Letting Go of Fear and Pain
It was December. My boob started aching. After a few days of pretty painful nights, I did a self-exam. I remember giggling as I did it. I thought it was silly, unnecessary. But then I felt a pea-sized lump right under the skin, next to my nipple.
Huh. Must be a clogged duct. I’ll make an appointment. Four days later I saw my doctor. Just being extra safe. Still naively believing in my fading youth, and my body's proven ability to show no signs of the abuse it had endured.
A dimple, a mammogram, a traumatic biopsy, and a lot of lost sleep later, “You have breast cancer, honey. You’re about to go on a life-changing journey.”
Tears, heart-pounding deafness in my ears, my legs and feet immediately shaking and me gripping the chair with white knuckles. Trying to fight the urge to run fast and far away. Out, out, get me out. Jack’s hands on my back, his tear-stained cheeks. The quiet car ride home.
Then came appointments I don’t remember. My memories of those days are blurry like A rain-washed windshield. Surgeon, oncologist, CHEMO………….so sick. An ache I can’t explain. A pain so consuming, I had no idea where it was coming from. More than once, I laid in my bed and just wailed with the violence of it. Poison just pulsing in my veins. My mind raced and then thoughts started coming as if from a deep, thick pool of mud. Get up, feed the boys. Try not to nap today. DRINK. WATER. You’re not going to die. This is saving your life.
Somewhere in there came COVID and I locked myself tighter into the safety of my home. Part of me was comforted, while another part was screaming to be free. Homeschool, chemo, homeschool, chemo. Me fighting the fatigue and forcing myself to do the most menial tasks. Then came an indescribably achy scalp, followed by clumps and handfuls of hair. The relief came when we shaved it and I felt liberated and hopeful.
But I missed my hair and I missed MY HEALTH. I grieved for my body that I’d always taken for granted, and for my health that had always seemed so impervious to my life’s choices. I missed my FAMILY, and my friends so deeply that it was almost unbearable.
Then HOPE, it came unexpectedly on a warm day in May. It called my name, and its breath flowed through me. My body, despite it all, started getting stronger, and I was awake longer and we were all laughing together constantly, and my marriage was a ROCK. It was The firmest foundation on which I had EVER stood. Jack’s strength pulled me through the darkest times and brought me to the light. And I have NEVER BEEN SO IN LOVE with him. He cared for me and loved me fiercely through his own incredible fear and uncertainty. How can a girl from the gutter, who’d never even had a chance, possibly be so LOVED?
GOD is the answer. And I don’t care what God looks like to you or what you call him, He is simply a Power greater than us. He reminds me that I am but a grain of sand in this sea of life. That my purpose is to HELP. Help without conditions, or vanity, or need. HELP with nothing but love in my heart.
I’m so damn proud of this body of mine. I’m developing an entirely new and poignant love for myself. I’ve never been prouder of my strength and perseverance. I’ve also never been so aware of the space I occupy on this earth and my intentions with the time I have left.
My oldest son turned 9 years old, and my bilateral mastectomy was a few months ago. The season is beginning to hold court in our front yard. So much change. God has moved me, literally. I can feel Him holding me up and giving me His Grace. He’s showing me how unimportant my vessel is, and he is creating in me a new emptiness, made to be filled with LOVE. He whispers…Let Go. And I promise Him that I will give it my best and That every day, at some point, I will turn to him, close my eyes, and TRUST.
I’m Afraid. I’m vulnerable, I’m astounded by the gravity and faith required to become a woman who has no breasts. The parts of me that fed my precious babies, The part of me that made me feel like a WOMAN. God is taking my hand and showing me what my SOUL looks like, and I know I can Rest in Him despite my fear and anguish. I am SO much more than my Vessel, so much more than a sum of parts. We ALL are.
I can feel the edge of the grief washing up on my toes. It lingers there, then recedes like the tide. I’m gonna let it come, and I’m going to LET IT GO.
So many priceless life lessons come from the deepest fear and pain. I’ve learned that people are so incredibly beautiful and KIND. And I’ve learned that life is made up of moments that consist of my choices, my words, and the Love I give away. Right now, this second, Cancer has made me GRATEFUL for everything. Every tiny thing.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.