Dealing with the Unexpected

Cancer is all about dealing with the unexpected. Let’s face it. No one expects to get cancer, yet it happens. And if you’re in the wrong end of the line, you’ll deal with it multiple times. I could write volumes on why cancer is an awful Beast that God needs to eradicate with a sweep of His mighty sword, but that’s been done. Sometimes it’s the unexpected that arises during cancer that makes you step back and think about why God is asking me to walk this particular path (and trust me, I ask A LOT). I try not to whine the whole “poor me” scenario since Coach Cathy has a strict limit on the number of pity parties I’m allowed to have, so I try to find those little nuggets of gold among the silt of the river. Sometimes you really have to look. Other times they come right up and smack you along side the head.

Christmas always brings unexpected blessings. This year, we were all nearly asleep around 10:15 when our doorbell rang. Hubby went to the door and found a large gift bag with a huge jar in it. The jar was a Christmas Jar and filled with money. Coins and paper up to the top. We were floored. An anonymous note accompanied the jar along with the book Christmas Jars. I’ve started the book and cried through the first 4 chapters. I also find myself crying at the thought of so many people wanting to bless my family this season. I can’t imagine who pulled this together and why everyone who donated felt led to give to us. I wonder if Mary felt a bit like this that first Christmas. Imagine all these strangers coming up to a cave bringing gifts for your baby. You know who your baby is, but still, he is a baby. I’m not sure she looked as serene as the nativity scenes and paintings make her out to be. After all, she had just given birth! She and Joseph had to be blown away by the sheer volume of blessings their baby boy was receiving.

We went to church Christmas Eve. I decided to go, despite feeling nauseated. I love the candlelight service and singing “Silent Night”. While that was moving enough, I was blown away by the sheer number of people who approached me and asked how I was and that they were praying for me. Some I know, most I didn’t. By the time I got to Pastor Brian, I was crying. As I hugged him, I was trying desperately not to use the shoulder of his shirt as a tissue. I didn’t want him to make a bad impression on those who only come to church on Christmas. When another person brought a plate of cookies just for my sons because she thought I wouldn’t feel up to making cookies for them, that was my breaking point. I cried through the whole service. It’s probably a good thing Momma Renie and Papa Dan weren’t there. I would have found Dan and cried like a baby since he reminds me of my own dad. Since he’s the head usher, that would have made collecting the offering a bit interesting with him walking down an aisle and me clinging to him like some sort of weird snake.

On Christmas, I opened my gifts from Sista Sue. She gave me an Angel of Hope. I think this is for both of us. She is reminding me to always have hope, while she remains hopeful that this cancer will be eradicated from my body. The Dammit Doll is much more practical. When you get mad or stressed, you’re supposed to slam it against the wall saying, “Dammit, Dammit, Dammit.” It’s going to chemo with me. I can’t think of any place more appropriate. I may even share it with a couple of the other regulars I know. Chemo patients are a strange lot, but we always stick together.

Last night, I reflected on my blessings. Yes, I have an incredible family, an amazing posse and friends who support all of us. But it’s more than that. I think God brought these particular blessings to me at this particular time to show me that while chemo sucks, it can be conquered. I have a choice to make this week, continue with my present course of treatment for one more cycle or switch to a new drug. Hubby and I believe that doing one more cycle of this cocktail will finally show significant results. My body is slow to respond to most drugs and the trauma of the DVT’s and liver biopsy, along with stress, make it more difficult. We’ve prayed about it and God hasn’t said not to, so we feel we should give these meds one more shot. A CT is tentatively scheduled for the end of January.

These are never easy decisions. My platelets and hemoglobin are at an all time low meaning I’m tired and cold all the time. El Nino is giving us a very mild winter, but, unlike our neighbors, we use heat because I’m always cold. My kids run around in shorts and T-shirts and I’m wrapped up in fleece blankets. But platelets can be transfused and eventually, I do get warm. Staying the course is the mantra of the day and I try to stick with it.

Embrace the unexpected and celebrate your blessings. Life has no guarantees, that’s why today is called the present. May 2016 bring you health, happiness, peace and a cure for cancer.

Great Expectations

I had thought about writing some profound Christmas blog, but I’m not feeling profound.  I’m feeling nauseated.  Nausea and deep thought don’t play well together.  It’s a lot like a couple of two year olds in a sand box.  Everything’s good until someone throws sand, then watch out.

I had a good day today.  I watched the B-Man play basketball (and his team won), then went to breakfast to celebrate the Ultimate Bengal Fan’s Forever Family Day.  Then I was able to head out with the Best Husband Ever to do some Christmas shopping.  I was out for over 6 hours and I don’t need a nap.  Tums, yes, but not a nap.

Christmas is tough when you have cancer, especially when it’s a recurrence.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make it awesome for the boys without going overboard.  It’s a balancing act and I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at it.  I want to get them everything, take them everywhere and watch every Christmas special.  I’ve bought more Christmas movies this year than any previous year (stupid Netflix), just so we can spend time together.  I want to keep them home from basketball and youth group so I can be with them.  I’m gone four days out of the first seven of each chemo infusion so I feel like I’m always gone.  When I am home, I feel like I live on the couch, napping.

The worst part of it is that I feel guilty.  Mom guilt is the worst.  I should do more and be more.  But I can’t, because the stupid chemo has to be extra toxic to kill the stupid cancer.  And at this point, the stupid chemo isn’t doing a very good job of killing the stupid cancer.  I guess the chemo is too stupid to know which cells to kill.  Perhaps I should draw it a picture or let it use the GPS on my phone.  Maybe it needs its very own “tour guide” to show it the way.  As I said, it’s stupid.  And despite its being stupid, I still feel guilty.

People ask me what I want for Christmas.  My first response is “A cure for cancer,” as if anyone could actually give me that.  I feel a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story.  Remember the scene when his mom asks him what he wants for Christmas and he tells her he wants to Red Rider BB gun with real carbine action and a compass in the stock and she tells him he’ll shoot his eye out?  Then Ralphie says he was kidding and would be happy with some Tinker Toys.  I’m Ralphie.  I really want a cure for cancer, but I’d be happy with some new stainless steel cookware or a gift card to Kohl’s.

What I realize is that I need to let go of my expectations.  If I’m going to trust God on this journey, then I need to TRUST Him.  That means that my expectations probably aren’t the same as God’s plan.  It means letting go of what’s happened before, accepting what’s happening and knowing that God knows what will happen and has it under control.

If I let go, my expectations won’t disappoint me.  That’s not to say there won’t be some disappointments along this road.  There will.  Even when I finally reach remission (because failure is not an option here people), there will still be disappointments.  Life is full of them.  The trick is to not let the disappointments become the focal point of your life.  They’re just part of the ups and downs.

So while I’d really like a cure for cancer, which would just exceed my expectations on so many levels, I’d also like a digital camera, some snowmen to add to my collection, a Life is Good shirt and some jewelry to give me some bling.  Any of those would make me happy and actually exceed my expectations (because that means that my family actually listened to me when I told them what I wanted).

While my life is not where I expected, it’s not disappointing.  I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful sons and am still blessed to have my mom.  I am surrounded by an incredible network of friends to are willing to step up and help out.  Combine that with the gift of Christ in the manger and I am bound to have the best Christmas ever.

May you find love, peace, health and happiness in the miracle of Christmas.