It’s been 3 weeks since my last post and I wonder how to attempt to put into words the condition of my heart these last few weeks…
Since my radiation treatments in September and October of 2015, I have been struggling through some very private fears and silent tears.
I have lived with fibromyalgia, a chronic illness, for at least the last 15 years. Fibromyalgia is a hardship, a miserable hardship, but I have learned to live with it and manage its effects.
All that is related to cancer scares me...
Cancer can kill you; It is a life-threatening disease. I will live with this looming fear of its possible return for the rest of my life. There is a reason they have me on Tamoxifen for the next 5-10 years. There is a reason they had to administer one particular chemotherapy directly into my heart instead of my veins. There is a reason they had to removed 17 lymph nodes and the entirety of my left breast. There is a reason they had to give me 30 treatments of radiation.
Even now, every twinge of pain or discomfort means something completely different than the twinges I lived with before my cancer was diagnosed. Every day I have to pay attention to what is what…
That spinal pain?
That shoulder pain?
That rib pain?
That widespread joint pain?
That hip pain?
That neck pain?
The chronic fatigue?
While all of these pains are side effects of cancer treatments, I, trying to gain more clarity, something more… definitive, asked one of my doctors what to look for if my cancer were to returned. His response was that it wouldn’t show up in the remaining right breast. It would show up as a lump or mass in my left chest area or I would experience pain in my body because it would have spread to my bones.
My mind and my heart struggle over the desire to exist in a well-formed fog…
The day that your oldest child whispers in your ear, “Don’t die while I’m gone.” as she heads off to summer camp… The day that your youngest child responds, “You are going to die.” when you tell her that you have a surprise for her…
These become core memories, key moments that reinforce what your life has become. There is no “the way things were.” There is only making the definitive choice of moving forward as a thriving survivor in spite of your deepest fears and your overwhelming tears. Every part of your life is changed forever and all you have is what you believe and if you are fortunate, those who have been there every step of the way through this drastic and dramatic journey.
I have been following the lives of 3 particular women these last 4-5 months. They all have dealt with or are dealing with some form of cancer.
The first woman I did not know very well. She was attempting to form a breast cancer support group in my county. She was a strong outspoken advocate for women dealing with breast cancer. She died of metastatic breast cancer at the beginning of November, 3 days after I finished my last radiation treatment. I had the privilege to know her for only 4 months…
The second woman is someone whom I admire greatly. I have served her meals in my home. I have prayed with her on occasions as she has ministered in our church. She has dealt with cancer in the past, but just found out in the last few months that she has pancreatic cancer. Even in just these last 3 weeks, an update was given that the cancer has progressed…
The third woman is someone whom I have never met, whom I will never meet on this earth. I know nothing about her except for the words that are shared by her husband on their blog. His humble admission as she enters her last days because of cervical cancer are moving, overwhelming, and… heartbreaking.
It isn’t the dying that is the problem. It is saying goodbye…
As I have been allowed to see a small part of these 3 women’s lives through the eyes of cancer, I am moved by their determination to be what they believe. Ultimately, their belief determines their choice.
As I make the very definitive step to be that thriving survivor of cancer, I must choose from what I believe:
“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-14
As those who believe in God, we have been given a treasure and all the battles that wage fiercely around us seek to steal that treasure through fear. Remember that you do not fight alone. You fight through those fears with the help of the Comforter who enables you through power, love, and discipline.
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the truth of your battles.
Failing to work through those battles will cost you more than you can afford…