It is hard to believe that it has been seven years since I was first diagnosed with cancer and started writing this blog to keep people updated. It started as a simple way to share my medical updates with all those who were asking, and morphed into this raw emotional journey of faith and doubt and fear and anxiety and yes, even joy. As people resonated with my thoughts and raw emotions, it has become so much more. I am grateful that many of you have shared my blog with people who are diagnosed with cancer or another illness, or with people who are struggling with belief or faith. I am a person who would absolutely LOVE that everything could be resolved and tied up into a neat tidy bow and I could move on to the next thing. But that simply isn’t life. Life is messy and broken and there is no finish line this side of eternity. Most of us are doing the best we can with the life situation we have been given. My hope is that my laments and my joys and my questions and my fears—all as a woman of faith—would encourage those who feel they are alone in their thoughts. I know we all don’t think the same (thank God), but we all have hurts and trials and issues that we face daily. We respond in various ways to what we have been given. It is hard. Those who profess and believe in Jesus Christ are certainly not immune to the brokenness and pain of the world. Bad things happen. To all of us.
As I write this, the world is in communal mourning for the great legend Kobe Bryant and the others who perished in the helicopter crash. At the same time, in my circle of friends, one of my dear spiritual mentors has come home and is on hospice for the time he has left on earth. My heart is heavy. Another dear one—a beautiful 22 year old—has been in chemo for leukemia and is currently awaiting a bone marrow replacement (a match was found, thank God). Other friends are awaiting appointments and results for their cancer updates. Others are caring for elderly parents or burying their fathers and mothers. I have many friends dealing with relationship and family issues that are painful and trying. I could go on and on. This. This my friends is life. It is what we deal with. It is not neat and tidy and resolved. It is ever changing. We all have or will experience one of those “suddenly” or “holy why?” moments when our world is shaken by a phone call, or knock on the door, or email or unexpected news.
A quick update on my health journey. As I wrote in my last blog post in December, I finished chemotherapy at the end of November. This was after spending the entire year of 2019 on radiation or chemo. As I began to feel better and stronger and the side effects began to wear off slightly, I became a “production maniac”. Because I finally felt well, I was doing, working, planning, socializing—and I didn’t realize until later that it was way too much, way too early. I knew I wasn’t cancer free; I knew my doctor told me I would be chasing cancer, but he was hopeful that we could monitor and treat for as long as we could.
When 2020 started, a number of things happened in quick succession and I hit an emotional, physical and spiritual wall.
*I received a call that the biopsy I had in December on some spots on my forehead were positive for basal cell skin cancer. Slow growing, treatable, but yet another procedure.
*The people at my insurance company who have been supposed to be working on my behalf—did not follow through, and I came back to making numerous phone calls (full time job), talking to a bunch of different people who told me different things. This was also a financial burden that I needed to address.
*My kidney was still inflamed and I needed another procedure to replace the stent in my ureter. The first procedure did not go well and I left without a stent, having to get an ultrasound and then get booked into the OR for another attempt at replacing the stent.
*I had appointments with my primary care and oncologist and discovered through blood panels that my hormones are completely depleted (chemo does that). Everyone who knows about the human body, knows that hormones affect so much—our mood, our energy, our sleep, our brain chemistry.
I share all these things (and there is more) knowing full well that I am grateful to even have insurance and health care. I know that many people do not have these opportunities.
My health team is working on treatments for all these health issues and I have some friends who know the insurance industry who are taking over on my behalf (thanks Lisa, Michelle and Neal).
But here is the thing. All these things as well as more got me so overwhelmed that I could barely function. As much as I tried to be grateful, upbeat, prayerful, and tackle each situation-- I felt consumed and despondent. I couldn’t sleep at night and I couldn’t get up in the morning. I would force myself to get up and attempt to get ONE thing done in a day. I had at least three days in the month of January where I slept all day—never got up. I was throwing up, nauseated, achy, and my mind never shut down. My thoughts spiraled. I tried to get away to rest and pray and think and journal. This was a sweet time for me, but reality was waiting. I still had to address all the things in front of me. My friends would call and text and I shut them out. I would respond to the messages, but I didn’t want to see people. I forced myself to walk my dogs in the afternoons because the outdoors always makes me happy. I haven’t cooked a meal in a month. I have barely eaten. My husband makes cereal and bagel sandwiches for his dinner. My rational mind knew that I was in a deep depression. I cried out to God and prayed and read the Bible and much of the time, I still felt hopeless. I have cried more this month than I have in years.
This is not resolved and I am not going to sugar coat it and put a bow on it and say that everything is going to get better. In fact, there were a few days in this when I felt absolutely like there was no hope, no joy, no purpose. I felt unworthy to be a church leader, a speaker, a writer, an encourager. I felt like I was a fake, a sham, like I had no reason to write about faith and joy and hope. I felt I was a disservice to God.
But I allowed myself to be in this space, as hard as it was. I talked to a few friends, I went to my therapist, I talked to my doctors. Slowly, but surely, these issues will be tackled (and then more things will come up—such is life). And as I continued to read my Bible and focus on God’s promises (in spite of how I felt), I realized that I was succumbing to a bunch of LIES. Spiritual lies, worldly lies, fleshly lies. I was forgetting what the God of the universe says to me. He says YOU ARE CHOSEN. YOU ARE LOVED. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EARN MY AFFECTION. MY GRACE POURS OVER YOU. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STRIVE. IT IS FINISHED. I SEE YOU THROUGH THE PERFECT BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST ON THE CROSS.
I know all these things. I have taught and spoken on all these promises. I know in my head what I believe. I wasn’t allowing it to move from my head to my heart and into my life. I am not going to shame myself because I felt that way and may feel that way again. Christians go through hard and dry seasons. They question, they doubt, they fear. But God’s promises cover them.
I don’t have a finish line with my cancer. I will be chasing it, and dealing with insurance, and dealing with other things in life that seem overwhelming. Just like you. Whatever your trial or struggle—you may not have a finish line. You may be dealing with it all your life. Allow yourself to feel your pain, to cry, to lament, to doubt, to fear. But know this—no matter how dark or how deep your pain or situation, there is hope. And it is found in Jesus. You may not feel it. You may not see it. But He is with you. He promised that. As I continue my struggle, that is what I rest in. That Jesus is with me.
I have been reading this Psalm each day and putting it in my heart to get me through.
Psalm 143 (a psalm of lament)
“I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. (v 4-6)
“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk for I give myself to you...may your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing….” (v 8-10)
I am a woman of faith. I believe in an unstoppable God. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt and cry and feel despondent. Don’t let the lies tell you that you have to be upbeat, perky, strong, and know all the answers that sound good if you are a person of faith . Accept how you feel. Because Jesus accepts and loves you just as you are—in your hopelessness, fears, anxieties, and joys.