Everyone has been pretty amazed at “how well” I’m handling my cancer diagnosis. Even the doctors and nurses don’t know quite what to do with my attitude and lack of high blood pressure. (They comment every time on how weirdly normal my blood pressure is for someone just learning of their diagnosis and starting treatment.)
6 years ago, when husband and I first started on this period of under/unemployment, I suffered severe depression. (I’m suffered depression on and off since puberty.) For about 2 years I was barely functional, but we had no insurance for any kind of treatment. I didn’t have any jobs because every time I tried to bring it us, husband would spiral in guilt and self-recrimination. Finally I started figuring out ways to adjust to crises. Almost 3 years ago, I got a job at our YMCA which covered our family’s dues and gave the kids a pretty big discount for swim team. (Being homeschooled, most of their friends were on the team and it was a way for them to get out their own anxieties of our situation.) I also got a job working the night shift on the weekends at a hotel. I got another job working as a floating substitute circulation desk worker at our library system, which is the 2nd largest in the US. During this time, I was also teaching 3 classes at our homeschool co-op, which paid for my kids’ classes and a little extra. It was a grueling workload on top of still managing all the kids’ homeschooling. But I adjusted. I wasn’t always a very nice person to be around and I resented that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t even earn enough to cover a month’s mortgage. I lost track of a lot of my women friend support systems because I never had any time to get together. (Thank God for FB! A few of my more dedicated friends kidnapped me to get me coffee. That time in front of Starbucks drinking coffee with my friend, Bobbi, and telling her how were were about to lose the house, and a homeless guy asked me for money, and I burst out in public with loud wails and sobbing was really embarrassing. I could see myself wearing those ratty clothes pushing that full of junk grocery cart.) The kids were never allowed to go to houses of friends who had trampolines or go to birthday parties as skate rinks or bouncy houses, because an injury couldn’t be paid for. It was about this time that my 8-year-old started having severe migraines on top of the earlier diagnosed cataracts.
It’s interesting that when you’re at your lowest place and are TMI about it, people start opening up to you about their struggles. I tend to share too much on FB about everything, and I started to get lots of personal messages from people who were relieved to find someone they felt was safe to tell their struggles to. These people were projecting perfect lives, yet were deeply hurting. I began to realize that no one has it all together. If they’re in a happy place now, they have been to hell before. No one escapes horror in their lives. There’s the narcissist husband that neglects everyone. There’s the friend who’s a successful career woman while battling cancer and a broken marriage. There’s children that are going down a destructive path. There’s a parent that no longer recognizes anyone and isn’t the same loving person anymore. There the bully in the workplace that’s throwing you under the bus so you might get fired. Everyone has stuff. My favorite books of the Bible currently are Job, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations. Ecc. 11:8 says, “However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.” I used to think “meaningless” meant “no value”, but now I’m thinking it may be that there is no answer to “why?” instead. 9:11 says, “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”
I’m thinking that if I ever have disposable income again, I’d like to buy a crucifix for my bedroom. I’m not Catholic, and I know that many Protestants abhor the “suffering Christ” and preach that we should only focus on the “victorious Christ”. Yet Christ suffered, and without that suffering, his victory wouldn’t have been as powerful. Another favorite verse over the years is of Christ’s suffering in the garden in Luke 22:41-44:
“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
This tells me that not even Christ was zen. He SUFFERED and even an angel coming to him didn’t stop the suffering. The angel brought strength to go through the suffering. There’s nothing wrong with me when I go through suffering. I’m not lacking faith or not praying hard enough. I am where I am, and that’s OK. And being OK with it has decreased my suffering, although it’s taken a really long time to get to the point of, “It doesn’t really matter,” in my heart. If I cry, it’s OK. If I am in a bad mood, it’s OK (as long as I try to protect the people around me from it.) When I try to run from bad feelings, they follow and taint everything. If I let them flow through me and out of me, I can get back to enjoying the little things of life that are still going OK.
And so, I had my first chemo yesterday and I’m rejoicing that besides a headache this morning, I’m feeling pretty good. I know that it could change and that sometimes the effects are delayed a few days, but I’m not going to dread it. I’ll deal with it when and if it comes. Right now, I’ll have breakfast and homeschool my kids and enjoy them.