The joy is all the more joyful….

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.

29 Responses to The joy is all the more joyful….

  1. justenjoyhim says:

    I love this post. Love it. Beautifully written and so very true: “The joy is all the more joyful when we have known sorrow.” Amen, sister!

    My Sunday School group and my church small group prayed for you (and Sarah) yesterday. I didn’t think you’d mind.

    Heart you.

  2. Kay Lynn says:

    “The joy is all the more joyful when we have known sorrow.” I don’t think one can really know joy without first having known sorrow. Wishing you much joy ahead to make up for all your sorrow!

    I found your thoughts on the Last Supper and answers to prayers particularly insightful. I used to think about prayers going unanswered quite a bit, particularly in regard to the many prayers people said for my mother when she was battling cancer, and one day I realized that there are no unanswered prayers. Sometimes the answer is just no. It was an interesting realization and it gave me a lot to think about. Here’s hoping that the answers to all your prayers are yes.

  3. Amanda says:

    Here’s to more magic this week and every week thereafter.

  4. Toni says:

    Hi Susan. This is my first comment on your site. I am not a young mother, in fact I’m old enough to be your mother. I’m a 9 year breast cancer survivor and a 2 year stage IIIC ovarian cancer survivor. You are truly an inspiration to me. You have impressed me with your honesty and made me feel many days that if you can continue this tough battle with such strength and faith so can I. Today’s post was marvelous and so insightful. You brought new thinking to this “old” mind. I pray for you daily and have for many months.

  5. marty says:

    That was always an important part of the story for me. The part where Jesus didn’t WANT to do it, but remained willing.

    We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to always be positive and gracious. We are free to think things suck sometimes, because sometimes they do.

    And other times, many many many other times, they don’t. There is SO much joy.

    I love every moment I get to spend with you, and if they end tomorrow or end in 60 years, I will still be so very sad when we are separated because there has been so much joy.

  6. Karen G says:

    Susan,
    First, I hope that the pain you’re feeling with the Zometa infusions means that the infusions are working. I hope the pain isn’t too bad. I have no medical experience, so this is just a hope.

    Second, thank you for your post. I’ve always loved how Easter and Passover coincide – to use your words, the two always intertwined. Your post explains why that is the case. I sometimes wonder how many people know about this … So, thank you!
    Karen G

  7. Stimey says:

    I’m not even religious and I think this is a lovely post. I couldn’t agree more with your final statement, “The joy is all the more joyful when we have known sorrow.” I have a yin yang tattooed on my ankle to remind me of that very thing.

  8. Jillian says:

    My husband and I have both had cancer and we have two small children. When I was in the depths of treatment and feeling targeted by all the “bad” in the life and forgotten by all the “good”, he reminded me: what is life without the highs and the lows? Without these experiences we’re not really living. And your post reminds me of this again today. Thank you. You’ll be in my prayers.

  9. Stacey says:

    Thank you so much for this lovely post, Susan! I cheered when I read the news of your latest checkup! And your post also reminded me of this poem by Khalil Gibran:

    On Joy and Sorrow

    Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Thanks again, Susan, for sharing your joy AND sorrow with us!

  10. Susan, this is some of your very finest writing… I am awestruck at how beautifully you have put your emotions into words. It is perfect. And, it brings me a whole new insight to the lesson of Easter, as we prepare to celebrate. Thank you so much, my friend.

    Praying for you, as always, and sharing your joy!!

    xoxo CGF

  11. NYFriend says:

    It’s so hard to remember sometime, but it is so true indeed – you can’t know light without dark. It’s a universal human truth that has so many different versions in words, it’s amazing. Life is a roller coaster.

    Happy Easter, dear friend!

  12. Kami says:

    Well said.

  13. elesha says:

    Your one AMAZING women!!! I just love what you are doing with your life and how much you love it.x

  14. This made my breath catch in my throat. I’ve been working on the post about my experience at your novena. I think it’s ready now.

  15. Rev Dr Mom says:

    I’ve only commented here a couple of times, but I just want to thank you for this beautiful post that preaches the Resurrection better than most any sermon I’ve ever heard.

    You are in my prayers!

  16. Such beautiful thoughts, and beautiful words. You are so full of grace, so strong and so very *alive*!
    I wish you and your family a very happy and blessed Easter.

  17. Linda Lawrence says:

    Amen and Amen! Love you!

  18. You are inspiring to so many. You get that we don’t have the capacity to understand God’s will in our lives but that it’s through faith that we can find the peace and understanding. I believe that God always answers prayers, it’s just that sometimes we don’t have the full picture until much later on. It’s through that faith that we persist and are ultimately rewarded. God bless you Susan, your family and I hope this week is just the start again of many wonderful joys for you all.

  19. Cary Tennis says:

    I was having late-effect fatigue from last year’s radiation treatments today and was searching the web and found your post and was very moved. Thank you. My heart goes out to you in solidarity.

  20. carosgram says:

    And He will raise you up on Eagle’s wings
    Bear you on the breath of dawn
    Make you to shine like the sun
    And hold you in the palm of His hands

  21. Bon says:

    smiling at you.

    i hope so much that the bone cancer is lit up because it’s being destroyed by the medicine. i hope this cup passes from you.

    but you are right, and i know it. it comes to us all. each day is its own world. and there is something sacred in staring it all in the face.

    i celebrate your peace today. and i thank you for this, its beauty and its reminders.

  22. Aunt Pat says:

    Life is a joy and like spring everything is fresh and new and is full bloom . There’s wishing you everyday a good day.

    Much LOVE !

  23. Lindsay says:

    Great post, Susan, and please don’t apologize for writing about your faith because that is exactly what I needed to read today.

    I know what you mean about realizing joy more fully after there is sorrow. Not many of us reach our mid 30s without experiencing some sort of major tragedy or four, and I think this is definitely the decade when we all grow up and “start getting real.”

    So glad you’re healing! YES!

  24. So. So. Beautiful. And, so true. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us, and for reminding us as well. xoxo

  25. Anna says:

    What a beautifully written post. You are such an inspiring woman and have such a gift for writing and seeing things so clearly (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes). I am so happy that your chest tumors are healing and that you are finding happiness at this time. Enjoy your Easter weekend with your family.

  26. Ruthie from California says:

    Amen!

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