As I told the kindergarten kids at lunch yesterday, I love to learn new things. And just because you’re “all grown up” doesn’t mean you stop learning. Nope, you get to learn new things all your life! The kids yesterday were so fun, and sweet, and eager to read stories and to learn. Although I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed until 10 (and I’m horribly embarrassed to admit that, but I promised to tell you the truth), I went to recess/lunch duty anyway, and was rewarded with a much-improved outlook and extra energy that allowed me to keep both my physical therapy appointments (an hour for the lymphedema, an hour to deal with the back spasm and rotated vertebra that caused such pain this week/end) in the afternoon.
I’m not in particularly good shape, you see. I’m in week 8 of my 18 weeks of #chemo2010. The side effects are at once predictable and bothersome. It’s nothing compared to what some friends have had to go through lately to fight this beast, but still it weakens me. It tires me out. It makes my feet blister and peel and eventually hurt when I walk. It deadens my taste buds, and it makes it hurt in my bones, so that I don’t feel like moving at all. But I know it’s for my own good, and the chemo is fighting the cancer cells scattered in my body, and even the lump that I’m worrying over, the one I have biopsied next week, should disappear as it succumbs to chemotherapy. It will be worth it.
Next Spring, when the buds appear on the trees and the forsythia in my back yard bloom, and I’m here to see it, it will be worth it. I have to hold on to that, the hope that I will be here and healthy and myself again in the Spring. If I let that go, I’m toast, and I know it. So I hold on, and I believe, and I (try to) cherish every day, just in case.
The difficulty is dealing with today. I want so much for everything to be normal for my kids and for my family. I want so much for them not to notice, for me to just be Mama who takes them to school, not the Mama who is sick in bed and tears up a little bit at their happy kisses when they come home from school. But sometimes I am that Mama, and that’s ok.
“That is ok,” says my three-year-old, as he scurries to me if he hears when the pain and sorrow leak out, like the chemo leaks out my feet and hands when it’s done with me. “It’s ok, Mama.”
It is okay. It is good, even. Three years ago, when I was in chemo the first time, I didn’t think I’d live to see the Fall. It was horrible. This time, I have more confidence, but I am letting go of the certainty that I won’t still be on chemo when Spring comes. I may need chemo for longer; I may need it forever.
But that is okay. I’m still here. I’m still the mother of my children, and I still cuddle them to sleep at night, reading Richard Scarrey and picture books — and just one more Encyclopedia Brown story — until 8:00. I am doing what I can to make it to tomorrow and tomorrow and the Spring.
I’m learning to let go of what doesn’t matter, and things beyond my control.
If you come to my house, there may be stuff piled on the table by the door. The laundry may not be completely done and put away. I may be in pajamas or soft sweatpants, and I’ll probably be out-of-breath when I come down the stairs to greet you.
But I’ll be here, and I’ll be happy to see you.
The rest of it can wait. The rest of it is not important. And the big questions — will I live? Will it always be this way? Will I always be frustrated by my body’s limitations while my brain still works perfectly well? Will I ever be strong enough to commute to a job downtown, or must I only do contract work from home, satisfying my brain’s analytical needs while acquiesing to the limitations of my body? — these questions are out of my hands. After a week of anger and questioning and frustration poured out over the pink, I’m letting them go. I’m putting them in God’s hands now.
I have to. I don’t control those answers, and I really never did.
I’m not giving up. I’m taking my chemotherapy pills every morning and every night, until all 504 are gone. I’m doing my PT exercises. I’m keeping up with my blogs and loving my children and working toward my goals. I’m cherishing each day as it is, even as I crave normalcy. But I know that I don’t control the ending of this story.
Today, I put the cancer in God’s hands, and as I ask him to heal me, so that my children can grow up in their mother’s arms, I have to let go. Let go, and let God. How many times have those of us who grew up in the church (or the South) heard this? How many times have we said, sure, of course, and then pushed forward toward our own agendas anyway? I know I have. I had goals, big science-y, achievement-oriented goals, and things that I needed to do. I will still work toward them. I’m not giving up. What I’m giving up is the sense that I control my fate, because when it comes right down to it, when you’re sick in bed or in pain or your body is fighting itself for your very life, all you (I) have left is faith that you will be healed, and the love of family and friends that surround you.
I want to live more than anything. I want to be my kids’ mom. I want to work to help others, and use my brain as I was designed to. But today, I have to learn to put my fate in God’s hands. And trust Him. If I do my part, he will carry me through, healing my body and my soul.