First, I must give credit where credit is due. I am liberally borrowing from our pastor, Brian Law. I am convinced that Brian was brought to our church to minister just to me considering the conviction and love with which he delivers his sermons. Since this will be the first time I am forwarding this to him, I am acknowledging his contribution up front.
Brian’s sermon had a phrase I’ve not heard in years; “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the present.” Wow! I can’t change what I did yesterday, and I don’t have much control over tomorrow, but today is the present. A gift to be opened and savored and cherished. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve forgotten how special today is.
I have no idea what I was doing last year at this time. I was in a chemo induced haze. I have absolutely no recollection of Christmas, 2012 except that the heating element in my oven went out, I somehow managed to make a ham in my crockpot and that I no doubt wanted to be in bed. I have no idea what gifts I got with the exception of the “Baby Blues” calendar because the 2013 one is sitting in its usual spot. I can’t even tell you what the kids got. I have a vague recollection of them opening gifts. I must have shopped online, but don’t remember doing that either. I did find a picture of Braeden and I making cookies. I looked like hell (sorry Pastor Brian).
As I’ve said before, cancer doesn’t end when chemo does. Even if you end up being one of the lucky ones who has few side effects during treatment and emerges from the experience in one piece with no permanent damage, cancer still lingers. It lurks in the shadows. I’ve said over and over that I’m convinced that Satan cooked up cancer in his filthy lab in the Underworld. It’s something that only pure evil can create given that cancer doesn’t follow the rules – ever. Mine didn’t. It took three full treatments and my doctor reaching the end of his rope before the chemo started to work. Theoretically, I should have had improvement after the first round and no later than the second. In retrospect, my oncologist realized that my body was still healing from the massive surgery and just didn’t want to pay attention to the “present” it was receiving. Like the Christmas fruitcake, my body finally accepted the gift, albeit grudgingly. Not all presents are good ones. And don’t even get me started on the financial part of cancer. Let’s just say I’m an expert at begging hospitals for financial aid and can write a tear jerker letter to a physician’s practice to go on payment plans like no one’s business. Maybe to make some extra funds to pay off my expenses, I should write sob story letters for other cancer patients.
I’ve come to realize that the best presents are small ones. My youngest son reading to me. My oldest finally getting double digit multiplication. A walk around the Vineyard campus on Monday with my good friend Kelley. A sob session with Cathy. Finally getting a baseline for my CA-125 (that was a HUGE one). Getting my INR meter so I can test my blood clotting factors at home. A clean CT scan is always a present (but that’s a bigger one). Being able to enjoy a clean house for more than 5 minutes. Cooking dinner for my family without the nausea. Walking the entire Power is Teal 5K, despite not being able to walk for the rest of the day and having to ice my tired feet off and on for the next two days. Writing this blog and having so many people respond is a wonderful present. Getting my online tutor job is a present, with a huge learning curve. Paying off debt is a wonderful present.
Strangely enough, I don’t consider my remission a gift. While God carried me throughout the entire process, the battle is still raging on. Some of it lies with why I developed stage 1c and others aren’t found until stage 3 or 4 when it’s so difficult to even survive. Call it survivor guilt or inquisitive nature, but it lingers in the recesses of my mind. Some tell me it’s my persistent nature or that I was determined to find out why I felt so lousy. Some call it luck. Some say it’s God’s will. I don’t know which one it was. My guess is that it’s a combination of all of these things. But let’s get one thing straight right now, cancer is NOT a gift, a blessing or any other positive thing. It’s an ugly disease that eats you from the inside out and wants nothing more than to grow and continue to munch on your remaining healthy cells. Not to be depressing or anything. It is what it is – no more, no less.
The present comes from what you do with what you’ve got. My perspective has changed the further I get from treatment. I expect the best, but plan for the worst. I all ready have a chemo plan in place in my head for a recurrence. This isn’t morbid or dark. It’s reality. I’ve always said that while 85% is a great 5-10 year survival rate, someone’s got to be in the 15%. I don’t expect to be there, but hey, nothing’s promised here. The promises lie beyond this life.
My current present is working on losing the 50+ pounds that need to come off my frame. Now I don’t know anyone who considers fat a gift. But it is. It’s a constant reminder of what I haven’t done. It’s a reminder that I’ve turned to food for comfort rather than thinking things through (big picture people tend to do that). I’ve learned that while writing is my passion in life, moving your fingers doesn’t count as exercise (neither does walking from the counter to the stove while cooking dinner). I’m becoming reacquainted with my exercise DVDs. I’d forgotten how good it feels to challenge my body. Despite the achy feet and legs (and it is a lot more painful), I get a distinct sense of accomplishment from finishing a 2 mile walk. That’s a gift! The gift I’m most looking forward to is to be able to finally shop somewhere other than the “women’s” section of the store where the clothes tend to look like they were all designed by Omar the Tentmaker or the 3 Stooges.
I’ve learned that most gifts require a mental awareness of the situation. I’m sure I’ve missed many gifts because I was too wrapped up in something else. Last night I really listened to my sons at dinner. It was a great time. We laughed and talked on a deeper level. Yes, we all argue and nitpick, but it was one of those “Wow” moments that I cherish. My boys are growing up. As I look at the manger, I want to be more like Mary who after experiencing the miracle of birth and visits by shepherds and angels, pondered all those things in her heart (thanks again, Pastor Brian).
Tomorrow is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the present. Open it and hold it close. There are only so many in life and I don’t want to miss any of them.