Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Finish Line

As runners, we measure victory in finish lines and finish times. After all the preparation, all the blood, sweat, and tears, there is just no better feeling than crossing the finish line after a grueling training cycle. The race might be hard, but the finish line is the reward after all that hard work.

The marathon is often used as a metaphor for a difficult journey. Some people use the word marathon loosely to describe any kind of lengthy experience. Like a Netflix marathon. I don't know about you, but there's not a lot of challenge in sitting in front of the TV for hours on end. Unless you are watching Guy Fieri (my husband loves him). Or American Idol.

That's not what I'm talking about here.

What I'm talking about is crossing a finish line where you've overcome some kind of challenge. Maybe it was a difficult race. Or sending your youngest child off to college. Or a positive pregnancy test after a long battle with infertility. Graduating from school. There are all kinds of finish lines in life. Most of these finish lines have no winners. The prize is in the finish and a job well done. Triumphant, because you've overcome the training, the journey, the adversity--whatever it was--to get yourself to the finish. The most meaningful finish lines, as in the marathon, are the ones crossed after the most challenging journeys.

As a nurse practitioner, I am privileged to share in many of my patients' journeys. Because this is a running blog, I don't talk about that much here. But today, I want to share a story about a very special finish line.

Almost a year and a half ago, in the middle of a busy afternoon clinic schedule, I walked into an exam room to evaluate a 6 year old girl with abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is one of my least favorite complaints because more often that not, it is usually due to constipation. I usually see at least 2 kids per day with this problem. I know what you're thinking. Living the dream, right? What's better than talking about poop all day long?

But this visit was different. As I entered the room, I introduced myself to Jolie and her mom. I noticed that Jolie's abdomen was really distended. My instincts told me this was not good. Her mom told me Jolie had an ongoing problem with constipation. For once, I hoped that this was constipation. But I knew better. As I palpated her abdomen, I expected to feel an enlarged liver or spleen. Instead, I felt a large, hard mass across her lower abdomen. My heart sunk. I knew this was bad. While I didn't let her mom know how worried I was, I sent Jolie to the ER where she could have a CT scan.

Later, I learned that Jolie was diagnosed with a rare tumor called rhabdomyosarcoma. The prognosis was not good, and the treatment regimen harsh.

Zuly, Jolie, and me Halloween 2014
Pre-chemo: Zuly (my medical assistant), Jolie, and me
In spite of the ups and downs that go with cancer treatment, Jolie's parents projected so much positivity that you couldn't help but be caught up in it. She was diagnosed right before Halloween, and my medical assistant and I visited her in costume, only to find her parents dressed up as well. Jolie was dressed as a princess. Later, when Jolie's hair fell out, her dad let her shave his head in solidarity.

We wore Team Jolie bracelets. Jolie's mom started a Team Jolie facebook page and posted frequent updates and pictures.

Last week, Jolie crossed the finish line of her very grueling marathon. In fact, I'd compare it to an ultramarathon. After 16 months of chemo, radiation, and surgery, Jolie was declared cancer free.

courtesy of Brandy Kneip
I attended Jolie's end of chemo party. We were invited to celebrate this beautiful little girl, but more than that, her parents wanted to celebrate all the people who were part of this journey. It was so fitting for these wonderful parents who found joy all along this very difficult journey.

It was a triumphant day for Jolie and her family. Realistically, they know there is still a long road ahead of them. But for today, they celebrated Jolie's finish line.

Jolie and me
So happy to be on the other side of this marathon!
When I asked Jolie's mom if I could share her story on my blog, I told her that my blog prompt this week was the word triumphant. I said I couldn't think of a more fitting story. Her response? "Do it!"

This one's for you, Jolie. Fighting the good fight. Inspiring all of us to stay the course. A marathon? Piece of cake.

If you want to follow Jolie's journey, you can join her Team Jolie Facebook Group. If you want to do something, Jolie's favorite charity is Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. You can also donate to Advocate Children's Hospital Cancer Care Program.

Have you overcome a life challenge only to emerge triumphant? 

I'm linking up with DebRuns' weekly Wednesday Word blog prompt. Today's word is triumphant.