This is the last in a series of posts on peace and tension originally written for New Christian Woman. This one was the most challenging and perhaps my favourite to write. I had nothing as my deadline approached, I was struggling mightily and I really believe that once I prayed and just asked the Lord to help me get out of the way and let His Word flow through me, that’s where this came from. The response to this post has been humbling and awesome (in the original sense of that word) and I have been truly touched by it. As with the others in this series, please feel welcome to comment here or to join the conversation on the original post.
This post is the second in a series I originally wrote for New Christian Woman. It explores the tension in between the truth of God’s goodness and the reality of human suffering. As with the previous in this series, please feel free to comment here or to head over to the original post and join the conversation. Continue reading
I occasionally write for a blog called New Christian Woman, and this past year I’ve written a number of articles about peace and my journey/struggles to find it, hold onto it in my life. In my desire to get back to more regular blogging, I thought I’d share them here over the next few weeks. Please feel free to read and comment here, or to head over to the original post and join the discussion there.
The first post was about the tension between the truths that every moment matters, and it’s all about the big picture. Without further ado, here it is: Continue reading
It’s been a strange year. A strange 18 months, really. October 18 was 18 months since we sat down in a doctor’s office in South Africa and read the words metastatic, malignant neuroendocrine carcinoid tumours on the pathology report. 18 months since our doctor looked at us with tears in his eyes, and other than his sorrow I didn’t hear much else. It was like a roaring in my ears and a laser focus at the same time. Malignant. Metastatic. I said to him “This is cancer.” He just nodded, unable to speak.
There are moments that still feel that big. That momentous, that important, that dramatic.
But for the most part, after a year and a half of living with a metastatic, incurable cancer diagnosis, life is kind of… normal.
It’s not the old normal, that’s for sure. Scars, pains, scans, twice weekly home nursing visits, monthly hormone injections and blood draws, regular doctor’s visits, semi-regular fainting episodes, somewhat frequent ER visits are all part of this new normal (but if you knew me really well, you’d know that somewhat frequent ER visits were kind of par for the course pre-diagnosis…).
I’ve been living with this cancer for over a decade and a half, but I’ve only known about it for 18 months. That still weirds me out sometimes. My entire adult life I’ve had cancer. Pretty much my entire adolescent life I had cancer (the doctors estimate my age of onset as 13). I have a therapist I see once a week (who is fantastic, btw) and it’s pretty strange to talk about my past and view it through the cancer lens.
But for all of the weirdness and upheaval, we’re finding a new normal.
I don’t always like it.
I don’t like the pain and the ongoing struggle to find a drug/therapy/treatment regimen to manage it.
I don’t like the fatigue and weakness. No matter how much I lower my expectations of myself, I can’t seem to meet my goals. I can’t do as much as I want to do in a day or week or hour.
I don’t like the fainting. I’m getting really sick of it, actually. I miss being able to drive, being safe to leave alone with the kids, my independence. A few days ago, I said to my in-laws and husband, in all seriousness, “It’s been a while since I fainted! I think I’m making progress!” They looked at me like I had grown a second head, and reminded me when I’d last passed out. It had been 15 days. Just two weeks! I fainted 3 days later, for a grand total of 18 days between full syncope episodes. I had a few near syncope episodes in between. Oh well.
I don’t like the variability. I have a four week cycle which includes (usually) one good week. One really good week! And when it comes to and end I am always caught off guard. Which is pretty silly, since it’s been this four-week cycle for about 10 months now. But it still surprises me and dismays me, every time.
For all of the things that I don’t like, there is hope.
A few weeks ago Coleman and I started walking together, every day. We started with a minute a day for a week. Then the next week we did two. The next three. And so on. Last Friday I walked in the Charter Day procession from the college to the Cathedral. No fainting, no falling. (It was a pretty slow procession, so that was good.) Tomorrow we will start a week of seven minutes. Seven minutes of walking, no walker, no sticks, just me (I might hold Coleman’s hand).
About two months ago I started seeing a therapist and wow, did that ever kick the growing depression I’d been struggling with to the curb. Naming and facing some of my mental health struggles has been huge. Some of them are relatively recent, some are things I’ve battled untreated for a long time. Realising that some of the mess in my head isn’t good, and doesn’t have to stay awful has been amazing. It’s a kind of weird that its both normal and not at the same time, but I find that hugely reassuring. It’s not normal (read: healthy) to have this mess in my head and it’s totally normal (read: expected) as a reaction to all the mess in other areas of my life. I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks.
I started working on my Masters degree two years ago but my sharp decline in health and my diagnosis interrupted that. Now that we live nearby, I’m on campus several days a week, catching up on course work, mapping out my degree path, planning an independent study course and pulling together a bibliography for my thesis research. This shift has been amazing for my mental and spiritual health as well as my physical health, despite the challenges. I can’t load the dishwasher, but I can sit with my feet up and my back supported, with my computer on my lap while my IV fluids run through my port, and I can study, read, research and write. I’ll write more about this too, and my struggles between my Mary and Martha selves and the beauty of sitting at Jesus’ feet.
All this to say, it’s been a while since I wrote here, but I’m starting to feel like I have something to say again and that I can find the mental space and the time to think and process and share. Thanks for sticking with me.
Just writing those words…
It seems crazy. Silly. Fake and unreal. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I’ve said them in the last ten days…
To nurses, and hospital technicians. To close friends. To my parents. To members of the church and school community here. To friends on the other side of the world. To my hairdresser. To strangers. To my children.
It feels like they belong to someone else.
But they belong to me now. I have cancer. Continue reading