I received a note today from a friend in France who told me, “You are a model of The Faith for us all.” (Picture shoulder-scrunching, face-contorting cringe) Although I am grateful for the encouragement of the words, I am intimately aware that they are something of a mis-statement. Right up there with “Mastectomies are no big deal.”
My mom asked me yesterday how I managed to keep it all together, and I hastily corrected her. I don’t have it all together. It’s as if there are two simultaneous currents flowing in me constantly, one that knows peace and faith despite the circumstances, and one the roils and reels and riots with grief about what lies ahead and disbelief that this is really happening to me. If I have in any way suggested, in previous posts, that I am above those emotions or that any woman (let alone me) can endure what I am facing without turmoil, it has been an inadvertent lie.
To be completely honest (and there is no way to be honest about breast cancer without getting a bit more personal than some of you may be comfortable with), I DO NOT WANT THIS. At the same time as I accept it as inevitable, a big part of me still wishes (begs, pleads) that it were other…but I can’t dwell—I simply will not dwell—on what cannot be changed. For the past few mornings, I have woken with a deep-seated grief in my stomach, the kind of grief that comes from knowing that, from a human perspective, I am heading into a phase of this journey that will amputate part of me, a part of me that was designed by God for a husband and child. There is no silver lining to a mastectomy from that point of view. Yes, it extends my life and hopefully cuts out what remains of my cancer, but, in my darkest hours, there is little comfort in that. The grief is exacerbated by the knowledge that a world away, in Germany, the students are about to return, school is about to resume, and I can’t be there. With no surgery date in sight yet, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back…
his mom dragged him over the sand. Familiar feelings!
The bottom line is that I am not always a “model of the faith” who can say with utter conviction that this is all fine by me. It isn’t fine, but there’s no negotiating. It is what it is. I really don’t want to come out of surgery and find my breast gone, at age 40, replaced by a “lump” that passes for reconstruction. I really don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering if the cancer has returned. And I really don’t want to meet someone, some day, and have to say, “Uh…before you make any declarations here, you might want to know that there’s only half of ‘me’ left.”
Please—no need to remind me of the Truths I cling to when my thoughts veer into dangerous territory. I know them—I believe them. I throw myself on them daily when murmurs from my fragile human side slither their way into my consciousness. There have been tears—there will be tears. Each shower I take is another step in the grieving process that cannot be bypassed on this journey through cancer.
BUT—while those currents surge and swell and froth around me, another current anchors me to the most momentous of Truths: God is with me. Therein lies the confidence and faith and JOY that defies these grievous circumstances. It is that current—that certainty—that allows me to regain my emotional footing after the necessary storms. It is that current that keeps me praising the God who can make of something this painful something so spiritually galvanizing. It is that current that allows me to smile genuinely, because it focuses me on the blessings I have received and will continue to receive. It is that current that tells me that I am still precious, that I am still worthy, that I am still useful, that I am still ME. It is that current that lifts me and carries me and sustains me and empowers me and, ultimately, heals me.
A “model of the faith”? No. Human. So very battered and sobered and trusting and rejoicing. It’s the best I can muster, right now. And as I walk down this road, waiting for a surgery date (and trying not to listen to the “You may not really need a mastectomy” voices in my head), I am committed to being real. It may not always be pretty, but it’s the best I have to offer to the God whose comfort blankets me.
UPDATE: Got a call a few minutes ago from my surgeon’s assistant, asking me if I’d be able to drop in for some additional x-rays. My brain’s mush, but it appears that they might have somehow taken out more than they thought during my recent biopsy, which might be a good thing. Not sure what this means. The optimist in me hopes that it dramatically changes my surgical options. The realist thinks they just want to make sure the original plan is the right one before sharpening their scalpels. And the pessimist in me realizes that just “dropping in” for more x-rays (a six-hour drive) is going to cost me another $100 in gas!!! Will keep you posted….