The 3,800 Club: I'm done chemo!
Friends and family were waiting to celebrate after my last chemotherapy treatment.
Published Tuesday, August 20, 2019 3:17PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 20, 2019 3:19PM PDT
I’m in the chemo room for my weekly ritual.
On the surface, everything is routine. Same questions from my nurse. Same meds.
And yet, this isn’t just another treatment day.
As the nurse carefully pulls the needle from my hand, I suddenly find myself choking back tears. Not because the needle hurts. But because it is finally over.
It’s my last chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer and a phase of my life that felt so long and daunting is done. I am a mess of emotions. I want to laugh and dance and yet I seem barely able to move. Am I really finished? It’s still sinking in.
It was almost five months ago that I walked into the chemo room at the cancer centre in Abbotsford for the first time – overwhelmed and scared, wondering how I would ever make it through. My weeks became centred around this room and what happened here.
There were times when this place filled me with a dread that would creep up days before I had to return - triggered simply by a phone call about my next chemo time.
But this same room also taught me about healing and hope.
It was during one of my initial treatments that I first heard a patient ringing a bell to mark their final chemo session. I remember the laughter and cheers that followed. The sound of that bell was like a call to keep fighting. I circled a chemo end-date in the calendar of my mind and clung to it fiercely.
It was also in this room that a friend or family member, having carved out hours of their day, would sit with me. Their visits would almost make me forget why I was here even as they encouraged me with their words and prayers. Not once did they let me come alone.
It was within the walls of this room that I felt camaraderie among strangers – patients bonded by our battle. Sometimes we shared our stories, but often it was a simple "hello" or knowing nod that made us feel connected.
And at the heart of this room – the nurses who enveloped me in kindness. They are light in a place that can feel very dark. Their hugs are free. Their smiles genuine. I always felt they were in my corner.
It is these things I want to tell my nurse as she pulls the needle from my hand for the last time. Words spill out but I don’t think they are adequate and a moment later, my treatment is officially done and I am being hugged.
It’s late in the day and most patients and staff have already left as I walk with family from the chemo room for the last time. I know a few friends plan to be waiting outside the room to congratulate me but I had no idea there would be so many!
The nurse hands me the bell I have been longing to ring for so many months.
I think of my friend Sharon who never had the chance to ring that bell, losing her battle with cancer little more than two months after being diagnosed. I know she would be cheering me on in this moment – as are my other friends – and that makes me smile.
I try to tell my friends and family how much they mean to me. I don’t want to cry. So instead we laugh. And hug. And I feel a freedom I have not felt since I first learned my diagnosis.
I know there are more appointments and tests to come. I know my body needs time to heal.
But this day is about celebrating.
I can’t help but think how cancer has changed me. How could it not? But it’s not all bad.
I breathe deeper. Hug more. Lean into faith when I have fear.
I have felt the kindness of strangers – not just from the medical professionals but in the messages from many of you who have followed my journey.
I hope these months have made me more appreciative.
I know they have made me stronger.
If you’re going through chemotherapy, hang in there.
I’ve got this. You’ve got this. We’ve got this.
Michele Brunoro will be providing ongoing updates during her medical leave on her blog, The 3,800 Club.