Friday, January 29, 2016

Ring That Bell!

Yesterday, for the eighth time since late August, I drove my best friend Lisa Jewett to the Moffitt Cancer Center at International Plaza so she could receive chemotherapy for her stage 4 ovarian cancer. It's now hard to imagine that 5 months ago I had no idea such a place existed. And now- FINALLY! - she was arriving at the end of her treatments. Yesterday was the final chemo as prescribed by her oncologist. And it was a long, hard road for Lisa. The side effects can be brutal. She seldom feels "right," often being unable to explain exactly what feels "off" - she just knows something does. There have been trips to the Moffitt emergency treatment center. There have been post treatments shots, including one today. For years I had heard stories of friends who had to go through the process of chemo, and thought I knew how hard this would be for her. As is so often true, hearing and experiencing are two very different things. Over the 8 days of treatment, I estimate that Lisa spent nearly 40 hours in the infusion center having her body pumped full of healing liquids. She had been through so much to arrive at yesterday. And I know. I was there for every minute of those 40 hours. Her struggle has been very real. But yesterday it was time to cross a finish line- and celebrate the day!

It is a tradition in cancer centers for patients to ring a bell at the conclusion of their final chemo as a symbol of victory in the battle with cancer. And yesterday my dear friend Lisa got to ring that bell- and she did it with passion and conviction! Before she pulled the bell rope we circled up with the infusion staff (see picture below) and I prayed, thanking God for all that has been done through the medical staff and those who have given Lisa their love and support. 

We thanked God for her courage and willingness to do everything in her power to beat this hideous disease. And we prayed that God would now finish the healing process. I had barely uttered "Amen" when the bell rang out loud and clear! In fact, Lisa moved so fast no one got a picture of the actual bell ringing- we had to tell her to do it again! She was given a certificate of completion and the staff praised her attitude and her courage. They insisted I get in a picture and said some very nice things to me as well. Lisa's smile lit up the infusion center as the hugs began. Over these months the staff at Moffitt International not only took amazing care of Lisa, they became our friends. And every light is a storm is an important one...

So yesterday we celebrated. But there are still hurdles to cross and many prayers to be said. We go in this afternoon for a shot, and then next Thursday Lisa will have blood work and a CT scan. The following Thursday- February 11th - she meets with the doctor to hear the results and discover what lies ahead. We (and I say we often, even thought she is the one going through all of this, because to me it feels like "we") pray that the cancer will be gone and never return. We have faith that God has got this. Lisa is making plans for the future and will be moving back to her house soon, leaving the "home" that my house has become for her. So we move forward with hope, and Lisa covets your prayers for complete healing. 

Last night I thanked God for the opportunities I have been blessed with during this process. It has often been a difficult thing for me over these past years to have so much free time on my hands, sometimes feeling like there was no higher purpose in my life. Suddenly, because of all that available time, God gave me a ministry and a purpose. I have been reminded over and over again that words, even words as powerful as "I love you," are empty without actions that prove you mean it. It is my prayer that my presence in her life has been a blessing for Lisa; it is a certainty that it has been a blessing to me. And we're not done yet. But you see that smile on the beautiful lady to the left? That's enough to keep me going as long as I am needed! May our hearts overflow with love and thanksgiving today, and may each of our "inner bells" ring loud and proud for Lisa! Can I get a WOOHOO? :)

Because of Jesus,