“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Chinese Proverb
I promised myself when I began this blog two years ago that I would be real and honest about every step of my cancer journey. I wanted to be raw and real with myself and with others. I never intended this blog to be more than sharing my cancer story with those near and far who wanted updates. It became that and more. It has been shared across the globe and I don’t know many of my readers. I don’t know who I am touching or impacting or even offending. But I do know that when I write, I learn more about myself each time. When I begin to put words out there, my thoughts and my heart blend and solidify.
So I need to share honestly that I have been really struggling lately. In fact I would say that I am in a downright “funk”. I finished my last round of chemotherapy about two months ago. I had a “clear, cancer free” scan at my last visit. I am scheduled for an outpatient surgery to remove my port. I am ready to move on. You would think I would be elated, joy filled, ecstatic…..and really I am…..but I had a sort of epiphany this week….and it was needed because my head has been filled with some crazy, erratic thoughts. And here it is: I discovered that for two years I was so busy clinging to life, clinging to hope, and all my senses and emotions were heightened because life was fragile and precious and uncertain. And now that I am back to the normal, the ordinary, the regular routine of every day existence, I don’t really know how to handle it all. I could never begin to understand the experiences that soldiers have when they return home after battle or after a leave, but I have heard that many times they have trouble assimilating back into regular life with family, work, and routine. I certainly am not comparing myself to my heroes in the armed forces, but I can kind of relate to being a little lost and out of touch with a “normal” life. A life without an appointment or a chemo session or a doctor appointment or a call to the insurance company every single week. A life filled with grocery shopping and dishes and laundry and carpool and kids’ schedules. With cancer, all those things that used to grate on my every nerve got pushed to the side because they weren’t priorities. The dust balls in the closet, the mounds of laundry, the dishes in the sink, the piles of bills, the “junk drawer”, the boys’ bathroom that I wouldn’t even go near. And now here they are—looming, staring, daring me to not be bothered with them, to cling to the real priorities—family, friends, life, faith, love. I find myself overwhelmed and even a bit fearful about facing each day with the ordinary, mundane tasks ahead of me. I find that my sense of passion and purpose and excitement are being overtaken by worry and stress and anxiety.
The day I finished chemotherapy I set a goal for my “cancer free” year ahead. Even though I had kept up with my exercise routine throughout chemo, having the lung surgery back in September and then more chemo really set me back with my endurance. So I set a goal to run a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon within this year. I knew it would take work, training, perseverance, and time. But I needed a goal to push myself and to show myself that I could be strong physically, mentally, and emotionally. So last week I ran my first 5k. Now I know that running 3.1 miles may seem like nothing to many of you, but for someone who now has five scars crisscrossing across her torso, and abdominal muscles that are still weak, this was an accomplishment and I felt elated when I crossed that finish line (in the goal time that I had set for myself, mind you). Single steps. Baby steps. Small attainable goals. I am now increasing my distance and my endurance to hit my 10k goal by July—and I have some awesome friends who are joining me and pushing me to be my strongest!
Because I am type A, a planner, an organizer, and a do-er, I have to set goals and have lists. I thought that if I could accomplish this running goal, I could set goals in other areas of my life. So, because I was overwhelmed with facing each ordinary day, I began to write down all my worries, all my stresses, all the things that seemed too big for me (really they aren’t, but they seem that way). I wrote about my next set of goals—to purge. To purge my house of excess, of junk, of things that overwhelm me and I decided to work on one little portion of that each week or day when I had time. Even writing the list made me anxious. I realized that even though goal setting can be good and can push me, it can also make me even more neurotic. It can consume me; the goals and lists themselves begin to control me. So I pulled myself away from my ridiculous list and went to my Bible to sit at the feet of Jesus and let him wash over me with His grace and love. Because Jesus doesn’t look at my performance or my “to do” list or if I got the laundry folded or the dishes done. Jesus doesn’t care about my sock drawer or my bathroom drawers filled with clutter and he doesn’t care if I have a day where I spend four hours watching “House of Cards” on Netflix. He doesn’t care if I don’t have a life lesson for my boys every day or if I serve them grilled cheese and quesadillas three days in a row and egg/bagel sandwiches the other four days. Jesus just wants me. He wants my fears and my anxieties and my stresses and he wants me to pour myself out to him when life overwhelms me.
He gave me this gift—a passage I have read time and time again, but a verse that shouted to me this week:
“Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Philippians 4: 4-7
I have to remind myself of God’s amazing grace each and every day. I have to crawl back to his feet and off my selfish altar every day. I have to admit that I worry and stress and have control issues. I learned this week that being in a funk is okay…..that being listless and anxious and out of sorts is okay. That God gives me grace, but I have to give myself grace too. I have to face the ordinary, the routine, the reality of life. But it is a precious life. It is a gift. God’s mercies are new every morning. Tomorrow I will get up and run a little further to build my endurance. And if I don’t, that is okay. And maybe I will fold a pile of laundry…. or not…and maybe I will just sit with a glass of wine and watch some “Say Yes to the Dress” re-runs and be okay with that too.
Grace. Peace. Love. Baby steps.