Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Endings

I hesitate to write. Most of my thoughts these past months have been dark and hopeless, and probably not beneficial to share with anyone.
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.
Hodgekin's Disease.
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He was this super outgoing, fun loving, silly boy and then cancer came, and he became this withdrawn, insecure shell of himself.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He never moved, he went to our school, but he was so withdrawn, no one even knew he was there.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.

21 comments:

  1. Can we get you a sno-cone? I don't mean to make light of your constant struggle, but everything is better with a Sno-cone. BTW, we have seen you to be an excellent wife, mother and friend.

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  2. Lol! Brian, you are too funny! Yes, son-cones always make things better. Thanks for your encouragement. :)

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  3. Cancer isn't the only thing that leaves you empty after surviving it. You aren't alone in this battle of life.

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  4. I know, Kelly. Any kind of intense suffering can break you, and you are never quite the same. I've seen long-term suffering, even if it isn't as intense, do even more damage as people have to constantly battle feelings of hopelessness. Over time they grow weaker and weaker in their resolve to overcome.

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  5. Hey Stephanie,
    I agree with Brian! Heehee! And I would also add, don't beat yourself down about struggling with all the aftermath of what you've gone through. My dad was terribly sick for 3 years with kidney failure and had to go through dialysis and lots and lots and lots of stuff, resulting in a kidney transplant. He struggled with depression for years afterward. Obviously, his & your journeys are different, but there's a lot on common too. Medical tragedy is NOT easy, for the person or for their family. So I think what you are going through is completely normal. I recently listened to an audio book while at work that may be helpful for you. It's called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It is truly an amazing look at life, and how the author learned to view life in spite of all the tragedy and disaster it can bring. Her younger sister was run over & killed in their driveway when she was little, and that was just the beginning of her troubles. Here's a link if you care to check it out. http://www.christianbook.com/one-thousand-gifts/ann-voskamp/9780310321910/pd/321910?kw=one%20thousand%20gifts&event=PPCSRC&p=1018818&gclid=COTG8pvz7LECFQIbQgodQA8AUw
    And remember, you have a lot of people who care about you and would be very blessed to help you in this season too! When can I come vacuum for you? :)
    Hugs, Rachel

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    1. Thanks Rachel! You're so sweet. Steph Nelson raved about that book a while back. I'll have to read it.
      There is no way I would ever let you come vacuum my house. You are busy enough!! But thank you for your kindness! It means so much!

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    2. You are welcome. :) Steph Nelson is the one who told me about the book too. Well worth the read (or listen in my case)! I'm actually not quite as busy as I used to be. I was able to quit my night job 3 weeks ago & am doing daycare from my home right now. But kids are transportable. Truly, I'd be happy to come help you! :) Hugs!

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  6. Oh Steph...I absolutely know, and my heart aches for you, though I see so much tenderness that has grown through you because of cancer. You are such an inspiration of honesty, strength, and reliance on God and I am constantly in awe of you...though I can see it isn't easy and it is disheartening on many levels. Yes, you will never be the same...but I pray that it will lessen and the ways you are not the same be more positive as the years go by. I thought of Brian with your 4th comment...please pray for him, as I pray for you! We will swap! :o) I love you my honest, strong, faithful friend!!!

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    1. Jen, my heart aches over the very little amount of time I get to spend with you!
      I also thought of Brian (and you too) when I made that comment. We pray for you (your whole family) often.

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  7. Oh, by the way, I also wanted to say:

    I AGREE WITH BRIAN TAYLOR, TOO!!!!

    I know, I just shouted at you,at least in cyberland. But I really want you to hear that. Love you.

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  8. Love you Steph. Thank you for being honest...it's really what people need to hear. I'll be praying!

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  9. Stephanie, you will probably never know how much of an inspiration you are to other people until you get to Heaven. I barely even know you but just from what I do know about you I think you must be a cousin to Wonder-Woman and wondered how you do it! Thank you for being so honest and truly sharing your heart, just by doing that you make it OK for the rest of us to be honest about our struggles too. Please know that who you are is not what you can do - or can't do - at this stage of your life. It's your heart, your thoughtfulness, your faithfulness, your perserverance and all the other parts of your character that make you Stephanie The Amazing Wife, Mother and Friend. Thank you so much for this glimpse into your life and the difficult path you are walking - love and hugs to you!

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  10. You have a wonderful way of bringing everything out into the LIGHT, where God works beautiful wonders. I love you. The Lord has always used you in my life. Now, it's even deeper. I hope you know that your suffering is bringing forth fruit. Some we know about. I'm certain much we do not know about. I treasure you. Thank you for opening the door to allow us into your heart. I love that place.

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  11. Self centeredness, our common plight, our very nature. Credit our decision when God who gave us a choice, and we chose the self-centered devil. Nothing much good is found in my self, only what is found in my spirit with His Spirit living in me. My self thoughts cannot be much trusted, my self feelings betray me. Dark and hopeless thoughts, after cancer, before cancer, before sno-cones, after sno-cones, before Sunday church and after… the spiritual battlefield is my head where the evil prick on my shoulder places tormenting thoughts.

    Why are we even alive? What’s the purpose if my days are filled with dark and hopeless self thoughts, even after loved ones, family, friends and God’s grace and mercy all combined in the crucible of a cancer free miracle? Rhetorical question yes, for those in this blog know our Lord, and know His truth sets us free. My problem… a daily battle with the evil prick…. those dark and hopeless thoughts that do not originate with our Lord.

    The solution? Step outside my self centeredness regardless of how I feel and regardless of what I’m thinking, step out in faith and love my Lord through obedience. He commands us, not to focus on self, but to love Him and to love others. I love this, for life is not about me! He loves me and tells me not to think about me. When I am loving Him and loving others, I ain’t thinking about my crap. I love not thinking about my crap, there’s nothing much good there. Step out in faith, love Him, by following his commandments to love others and share Him. I must remind myself daily, and thank God His Spirit intercedes.

    Yes, there is a happy ending. Yes, there is current life full of self-centered struggles, each day. He sympathizes with us. God gives us a solution, now and into eternity.

    “...whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. “ (Phil 4:8-9).

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    1. Steve, I can see you can relate to the battle that goes on in my mind.

      What holds me back are physical limitations. And they frustrate me beyond measure.

      One reason I hesitate to blog about these things is that I fear people will think I mope around indulging in feelings of self-pity (my mom would NEVER allow that!). I do not spend my days dwelling on thoughts of frustration and hopelessness. But the reality is, it is a constant battle that does not relent. I choose not to believe the voice in my head telling me what a failure I am. In fact, I don't believe even half of the thoughts that go through my head. I choose joy. I choose faith. I choose to trust the Lord. However, denying the battle, creating the image that I have it all together and that cancer is behind me is hypocrisy. People see me for the few hours a day when I feel good. They don't see the physical (and resulting emotional) struggles I have when I'm at home. It creates a false perception of reality.

      For the Christian who really believes in eternity, the happy ending is really for those who don't survive. People frequently say to me, "Well, at least you are alive." As if life is the thing to be prized. Forget quality of life. Forget a productive life. Forget Heaven. The heart behind it is really a love for this world. Granted, I have three kids who really need a mom (even a weak one), and for that, I'm thankful to be alive. Not to mention, cancer is generally a long, painful, horrible way to die.

      I desire one thing: If I'm going to live, I want my life to glorify God. I don't know how that can happen when I waste my time sitting on the couch, watching tv (which is completely out of character for me). Unfortunately, I currently lack the energy to do otherwise.

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  12. Stephanie, well done! It doesn't make things better to hide and I'm glad you keep stepping into the light of being honest and open. It isn't always easy, but it sure seems it rallies friends (and snow cones) around you. It also is a very real part of this journey that not many have shared. It has helped me immensely understand recovery in a new way. Thank you.
    Chad

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  13. "A" for honesty, but . . .

    I think it's a bit early to be writing the final chapter. While it's true that you're never the same after certain kinds of experiences, not being the same isn't the same thing as being less. Well, less in some respects, yes, but not necessarily in total.

    There are lots of cancer survivors who live happy, productive, energetic lives. I think you're being too pessimistic about the future. It's understandable, but I don't think it's sensible to take the measure of the rest of your life in terms of your current frame of mind.

    Dad

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  14. "People see me for the few hours a day when I feel good. They don't see the physical (and resulting emotional) struggles I have when I'm at home. It creates a false perception of reality."

    Stephanie, I quote what you said because I completely understand on so many levels. However, the only people that have a false perception of reality are the people who are superficial in your life & those who just won't get it, unless they go through it. Your reality is that you have a few good hours a day...the only one that it discourages the most is you. The rest of us will take your few good hours, especially your family. You know the person you are on the inside & what you want to be doing for your family & for God...your reality is that your physical doesn't allow you to do that..and for whatever reason..that's where God wants you at that very moment. He knows you want to be healed, He knows the desires of your heart, He knows your spunk and the energy that you have...but for whatever reason..he wants you right where you are! I wish I had some great thing to say to take all of it away, but I don't...all I can say is that Healing isn't always physical..God CAN come HEAL ALL OF YOU at this very moment, but He isn't concerned with the physical as much as He is concerned with the Spiritual and the Healing of the HEART & SOUL. The healing of the heart is where He starts and where He ends! If in the process you are chosen to have the physical healed then REJOICE, or take the pieces of healing that comes (which you do very admirably). But, the hard part is to remain steadfast in HIM alone,(Heart, Mind, & Soul)...not to let the enemy come into the corners of your house that you have swept! This is when it gets HARD! Yes, God has delivered you from Cancer, but NOT from life and life is HARD, especially when you put physical challenges and emotional trauma's into the equation! I LOVE YOU FRIEND! Please reach out..no false perception of reality has been built here and I am here for you!! You have lots of love outside of your walls...reach up and grab our hands!! {HUGS!} -Allison

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  15. You don't glorify God by doing lots of stuff! You are glorifying God with every breath you take. You may think you're just sitting there watching T.V. There is no one who has ever lived who could actually explain the phenomenon! He has breathed LIFE into your body that is sitting there being ALIVE. To Him be the glory!!

    He is the potter. You are the clay. He is not doing a bad job of it! It is all just different than what you thought. You are being formed and molded into His image, in a different way than you planned, yes, He's doing it His way. You will just have to simply trust. And once again, day by day, still offer yourself as a living sacrifice.

    Remember this?

    "Surrender.
    Surrender the things that are closest to my heart?
    What does it mean to really surrender?
    To really lay it all down. All of my desires. My will.
    When I think I've given all, when I think I've completely yielded, I realize I've only scratched the surface.
    There is still so much "mine" and "I want" in my heart.
    I cannot imagine the amount of selflessness it took for Jesus to willingly suffer torture and crucifixion. He had to yield his will, every day, every minute, leading up to that moment when he gave all.
    He resisted every desire, every good thing life has to offer.
    So that we could be free.
    Free from sin. Free from bondage. Free from death.
    So that we could choose.
    God's will or my will.
    I'm learning to choose God's will. And to trust Him with the things that are closest to my heart. Things that are the hardest to let go." - 10/27/10

    or this?

    "Perhaps the circumstances of my life, the things that aren't going the way I had hoped, are the very things that God will use to bring about the fulfillment of His promises to me, and to satisfy the deepest desires of my heart." - 9/16/11

    Stephanie, perhaps. Just perhaps.

    Like good ol' Dad said, Perhaps it's a bit early to write the final chapter.

    Hugs, friend. Sure love you.
    Shannon

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  16. I suppose this must have been why you were on my heart last week!
    Love you, Stephanie! So glad we can put our hope in the Lord and look beyond our present circumstances to what He has in mind. It always looks differently than we think it will, but it's always so much better in the long run that what we had planned. I think that's because we tend to look at the temperal, external, visible aspects of life, while what the Lord is working on is internal, eternal, not so visible.

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