Brian and I went out for lunch today. Yes, I said it. OUT for lunch. It felt so good to be out and about and feel like part of the living again. Although the air was frigid, I wanted to stand and breathe it in, soak in the sunshine, and wallow in my freedom, well, at least until I was too cold to move. Then I jumped into our van and relished our heated seats. We found ourselves trying out the new delicacies at Tutti Gusti’s which was having its grand opening. (My zagat rating: Neat little place. Fresh decor. Good but not great Italian. Minimal cost.)
While Brian was busy raving over how you get your drink for free with two slices of pizza. I was busy keeping my gloves on until my food came, eyes darting around the room to scan for lack of cleanliness. Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, public places and germs scare me to death. Cancer is a curse in more ways than one, because there is no escape. From the second glances people throw you once they see your hat and lack of eyebrows, to the refusing to use a public bathroom out of fear of what grows inside, the curse is always there.
While we were waiting for our meal to come, Brian reached across the table and grabbed both my gloved hands. “It’s almost over, babe.” he grinned from ear to ear, “Tomorrow is your last chemo.” I smiled at him and then promptly burst into tears. Not quite the reaction he was going for, I’m sure. There is nothing I hate worse than someone blowing their nose at the table, yet here I sat with my wad of tissues, trying to staunch the flow and not make a spectacle of myself. Too late! Try walking into any place with no hair and a hat vainly trying to cover your head.
It’s almost surreal to think this hurdle is almost over. I look back at the course behind me and see so many hurdles already jumped: surgeries, chemo visits, cat scans, heart scans, hair loss, hospitalizations. Some are on the ground. I’ve kicked them there in my determination that this cancer won’t defeat me. Some I’ve lept over easily, and they stare belligerently at my back. Others I’ve tripped over in my weakness and lack of faith. This last chemo hurdle still looms in front of me, but after tomorrow, it will be lying prone as well. I will have made it through the part of the race that is the hardest, and while other barriers remain, they will be much easier jumps for me.
While he stuffed his face with pizza and I delicately picked at my steak sub, I tried to explain to Brian how I look at those hurdles ahead of me and I weep for fear. I fear losing the closeness to Christ I have sensed. I fear thinking I don’t need Him now that “life might be easier”. I dread the side effects of radiation and what that will look like. I tremble at the possibility of recurrence and having to live this life all over again. As crazy as it sounds, I fear life returning to normal. I have been dependent for so long now, that having some of my independence back scares me. Will I be able to care for my children the same? Will I be able to cook and clean and care for my home and family? What will it look like? I know the answer is that it won’t look the same, because we are not the same people who inhabited this home 6 months ago. We have changed drastically and grown tremendously.
Martin Luther wrote:
This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise; we are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished, but it is going on; this is not the end, but it is the road.
This is the road I have ahead of me, and truth be told, fear still lurks. It is there and it is real. I once told a friend, “If one more person tells me not to be afraid, I might strangle them.” It’s not about not being afraid, it’s about going to Christ with those fears. While He doesn’t take the pain or the unknown or the fear away, He gives the courage to face those fears head on, jumping those hurdles and running hard toward the finish line. I can have that courage because I know all the time He is running with me. Some days He’s right there beside me, others He’s in front encouraging me to follow Him. Still others He is behind me cheering me on. And there are many days where I’m not running at all… He is carrying me in the race, hoisting me over each hurdle I face. The miraculous part is that He is doing them all at the same time. There is one thing of which I am sure. I will reach the finish line with Him.
In the midst of all the fear and unknowns ahead of me, I do know this. My growing process is not complete, but after tomorrow my chemo process is. That, my friends, is reason for celebration!