“Sometimes we sweep away opportunities to grieve by convincing ourselves the loss is not big deal or if we ignore the loss it will vanish…… They never do. We may not feel as much pain but we also don’t feel as much joy.”- Margaret Feinberg
A woman who I met just a month before I was diagnosed approached me saying she felt compelled to pray for me. Truthfully it was a bit strange. We were both attending a bible study together with seventy women and I was not much for getting to know others in the study. I simply wanted to attend and leave. Unbeknownst to both she and I, the very next week at the study I would be announcing my diagnosis. I would be asking for these women to lift me in prayers as I began my journey with breast cancer. I never returned to bible study after that week.
Since that day I have been receiving emails from this lady, declarations of God’s promises and her consistent commitment to lift me up. It has truly been a blessing, most especially when I do not know how to. This week she sent me a book that has spoken to me. The above quote is taken from that book. A book that has been just perfect for this time.
If you want the honest truth this morning I am fighting tears. I attempted to sneak into the office without having to answer the usual, “How are you?” question. Thursday, I go in for chemotherapy round three and I am dreading it. The side affects have been building on themselves and I am tired. Emotionally and physically I am tired. We received close to a foot of snow this weekend and my window cracked straight across the middle. It was a small thing, something I had no control over, that makes my tender emotional heart crumble to tears.
I am tired of days that my energy is focused on making sure I am eating enough, drinking enough water and taking all of my medicine. I don’t even know how to function with others without cancer being the focal point of conversation. How long till my next treatment? How are you feeling?
I have tried to convince myself that the loss of my hair, my breasts and so much of my femininity does not matter. As though if I convince myself that it is not that big of deal then it would not hurt that bad. I tell myself that the hats look cute. Others will say I should be grateful it is winter, everyone is wearing hats, so I fit right in. Or better than that, other women like to take the opportunity to compliment my new chest, comparing the ones they have as being less than mine.
It is as though shifting the conversation to the benefits of my diagnosis it takes away the harsh truth in it all.
Or when the lady at Starbucks, said “She loved my hair cut” and I can barely walk out of the store before tears meet my cheeks.
It works for a time, the conversations that focus on the positive. But the loss of this all turns out is a big deal, and pretending it is not is only making it worse.
It is amazing my ability to convince myself it is not. I have gone so far as to tell myself that I don’t think I want to have kids anymore. I start coming up with scenarios for how I can spend my years volunteering in a youth ministry or in schools. I tell myself that this must be what God has for me. I tell myself this, so I don’t have to think about the fact that I may never get to have my own children. As though making it no longer a desire of my heart makes it easier to face the reality that I may never get too. Every baby shower post, or new born photo shoot adorning Facebook I smile with joy and hide my feelings of jealousy.
Conversations I have read arguing whether breast fed or formula fed children are smarter and healthier have taught me patience. This argument is something I will never debate over. I am not able to breast feed. That is just a matter of fact. So I begin to tell myself that it is OK that I will not have those things, that I can go on and do something great and having my own children may not be in my cards. A lot of women go on to carry children on their own after chemotherapy but in the unknown of right now, it is easier to take it off the table as an option all together.
My worst fear beyond the side affects is the chance that my cancer comes back. Although I am getting closer and closer to the end, cancer is something I will carry with me for years and decades to come. It will look different of course, and it will someday be a small part of my story but it is still a part of my story. Does this cancer return? Does my life get to look seemingly normal again?
Another lie I find I am trying to convince myself of is that maybe I am supposed to be single. Let me explain, It is one thing to be a single woman in your late 20’s that attended a Christian college where everyone seems to have gotten married right away, now try being a cancer patient and thinking about dating. It is hard enough to look in the mirror and embrace myself. Now try feeling beautiful when everything has been stripped away, let alone trying to meet someone. Again it easier to think about not having to face someone else with my scars than it is trying to allow someone in to love me as I am.
Better than that how about when you are mistaken for a boy in the women’s restroom. (yes this happened). I know I do not look like me. I know that the former “me” will never look the same, so I am working to love the “new me”.
I certainly do not mean to go on with all the ways I am discouraged and hurting. The list at times is growing. So I am going to stop. Not because there is not more, or that shedding light I do believe can help bring healing there. But it is just been an observation. Of how many times I allow the lies become truths as though it will protect me from feeling the weight of it?
The losses are real. The losses have cut deep and struct heart strings in me that I did not know were there.
I do not want to pretend that they are not a big deal. I hurt. I am tired and I am discouraged. But like the quote above. Without recognizing that they are a big deal, I do not allow light to be brought on them and for them to be restored.
I believe that I can be restored in the places of this hurt. And that while they are thoughts and emotions, they are just that. Thoughts and emotions…
What lies have you believed to protect yourself? How can you bring light to them to bring healing?
*** My mom and dad will be here this week. Something to look forward too.