Use your influence. Please?

According to an article in the Seattle Times, over 600,000 Americans will die of cancer this year. That’s an enormous  number. The article was primarily about the fact that celebrities and other people often times do not disclose what type of cancer they had. 

I have colon cancer. It is not the easiest cancer to talk about, because it really does involve some private parts.  When I first discovered that I have this disease, I really had to think about how I would handle it. Would I tell people that I was sick? Would I tell people that I had cancer? Would I tell people what type of cancer I had? Anything less than full disclosure feels very inauthentic to me. I’m probably a bad example because I’m not the most private person. And I know that some people deeply value their privacy.

I don’t think it’s wrong to value privacy. But I think it is important to consider what kind of impact and influence you might have if you talk about your cancer openly. I am so proud of the people who have led the public relations phenomenon that is breast cancer awareness. It is totally OK to talk about breast cancer now. I don’t know if that makes it any easier to have breast cancer, but it certainly is easier to say out loud in a crowded restaurant that you have it. Colon cancer has not been afforded the same hospitality.  YET.  And don’t even get me started about poor rectal cancer.  
I felt it was important for me to be open about my cancer for many reasons.  
One – I’m not ashamed.  It’s not my fault and I have no reason to feel embarrassed.  
Two – I have needed a lot of help.  I’m independent to a fault but both motherhood and cancer have taught me that it takes a village. 
Three – by being open, I’ve made it more ok for others to talk about it.  To talk about their own cancer scares or actual cancer.  That’s a gift I can give to others. Let’s make it ok to talk about our cancer!  Let’s not be afraid of what people will think!  I often hear “I’m afraid people will see me as weak.”  That’s bullshit.  No one thinks that.  They think you’re brave. Brave.  
Four – I’m spreading awareness.  Young people die from colon cancer because they never dream they could have cancer so young.  So they don’t get symptoms checked out.  Check your butt, people.  
I’m not embarrassed.  You can be if you want.  But I’d like to see colon cancer have the same dignity and grace and acceptance that Breast cancer does.  And I’d like to see people of influence do their part to move awareness forward.  Imagine how much awareness and courage Alan Rickman and David Bowie could have inspired.  I don’t know what kind of cancer they had, but I wish they had blessed the cancer community with their influence instead of fading away quietly.  

To be fair, celebrities live their lives in front of us.  And we can all fight illness and even die how we’d like.  I just think if you’re already a star, use the last bits of your power to leave things a little brighter in honor of those who are beating the drum loudly but don’t have that platform sitting right there waiting for them to step up to.  

grace for them


So I was feeling a little down today.  I am recovering from my last chemo session, but it wasn’t about that.  Do you ever go on Facebook and see something that someone has posted that either isn’t very nice or comes across as passive aggressive?  And there is this little dirty, mean, self-hating part of you that thinks it might be about you?  Maybe once, years ago, someone suggested that you might be a little selfish or a little controlling or a little arrogant or a little bit of a failure.  And then, long after, you see this post about how horrible selfish or controlling people are, and you wonder if they are talking about you?  Most of the time, I scroll right past that stuff without a second thought.  But now and again, that ugly little part of myself takes pause and wonders.  And worries.

I feel misunderstood sometimes.  I think sometimes my directness, confidence and drive to get things done steer me into this category that some people just don’t know what to do with.  Lots of people enjoy these aspects of my personality and respect them a lot of the time.  But sometimes, my drive, my passion, my unrelenting certainty presses against someone else’s insecurities and it just pushes their buttons in the worst way.  I inadvertently become a villain.  And it always mystifies me.  I think I’m encouraging someone and it comes across as pushy and self righteous.  I think I’m showing someone an important truth and they characterize me as having an agenda.  I think I’m listening carefully and they think I don’t care.

So I saw this annoying thing on Facebook, and the story I made up in my head was that it was about me.  And I saw who “liked” it, and it felt like a chapter out of Mean Girls.  And my first response was that I was hurt.  And my immediate follow up response was all of the reasons why these people mean nothing to me and do not get to hurt me, because they are nasty jerks who are so insecure they have to post these little thinly cloaked insults that they aren’t brave enough to say outright.  And my next response was frustration.  Being misinterpreted is just the worst.  And I sat in that misunderstood feeling for a while.

And then I went to my bookshelf to find a book to start, to take my mind off of this crap.  And a great book that I deeply love, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller literally fell out of the bookshelf, fell open and a greeting card skidded across the floor.  It was a card from a good friend and coworker.  And if ever there was a physical piece of evidence that some human in this world understands me and knows where I’m coming from, it was this card.  I read it.  It made me cry because it was so, so, so needed right then.  The printed, sentimental words that the card makers published, and the messy handwriting, scrawling across every blank square inch of the card – words that comforted and healed.  Words that reflected that sometimes my very best self does come across and is accepted and acknowledged and appreciated.

I’m misunderstood sometimes.  By some people.  And other times I am perfectly understood.  By some people.  That’s the reality  And that’s ok.  I don’t need to be understood by everyone all of the time.  I’m not here to make everyone happy or make everyone feel perfectly at ease and comfortable.  I’m here to be me.  I’m here to be Jessi in all the wholeness and fullness with which God has created me.  Some of me is messed up and still a work in progress.  Some of me is perfectly effective and functioning exactly as I should.  Some of me is half formed and half baked and half torn apart.  Some of me is healing.  Some of me is growing.  And it’s ok if it comes out wrong sometimes.  That’s what grace is for.  And if you don’t have any grace for me today, that’s ok.  Because God’s got plenty.  And sometimes He doles it out in the form of a 6 month old greeting card.  

Pretty much, we’re all doing just about the best we can.  At least, most of us are.  At least, the people that deserve to matter to us are.  Keep doing the best you can.  I will, too. Because even if that post is “about us,” it’s not actually about us.  It’s about whatever broken, half baked piece of that person is dripping out today.  And we can be better than that.  We can have grace for them.         

2015 – a year in review

2015 began without much fanfare, although my cousin got engaged to a lovely woman I can’t wait to be cousins with.  A few weeks into the new year, my oncologist suggested we remove Mort the Port.  I was thrilled, not because I hated Mort, but because I felt this meant that my doctor felt that the cancer would not make a comeback.

Mort came out, and the cancer came back.  And while I can’t get away from the reality that cancer has defined most of this year, there have been many amazing, difficult, interesting things about this year, cancer related and otherwise.
I visited with the Cape family who live far away
I trained for and completed a triathlon
I had three surgeries and a biopsy
I went to California for work and saw good friends
My daughter started first grade and is having a great year
I get sores in my mouth from the chemo that make eating a chore
I grew closer with new friends, old friends and family who have helped take care of me
I lost some hair but not all
I wrote a book (publishing, pending)
I throw up from time to time
People I’ve never met prayed for me
People I know well pray for me daily
I’ve had 9 rounds of nasty chemo
I had a group of amazing friends come and visit me just because they love me
My fingernails and toenails get infected from the toxins in chemo
The mayor said he’s proud of how I’m fighting cancer
I swam in the ocean with my little fish of a daughter
I held my husband’s hand on the beach
I have a really yucky skin rash
People have sent me the most incredible, generous gifts and care packages.
I love my life and I’m grateful for this year no matter how hard it’s been.
I will continue this fight into 2016 and, God willing, triumph for good.  My mightiest prayer is to never have cancer again.  Pray with me?