It has been a long time since I have sat down with my laptop and visited this blog, my faithful friend. I don’t really know why, but I just haven’t been able to quiet myself and write. Maybe I was just plain tired, or maybe, after 8 long months of the battle and so much time to think about my journey, I subconsciously want to look forward and move on, rather than remain in the cancer fighting mode.
Whatever is the reason, I am here today, and I am grateful. It would appear I’m nearing the end of the difficult days and we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
To bring you up to speed, after the dramatic return to the hospital in December, only a few weeks after my mastectomy, our focus was to overcome the challenging complications and hopefully get back on track with my healing/reconstruction. When I last wrote, my plastic surgeon was confident that by injecting the saline into the expanders that the pain would be lessened. As I last said, that was the case, thankfully! Since that time I have had 3 more expansion appointments and, as of last Friday, I have completed that step. As for the pain, I wish I could say it is all gone, however, unfortunately I am still struggling some. I don’t know whether my port is the culprit, or if these hard coconuts are the trouble, but my left side (arm, back, neck) is very sore and weak. I’m holding on to hope that when I have my next surgery in two weeks, when they swap out the expanders for the final implants, removing these weapons in exchange for my new girls will usher in a new season of pain-free normalcy.
After my surgery on March 13th, my only remaining treatment will include any final fine tuning with my plastic surgeon, Herceptin infusions every three weeks through June, and growing accustomed to and/or tweaking my 5-year medication to block Estrogen production (side effects bring bone pain akin to “growing pains” which I am all to familiar with having reached my full 5’9” height by age 12).
So, I’m sure you will agree that that sliver of light in the dark tunnel is growing bigger and brighter every day. I am beyond grateful! My hair is starting to grow back and I really love all my little hairs.
I am experiencing many “firsts” that I have missed so much over the last 8 months: Among many, I am strong enough to drive to LA by myself to visit my sister, and I have been able to go on my very first girls getaway (which is where I am right now with my best high school friend Teri!) My appetite is returning, as are my taste buds. I have begun working out 3X per week with a wonderful trainer, Andrew Taylor, who is very knowledgeable about how to carefully rehabilitate cancer patients, having trained his own mother back to health.
I have been able to begin resuming many of my daily activities. As long as I schedule in a little cat nap in the afternoons, my energy is pretty good! Bible study, meeting with my Prayer Posse, babysitting my great nieces, meeting friends for lunch, going to church on Sunday mornings, taking long walks by the back bay, cooking dinner for my sweetheart, taking in an evening movie, are all pure treasures to me. The list of seemingly simple pleasures is as long and it is rich. Honestly, until now, I didn’t appreciate these simple things to the degree that I do now.
Not long ago, when I was cleaning out some of my papers, I came upon a journal entry that I wrote last year, in January, 2016. It pained me to read what I wrote. In great anguish, I pondered what is “my purpose” now that my precious son and daughter were fully grown and launched. I struggled with the empty nest syndrome. I so cherished our younger years living together as a family and all the glorious twists and turns of raising children. When it was over, I quietly mourned inside. My grief was complicated by my own guilt: why in the world was I bemoaning the very thing Greg and I invested our every waking moment to accomplish? Our children did exactly what we raised them to do; move on to lead their own productive lives. How selfish was I to wish them to stay, when they had earned the right and the ability to fly?
For several years, I was pretty depressed and struggled with what would be my next passion, my reason for being? Clearly, in January 2016, I was stuck, not making much progress in celebrating this next season. In a way, I was drowning. I didn’t want to go down with the ship, but I certainly wasn’t rising above the waves.
Then, 6 months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the rest, as they say, is history. Within a matter of mere hours, I was shoved into a rocket ship and thrust into a miraculous journey that launched me from “I can’t find my purpose” to “Please, Lord, give me more time. Lord, please heal me and use me.”
I am forever changed. It feels cliche, almost unbelievable, to say that. Yet, I am a new person, thank the Lord. I do not look at my cancer journey as one that has a single purpose, like the mission I was presumably and pathetically searching for last January. Rather, I feel like I’m standing at the threshold of discovering my many purposes, and I’m excited for what lies ahead.
As I reread this post, I fear this all reads a bit “neat and tidy”…Girl gets cancer, girl gets healed from cancer, girl has a new lease on life. Let me assure you, things are far from tidy. Amidst my own day to day struggles, there have been many other difficult, heart-wrenching challenges presented to our family: Two other precious family members were suddenly diagnosed with diseases for which there are no known cures. Two of my friends who were fighting cancer, suddenly and tragically lost their battles and passed away. These and other hardships we have experienced may have left me with the feeling of: “Why Lord?” “I can’t bear anymore Lord!” But I discovered something about myself in the process of living through last year.
God gifted me with the gift of high competence. I have the ability to be very resourceful and logically/strategically solve problems. In the past, even though I have had a genuine faith for many years, I have sort of said “Thanks God, I’m super appreciative, but you can go ahead and step aside. I’m very competent and I’ll go ahead and solve this one on my own.” And, for many years, even though I didn’t recognize it, I functioned under the false illusion that I was managing things pretty well on my own. That being said, while I was high functioning, I didn’t have inner peace. Worse than that, I had low grade anxiety almost all the time.
In the last year, however, it feels as though God has allowed problems and challenges in my life, that have been so immense, so beyond my capacity to maneuver and fix, I have been left with no other choice but to surrender all to Him. I have been stripped bare.
While I might sound frustrated or at odds with this reality, actually, this truth has given me great peace. It has given me the sense of the proper, healthy order of things. It has released me from the burden/responsibility of fixing things for my loved ones. The result? I have healthier boundaries and I am intentional, present and concerned and free to be compassionate; I am available, but not vulnerable to the stress of fixing the unfixable. I will do what I can, but not expect more from myself than is helpful to anyone. The best thing I CAN do, is to be on my knees in prayer, bringing my burdens to the one who is always strong, when we are weak.
Thank you, Lord, for fighting our battles for us…
“But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
2 Chronicles 20:15-17
“This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s…But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory… Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
Deuteronomy 1:30 “The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you…
Well, this has been quite the long post. Thank you for making it to the end. I wonder, what battles are you going through in your own life?
“May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you. And be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance, the Lord make His face to shine upon you!” ~ Numbers 6:24-26