August 31st, 2023
Fun fact. I'm a Swiftie. Perhaps an elderly one, but one nonetheless.
And as an almost fifty year old, I'm also not going to take any flack for it.
Let me explain...
Miss Taylor Alison Swift has been in my eardrums basically since the beginning of covid on repeat. She somehow was able to deep seed into my psyche, and I've struggled listening to anything else.
It's not like I hadn't listened to her before… but for some reason it's only now, years later, that I finally FEEL her lyrics come to life. I can hear the emotion behind her words.
And it was these lyrics hidden in the overplayed bops, and subdued melodies that sort of doubled as therapy for me these last few months.
Therapy as I quietly cried through chores.
Therapy as I sobbed on the lawn mower.
Therapy as I secretly weeped behind my sunglasses in the car every time I looked to the passenger seat and saw my baby in pain.
It's been an unbelievably rough time for our family over the last few months.
Most especially, our Jess.
Two surgeries, a cancer diagnosis, fertility treatment and chemotherapy… all since February.
A big toll for a now twenty-one year old girl.
A time where she should be out with her friends enjoying her once-favourite season (summer), instead of painfully watching it happen without her on her iphone screen.
A time where she would be working out in the fields all day with her peers in a job she adores, instead of barely being able to move from the couch to her bed each day.
A time to be healthy, instead of sick.
But coping is an amazing thing.
We all found our ways to cope this summer…
Mine was through the love and escape of music, followed (although at first, hesitantly) by a new love and escape of reading.
Mark was coping by escaping to his cabin where he plugged into a good audiobook, and worked out his worries and frustrations amidst the quiet of the trees.
Jess was coping (barely) by of course reading when she could, she started a book journal and sometime during this whole endeavour, she decided to elect a different season as her new favourite… Fall.
Fall was now her north star.
The season she could envision herself feeling better, and she focussed on that.
That last week of chemo was a weird one.
I walked the hospital hallways as always, but this week I really took it all in.
I looked at the posters, and inspirational quotes on the walls.
I took note of just how many people waited in that foyer to receive treatment (ps. I will never get over the sheer volume of cancer patients.)
But, what I didn't do, was walk these halls thinking “I can't wait to get out of here” or “I never want to set foot in a hospital again”… weird right?
I don't like hospitals in general.
BUT… for some reason, through this whole thing, I felt safe here.
Like the cancer couldn't catch us here.
Like we had superheros in this place that would keep our daughter safe.
Because, as soon as I left these walls and headed home, I felt like the monster could and did find us.
We couldn't keep her comfortable.
We couldn't make her eat, or drink, or even move most days.
We watched her in pain.
We watched her in defeat.
We watched our daughter in true sorrow.
But when we finally watched her ring that bell, the same bell she quietly envied all who rang before her, I hugged our daughter and saw the nurses behind her also wiping tears from their eyes.
And in that moment I knew that they too watched our daughter struggle in the same way we did.
They saw and fought the monster too.
And like us, they were so happy to see her at the finish line being declared the winner.
So how is our Jess today, almost three weeks after her last treatment?
I'd love to say 100 percent.
But that would be a lie.
Just like during chemo, everyday is a guessing game.
For every three good days, she has four bad.
She still struggles with little to no energy, and has random bouts of nausea.
But maybe the worst of it all is the disappointment of finally being done treatment, but still so far away from feeling like herself again.
But our daughter is a warrior.
Every cancer patient is one.
They fight battles no one can see, or begin to comprehend.
She will enter her new favourite season, tolerating us for a few more months as she takes a semester off school, and she will slowly integrate back into herself again.
Which brings us back to August…
The month that became our finish line.
The metaphoric shore we set off for on May 29th.
A shore that seemed too far to reach in the midst of the battle.
August became the turning point between a summer we long to forget, and the fall we're now patiently waiting for.
And August is also a song.
Fittingly written by none other than Miss Taylor Swift.
A song that contains a quote I've repeated over and over again…
Because if the last few months have taught me anything at all, it was this…
“to live for the hope of it all”
And that's exactly what we did.