And no bad dreams.

Tomorrow marks the day I’ll start radiation. It’s the last step in the multi-pronged approach to beating breast cancer. I’ve survived chemotherapy, surgery, and complications. Now I just need to go let them blast my chest with radioactive particles, more toxins to kill the bad cells that could still be floating around. I’m trying not to think much about the side effects–the potential for burns, blisters, fatigue, and so on–but to think instead about the death of my cancer. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about it all.

My son and I went for a walk with the pup today, and radiation was all I could think about or talk about. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’ll be okay, Mom.” I needed that.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about my dad’s radiation for his cancer. I remember more about the chemotherapy. I’m sure he had some awfulness to deal with, but all I remember about it is the tattoos on his chest and side that looked like the crosshairs in the scope on a high-powered rifle. My tattoos are just small dots. Maybe someday I’ll connect them all together like stars in a Zodiac sign. When this is all behind me, I’ll have so many scars and dots that it won’t matter anyway. They are just tracks made by the path of my life.

Last night I was plagued with nightmares, one so bad it sat me up in bed. My heart was racing. I was sweating. I fumbled for the light so I could reassure myself that what I had just seen wasn’t really happening. After a half hour, I started to calm down, but I found a Cadbury Cream Egg in my nightstand and sucked it down. It was so terribly sweet that I kept drinking gulps of water between bites. Ugh. That is not what one should be doing at 4:00 a.m., but it was better than dwelling on the horrible things I saw in my dreams. They were so bad I can’t even discuss them. Sometimes, the visions in my dreams are more devastating than anything Stephen King could ever dream up, and fortunately this is a dream that couldn’t come true. One of the characters in the dream, my daughter, is already dead.

Perhaps it’s the stress of knowing what I’m still facing that is getting to me. Perhaps it is the stress of what I’ve already been through. Today I was going through some old recordings of work meetings, to refresh my memory on a couple of things, and on two of them, I was on camera. Oh my God, I looked so bad when I was in the middle of chemo. My face and neck were swollen. I had no hair – no eyebrows or lashes. I was wearing a ball cap because I hated my wig. But you know what I saw when I looked at that woman? I saw courage. No vanity, no self-pity. I was doing my job as though nothing was wrong. I was fighting to maintain that sense of things being normal, when they were anything but. I don’t know what anyone else thought of me, but I did it. I conquered.

So tomorrow, when I step into the room with the linear accelerator, which my best friend told me about, I will remember the courage I summoned to get through chemo. And I’ll get into the position on that hard table and try to think happy thoughts about blue oceans and sunshine, about white beaches and margaritas. About friends on cruise ships and life being normal all around me. No masks. I will summon that Evans courage that flows in my veins, and I’ll face down the beast until it’s gone. Because the reality of this last year has been so much worse that any bad dream, and the future holds so much promise.

Peace, J

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