Sunday, November 07, 2004
The Grand Finale
It seemed as though I had a million questions in my head, but nothing to ask when I had my regular check up before chemo. My red blood counts had improved (from 11.1 to 11.6) and everything was progressing on schedule. After today I could move on to the next steps. The questions kept swirling through my head. Did we get it all? Did this chemo regimen work? Is surgery really necessary? How do I know for sure that we got it all? Will I be strong enough for surgery? What’s next? Will I always feel like I am fighting a beast or will I feel normal again?

The truth is there are no guarantees. I have to move forward in blind faith. Did I have a guarantee before? We all move forward in blind faith every day hoping that we will live long, full, rewarding lives. Some of us do and some do not. The only way to live is to do just that – LIVE. We all define that word so differently and I am certain that I now define it much differently than I did six months ago.

I had a range of emotions in the chemo room. I was a little misty-eyed as I talked to the nurse as she was connecting the IV. Anita has always been so reassuring and today was no different. With a smile she told me how great I did with the treatments and how strongly I came through them. In a way it seemed as though I was letting go of people that I have come to rely on and trust. How can you slay the dragon without someone constantly sharpening your sword and making sure you are armed?

But there was also great joy in knowing this was my final treatment. I put the recliner back, put my feet up, relaxed and watched Moonstruck. This was a great choice. I felt as though I had my family there with me. Even the nurses kept asking me what I was watching that was making me giggle so much. By the time the movie was over a kind gentleman had sat down next to me. I recognized him from previous weeks. He shared with me that he has lung cancer due to asbestos exposure. His name is Richard. He is 78 years old. He knows the best this treatment will do is contain his cancer.

He went on to share with me that he has no regrets. He has lived his life with passion and if this is his time, well then, this is his time and he has had a full life. He spoke of his beautiful wife he met while he was in the Navy stationed in Japan. He said the first time he saw her he knew she was the one for him. Her beauty took his breath away. More than that, her heart was pure and good. They had a tough time both in Japan and later here in the States with discrimination, but their love kept them together and made them stronger. It seemed as though her love was the best part of his life.

Richard surprised us all with a video from his last cruise where he won a karaoke contest. Let me tell you, the competition was stiff. I would have placed this more at an American Idol audition than on a cruise ship. Appropriately, Richard sang “My Way” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He sang with such passion and enthusiasm that everyone in the chemo room burst out in spontaneous applause several times during his performance. The man in the video was so strong and energetic; yet the man next to me was frail. Oh but his fervor and zest for living were clearly the same. His story, like so many others over the past 16 weeks, truly blessed me.

On my first day in chemo I wanted to run from there and hide, afraid that this was now part of my life. Along the way, I met so many people with amazing stories. They taught me not about cancer, side effects, fear, or death. They taught me about courage, strength, passion, love, and being alive. And on my last day of chemo I also wanted to run from there. I wanted to feel the wind on my face, the warmth of the sun, and the embrace of the people who have supported me. I wanted to praise God in gratitude for getting me to this point on my journey. I wanted to run because I felt alive!

I am a survivor.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12