I had every intention of writing a blog marking the 4-month passing of my diagnosis with lymphoma. That day passed without me realizing it (7 January) until several days later when I realized my friend Ivey died from her cancer on the 4 month "anniversary" of my diagnosis. You can wander through that coincidence yourself. I will not. Ivey's death hit me far harder than I was prepared for. Her memorial service was beautiful and just the thing to say good bye to my friend. Although her death roused my own surpressed fears, it was necessary to look at them and remind myself that I am trusting in God. No matter how little I understand, nor how little I can comprehend of God's intentions, I am learning contentment in trust. EVERYTHING else that I cannot control or handle, goes into God's hands.
With that said, thinking back on my "4-month diagnosis anniversary", I've realized that although my cancer still lies in my body (a sleeping giant?), life goes on. The move came and went. Life goes on. Christmas came and went. Life goes on. Families came and went. Life goes on. Births and deaths and work and school have come and continued the cycle of life. Life goes on.
The fact that my 120 days passed without my awareness is a good thing. It means I too, am moving on. My cancer is VERY much a part of me. There are days it rears its ever-loving head and says "hey, you, you've got cancer, pay attention to me!" And I pull out my metaphorical baseball bat and beat it back into submission. It's nice that more days go by that it is just a passing thought than something that stalks my brain every day.
It means life has gone on for me. And that's good. I'll continue to wait and watch and mark the passing of each month of my dignosis anniversary, because each month means I'm closer to passing a year of staying healthy with my tumors a part of me. Those are my kind of goals for the new year. Health with Illness. I know that statement will resonate with a lot of people. We don't exercise and get fit to have a better body; we exercise and get fit to tame the illness that rests within us. The exercise and fitness ensures that illness doesn't take a toehold in our body that won't let go. I don't find myself driven by hypothetical PRs anymore. Exercise isn't about being a beast or a stud in the gym anymore, exercise is about whatever I can do to stay fit and sane. Every day that I am active and another diagnosis anniversary passes, is a win for me.
I've actually turned into a calmer, more contented version of my self as each day passes. God has answered those prayers of mine for peace and acceptance. I asked to be able to live my life, even with this beast in me. And God has granted me those prayers. Even with cancer, another day is another day.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
There's nothing quite like facing your own mortality with cancer as you watch a friend succumb to hers. One of the greatest fighters of her cancer will die soon. She is the one who taught me that half of the battle was a fighting spirit and believing you can knock this sucker out.
Unfortunately, while she's going out her way, with her head held high, my friend will soon die. She is dying on her own terms with her husband and children by her side at her home. But she is still dying. This isn't the result we all prayed for.
I have no answers for this. A beautiful, young, courageous mom of three, devoted wife and army spouse will lose her life shortly to her cancer and I have no answers.
I have grief and fear and sadness in my heart. My soul screams at the unfairness of it all. My faith has little spider veins of doubt because we have prayed so hard and so long for my friend to beat the beast. And the very weakest part of me nurses fear. This could be me. I have drum mallets in my psyche trying to beat the fear away. I pray in God's name and pray out my fear, but it crawls and claws at me trying to reach all of me.
I don't want my friend to die. I'm certainly nowhere near, nor even ready to accept any thoughts of my own mortality, but this is what cancer does.
Cancer forces the "what if" question front and center. Cancer forces you to really look at yourself and answer honestly "what do you believe?" It's like Indiana Jones with the grail and St. Peter.....what do we believe? Are we ready to drink of the cup of Christ and see what's on the other side? Are we ready for the kingdom of heaven? Is there a place that I have earned in the company of angels?
I believe that while I cannot begin to understand why this world will be bereft of a beautiful spirit, nor why other spirits are wrest from us that we so desperately need to make this world a better place, I believe they are surely going to the arms of a loving God. There will be no pain nor fear where my friend goes. There will be peace. Eventually there will be peace for her family as well and for us. We just aren't there yet.
We have a prayer in our Church that includes these line: "Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your name." In my heart, I believe that my friend will be a part of this company in heaven. And there will be a song on her lips and probably a wine glass in her hand. My friend's smile will light up heaven. Just as so many other smiles do as well.
I too, hope that one day I will be a part of that company. Just not today. Nor any day soon. I'm just not ready. But my friend's death and dying has made me think of this a lot today. I'm sure others share or have shared in this grief and fear. Yes, I am well. Yes, things seem to be in a good place. But I still live with this beast in me and when a friend dies from that beast, well, fear has this nasty habit of finding a foothold.
But just like many people in this world, my friend was a shining beacon. Her light touched many and for this we are very blessed. Hold your peeps tight my friends. While there is a grand place waiting for us in Heaven, life is very precious here on earth, hold it close.
Post script: the beautiful pictures in this post were donated by my friend Roger Hutchison, author of "The Painting Table," (https://www.churchpublishing.org/products/index.cfm?fuseaction=productDetail&productID=9851) . The first picture represents to me our collective grief with loss. The second picture represents to me the shining beacon each soul brings to the world.
Many thanks to Roger for his generosity.
Roger Hutchison is Canon for Children and Family Ministry at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia, SC. When Roger felt the need to express his relationship with God, he turned to painting. Traditional painting with brushes did not work, so he put his hands directly into the medium, thrusting him onto the local art scene. He has since had numerous exhibits and is a favorite of local designers and collectors from around the
world. He regularly offers workshops nationally for children, youth, and adults on how to express their thoughts and relationship with God through the art of painting with their hands, making this expression accessible to all. He lives in Elgin, SC.