Earlier in this cancer journey, someone told me of her metal picture of me resting in God’s hands as if I were a leaf resting on water. I liked that picture a lot. It’s peaceful. At the time, it was also the easiest course (mentally, spiritually) for me to take. That was then. Now it’s time to fight.
I used to think that the term “fighting cancer” just referred to physical progress made against the disease. Since August I have learned that fighting cancer also-and perhaps primarily-means fighting the desire to give up. I’ve been in treatment for a little over 7 months. Incredibly, some people endure chemo for 10 years, and some cancer patients have far worse side effects than me. Regardless, I often want to quit. Those times are usually 1) when Nate and I are stuck in Boston traffic early in the morning, going to the hospital 2) after chemo when I feel hollowed out, like a melon rind that’s had all the good stuff removed 3) when the bones of my cranium ache like a migraine for 2 days due to a white blood cell stimulating drug 4) when I’m doing some physical activity that shouldn’t be hard, but I have to go slow, stop, catch my breath, hold on to something, etc. Feeling like an old person at the age of 36 makes me spitting mad.
It’s been a question in both Nate’s and my mind, whether the benefit of treatment is worth the damage it causes. This is the trade I’ve mentioned before- quantity vs quality of life, time vs energy. I was feeling so good while we were on our trip out West… one evening I climbed a bald, steep 2500 ft hill just to see what was on the other side (answer: more bald, steep hills). Since having the TACE procedures, I wonder if I will ever feel that good again. Will I hike another mountain? I keep hoping that my energy will come back, that maybe it’s just a matter of time. The oncologist did say that the more chemo I have, the less energy I’ll have.
The positive results of the CT scan weigh on the side of benefits of treatment, tipping the scale in favor of continuing chemo. At the least, we know that it’s giving me more time. Also, I’m holding the hope that the tumors will shrink enough that I’ll eventually be able to have liver surgery. So, I fight cancer and fight the desire to quit with chemo, exercise, good nutrition, prayer, and God’s words.
It was easy when I started treatment in March to have “faith”. I believed that God would heal me, by means of some form of treatment that wouldn’t take too long and would get 100% of the cancer which would not come back. Now I realize that I was just being unrealistic. I’m not sure that that can be called faith. Believing that ALL things work together for GOOD for those who love the Lord, is faith. Having faith for the long haul, whatever it brings, is hard. That’s a stronger faith than I have had before, and it is worth having.
There are some helpful things I’ve learned by this point, such as that I can have cancer and still feel healthy (though tired). I am learning that it’s possible to accept that treatment is my new normal life- something that I fought against for a while because I wanted my old normal back. And that surviving cancer doesn’t mean being cancer-free. I’m a survivor right now.
The idea and action of fighting for the will to live became significant to me after having the TACE procedure. I was wiped out for 4 weeks afterward, became depressed, despondent and wanted to give up. Out of the blue, my friend Michaelyn sent me a link to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. I clinked the link and listened to the song again & again & again. After about 10 times I could get through it without crying. Somewhere along the way, God used that song to speak to me: Why are you not fighting?! You can be a fighter! That message smacked me in the head then settled in my heart. Of course I can. Until the last round. There’s another song along the same lines that is excellent: “Overcomer” by Mandisa. I listen to these two songs nearly every day.
Here are some pictures of temporary tattoos that I had made as reminders of what I want to be / do. I’m going to adds the words “Survivor” and “Overcomer” to my tattoo arsenal.
I picked up this little griz because I like his / her attitude. All fight. Take that!
So, this is more difficult and personal than cancer, but I wanted to write about it in the hope of helping someone else who has lost children.
Eight months after their death, the loss of the babies is more pressing than ever before. For the 2 short weeks that Liberty lived, and the 3 short weeks that Prairie lived, I was dopey from painkillers that dulled my feelings and in retrospect, have fogged my memories. There’s a lot that I missed, including normal grief (which may be both blessing and curse). Soon after the girls passed, Nate and I were plunged into my diagnosis and treatment.
I knew that grief would come in its own time, and it has. My smart friend Lindsay suggested that it’s happening now that my body is in better shape for it, the cancer being stable. And there’s probably more space in my mind now that cancer is not weighing on it so much. The babies have always been there, mostly on the edges of my mind. Lately they’re front & central. A picture came to me the other day of sitting on the flat rock ledge around a small but deep, dark pool of water. The pool is sorrow for the loss of our girls. I saw that most of the time I’m sitting nearby, staring at the water, but sometimes I slip in and am submerged. Lately, I’ve been more under the water than out if it, but that’s ok. I’m not drowning. I can swim, or hold on to the edge, or whatever.
“To him who overcomes…I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” Rev 2:17 This verse is inspiring. The words mean more to me now than ever before. It is awesome that Jesus will call me by a name that no one else knows. That’s got to be the best secret of all time.