"Colby, are you ready for your last round?" I asked excitedly while trying to stay positive for what we both knew was coming.
"Nobody is ready for chemo." he quietly replied with a matter of fact, flat tone as he packed the last of his hospital clothes.
And so began our fourth and final round of chemotherapy...
At some point, if you are in it long enough, the hard becomes manageable...dare I say...comfortable even.
You learn a new norm. You sway to a different rhythm. You settle in. You hunker down.
Life before the hard seems like a distant dream since the hard is your new reality.
By cycle four, we knew what to expect.
However, the sickness and tiredness became exponentially worse and longer to recover with each cycle.
But this cycle was the last cycle. It was April and my mantra since September had been, "Let's just make it to May."
The hospital and clinic had become familiar places...almost like home but not quite.
Although I can't say that I actually miss those chemo days, I am grateful for the time that it gave me...time to spend with Colby, time that forced me to be still for days at the hospital and time to have with the others while Bryant took his turn at the hospital.
Time, I have learned, is a precious commodity. It keeps marching on even though I try my best to slow it down. It doesn't wait for me to say the words I know I should say. It doesn't accept the excuses for why I haven't done the things I know I should do. It just keeps running, daring me to catch up to it.
Going home and leaving the hospital for the last time was the high...quickly followed by the low of dropping blood counts and more sickness.
Now that his hair has grown back and his weight is going up, these pictures make me cringe seeing how thin and sick he appeared. I affectionately call it the AMC (alien marshmallow cancer) look. The strange thing is that when we were in the thick of treatment, I didn't notice his appearance so much. I am sure it is an irrational thought, but I would keep him on radiation and chemotherapy drugs for the rest of his life if it meant the cancer would not come back. Irrational, right? I know.
However, we are now in the "wait and see" stage. Every three months, Colby has a MRI on his brain to make sure he is not trying to grow a second one. Every six months, he will have his brain and spine scanned.
The MRIs are not new; he had them every eight weeks going through radiation and chemotherapy. Every time, I have to push down the anxiety and fear to constantly replace it with truth in God's Word. I know He doesn't give me a spirit of fear and that I am supposed to not be anxious about anything but through thankful prayer and supplication present my requests to God. But the heart and flesh are fickle things that need constant reminding which is a task that keeps me constantly running back to Him and handing Him the fear. My personal opinion is that God made me this way to keep me dependent on Him because I have this nasty tendency to think that I am actually in control. I am not. He is. His will will be done and His grace is enough.
While going through treatment, Colby pretty much kept to himself and didn't participate in child life activities at the hospital. He had the opportunity to meet his new buddy, Kobe, at a baseball game though and exchange brain surgery stories.
As "nice" as it was to relive our homeschooling years with him, Colby was able to go back to school the last two weeks in May and graduate eighth grade with his class. The week was not without its emotional ups and downs though as he realized how much he missed the past school year in catching up with his friends. He was also physically drained as his body was still trying to recover. Most of the summer was spent growing back his hair, which came back in "I do not know what to do with baby fine, loose curls", and getting his strength back. He will still throw up if he exerts too much physical energy.
(So far, all of Colby's scans have come back crystal clear...whoot whoot, can I get an "Amen" and "Thank you, Lord". His doctors say they will breathe easy with three years of clear scans and declare him in remission at five years. We have been loved on, prayed up and are ready to use all that He has taught us in the valley to bless others.)