Today, I am filled with happiness, at the good news that my chest tumors are healing, at the way my body moves today, and for the amazing friends that I have made on this journey through life. You all are such a treasure to me, and I revel in your friendship.
I’m really unbelievably excited to be alive today, and I spent the morning making plans (truck touch May 7!), volunteering to help with school events, and looking up resources for my kids to help them make it through wherever this journey through cancer may take us. You’d think I’d know all the resources for kids already, leading a group like Mothers With Cancer, but the sad truth is there just isn’t much out there for young kids dealing with a parent’s illness, and I want to help them every way that I can. Leaving my children is my worst nightmare, and I will FIGHT AGAINST IT to the last, but today, even on a happy day, I can help them through it.
Because that’s what life is, isn’t it? Joy then sorrow then joy again, the highs all the higher when we have known the depths of despair and pain.
I forget this sometimes (like when I’m sweating feverishly and time doesn’t pass as my bones cry out in pain as they are attacked by a new infusion of Zometa), but it is so critical to realize. The joy is all the more joyful when we have known sorrow.
It’s a special week for many of us, both Passover and Easter Week, the two always intertwined. My boys have celebrated Passover at their nursery schools and we have talked about it over the years, and I am so glad, for it must have been a very special night when Jesus had the Passover Seder with his disciples and told them of what was to come. Although Catholics don’t celebrate the Seder per se, we do we remember this one each Sunday, as we break the bread like Jesus did, hearing his words at that Last Supper just as the apostles did at Seder.
But do you remember what happens next? In Matthew 26, we read the words we hear at Communion, and then there’s more. After dinner, Jesus and his friends go out into the garden. He takes three close friends with him to go and pray together, as he knows that the time of his death is near. He knows that it’s going to happen, and “He began to feel sorrow and distress,” praying, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Do you see that? Even though Jesus knew that He would have to die soon for the resurrection to occur, the cornerstone of Christian belief, He felt sad. He was distressed. He was not complacent, or even particularly happy about it. He prayed in fact, for life itself, clinging to what he knew, and reluctant to suffer death even though he would soon be with his Father in Heaven.
You know, I never noticed that before today. I went to read the passage to tell you about the last phrase, that as hard as I pray, as hard as we all pray, I know and you know that not all prayers are answered the way we want them to be. Not all cancer patients survive or heal (God bless the family of Stu McCorkindale). Eventually, none of us do. But that doesn’t mean that our prayers aren’t answered. God answers prayers. He surrounds us with love and strength and medicine and friendship, and sometimes it helps extend our life and sometimes it brings us peace.
Today, this week, I know that God has answered my prayers. He is healing me, with love and prayers and medicine and friendship. The cancer in my chest is healing, not growing, and the cancer in my bones could be hypermetabolic (lit up on the scan) just because it is fighting to survive against the medicine that I’ve been taking (my oncologist’s theory), not because it’s new. Regardless, I’m here, almost four years after I noticed that there was something wrong and went to my doctor to check it out. My children have grown from babies to big kids, and I am so, so grateful for the time we’ve had together. Each moment, each hour, is a gift that I treasure, perhaps all the more because there have been times — even very recently — that I thought they would never come again.
And as I go through Easter week, I want to remember (please forgive me for the overly religious words today, but this is a true and honest window into the life of a woman with cancer, and this is where my mind is today) that it is the dark moments in the Garden and the Crucifixion on Good Friday, terrible times for Jesus, that made the joy of the Resurrection possible. It is okay to feel the sad times, the scared times, the anger and despair times — Jesus felt it too — and we need not beat ourselves up over moments of distress. It’s normal. Human, even. I am comforted with the words I have learned while writing here today:
The joy is all the more joyful when we have known sorrow.