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The Sweet Sound

Bell It’s tough to describe how I felt when I heard the words, “whole brain radiation.” Something between fear and disbelief probably says it best. While I felt rather panicked over such a dramatic course of action, I also couldn’t quite believe we were at such a perilous stage as to require that treatment. Hadn’t these doctors seen Star Trek II, or K-19, or 24, or any other TV show or movie with a radiation leak? Didn’t they know radiation was lethal?

It turns out, it wasn’t lethal. Mom actually did rather well. The treatments were fast and painless, and Mom emerged from her two week course with all her wits firmly in tact. She was physically unchanged and mentally unhindered. Sure, her hair began to fall out, but she was still Mom. We hadn’t lost her in form and function despite the fear that accompanied those terrible words, “WHOLE BRAIN RADIATION.”

Now, I’m not endorsing conventional treatment, and I’m not disparaging unconventional treatment. Courses of action are the business of a patient, their family, and their doctor (probably in that order). What I did find and still do find to be truly important in the process of Mom’s radiation treatment was how it ended: Commemoration. Patients at MD Anderson are encouraged to commemorate every victory. In Mom’s case, she rang a bell, and ringing that bell said: “I’m still here.” “I fought hard.” “I can do this.” At a time when it seemed that things were being taken from Mom, ringing that bell was a visual and audible symbol of her ability and will to climb the mountain of whole brain radiation, and a testament to God’s grace in sustaining her through it.

I know there are days when it seems there is nothing to commemorate, but honor everything you can; the end of a chemo regimen, each new day, that extra step you took, a completed week of radiation, a new scarf, less nausea, more strength. No achievement is too small to celebrate, because to celebrate is to acknowledge the hardness of the fight and to honor the determination with which you wage your battle.

What can you commemorate today?

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