I am headed into round three of infusion today—three quarters of the way through. The infusion weeks are rough. I wear the pump home for two days and then go back on Wednesdays to get it disconnected. The side effects were less intense in the last round, except for the hair loss. I have not shaved my head yet. I still have hair, but it is thinned out and patchy and not enough hair to style into my big 80’s hairdo. I am having fun playing with my two new wigs and experimenting with hairstyles. Getting ready is so much easier. I also wear hats and scarves when I go to the gym or a walk or am hanging around at the house. Although I am still trying to be stylish throughout this (because I love fashion and accessories), this experience has made me understand even more that beauty and appearance are not who we are. Our beauty comes from within, and I hope that my love for Christ shines through whether I am wearing a wig or a scarf or nothing at all with patchy and balding hair.
But I want this blog to be about something I have been experiencing daily throughout this long journey and that thing is COMMUNITY. The people who have surrounded our family with ACTS of love and compassion—this has helped us through. There are so many stories I could tell of acts of service and love—from people who get us groceries or do Costco runs, to the cards and flowers dropped on our front doorstep, to the texts of prayers and encouragement, to the meals that keep coming and keep my boys fed so I don’t have to think about shopping or prepping meals. I want to focus today on two stories of community….
Story one: Back in November (the month from hell)…when I was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time, and then our dog was diagnosed with cancer (he is still with us ya’ll—Miracle Moses), and I went up to my hometown as I sat by the bedside of my step dad as he passed away and then all the business of death we had to take care of….oh it was a doozy. I arrived home after my stepdad’s passing and my friends Lisa and Dani arrived with a meal and sat and listened to me. It became quite clear that I was spinning out of control with everything I was dealing with. I call that day Manic Monday. They calmed me down and asked if there was anything different I needed in order to get through this. I thought about it and told them that Greg and I had been wanting to redecorate our room so that I had a calm and serene place to rest during the chemo and radiation. I told them that I had the design ideas and if they could just help me order the paint and the new window panels, that would be a huge help. Next thing I remember is they are in my bedroom taking pictures and coming up with all these ideas to redecorate my room. Then Operation Bestie became a reality. They pulled in three of my other besties and their hubbies and they decided to do a surprise renovation. I told them my budget and to stick to my color pallet and what I wanted to keep and what could go, and then I let them go for it. Yes, this control freak gave up control and allowed others to make choices for me. Shocker! They got to work ordering items, painting, and setting things up and within two weeks, we had a master bedroom REVEAL. Now let me say that Greg was not happy with this plan and remained uncomfortable with it during the whole process. He kept saying that he could do the demo and the painting and the work, but really he didn’t have time—it was hard for him to accept help, but he finally surrendered to it.
The REVEAL of our bedroom brought me to tears. Not only because our master bedroom looks incredibly peaceful and serene, but because all my friends became a team and worked together to do something that would give us a sense of calm. But mainly that my friends took time out of their days and evenings to do this turn around of my room. That they SACRIFICED AND SERVED out of love for us. That is community. That is love. That is friendship.
Story Two: Our friend and renter (who has lived in our detached “casita” guest house) has moved out and we decided to finally make it a real guest house (what it was intended for…..but so many people we know over the past fifteen years have needed a space, so it has been used for them….I think we have had at least six people who have rented the guest house over the years). So, of course I decide that we need to redecorate this room, and we have been wanting to repaint our kitchen cabinets, and all of a sudden during all my chemo, we decide to add a few more items to our redecorating list. (Poor Greg—his “honey do” list is never ending and he never complains—he just keeps going and helping and working and loving me through his own acts of service and love). The main reason is that we want the spaces for our family and guests who are coming into town for Micah’s graduation in June.
So…this last weekend, four friends from our church came to our house to move furniture (and I mean big stuff) to different places in the house…some went to a garage sale for Young Life….and to help put some decorative items in place. Now these are guys who have young kids and babies at home. They came on their Saturday morning and spent the morning doing things we needed. “What can we do next?” was the phrase of the morning. Freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and cherry chocolate scones were the only thing I did for them to thank them. It was entirely an act of SACRIFICE of time and energy. It was love in action, once again.
I see this in my community all the time. People who live out their faith through action. Sacrifice, commitment, time, energy, love. Pure love through service and fellowship. We can’t do all these things while I am going through chemo and Greg is working full time, and trying to get things done on weekends. It isn’t like we have to do all this. We could keep it the way it is and not have the guest house ready for Micah’s graduation, but people stepped in and are helping us make it happen.
I can’t even begin to express the love and gratitude for the people in my community—people who I truly call family. It is beautiful to live a life in community. We bear each other’s burdens, we celebrate each other’s joys. We pray and we serve and we help. And we don’t do it because we are trying to do good deeds, or rack up points on the “I am such a great servant” scale—no these people love and serve me and others because we live out the love that God has freely given to us. The friends who surround me with this love and support are compelled because Jesus Christ has renewed them and they have a new purpose about life. It isn’t about success or joy rides or looking good—it is about true friendship, true service, true community. It is so so beautiful. It brings me to tears. It brings me such joy. I am so grateful for community.
So, as I head out this morning to my infusion day, I think of all this love and community that surrounds me, and I know with all my heart that I will make it through this once again. I am so loved and I am so thankful for all of you who have loved through your actions to help our family get through this. Despite this beast of cancer, I live a beautiful life in a faith community called family.
Shalom and thank you.
(Pictures of the reveal and the people who helped will be up along with this blog on my FB page).