Oooh, Child

It’s a cool drizzly morning here in So Cal.

Everyone is off to work and school.  There’s chicken in the oven for later, smelling up the house with yumminess, and all is quiet except for the sound of the sprinklers outside my window.  For the first time in almost 2 weeks, I have the day at home all to myself.  Even with all the chores I have to do, it is a much-needed oasis of solitude.

It’s been months since I’ve blogged.  Thank you to those that reached out to see how I was doing.  Up until, literally, the last couple of days – it’s been kinda crazy.  Over the Summer, while my girl still had her own apartment, I was taking care of my grandson one week a month, and some weekends in-between.  She got a great new job with the school district back in June, but it came at a price – specifically, a significant pay cut.  But she has a firm and reliable career path now, awesome benefits, and all kinds of perks that working for the district includes.  So for me to babysit one week a month to help keep financial life and limbs afloat (hers and ours) was a no-brainer.

School had just gotten back into session when, over the Labor Day weekend, we moved them in here with us.  Moves are hard and tiresome.  It took me a couple of weeks, but every room – every drawer, closet and corner – was thoroughly gone through and reorganized to make space.  However exhausting, the timing was Divinely Perfect as it coincided with the end of her lease and the end of my Unemployment Benefits.  Days before the move, I had another biopsy in my left breast after my first post-treatment 3D Mammogram showed “something” that needed to be looked at.  Jesus, I was scared…but I held on to the promises that I got way back when this all started – that the Lord had cured the incurable, and that I was healed.  I broke down and sobbed, falling to my knees, when I got the results. God showed up in a seriously miraculous way (maybe I’ll write about that another time), and the results of the biopsy were negative.

God be praised, Who is rich in mercy, strength and healing grace!

No sooner was that crossed off The List, my husband had a surgery he had been putting off for far too long because of all my shit.  The surgery was successful, but I was elbows deep in urinals and bed trays for a week while he recovered, sleeping on the couch for a couple weeks so as not to jostle him.  Eventually he was back to work and  I was just exhaling,  thankful that September was almost over when – just like clockwork – the third “THING” popped up.

A week ago this past Monday, my girl called me from the emergency room in serious distress and ended up staying in the hospital for the next 5 days.  It was awful, as they did test after test and couldn’t uncover the source of her pain.  I put in 12 hour days, getting my grandson ready and to school, driving the 40 minutes to drop him off, making my way to the hospital, then staying there with my baby until school was out.  Another trip to pick up our guy, back to the hospital to spend dinner time with Mommy, then home between 8 and 9 p.m. In between was a lifetime of prayer, staying all Mama Bear on the doctors and nurses trying to get her relief and some answers, and trying present calm and control for our little guy. While a firm diagnosis still hasn’t been made, the pain specialist is treating it as a nerve issue…a Myalgia of sorts.  It might even be a couple of things. But after a week of nerve specific medications, she is back to work just this morning, and I am so thankful.

Wow, I feel exhausted again just writing all of that. (Smile) Yet, here I am this morning, my heart full of gladness and a deep sense of God’s presence.  Things have been hard – in more ways than just physical – but here we all are, together.  The crises have passed.  The weather is cooler, the chicken smells delicious, the house is decorated so cute for Halloween and life is taking on more “normal” proportions as of 30 minutes ago.

Things are definitely looking brighter.

Every New Beginning Ends

100_0389When my oncologist looked at me yesterday during our regular 6 week visit and said, “So you’re done!” it took me a minute to understand what he was saying.

Fresh from the treatment room where I had received the IV medication I’ve taken every 3 weeks for the last year, I was still groggy from the Benedryl. “What?”

“That’s it!  You’re all done with your treatments!”  His smile grew bigger.

“But I thought I still had 1 more!”  Much more alert, I also suddenly felt scared, interestingly enough.

“Nope. You haven’t missed any and 17 is what I generally give and today you got 17.  You’re all done.”

Nearly 24 hours later, and I can still hardly believe it.  In February of 2015, when I was told it would take 18 months to complete the course of treatment recommended, I honestly didn’t think I could do it.  18 months was a lifetime!  It wasn’t just the surgery I had to face.  It was 6 rounds of chemotherapy.  It was the 35 rounds of radiation.  It was a year’s worth of Herceptin, and all the poking and prodding and testing in between.  It sounded like a hideous 18 month clusterf*** of pain and danger and potential side effects to deal with.

This wasn’t a sprint.  It was a marathon and I hate running!

I didn’t think I could do it.  I literally did not know if I’d be strong enough or brave enough to do it!   All I felt was fear – Me, who didn’t think she was afraid of anything, was suddenly a coward begging God to PLEASE make it all go away!.  Seriously, I promised to do literally ANYTHING if it all just miraculously disappeared.

But in spite of the prayers, God didn’t make the cancer go away.  At least, not supernaturally (which I know happens.)  Instead, S/he took me by the shoulders, pointed me towards the fiery furnace, and said, “Go.  Just take one step at a time.  And I will be with you all the way.”

That’s exactly what happened.  With every step I took, God was there  walking with me, never leaving my side and – during some particularly dark moments – carrying me through the flames.  One step.  Then another and another.

Suddenly, 18 months was over.  I made it!

I believe in the power of prayer.  I believe that all prayer is answered, just not necessarily in the form that we think or hope it will be.   Experiencing an immediate deliverance or an unfolding grace for the journey – both are answered prayer and both are miraculous.

Day and night.  Light and Dark.  The Lord created them both and while we may not always understand it, the Dark IS holy.  There are certain things we can learn only by experiencing a Dark Night, as fearsome and lonely and painful and confusing as it might be.  That’s why authentic Shamans are those who have experienced a real and traumatic “death and rebirth” of some type.  Not at all like the New Age folks self-identifying as shamans after taking a few courses, beating a drum, and finding a few hawk feathers.

Learning to accept the dark days of our lives as part of the natural order of things helps relieve some of our suffering.  We come to understand that we aren’t being punished when bad things happen to us – when we suddenly find ourselves face to face with the fire.  We are being called to transform.

In 18 months, I learned to prioritize and simplify my life.  To say “No” where before I said “Yes”.  I learned who my real friends were, and how to care for myself when no one showed up.  I learned to trust “in spite of”….in spite of my fears, in spite of what others had experienced, even in spite of doubt.  My personal spiritual beliefs were honed and sharpened. I know now what I believe in, and WHO I believe in, with a deeper understanding and depth than ever before.  The dross floated to the top and has been skimmed away.

The fire purifies, if we let it.

Every tear I wept was gathered in gentle Hands and kept for safe keeping.  Every time I bowed my head….in weakness or humbleness or fear or worship…those same Hands tenderly smoothed over my hairless head and brought me physical comfort, and an soulful awareness that I wasn’t alone.

And every groan of despair that rose from deep within my belly and broke through lips cracked and blistered was turned into a song of deliverance.

The dark is not to be feared, but revered.  For without the darkness of the night sky, we’d never see the stars.

So.  That’s it! And I have such mixed emotions.  As I turn the page to close one chapter of my life, the blank page of the next is staring me full in the face.  So much has changed, but I’ve never been more ME. I’ve lost much….friends, my job, my old identity…but I’ve gained so much more.

I feel like a new being.  I know that the Next Right Thing will reveal itself to me in due season.  The right people.  The right events.  The right stuff.  Trust in the Divine Plan for my life has never been stronger, forged in the furnace of affliction.

I have walked through the fire and, as promised, made it to the other side unscathed.

To God be the glory.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2