The sky was achingly blue, the sunshine brilliant, the brick houses so vivid as we drove home from the hospital that fateful day. The beauty around me seemed surreal, and all I could think was, "I have cancer. How long do I have left to live?"
How does it feel to be told that you have cancer? I can easily reconjure the desperation in my heart, but I think my own words from two years ago say it best. Here's my diary entry for Wednesday, February 20, 2013:
Well, I have breast cancer. There's just no good way to put it. Not the result we were expecting or hoping for. Even the doctors are surprised: a cancerous cyst. So now I face scans, surgery, chemo, radiation, and the pill. Not a pretty picture. Hard to tell the kids; hard to see them and Greg cry. I'm numb, scared, a little angry. But we'll trust God ~ and fight this hard.
The next day:
A lot of ups and downs today. Tears when I read notes from precious friends. Only slept a couple of hours last night, so took a couple catnaps this afternoon and evening. A good dentist's visit ~ no cavities!! And clean teeth heading into chemo. A very encouraging talk with [friends by phone], just tracing God's hand in my appointment set-ups so far. Miracles, they said! But feeling low and sad tonight. Girls [are], too.
And the next:
Another almost sleepless night. The girls and I were up in the middle with the cat ~ and a weird noise. Read to the girls [today], then a short nap . . . . Afternoon [phone] conversations with [some fellow cancer survivors/patients]. A lovely song and good conversation with [another friend]. A movie, Skype with [our university son] Cal (so good), and a visit from [more friends]. Cheerful!
Finally, on Saturday:
A much better night's sleep. Even dreamt a little! Studying my Bible in the morning felt normal, but then a sense of urgency and despair set in. Greg felt lonely and sad. I learned that [another acquaintance] had died in December of lymphoma. Got some necessary deskwork done, and a good walk with [my daughter] Nic, but just feeling really low and black before bed. Then a good chat with Mom.
And on Sunday:
God gives strength for each new day . . . . In church this morning, prayer for me and encouraging words afterwards lifted my spirits. A little nap before lunch ~ felt good. Long talk with Cal this afternoon. I started my journal of my journey thus far.
There were still four days until my surgery, but I'll stop my entries there. I believe this is the first time I've re-read most of these writings myself, and I find them sobering. But what strikes me are the patterns. Sleepless nights . . . naps . . . sweet conversations with my family . . . strengthening talks with others who'd "been there" . . . overwhelming darkness . . . and the light of Scripture, God's sovereignty, and prayer. In many ways, these things are still the fabric of my life, although the sleepless nights and black despair are few and far between now.
Then in my diary I notice the things that made life seem normal still: reading, movies, deskwork, walking, writing. Thank God, these are still with me, as well!
I remember telling a friend during that time: "Cancer is no different than real life. It just makes everything seem bigger and more intense." Don't get me wrong ~ cancer is definitely life-altering. But with a good God, friends, and family to walk with you through it, life can still be sweet.
Thanks to ALL of you who have journeyed with me!