Today is the day I have anticipated for FIVE years. Today I finally “graduated” from cancer. Sure, it will always be part of my story… but now that I have remained cancer-free for five years, it no longer gets to be a part of my daily life and I no longer have to check in with my oncologist every August. He’s a nice man and I hope to see him around town, just not in his office with the reminder that I’m still within that window of recurrence… not that there is anything magical about five years. There is always that possibility… but we don’t dwell on that.
This journey has been hard (feel free to read about 2015 in the archives) but the hard places are where you learn and grow, and I have learned some things…
I’m an introverted Enneagram 5 (yes, I know that is redundant) and I tend to retreat inside my head when challenges arise. I like to figure things out and fix them on my own. I don’t need help and I always come out on the other side. Receiving a hard diagnosis was different, though, because it couldn’t be all about me. This hit my family and friends as hard as it hit me, probably harder. I couldn’t just fix this one myself. I had to consider the thoughts and emotions of others. I had to consider how this would impact their lives, not just mine. I had to include my community in this process. This vulnerable time helped to soften some of my hard edges and forced me to admit that maybe I did need help after all. I needed a lot of prayer, help around the house, chauffeurs for my kids, assistance with everything from getting dressed to remembering my medication… it took a village to get through it and I am so thankful for mine!
My faith grew overnight. As my thoughts spun out of control, I had to take them captive and remember that God was my constant throughout this journey. He was always ready with a well-placed phone call or text from a friend, just the right song on the radio, a comforting scripture that jumped off the page and that weekly card from my friend, Kim, to encourage my heart. God used those little gestures to remind me of his constant presence. I can honestly say that I was filled with a peace that could not be explained apart from God. This past December, when I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I laughed on my way to the car, “Let’s do this, God!” I know better than to be afraid or get worked up about it. I’ll share my Lyme story another day…
I’ll be honest. After all the surgeries were over and I was released by all but one of my doctors, I didn’t want to talk about cancer anymore. I was done. I had to take my meds and see my oncologist every August but, other than that, I didn’t want cancer to be my identity. I didn’t want to “wear the ribbon” (insert Seinfeld reference) or do the cancer awareness walks or wear pink from head to toe. I wanted to live in the freedom of being cancer-free. I would discuss it if it came up or if a friend asked about it, but I wasn’t about to bring it up. Then opportunities began to open up for me to encourage other women who were in the middle of their cancer journey. I kept hearing God say, “Open up! Share your story.” I have learned that there is purpose that can come out of the hard places that goes beyond my own experience. My story can bring peace, hope and encouragement to someone else and I can’t make it only about me. I now want to be sensitive to when God is prompting me to share my story with just the right person at just the right time. I still don’t wear the T-shirt and I don’t lead with it in conversation but, over the last two years, I have been much more open with my story and the work God did in me in that season. I now want to allow God to work through me in this one.
Life is Hard
I thought 2015 was a rough year! We had other hard things going on in our family and in our business in the middle of all the cancer drama. Every time something else would go wrong, we learned to just laugh (after the initial shock, of course). We felt like we could handle anything that came at us with God’s help. For a while I kept waiting for life to settle down and get easier, as if I deserved a break or something. What I have learned, though, is that life is just hard. We have to trust in the goodness of God in the hard places and look for what he will do with every challenge that comes. Now we are in 2020… another hard year, but God…
What about you?
What lessons have you learned in the hard places? What has God taught you? Do you know how to rest in his faithfulness and provision? Ask him to make his presence known in your hard places and watch expectantly for what he will do.