I read a book in preparation for my middle school book club discussion that resonated deeply and profoundly with me. In the book Posted by John David Anderson, cell phones are banned from a middle school because of the cyber bullying and hate filled posts. So instead, kids resort to “posting” old fashioned sticky notes—passing them to each other, and sticking them on lockers—most of the time anonymously. Its theme speaks hard truth--words can weaponize and words can convict. Words can heal and words can uplift. I knew going into 2020 that it would be a word weaponizing year, and it has proved that and much more. Believe me, I know that I have said the wrong things at the wrong time. I have spoken too quickly and I have said hurtful words that I can never take back. I know the power of words. I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of hurled hate. I also know what it feels like to receive an encouraging card in the mail or a text that simply says, “I love you.” That is why I continue to write words of encouragement even in the hardest times. In pandemics and protests and election years and in times of personal suffering in my own life and the lives of those around me, I will use my words to encourage and uplift.
It has been awhile since I have published a blog post. My main excuse is that I wanted to put the time into turning my blog into a book. I have my story, but I keep rewriting chapter one over and over. As a writing teacher, I always tell students—just write—you can revise later. But here I am, with all the content and three years of writer’s block. And you my readers have been faithful and supportive even with seven years of writing the same things. Cancer. Treatment. Suffering. Hope. Support. Prayer. Repeat.
And here we go again. I have seriously lost count on what round this is. Lost count on how many procedures and surgeries. A quick update on where I am now. First, my doctor was very clear back in November when I finished seven months of chemo that I was not cancer free. My body just couldn’t take more chemo at that time. My cancer markers were low and there were small spots in my lungs that he would follow closely through scans and labs. The tumor in my pelvic area near my kidney had shrunk and calcified. These months of rest have been good for me. But this summer, I began having pain in my groin area—to the point where there were days when I could barely walk. Or I would get up after working at my desk for a few hours and fall to the ground when I put weight on my leg. Yes, you know it—I pushed through it and lightened up my spin classes from home, walked slower and with fewer hills, and did stretch exercises.
In July I had my three month scan and labs and then I met via video with my oncologist to review the scan. Not news I wanted to hear and never news you can really prepare for…He told me there were more small tumors in both my lungs and one of the previous ones had grown. But the hardest info to hear was that I had a tumor in my pelvic bone. Exactly the area that had been hurting so much. And this info was shocking—because it was cancer in a new place. It had spread again. Colon, liver, lung, pelvic area, and now bone. I felt this searing hot flash through my body and my head pounded and throat closed up. Somehow I used my voice and I asked him as I have before, “When do I say that I am done?” And he said once again, “We are a team and we will continue to be a team. As long as you can endure the treatments, we find the cancer and treat it.” He said he was optimistic—that I would do radiation first for the bone tumor and then more chemotherapy for the rest of my body. This news sickens and debilitates me. It brings up anxiety and fear and horrific memories of all my side effects and days when I felt I couldn’t go one day more. I am not going to lie. I curled up in a ball for an entire week after that video appointment. I didn’t answer phone calls or emails or texts. I didn’t let anyone come visit. I didn’t eat. I slept. For days. I got mad at myself for being lazy. I berated myself for not sucking it up and getting motivated. I kept saying, “I can’t do this again. I can’t.”
And then words. Not my words, but the Word. The Word that uplifts and convicts and encourages. The words of God to Moses. The flawed and imperfect Moses—the leader of the Israelites, not in his own might, but because of God’s might. Because God said to Moses: “Yes you can. Because I AM is with you. I AM (Yahweh) will lead you and guide you and give you strength.”
And the God of the universe says this to me today and every day: I AM is with you.
I am still tired. I am still drained. I still have cancer. But I will rest on God’s Word to me; that He is with me and He will hold me up. His Word is a lamp unto my feet. And may my words encourage--wherever you are, whatever struggle you are enduring--that my words may point you to the I Am who is with you.