Unexpected strength

Last week found me sobbing into my husband’s shoulder, weak, achy, with tender feet and tender soul, asking why, why must there be suffering in the world – and can we please, please stop the chemo? (He agreed.)  It all was so heavy on my shoulders, and the overwhelming fatigue made it all almost too much to bear.

Yesterday, I asked God my questions, and I begged to understand.  I accept the suffering if need be, I said, but I do not yet understand why it is, or what its purpose may be.  I struggle, and I am not grateful for the cancer.  I am not serene, and I am not accepting of the failings of my own body, as my yoga teacher urged after my first diagnosis.  I still fight, and I still rail against the illness and the failures on the structural level of my cells.

This morning, after exhausting myself getting the kids ready for school, I had a short rest and then found the strength to go to a meeting on work-life balance, to grab a new aquarium filter at the fish store, and to venture out to the Lego Store at Tyson’s Corner (really!) in search of a gift for the cousins.  All that today, and tonight I bopped into RCIA (Bible Study for Catholics-to-be) right on time, much to Sister’s surprise.  (I had warned her last week that I was feeling awful, and that I would most likely not be there this week.  She had reassured me that if I weren’t there, she would come by and catch me up and bring me Eucharist Tuesday morning.)  Well, missing class never even crossed my mind.  I drove myself there for the first time in weeks, and had no problems at all.

And to my surprise?  I was asked to play a part in next week’s Rite of Acceptance/Welcome for my classmates next week.  I’ll be presenting the potential new members to the priest, and reading the prayers at the end of the rite.

And as I drove Sister home, she shared with me that she does not fully understand suffering either.  She doesn’t know why we here on Earth have to hurt, and she doesn’t know what its purpose is or how it brings us closer to God.  All she knows, she said, is to offer it up to God, saying, “Lord, please take this suffering, and use it for your people.” 

And so, tonight, I pray, “Lord, please take this suffering, and use it for your people,” and I thank God that he gave me the strength to be there today, and to come back and tell you exactly what happened.  One day, when my children ask, “Why didn’t my mother fight the cancer harder?”  I ask that you tell them, “She did, honey, she did,” and also, “Your mama also trusted in God.  She prayed for healing, and for her aches and pains to have a purpose.”


41 Responses to Unexpected strength

  1. marty says:

    I will tell them and love them and pray with them.

    But not for a long time from now. Got it?

  2. WOW. And I’m right there with you Marty. We can tell the boys when they come to visit mom’s old pals at the old ladies home before they wheel us off to canasta.

  3. Sally J says:

    Your kids will have the gift of this blog and, I imagine, many other things you share with them that the beauty of your spirit draws. I am grateful for your honesty and the honesty of the woman you refer to in this post and so appreciate you sharing it.

    My thoughts are with you, Susan.

  4. Agree with Jessica and Marty and send you lots of love. Stay strong and playdate soon, ok? 🙂

  5. Amy says:

    I don’t know what to say, so I’ll just send love and wishes for more days full of peace to you.

  6. Faith says:

    I’ve asked the same questions and have no good answers, and – like you – am not grateful for my physical failings. But I have faith and respect in your strength.

  7. elesha says:

    If your struggling right now, Ill pray that this passes and you feel peace in your heart for soooo many years to come. xxxx

  8. Julie says:

    As a lurker, I really hope I am not speaking out of turn with this, but just wanted to tell you that I think it is really very unfair that you are dealing with this, and am glad that you did find some unexpected strength. But I also wanted to let you know that I have found your words so informative and inspiring. My sister is a survivor (3 yrs

  9. Julie says:

    Sorry for the mistaken publish. I wanted to say that my sister is another young mom survivor, and reading your words has given me new perspective on ways she might feel and on what this all could mean. It should not be happening to you at all and I pray for your healing, but I also thank you for putting your emotions and words in print. I think you help the rest of us be better family members and supporters. You are an incredible woman. Thank you for that.

  10. I would be deeply suspicious of anyone who did claim to understand suffering and the purpose thereof.
    I’m so glad to hear you had a good day, and a rewarding evening (and jealous of a trip to a Lego Store!). May such days come thick and fast. I take it you and family are recovered from that nasty virus?
    As for your request – I’m with Marty, Jessica and Leticia. Not for a loooong time. And I hope and pray that your boys will never have to ask the question. Sending love and hugs your way!

  11. Hi Susan, I usually lurk here and I often think of you as I go about my day. I’ll be reading Toddler Planet for a long time to come, okay?

    I too am not grateful for your cancer and am upset that you’re having to deal with this. I try to fashion my thoughts into prayers for you, because I know that God is good and He loves you and your family so much. Glad you’re feeling a bit better this week!

    “Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.” (What a great hymn!)

  12. Sunday says:

    I am praying with you…always! Much love to you, my friend.

  13. Lynne says:

    And the people say “Amen.”

  14. Deb says:

    I don’t know why there is suffering either, I just know that it exists. Take care and sending a prayer your way.

  15. Thinking of you Susan and wishing we could ease your burden.

  16. Colleen says:

    I’m also a fellow lurker! 🙂 We may never know our purpose here, but please know that your blog has touched so many lives, and increased awareness about IBC. Lots of prayers to St. Agatha (patron saint of breast cancer!) for intercession on your behalf!

  17. Elaine says:

    Every time it rains, I will dance in your honor. And hold my kids up and know that I am the luckiest person on the Earth. You have inspired me many times – and continue to teach me the value of today. And when my daughter shows the tiniest interest in science, I will point her towards your women in science work – just so she knows that everything is possible. Enjoy the ceremony. You make the church stronger. And I hope the church, in turn, continues to make peace for you.

  18. Susan says:

    We’ll be telling your boys that, and many other things about your wonderful strength and humor and smartness–and for now, I am smiling at the ways your new church community is a source of strength for you and your family. May you be telling your own stories for quite a long while!

  19. magpie says:

    You are such a fighter. Love to you, Susan.

  20. Judy says:

    Love this. LOVE it. *hugs* to you.

  21. Stimey says:

    You are so tough. It may not feel like it all the time, but jeez, woman, you are strong. Love to you.

  22. carosgram says:

    The only thing I believe I know about suffering is that it is not in any way ‘deserved’. My prayers are all for you enjoying your life, your family and your friends. May you have many days filled with the small miracles of daily life. Thinking of you and wishing you the best

  23. Linda Lawrence says:

    “Your mama trusted in God” is probably the greatest legacy any of us can give our children. Trusting in God is probably one of the most difficult things we are called to do. Love you.

  24. Leslie says:

    Another lurker. :)I first found you last year when I read your post which was later featured at BlogHer, & I’ve followed you ever since. Your strength and grace are such an inspiration to me, and I know to so many others. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. Sending my thoughts and prayers your way tonight.

  25. beth says:

    Hi Susan — I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now, and this post also inspired me to “un-lurk” myself today. You are in my thoughts and prayers each day. Wishing you many, many more strong, productive mama-days to come. Thank you for always reminding me to be grateful for the many gifts of this life.

  26. Catherine says:

    It’s surprising to me how often something triggers a thought of you (I only started reading your blog a few weeks ago). I too find it very hard to understand suffering.

    This evening, I thought of you when I saw a friend’s link to this comic book (!) about the moon:

    And then I was looking at a website about Edward Tufte’s work and the visual display of quantitative information, and came across this essay by Stephen Jay Gould about statistics and cancer:
    It’s copied from this site:
    (I don’t know where the article was originally published.)
    I will hold onto an image of you in the “long, right tail” of survivor statistics.

  27. Michelle says:

    Good morning-

    I’ve been following your blog, mostly silently for a while. I’m Catholic as well, and I’m praying for you and for your dear family. May the God of Peace be with you and your boys.

  28. Brianna says:

    I am de-lurking to say that I have been reading for years–you were my inspiration to keep working, keep balancing, keep nursing, keep parenting, keep moving after the birth of my first child. You were a scientist and a mother–and so gifted at both! I sat outside a conference meeting at an NYC hotel with my nursing six-month-old and told myself: WHYMOMMY can do this. I can do it, too. I can parent and be successful in my career. Oh, and I can teach/inspire/excite my little ones about science, as well!

    You have been a beautiful teacher and mentor to me, and we’ve never met. What power your words have had!

    Our family will pray for your peace and healing. We will also pray for your beautiful boys, for their healing and happiness. I am grateful for the role your blog has played in my parenting, and I am thankful that you have continued to share your story with all of us. Thank you, Susan.

  29. FishyGirl says:

    You are so very strong. And awesome. Peace and love be with you.

  30. Colleen says:

    Susan, every time I read a post of yours, I cry — at the beauty and eloquence of your words and the purity of your soul. I am so lucky to know you. So lucky.

    It sounds facile to say “suffering is a mystery” and leave it at that. But suffering IS a mystery and the purpose to our suffering is also unknowable.

    What I do know, though, sweetie, is that you are showing us, showing me, so much. I bless you for it, and I bless God for the gift you are.

  31. Niksmom says:

    Continuing to send you love and prayers for strength, recovery, a long and beautiful life in which to explore these and other questions WITH your children. Hugs.

  32. Ruthie from California says:

    I join the others in praying for you…healing, and many more years with your precious boys and husband.

  33. NYfriend says:

    Big hugs, I wish I had answers for you too. I can’t ever imagine anyone ever asking why you didn’t fight harder. You have been amazing through this battle. You have shown great strength, compassion and passion. To be great, or inspiring, does NOT mean to be perfect. To be perfect, is to be false.

    You are an inspiration to us all, and especially to your own children.

  34. Marcia says:

    Praying for you and your family, Susan. Like others have commented above, you are awesome and an inspiration to us all. I blogged
    my journey through cancer because of you, became an advocate to fight for you, and followed many wonderful parenting tips and advice from your blog.

    Wishing you strength, peace, and much love to you and your family.

  35. Nor says:

    may the falling snow ease your pain.

  36. Jan says:

    This helped me today.


  37. JoC says:

    Sending you loads and loads of warm fuzzies & prayers.

    Speaking your truth about the chemo no longer being tolerable. I believe this is fighting for your quality of life as well as the quantity. I am glad that you are speaking about it here.

    If you are interested, C.S. Lewis wrote “Problem of pain”… where he questions the pain and suffering that occur everyday and how this contrasts with the notion of a God that is both omnipotent and good.

    p.s. Love the snow on your website.

  38. […] to the incredible uplifting that I’ve experienced recently, it was not so horrible, and not so hard, and we spent a lovely […]

  39. I needed to read this post today. We all experience things that make us ask “Why?” Especially when it comes to our health.

    You are incredibly strong and I admire you for it! *hugs*

  40. […] start – and almost finish – a gift for my eight classmates who reached a milestone as they were accepted into the church last Sunday.  Something moved me to take up needlecraft again, and as I sit patiently and […]

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