Yesterday was my last chemotherapy treatment. Just writing that seems surreal. I’ve been asked over and over how I feel, and the answer to that is, “I don’t know.” I keep expecting this euphoria to set in, this sense of freedom and extreme elation, but I remain almost unemotional. Almost. I am truly joyful this is over, and I am excited for my future. Yet at the same time, I am fully overwhelmed, and when I am overwhelmed, I think.
I have thought about a lot of things today. My husband, my children, my family and friends. I’ve thought about how gracious God has been to us all. While chemo was tough, He spared me from so much. I’ve thought about Asher; after all, it was also his birthday. I’ve thought about the future and what it holds. I’ve thought about the day when I can just throw on a pair of jeans, a fun shirt, my boots, and style my own hair to spend a day shopping. It’s a mish-mash of introspection, and I am tired and ready for my brain to just shut down for the night.
There are two people who have come to my mind often today. Two of the most awe-inspiring girls in my life. My mom and my daughter. It is when I think of them that the emotions come.
My mom is the most amazing woman I know. She has stood firm with me in the midst of days that must have been agonizing to her. I will never forget the day I found out I had breast cancer. She was babysitting the children for us, and we were sent immediately from my OB to the surgeon’s office. I had to call her and let her know we would be a while, because I knew she would worry if she didn’t know what was happening. I hated that moment more than anything in my life. I longed to be with her, to see her face, to feel her arms around me, to weep with her, to hear her say it would all be okay and repeat those words back to her, to cling to Jesus with her, knowing she would run to Him just as I do. Instead, my quavering voice broke the most awful news she’s ever heard over the phone to her. I can still hear her intake of breath, her soft, “Oh, Angie.” And I weep.
Over the past months, Mom has been here, never tiring in her labor. Gifted in service, hospitality and encouragement, she has cared for our hearts and our home. I don’t know where I’d be if Mom weren’t here. Driving 30 minutes every time she is needed, Mom never complains. In fact, she has wanted to be nowhere else. She has watched her daughter transform from a cancer victim to a cancer survivor. She has changed my dressings and emptied surgical drains. She has changed dirty diapers and cleaned grungy toilets. She has folded laundry and scrubbed floors. She has grocery shopped and cooked meals. She has kept my home running and tried to do it just as I would want it to be, because she knows and cares about what’s important to me.
But she has done so much more. She has laughed with me and cried with me. We’ve snuggled in my bed and watched movies. She’s massaged my feet more times than I can count. We’ve read books aloud to each other. We’ve napped together. We’ve encouraged one another and struggled together. When I ask questions, she doesn’t always give answers, instead she shows understanding, because although she isn’t suffering the physical pain I am suffering, she is suffering just as much or more than I.
I place myself in her shoes. I try to picture what it would be like to watch my baby suffer. I cannot begin to imagine, nor do I want to. It is when I think of all that Audrey’s future holds that I weep. Bubbly and beautiful, Audrey is our sassy diva who is very clear on what she wants. She brings joy every day into this home, and I could fill pages writing of her enchantments. She has grown to love her babysitters, but especially her Grandma. Every time there is a knock at the door, Audrey yells out, “Maaa-maw!”, and her brown eyes grow huge with excitement. I watch this little redheaded whirlwind, and I picture her future.
I wonder if I’ll ever see her in pink tutus tiptoeing in her ballet slippers. Or will I see her diving for volleyballs and slamming spikes over the net? She already loves music and singing, and there are days when my mom just watches her and remembers me as a child. I speculate on how she will be in school. Will she seek to please as I did? Or will she try to carve her own path as Brian did? I want to teach her to be her own person and yet to love to learn and do well in school at the same time. I picture her dreaming and idealizing, imagining a world that is pretty and playful.
I wonder if that world will hold the ugliness of breast cancer, and my heart aches. I pray that this blight is not part of her future, because I don’t know that I could watch her walk down this same path that I have trod. I don’t know that I would have the strength of my mother to watch my own dear flesh and blood struggle so much. I do know this. I would be there for her in a heartbeat. I would scrub toilets and clean vomit. I would cry and pray and laugh with her. I would spend every cent I own to care for her. And like my mom, I would care for her by running to Jesus with her every day. I would strive to be her angel, just as Mom has been for me.
Today is a day for thanksgiving. My chemo is over. By God’s grace I have jumped another hurdle. But when I think about this day, it is not the end of my treatments that fill my mind. It is my mother and my daughter. It is the overwhelming gratitude and sentimentalism as I think about the amazing blessings God has given me with them in my life. So here is my tribute. Mom and Audrey are my beautiful, wonderful gifts, and I stand in awe of them both every day.