I’m still not used to saying those words. I have cancer. It’s very strange. I mean, I’m no stranger to its affects. Cancer is everywhere. Many people around me have endured battles with the cancer beast, and, thankfully, many of them have won their battles. But it still feels foreign to claim this disease for myself.
The more people I tell, the more questions I’m asked (and the more opinions I hear…). I love my friends and I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have. Truly. But I’m writing this in an attempt to preemptively answer as many questions as possible (and thus, cut down on the number of times I have to repeat myself).
Before I get to the details, I feel like I should confess that I feel incredibly exposed right now. I’m a very private person. Chalk it up to my introverted nature or my history with abuse, but there are few people with whom I feel comfortable sharing the intimate details of my life. And you know how dogs like to go into a corner and lick their wounds alone? That’s me. I would rather take a beating than be the center of attention, and right now I feel like I’ve been thrown naked up on stage.
All that said, I have a lot of amazing people in my life who want to be here for me and want to know how to help. I don’t take that lightly and it is incredibly humbling. I’m deeply thankful for you all. So in spite of my inclination to keep things to myself, I’m sharing these details so you’ll know what’s going on and how to pray. And I sincerely am happy to talk to you all and answer any questions you might have. I just ask that you please be gentle with me, and please understand if I don’t answer everything or it takes me some time. Chances are, it’s not you–it’s me.
So. I have cancer. It’s a cancer of the plasma cells, and it’s considered treatable but incurable. Some people live with it for several years before symptoms start to show up; some people have to start aggressive treatment immediately and only live for a short time. I already have several of the symptoms, but my immune system is too weak to try chemo & radiation at this point (and chemo & radiation may or may not do any good anyway). There are some other treatments we may try later, but right now we’ll just be treating the symptoms. And waiting, watching, and praying.
Everyone responds differently to this disease. Mine manifests itself mostly through bone pain and migraines/headaches. I feel lightheaded a lot. My platelets keep dropping too low. I’m also completely exhausted, but I can rarely sleep for more than a few hours at a time. I have several bone lesions (tumors) already, mainly on my arms and legs. Most of them are only detectable by scan because they’re on the insides of my bones. But there is one lesion that pokes out on my left foot, and it serves as a daily reminder that I really am sick.
Since the cancer is unseen, hiding out in my blood, sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s true. I still look like me. I have a really high tolerance for pain. I still try to keep going every day like I used to, and some days I pull it off. But then I crash and I’m reminded that this is my current reality.
And the reality is that, unless God chooses to supernaturally heal me here on earth, this cancer is going to be what eventually kills me. To be clear, I absolutely do believe that God can heal me now, and I’m praying to that end. But I’m okay knowing that He may not. I want you all to be okay, too.
I’m not scared to die. I’m not angry with God. I don’t lie awake and wonder why me? I’ve seen the depravity and affects of a fallen world my whole life, and I’m under no illusion that I should be immune to it.
What I’m scared of is not living my life to the fullest. I’m angry with myself for missed opportunities. I lie awake and wonder why I wasted so much time. We don’t get to choose how we die, but we get to choose how we live.
So I’m working on choosing to live fully. That doesn’t mean I’m not sad. I am. Some days I’m so sad that I don’t know if I can move. But I’m not sad because I’m sick. I’m sad because I’ve discovered what I want more than anything else on this earth, and it’s not something I can have. I’m sad because people I love are hurting. I’m sad because there are thousands of orphans and widows, and most days I’m more concerned with how broken I feel right now than I am with helping them.
My tendency is to put on a happy face and make light of everything, because I don’t want to make anyone else sad or uncomfortable. But several friends have reminded me lately that it’s not my job to make everyone else comfortable, and that it’s good to feel. So I’m going to allow myself to feel sad right now. Maybe eventually I’ll wake up and see that some of the sad things have come untrue. Either way, I know that God is big enough to handle both my sickness and my sadness. I hope you know that, too.
Christ in me is the hope of glory. Hallelujah.