Even if He does not

You can learn in any number of ways.  But one of the most intense ways to learn and grow is to (either purposely or involuntarily) dive into the depths.  The physical and psychological places where fear originates and persists.  

The past 9 months or so, I was pushed closer and closer to the edge of that precipice with each doctor’s appointment and lab result.  At first I fought, clawing my way back, unwilling to “go there.”  But at some point, I stopped fighting, got up and walked to the edge on my own power and…jumped.  
It was icky down there.  (Not that I’m out of it entirely, now.) Confronting pain, suffering and the distinct possibility of not ever being whole again or even death.  That shadowy place of frightening possibilities.  Of sharp edges and dangerous creatures.  
It’s been a daily battle, to varying degrees, facing whatever lurks in the darkness, while going about my routine of dealing with traffic, workplace adventures and a preschooler who wants to wear the same dress three days in a row.  There’s an over dramatized musical montage in my mind of me slaying beasts with a bloody sword while wearing heels and approving a proposal via cell phone, while ordering a latte at Starbucks, late to pick up my kid from school.  Those were the good days.  Other days, the beasts were kind of winning.  
But that’s where Jesus shows up, right?  Well, not shows up so much as gently clears his throat and waves, reminding me he was here all along.  I kind of picture him looking like Ryan Gosling.  Hey, Girl.  Cheering me on.  Holding my hand.  Cutting a hole in my swollen eyelid like that scene in one of the Rocky movies so I could keep fighting.  Offering rest.  Hope.  Some cucumber water.
I got good news from my oncologist on Friday.  Still waiting for the official word from a radiologist, but my meticulous doctor smiled at the weird gray images of my organs on the screen and said things look good for now.  
What amazing words.  But I find myself wondering if they’re too good to be true.  I hesitate a wee bit to embrace the good news just because I’m pretty familiar with bad news.  But!  Just because I’m not assuming the good news is reliable just yet doesn’t mean anything except that, well, I’m realistic.  I’m not particularly afraid of bad news or convinced the news will be bad.  But I’m not doing the victory dance quite yet.  
This is interesting – some people of faith seem to chastise me a bit when I don’t, say, proclaim that I am healed.  Look, you can do what you want, but that’s not how it works from my perspective.  Sometimes the news isn’t good no matter how much we say we believe it will be.  No matter how much we pray it will be.  Sometimes we need to go through a tough thing.  Sometimes that is God’s will for us.  Saying out loud that God has healed me will not make it so.  Don’t get me wrong, I pray like gangbusters and expect you to, as well.  Prayer is glorious and mysterious and required of us.  And hope is beautiful.  I’m not saying don’t pray and I’m not saying don’t hope – I’m saying this “name it and claim it” stuff is crazy.  You know what’s way more powerful (in my opinion) than trying to (sorry if this offends) manipulate God into healing you?  Trusting Him no matter what.  Trusting Him in the darkness.  I mean…have you read the Bible?  People suffered, yo.  And beauty came from their eternal perspective.  Like, umm, Jesus? And Job.  And Paul.  
I love the passage in Daniel where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are about to get tossed into the fiery furnace and they say (paraphrased) “Our God will save us…but even if He does not…we will not worship you instead of Him.”  Basically they know God can save them, they think He will, but more importantly, they trust Him no matter what.  EVEN IF HE DOES NOT.  To me, that’s real faith.  
Turns out, they get tossed in.  I wonder if they thought maybe God would send angels to scoop them up before they hit the fire.  And when He didn’t…was there an “Oh, crap” moment?  Instead of an angelic air lift rescue mission, into the flames they went.  But they were not burned.  And Jesus (or possibly an angel, depending on your interpretation) was in there with them.  
I’ll probably always wonder if the cancer will come back.  That doesn’t mean I’m not trusting God.  I’m not trusting Him to make my life easy because He never said He would.  I’m trusting Him no matter what crazy thing happens.  

California Love part 2

Today is a scan.  I’m nervous.  A little nervous. Not like crazy nervous.  But, unexpected bad news today would be really upsetting.  And good news, while very much hoped for, isn’t a guarantee about anything except right now.  Grappling with the idea that I may never feel totally free of cancer is hard and sad and weird.  But there is something special about the pronounced feeling of uncertainty.  Basically, I just have to live my life, trust God and enjoy each wonderful moment.

So instead of ruminating on fear and nerves, I choose to let it go (enter the Frozen song) and instead, tell you about my trip to California this week.
It was great!  
Our direct mail partners are so smart and helpful and treat us so well.  We love you, Russ Reid!  I also love the weather, staying in a nice hotel (nice hotels have such glorious beds!)  the actual work we do when we’re there (yes, I actually love staring at bar graphs!  Especially when they confirm that we’re doing good work!) I also love the views, the coffee (great coffee is everywhere!) and of course, my trusty travel companion/lap top operator, as well as my friends who have moved there.
Some pics:
And one from Detroit (the airport, anyway.). Because this fountain is sweet.

California Love

I go to California once or twice a year for work.  While I always miss Cass and Kevin, I do enjoy the change of pace, visiting with the team at our vendor’s headquarters and getting to see some Midwest/east coast ex pats turned SoCal friends.  

For some reason, this trip feels like getting back toward normalcy.  Some pics from our last venture out west:
I feel like going out there, getting some good work done, seeing good friends and unplugging from all things related to cancer, chemo and such.  
Here we come, Pasadena.  

I don't know how to do this

Well, I don’t.  But one thing I’ve gotten good at is figuring out how to do stuff I don’t know how to do.  And it usually starts with asking people who have done it or are doing it in a way I can relate to.  So I’m reaching out to those inspiring people who have or are beating cancer and are living large – and by living large, I mean going about their business, working, taking care of families, accomplishing great things like finishing advanced degrees, having babies, planning vacations or emptying the dishwasher, being positive and thankful.  

My first order of business is to calmly wade my way through the next 9 days, which include Easter and a business trip to California, leading up to my next CT scan.  
I choose not to worry.  I have to choose this daily…sometimes hourly.  But it’s my choice and I can reject the temptation to fret, and choose instead to put my trust in God and get on with my day.  So that’s what I’ll do.  
And I’ll be calling on the cancer conquerors for advice and support.  
Also, my chemo destroyed the skin on my fingertips.  They are now covered in what appears to be a collage of hashtags.  
Exhibit A


Good company

Had a great conversation with another cancer destroyer.  She’s pretty badass – having done his twice now and she’s younger than me.  It was so encouraging and healing.  There is a sense of deep comradery between two people who have fought the same battle.  And things can be said freely in such company that are quite simply taboo elsewhere.  

Misery loves company.  But so does triumph, fear, resolve, anxiety, courage and uncertainty.  We’re a mixed bag, cancer survivors.  And we need to gather with frequency.  

The NEW new Normal

When I started this blog, my first entry was titled The New Normal

I felt it was necessary to acknowledge and even declare that we were in a new situation – that life as we knew it was a thing of the past and we were in a brand new chapter. Well, here we are again. While I won’t feel comfortable saying I’m “in remission” until my scan in a couple weeks, let’s just assume that I am and that is the new state of affairs. No longer a cancer patient, no longer a cancer warrior actively fighting cancer – but rather a cancer SURVIVOR.

In some ways, this new era is trickier than the previous one. On one hand, you want to shout from the rooftops ” I BEAT CANCER!” and “GOD HEALED ME!” and “YOUR PRAYERS WORKED!” and “MODERN MEDICINE IS A MIRACLE!” and “MY DOCTORS ROCK!” And on the other, you want to whisper “but it might come back.” When you’re battling cancer, you’re a street fighter – you’ve got your enemy right in front of you where you can punch it square in the face – you KNOW what the problem is and where it is. You can see it. It’s big and bad and ugly and it scares you, but you have a target to hit. In remission, you are tempted to see yourself moreso as walking through the streets at night with a hoodie pulled down over your face, ducking your head and nervously glancing over your shoulder, flinching at every skittering leaf and alley cat.

I don’t want to be that. So I’m not going to. And this blog is now going to be the story of how I figure out how. How do I parent and work and be a wife and a friend and daughter and mentor and mentee and human SURVIVOR that is vigilant and responsible about my ongoing health, without living each day terrified of it coming back? I’m not sure yet. But I have some ideas – and I’m taking this bull by the horns and wrestling with it. Sorry for the mixed metaphors – but that’s how it is in my head for now. Mixed.

I'm so grateful

Tomorrow is my last day of chemo pills.  Wooooo!!!!

As I reflect, I have mixed emotions.  But one thing is for sure.  I am grateful to have (had?) cancer.  It might be gone or it might not.  Either way I’m grateful.  Here are a few things I’m thankful about:

I’m more convinced than ever that what I believe about how God loves us and that those who believe in Christ have much to look forward to beyond death.  To a significant extent, I’ve confronted my mortality.  I’ve faced, to a degree, the fear of death.  It’s not easy or simple or fun.  But.  I’m deeply convinced that God works all things for our good.  We can trust Him.
People have been so good to me.  Encouraging cards.  Funny texts.  Visits.  Foot rubs.  
Thoughtful gifts:  Shoes.  Homemade hats.  Tea.  Enormous scarf.  Coffee cup holder.  Home roasted coffee.  Books.  Journals.  Beard photos.  Wine.  Flowers.  Soup.  Chapstick.  A scarf worn by a courageous cancer survivor.  Lunches out.  Coffee mug.  Wonder Woman stuff.  Organic, fresh made juices.  Pizza.  The best Mac & Cheese I ever had.  The glove I left behind.  Reusable hand warmers.  Scratch off tickets. Gorgeous earrings.  A personalized tote.  Gift cards for food so I didn’t have to cook.  Popcorn.  Stuff from Whole Foods I’d never splurge on.  Cool necklaces.  Amazing stuff from Europe.  Bath stuff.  Awesome lotion – the best I’ve ever tried!  Dinner at nice restaurants.  
Support for my 5K – 101 donors so far!!
Sage advice.  
Prayers.  Serious, earth shaking prayers. What a gift to be prayed over.  
Cancer survivors/patients reaching out and pointing me in the right direction.  Showing me the way.  
Grace, mercy and patience when I haven’t been at my best.  
Perspective.  Nothing gives you perspective like a life threatening illness. 
The chance to learn how to support people who are going through something like this.  I had no idea before.  I have been remiss.  I won’t be again if I can help it.  
Thank you, if you’ve been there for us.  If you’ve visited, cooked, cleaned, watched our child, prayed for us, checked in on us, cared for us in some way.  Kicking cancer’s ass is a team sport.  Thanks for getting me this far.

Almost done

I have three days (six doses) of chemo pills left.  For some reason this last week has seemed very long.  I think I felt like being done with IV chemo meant I would be quickly feeling back to normal.  But I’m still taking chemo.  And I have had a few (wonderful) out of town guests.  Which has made me choose to stay up too late.  Like basically every night for the past week. I need to take better care of myself this week if I have a prayer of running this crazy 5k in a month.  It feels kind of impossible.  But that’s kind of why I decided to do it.  🙂

I had such a great week, though.  Catching up with some very significant people in my life.  I’m so happy and grateful to have gotten to spend the time with them.  Old friends are often the best friends.  Plus I got to act like a tourist in Pittsburgh.