Thursday, March 23, 2017

EXTRAS


I’m feeling really good these days.  Really, really good.  It’s funny, at my last visit with my Oncologist, I told her I was aging in fast forward.  Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds, considering that I started chemo as a young wrinkle-free 105-lb mom, and finished months later as a feeble, gray-faced, bald 120-lb old lady.

At least that how you feel, post-chemo. There’s a fast-forwarding of life that happens. These past months since my last treatment have been about me adjusting to a revised rhythm, and getting to know this new version of me. At just over 2 months post-chemo, I’m beginning to get color back in my face, and my hair, though very dark, is coming in with a vengeance. There are still no eyelashes to speak of, but I am pleased to note that the facial muscle twitching is dissipating.

Though I’m seeing improvements in many areas, unlike some diseases, there’s no graduation day with cancer. It’s never really over.  There are frequent doctor appointments, the next 10-years of Tamoxifen side effects to be managed, and – if things get really exciting – ultrasounds “just in case”.  

But life goes on, and our new normal actually feels…normal.  Fun, even – with a family of 6 there is plenty of fun.  So we are adapting. Accepting. Coping.

A friend of mine refers to life after breast cancer….extras (extra worries, extra pills, extra tests, extra hot flashes, extra weight gain, extra sleepless nights, etc) as “Survivorship Issues.” 

I LOVE this phrase, Survivorship Issues.   I love it because it reminds me that I’m one of the lucky ones.  Yeah, the side effects stink, and there are too many days where I battle my own anxieties (it’s a totally weird thing, calculating the age you can safely die knowing your children will be OK – my friends assure me this is both totally normal AND completely effing meaningless), and the phrase Survivorship Issues reminds me that all of these anxieties and tests and extra appointments and – yes – even the Tamoxifan side effects are all because I made it.  I survived.  

I’m a survivor. 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

LIFE IN PICTURES




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

MEET MY FRIEND, LONELY


Yesterday morning, on the way to school with my daughter, I was sharing with her my recurring dreams, and how they all consist of a similar note – my deepest fears. In saying that aloud, I finally recognized the power Satan has over me. Though a jerk, he's no fool. It’s as though I hand him the car keys and let him into the driver’s seat, and he's found it quite effective.

If he can convince me that my kids are in danger, that I’m lonely, or that my husband is cheating, at any given moment, I willingly fork over a portion of my holiness, no questions asked. He reacts as expected, fueling my pain as I lash out or become withdrawn or paranoid.

Without question, the emotion that most consistently brings me to the very fringes of myself is harm to my children. For me, this is the worst of all the others. So much so, I cannot even bring myself to discuss it.

We’ll skip right over onto loneliness. Yeah. That’s a tough one, too. She's around so often, that she's practically become my friend. And every time she shows up, it hacks my confidence off at its knees and assaults my joy. It’s the belief that I'm alone in the world, that no one has my back, and it has the power to crank my emotional equilibrium way off center. My rationality swerves for the ditch and when the dust settles, my confidence can pretty much be measured in pieces.

And this isn’t to be confused with physically being alone but rather feeling unseen, nonexistent, invisible, unimportant, purpose-less. You get the picture?

I live in a house with 5 other people, a cat, and a dog. I get more phone calls, texts, emails and gifts than I can keep up with. I hear “I love you” from at least one person, almost daily. And with that, which wasn’t to brag, you’d think I'd be immune to loneliness. Instead, I struggle. I've faced this struggle more lately than ever before. What’s the trigger? It is from what the cancer has done to my hormones? I don’t know. It's fleeting, but it always remembers my name. It hits in waves and leaves me gasping for air. Maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you experienced something similar in your childhood, college, maybe in your very own home. Maybe you’ve whispered these prayers before: “God, are you there?” “Do you see what’s happening? Are you with me in this?” “Where did you go, God?” “I really need you to be here with me right now. This is too much to handle alone.”

And I don't understand why God allows it. Shouldn't my faith be all the protection I need against this emotion? Isn’t He enough? He and Him alone?

I am gathering, through scripture and from authors like Brene Brown and Holly Wagner, that God allows me to occasionally feel the burden of loneliness not only because He wants to rescue me, but because He's called me into community, where others are lonely. And for that to happen “we need to feel the pain to recognize the pain.”

It is our unequivocal duty to love the lonely. We should be linking arms with the outcast, remembering that sometimes the outcast wears $200 jeans and drives an Audi. Sometimes the lonely sits next to us in church, at the track meet, on the plane, at the office, in our home. Isn’t it true that God loves His people through His people?

So I ask, is this loneliness a gift?


Because that’s where my pathetic humanity clashes. Over and over, rather than fixing my eyes on the One who loves me most, I frantically scan the horizon for a “person” to save me. I want to run to someone. For them to throw me a float. For them to console me, re-affirm me. After all, affirmation is often times only a text message away.

There are times when He moves and heals through us, but he doesn't really have to. He's fully enough, and I wonder how long it will take me to really believe that.

I'd like to begin living this part of my life differently. I'd like to allow God's work to be accomplished by Him, rather than throwing the keys to my sworn enemy, the one who despises my life and plots my ruin. I feel like my sanity might be sheltered if I learned to lean into Christ rather than cower in a corner of my room. The truth is, is that it brings us to the edge of ourselves. And isn’t that His purpose?

“I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.” (Hosea 14:8)

So, if you're lonely tonight, let me remind you that you're not alone. Lonely doesn't have a place in the bounds of God's love for you. Let Him heal you. Then bear your scars as holy tattoos, connecting you to the rest of His kingdom, and know you are part of The Healed.

“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” Isaiah 45:2
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