. I’m amazed you found the keys. Some lucky is right.

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    1. Yes, Vicki, they did learn so much and it really helped all of us start to process this crazy ride we have been on. It’s going to take time for this to own its place in the timeline of our family history. I am so thankful I’ve had their youthful selves around me throughout as it helps keep things in perspective day to day.
      We are all some lucky, for sure 💕

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  2. Well Janine I can feel your happiness! There is no better feeling then ringing that bell !Now you have to finish healing and go on with life! Go and celebrate! You have gone through this terrible time with positivity, and much encouragement and kind words from many people! However, it is YOU who deserve all the credit now ! I know all about your journey I have gone through it with my husband . I know it is not always easy and how hard it is not to let your mind wander! However, we don’t go there we take one day at a time and thank God for each day! Enjoy your life with your family! Don’t look back! Congratulations again! God bless you! Cathy Fred

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    1. Thank you Fred and Cathy! You know the journey all too well… it is hard to explain to others but we get it. Thank you for always reading and for inspiring me throughout, with your lovely and strength and positivity. 💕

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  3. Janine, you are a gifted writer. Often you bring tears to my eyes as I read about my favourite niece (my only niece I know) and what you have gone through this year with such strength and determination. Your blog helps so many people, too. Bear hugs to all the Cuttings!

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  4. I’m sooo happy for you! May your new journey begin with a refreshed spirit; a spirit that will be healed quickly; filled with wonderful and positive energy that will be reflected in the eyes of those nearest and dearest to your heart. As your new tomorrow begins, may it be filled with wonderful health, and an abundance of happiness as you forward on to celebrate Advent and Christmas ….with the same joy that fills your heart like that of a young child! God Bless you! I hope your heart will be full!

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  5. Tears fell down my face as I read your blog, but they were happy tears that you rang the bell and your family was with you. I’m glad the hospital team was so good to you and showed you love. Of course, how couldn’t they – everyone loves you because your beauty radiates from within your soul.

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    1. Dianne, thank you so much for reading and being a part of my journey along the way! I have definitely been fortunate to have such supportive family, friends and medical professionals in my corner 😊

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  6. You are so incredibly strong. This journey that you have blogged about has helped people gain some perspective; count your blessings no matter how big or how small, celebrate the small victories and fight like heck to get healthy again. You have been so very inspiring, your family and friends are “some lucky” to have a shinning light like you. Sending well wishes to you always.

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    1. Yolanda, thank you so much for your beautiful comments. I hope the blog is helpful to others as they navigate the difficult times in their lives. It has been helpful to me, I know that! I really appreciate your taking the time to read and send a message 😊

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  7. Bravo, Janine. Thrilled that you’re through with this trying phase of life—and looking forward to reading your smart, sharp, funny, and inspiring perspective as you move on to new beginnings.

    Cheers from Team Janine,
    Annie.

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  8. So glad to hear that you’ve “rung the bell!” and that your family was there to share it with you. Loved the anecdote about the keys. It shows your talent for putting things in perspective; and it shows the power of calmly facing the situation and working through it one step at a time. And I’m sure Cleo, and St. Anthony, helped a bit! Good luck

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    1. Thanks so much, Gerald for always reading and sending a lovely comment! It really makes my day. Yes, I think Cleo and St. Anthony may have been in cahoots on this one. Haha.
      Feels good to have this part over and to have shared a celebration with the kids!!

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  9. Congrats! Glad to hear you’re finished all those rounds! Those cognitive effects have taken me months to get through, but they’re getting better! And I got a Tile device on my key chain now for when I can’t find my keys, haha!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! Glad to hear it gets better… I am looking forward to being able to taste food and feel my hands and feet… basically feeling human again will be so nice! But I am happy it’s over. And so nice to hear from you 😊

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  10. Congratulations! So happy for you! Your honest, beautifully written account of your journey has educated me and inspired me. if ever I have to face cancer, I hope I do it with grace and courage as you have done. Happy Days Are Here Again!

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