Fighting Blind

Fighting cancer with surgery, radiation, chemo, etc is this whole lifestyle.  You put your head down with determination, you think positive, you deal with physical pain, exhaustion, you combat the side effects with medicine, home remedies, rest, prayer, massage, warm baths, lotions, creams, healing foods, tea.  You wish the bad days away and hold onto the good days, dreading the next chemo.  But basically, you’re getting through it.  You have a timeline.  You have a specific goal…get through the next chemo, and ultimately, get done with chemo.  You can’t wait to be done.  You’re jealous of those ahead of you – if someone has just one fewer treatment than you do, you are insanely envious of them.  Oh, to have just 3 instead of 4 left!!!

But then you get done.  And a few things happen.  The first is relief and celebration.  It is AMAZING to not have to schedule your life around chemo treatments and how your body will be handling them.  As the nausea, heartburn, neuropathy, cold sensitivity, joint pain, fatigue begin to subside, and as the nails, hair and taste buds start to grow back, you have a different feeling that can take hold.  Fear.

You’re done fighting.  Now we have to see if you’ve won or not.  And the enemy could show up again anytime, without much warning.  The future is filled with scans and blood tests and hyper vigilance.  Healthy, cancer fighting foods, exercise, stress reducing behaviors, avoiding exposure to nasty chemicals.  It’s easy to get swept away by the fear and the stress that every thing you do is either inching you toward or away from cancer.

This is the part I struggled with the hardest, mentally and emotionally the last time we crossed the chemo finish line.  Chemo – it takes quite a toll.  But the time after, it’s a different kind of challenge.

Primarily, it’s a challenge of faith.  This is where we have to just take God’s big, strong hand, and choose to let go of our fear.  All this time, we prayed and trusted Him we’d get through the chemo.  Now we have to trust that, no matter what, He’s got us.  He’s in control.  He’s all over this.  It doesn’t mean your cancer won’t come back.  Maybe it will and maybe it won’t.  But we’re called to a life of adventure, a life of uncertainty.  A wild ride of a life where we’ve handed the keys over the the Big Guy and believed this was the best way.  It is the best way.   We can’t control it anyhow, so why not just rest in the knowledge that the best possible tour guide, navigator, driver, event planner and travel companion is in charge.  Gratitude and trust can stamp out fear.  I’ve experienced it many times.  You simply can’t be thankful and afraid at the same moment.  One has to win out.  Light casts out darkness, not the other way around.


Our downfall: ingratitude

I can honestly report to you that I am doing OK. I do not feel afraid right now.  Something has been allowing me to live above my circumstances. Allowing me to live up higher and float slightly above the reality we face.  It’s not illegal drugs 🙂 or tired cliches of God not giving me more than I can handle.  It’s not a unicorn farting sparkly fairy dust or a mantra.  

It’s gratitude.  My readings and listenings and thinkings and prayings have led me to a special place of thanks.  I’m grateful.  For my life so far.  My family.  My friends. My job. The love of many.  Everything is a gift.  I’m reading this cool book that is right in line with this.  It’s called One Thousand Gifts.  (Score another one for my mentor, Lisa.) It’s encouraged me in this thinking.  
Our problem is entitlement, and not just the millenials.  All of us.  Between Hollywood, fairytales, and everybody’s Facebook highlight reel, we think we deserve a loving partner, our health, freedom from pain, a dog that doesn’t chew the couch, a DVR with endless memory, perky boobs, a sweet ride, a head full of hair and perfectly above average children.  
That’s what seems “normal” so we think we deserve at least that.  So and so has it, why can’t I?  
There are a few problems with this thinking:
-people have more problems than you think they do. Believe me, I know. Because when you have my kind of problems, people reach out and tell you their problems.  Which I love and see as a gift.  Seriously.  People have illnesses they don’t want to tell you about, pain that is difficult to share, shame that requires medication and worries that rattle them to the core.  But their family photos look sunny and fun, their smile is firmly plastered and they are deeply committed to making you believe everything is fine.  (Unsolicited advice:  Be a safe haven instead of a competitor.) 
-most of the world has nothing close to those things you think you require in order to be ok. Much of the world is inhabited by people who are not sure where their next meal is coming from, if their sister will die during childbirth, if a bomb will destroy their home, if the water is safe to drink or if an anaconda will eat them. (The last one is sort of made up.) 
If you’re reading this, you’re one of the lucky ones.  Put here by God and your ancestors hard work and decent genes.  Forget about the facelift and the $400 sneakers (unless you can have them AND truly be thankful.  Which, I think, is hard.) 

-if you feel entitled to those things, you can’t appreciate them.  And you’re missing so much!  Look around your house…The one that isn’t big enough or nice enough.  Can you give thanks for it? Try.  Your kids/spouse/brother are crazy.  If only they would just…  Stop.  Look at them.  They are so great.  Just give thanks for them. 

-perfect isn’t normal.  You know what is normal?  Some mix of monotony, love, tragic loss, fun, boredom, physical pain, pleasant enjoyment, white hot fear, depression, hilarity, relief, dullness, excitement, betrayal, surprise, anger, healing.  That’s a lot more normal than a perfect family that never has any problems.   How about we expect to have problems, small and occasionally big, and learn to respond with a thankful heart – yes, crying, screaming and such is fine for a time.  We all have to experience difficult emotions one way or another.  But there is great comfort and opportunity on the other side of that wall of fear you think you can’t get over.  There is a ladder nearby.  It is called Gratitude.

When you begin to see everything as a gift, your perspective changes.  Realizing you’ve been acting like you deserve something is a wake up call.  You’ll think “why?”  Why have you acted this way?  This entitlement?  Because you do good stuff sometimes or try to do less bad stuff, or you go to church or don’t swear or something?  That’s very common and understandable but let’s be real – it’s bad theology and simply not how life works.  Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer.  Shit happens.  To really great people.  

But there is so much hope in letting go of the entitlement. 

Your heart grows and your brain relaxes and you unclench your fists and you begin to take in the scenery a little better.  Set backs are less devastating, because…look at all of these gifts!  Maybe you didn’t get the Malibu Barbie, but there’s a freaking Cabbage Patch Kid over there!

Yes, there is cancer.  That nasty thing.  But also…

There is a friend who would move mountains.  A mom and dad at the ready.  There’s a good job.  A strong husband.  There’s your aunt who really loves you.  There’s a cold drink.  A warm bed.  A fluffy cat.  Your little girl with mischief in her eye and love in her heart.  There’s The Golden Girls when you can’t sleep.  

And if you see that there is a gift giver and He is the mighty captain of this ship, and He is big and good and generous and very skilled at steering.  Well, then you can enjoy the gifts and enjoy the ride.  

The Waiting.

I thought I would wait to update until my doctor called to
tell me what’s up with this biopsy.  But
I realized that this time, this waiting, is worth sharing about.  I get about 20 texts or Facebook messages a
day asking if I’ve heard anything, which tells me that people are just as
anxious to hear about this as I am.  We’re
all biting our nails and pacing.  Of
course I’m the only one with the phone practically sewn into my palm (those of
you with ongoing health issues know that missing a call from your doc and the
subsequent phone tag is a special flavor of suffering that can invoke everything
from a gnawing uneasiness that gets worse each second to sheer DEFCON 1 level
panic.)  We’re all wanting to know.  We all desperately long for that miraculous
good news, of course.  And we understand
how much more likely bad news is (or even some weird, inconclusive
report.)  We understand that this phone
call will point us in a particular direction. 
One very different from the other. If the news is to be bad, we ought to probably just get on with it, right? 

This is a lonely place. 
Even as much as people reach out and make great effort to be with me in the ways they can, and I understand we are in this
together, it’s often a solitary experience.  There
are so many moments I’m alone, or even when among others, I’m alone in my
thoughts.  And I turn many things over in
my brain.  But mostly I pray.  I commune with God.  I respond to the tugs toward the kind of relating
we are created for.  Our thankfulness and
God’s reassurance.  Over and over. 

My friend likes to talk about spiritual things like the
existence of God and such with the question: 
what is this….like what is ALL of this? 
Who are we and what is our purpose? 
How does it work?  Because – that’s
what it’s really all about, right?  What
IS this?  And who ARE we?  Who made us? 
And why?  And what happens
next?  We should really concern ourselves
with these questions – and circumstances such as these (waiting for the doc to
call about the maybe cancer) brings all of these rushing to the forefront.  If you don’t know – well, I don’t quite know
how I would approach all of this.  Whatever gets you through.  But
even when you feel you know, you have to really really really remind
yourself.  A coworker recently called the
Devil “the stranger who distracts you with lies”  – now I don’t spend a lot of time studying
the character of Satan in The Bible.  I
think because a lot of Christians talk about him in this super scary, unhelpful
way, and blame him for a lot of things that are really about choices of
humans.  Satan, in these days and times
is often just an excuse.  But really…if
he is the Father of Lies, and if he seeks to steal, kill and destroy, it makes
sense to me that he would whisper lies to me, to try to take me off track.  The thoughts that enter my head are dark and
full of fear.  They are sad.  They are hopeless.  They invoke anger and ultimately a deep sense
of mistrust toward God.  “He’s betrayed you” says the liar.  Sounds like
something Satan would do.  Or maybe it’s
my own laziness.  It’s hard work to fix
my eyes on Jesus.  When I’m doing it –
praying without ceasing, writing out prayers of thanksgiving, giving my heart
over to God, reading sound biblical interpretation, spending time in prayerful
meditation, talking with people who comfort and encourage – I’m in the
zone.  The waiting doesn’t bother


This is in God’s hands. 
It’s in His time.  All things,
even the waiting, are for my good.  This
has given me a unique time with Him – a time to seek Him in a particular
way.  It seems you  can’t have this kind of palatable closeness
with God unless you are running to Him, full speed, desperate, totally vulnerable.  Chased by terrifying beasts.  But up ahead is the castle, and the King stands at the ready.  The gates are open just for you, and His
sword slays all that dare to harm you. 

He sees fit for me to wait.  So I wait and when the waiting is hard, because the fear builds up, I run to Him.