Breast cancer. Those two words put me on a rollercoaster of emotion and pain and ushered me into a world I never knew, nor cared to be a part of. I wasn’t asked permission to be given this disease, but cancer doesn’t care.
Three weeks after my diagnosis October no longer became about the changing of seasons or watching the leaves turn into the beautiful shades of autumn. Instead, all I see is pink. Everywhere. Sure, I’ve noticed it before, but it’s never seemed like a frontal attack. I stand in line at the register and the cashier asks the lady in front of me if she’d like to donate to breast cancer research.
“No,” she abruptly says.
And I’m hurt that she seemingly doesn’t care enough to give even one dollar.
Then it’s my turn. He rings up my purchase and asks me the same question. Part of me wants to cry. Another part wants to tell him that I’ve just been diagnosed myself. Instead I squeak out a yes and add three dollars to my total charge.
Experiencing this month with that diagnosis almost undoes me at times.
The waiting is the most excruciating though. I’ve said it so much that when I type in an ‘e’ in a text message the word automatically comes up. I’m still in that spot. Waiting. Not knowing what specific type of cancer I have or what the plan of action will be. Lumpectomy with radiation? Chemo? Mastectomy? None of it sounds palatable, but my prayer is for the first option.
And then someone asks what side it’s on. “The left,” I innocently answer.
“Oh, that creates more of a problem because your heart sits right beneath it,” she states in a matter-of-fact tone.
How had I not thought of that? Now a whole new issue erupts. What will this do to my heart? Will the treatment be worse than the disease? I remember another cancer survivor who told me she suffers from congestive heart failure caused by the chemo she received that eliminated the cancer. She’s only in her early forties.
Lying in bed at night the “what if’s” keep swirling in my mind. Will this ultimately shorten my life, even if I beat it? Will I always be in fear of a recurrence? Will my life ever be the same?
The answer to the last question I already know. No. My life will never be the same. Whether it be physically, spiritually or emotionally I’ll never be the same person I was before breast cancer. I am now part of a club I never wanted to belong to. And yet, here I am. Trying to keep living my life in the same way that doesn’t fit anymore.
Before the diagnosis I was always planning and doing and going. Now, in this stage, I cannot plan because I do not know what the future holds for me. Getting out of bed every morning is a monumental task. Why bother? My kids have all moved out and my husband won’t be home until evening. Yes, I still have closets that need to be cleaned and drawers that need to be sorted through. I could go Christmas shopping or even start wrapping the few gifts I’ve already bought.
But I don’t have the strength or mental capacity to do any of it. Although I feel guilty for wasting time binge-watching Netflix or Law & Order, it’s the only thing I can do that requires no thought on my part.
I had lunch with a friend recently who’s a few steps further along in her breast cancer journey. I pour out my heart, sharing the purposeless with which I now live. She nods her head in agreement, understanding exactly how I feel. Then she says something that gives me hope. “This season of waiting you’re in right now is the hardest part. I’ve heard it said many times that the not knowing is by far the hardest.”
Her answer comforts me.
A dear lady in my church rushes to speak to me after the service last week. She looks me dead in the eye and says, “You’ve sat down in your spirit. You’ve quit fighting.”
I started to cry. She was exactly right.
After putting these two statements together I realize something. It’s hard to fight what you don’t know. I can’t get up every morning and strap on my battle sword when I’m not sure which enemy I’m going to have to face. And putting myself in situations that may not happen doesn’t help either. Even David in the Bible knew who he was going to have to fight when he gathered stones for his weapon. He had a strategy and a calling. God didn’t let him down.
So in this season of the dark unknown, I’m begging God to reveal His purpose for me in my suffering. I don’t believe He’ll leave me helpless when I’m called forth to fight this giant called cancer. He’s drawing up a battle plan that most likely won’t make sense to me, because so many times it doesn’t. But when He does I’ll remember that the battle is not mine, its The Lord’s. And I know He’ll fight for me, even as I get out of bed to face each new day.