...and this is what she has to say about the experience, from my 5/18 Jen's World:
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In February, I told you all about my friend Jenny Rand. I told you about her crazy sense of humor, about her four fabulous kiddos... and about her breast cancer. It's after columns like that one that I'm reminded what fabulous reader-friends I have. You may have never met Jenny Rand, but she touched your hearts. When I saw you at the dentist office, you asked how she was doing. At the bank, you told me you were praying for her. At the gym, you asked if you could help. It's instances like these—and more like them—that tell me this is one of those columns that deserves a follow-up.
When I sat down to write about Jenny again, though, I fell short. I know her chemotherapy schedule. I know when her “off week” falls and when her good days come around. But I don't know what it's like to have breast cancer. I could tell you what Jenny has said about losing her hair (“it sucks”) or how she's never felt more loved in her life (“best part”). But it's not the same coming from me.
Then, last week, on the night before her final chemotherapy appointment, Rand wrote an honest and heartfelt journal entry on her CaringBridge page. She’s given me the go-ahead to share her words—in the excerpt below—with you:
I struggle with all the things this disease has taken from me. … It took my hair, and my eyelashes, and my eyebrows. It took all the hair out of my nose, so my nose is constantly running. It is taking my fingernails and my toenails (no cute sandals for ME this summer!). It is sapping my strength and stripping my energy. It has taken my chest, and soon, who knows how much more of me with the hysterectomy or whatever else [my doctors] decide will be best.
I have to admit, I worry about feeling like an 'it'. Who will I be with all of these parts of me gone? I hope that I will just be, well... ME. I am still me. I am a little tired, and I am a little battered. My heart is still the same. I am still wickedly inappropriate most of the time. I am still my kids’ mom, Mike’s wife, Tom and Sue's daughter. I still love to laugh. I still love my children and adore my husband. I don’t LOOK the same—some days I don’t FEEL the same—but I hope that I am still the same where it matters: my heart, my soul, my faith, my love.
Yes, cancer has taken many, many things from me. Perhaps most importantly, it took my innocence. It took my invincibility. But it didn’t take my children’s mom. It didn’t take me from my husband.
All of the things that cancer took might seem unimportant. And, all things told, [they] might not be important one at a time. Throwing them all in at once, though? Along with the diagnosis and the treatment and the chaos that it’s thrown into our lives? It got, and still gets, overwhelming. Sometimes, I do forget to pull it apart into smaller parts and deal with it all that way. Today, I can tackle the rashes. Tomorrow, I will try to deal with the actual treatment. Friday, I can minimize the bone pain. Saturday, I plan on LIVING for [my daughter’s] fourth birthday! I just forget to take it one day, one problem—or, some days, one minute—at a time. On these days, throw in one other stressful situation, and I tend to fall apart.
Tomorrow, my 44th birthday, I will get to say goodbye to chemo—and I hope I will get to say hello, again, to myself. The one I used to know. The one that is still inside here somewhere. Tomorrow, my 44th birthday, I will welcome LIFE back in my life.