I hope you make it . . .
Being a breast and uterine cancer survivor has it's perks. . . or rather, maybe some days, it may not feel so much so. While I am daily grateful to have done well and survived, there are days I can experience sadness and stress because of having survived. Does that makes sense to any of you? And then there's some guilt that can pile on because you know you "should" feel thankful, but you feel sad. I've had one of those days (actually it's been more like a week). Please give me grace, as this is more of a journal posting than a question or discussion. It's just a place to write my thoughts for the moment. . .
I was turning over my tax records for my business (yes, of course, that in itself is stressful), and having not seen the tax preparer in some time, personal conversation filled the air as well as business exchanges. One thing led to another (why does it happen like that in terms of cancer discussion?), and I ended up sharing how I'd been doing well, and disclosed the fact I had had a second cancer diagnosis last year (after having breast cancer the year before). I quickly added that it was a "baby" cancer in my mind, since this type was not as aggressive as the breast cancer I had gone through. Well, the other person's face turned a bit ashen, her mouth dropped in that all-too-familiar expression we've all seen ("Ohhh, noooo. . . ), and she ended her well-wishes with, "I hope you make it."
Now, I realize this person was being extremely caring and heartfelt, and I realize her response was one born out of her own personal circumstances (as her husband died from cancer not long ago), but it was not something I needed to hear at that moment.
I'd been having a particularly stressful week. . . at least my body was telling me this. . . poor sleep, less than ideal eating habits, lack of regular exercise due to lots of reasons, a house remodel in one area, troubles with memory, and feelings of sadness and anxiety. Not a good recipe for healthy living. But it's just been one of those weeks. “I hope you make it” . . . . What this sweet woman didn’t know is that those words hurt me yesterday.
Of course, she hopes I make it . . so do I! But can I live apart from that cancer history, just for a bit? Can people treat me like normal, like they used to, just for a bit? Can I live in, and relish the second life I feel God has given me, just for a bit? Can things just be okay, just for a bit?
These are the questions I want to shout out, because a cancer survivor wants to LIVE NORMAL, even though we know we can’t return to our BC (before-cancer) life. Things are different now. . . we have regular check ups where, yes, they LOOK for cancer. We can’t let little aches and pains go unnoticed anymore. We can’t have a bad day where we obviously look bad without people wondering if we are getting sick again. And for heaven’s sakes, we can’t say we are having a sad day because we should be grateful!
There’s no manual for cancer survivorship. There’s no “right” way to do it. We just watch it unfold, and we live it. We do our best, and yet some days, we are going to not do it as well as we think we “should”. To all of those who are newly diagnosed, or are yet traveling through cancer treatments, please know that a cancer survivor feels your pain and struggle – in fact, sometimes, it’s like our hearts walk it with you. Mine aches at the thought of someone else having to travel this road. And yet so many of us do.
“I hope you make it.” It was said to me with such uncertainty. But you know, the truth is that all of life is uncertain. Only one thing in life is certain. . . .you are born. . you live. . .and you die. Our life cycle is 100% on this trajectory. It is God-designed, and no one can escape it. It’s just when we have a life-threatening disease, we know this truth full-well. We taste the days of it’s potency of truth. . . we understand what it is to hang-in-the-balance. . . we know that life is precious.
But for those who are out there, those who have not experienced cancer, please know that we all want to “make it”. We want to live well. We want to live fully. We want to feel hope. And we want to live LIFE. We don’t want to live death. We want to have the same type of aspirations we had BC. . . planning new projects, experiencing hugs from others, working at our life’s work with passion, experiencing a beautiful rain on your face. . . . . the list is endless. We still have a heartbeat and we still want to LIVE! Please don’t put a cancer patient or cancer survivor into an uneasy hope. . .that isn’t hope at all.
I am reminded of a Scripture that I posted to my bathroom mirror during treatment. . . “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us into shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5.
And I know that God has a plan for my life. . . “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.
THESE words are words of hope. And I want to embrace that hope for life. The real kind. The kind that gets you out of bed in the morning to try again. Because with true hope, nothing is impossible. Living life well is a reality.
Thanks for listening to this gal’s very honest and very unfiltered thoughts about a comment-gone-bad yesterday. Most of us have such good and beautiful intentions for each other. . . we just need to remember that sometimes the most beautiful action is to love on someone, and keep our words few.