A friend recently challenged me to continue to share my journey, to be real, to portray cancer for what it is, even at this point when many think it is over...and that I have had my happy ending.
Let me try to explain life after cancer...
I have this friend. She is one of the best friends to have when you are facing cancer. She is compassionate and encouraging. She validates your pain and at the same time, lifts you out of it. She gathers an army of people around to fight with you.
Even her face radiates encouragement. Her smile is so big I sometimes wonder if her face can contain it. Best of all, she is really, really funny. Anyone battling cancer needs someone who can make them laugh...since laughter comes with much difficulty.
God has gifted her with the grace and ability to come alongside those with cancer, to encourage them, to carry their burdens, and to relieve their loneliness. She has had many friends (too many), whom she has walked this journey with. Some with happy endings. Some without.
The funny thing about this amazing friend of mine is that she is terrified of cancer. Paralyzingly horrified. I once asked her why and she told me this story.
"When I was a little girl, my cousin Matt, that I was very, very close to, got cancer.
We were 10. He was more of my brother than a cousin. We were always together.
One minute we were swimming, walking to Hucks to get candy, lighting fireworks on his bed (yes, we started a fire:), and playing kickball and the next thing you know, he is losing his hair in my kitchen sink, throwing up constantly, and laying in bed for days on end.
He lived, but, he was never the same after that.
It changed him forever.
He was this super outgoing, fun loving, silly boy and then cancer came, and he became this withdrawn, insecure shell of himself.
We went to school together in highschool, and everyone would ask me where he moved to.
He never moved, he went to our school, but he was so withdrawn, no one even knew he was there.
Stephanie, I hate cancer. I hate it because, even when you survive it, it still has the power to steal your life.
I know that Jesus can even overcome cancer, And He can overcome the fear of cancer.
But, sometimes it just seems so, so big..."
I understand what she means now. I am but a shell of my former self.
And I often wonder: What is the point? Why am I alive?
So I can barely scrape by, doing the absolute minimum to survive?
Once a driven, ambitious, perfectionist, now a mediocre (if that) wife, mother, friend.
I accomplish the bare minimum, with no energy remaining to invest in the relationships that make life matter. I waste away the time finding meaningless ways to escape these tormenting thoughts.
People often ask me how I am and I long to be able to honestly say, "I'm doing great!"
I want to give them hope.
I want to give them a happy ending.
But I can't.
With cancer there are no happy endings.
Some live and some die.
Those who live keep fighting, battling to get back what they have lost physically and emotionally. They try to move on and, at times, can even trick themselves into thinking they have. But the person they were before is gone. Even though I live, so much of me has already died. Yet the battle goes on...day, after day, after day.