Last month (how is it August already?!) we packed up our RV (we’ve upgraded to Merlin now and Gimli has a new owner), filled our cupboards with weeks worth of food and began a ten day trip through Tennessee. Brian spent months researching campgrounds and parks and RV resorts, planning places to go and days off for rest, scheduling time with friends and creating a week away that would accommodate my chemo-fatigued body as best as he could.
I want to write post after post like I did last year after our New York trip. I want to use words like epic and fabulous to describe every moment like last year’s trip was for us.
And y’all, it was a beautiful trip. Tennessee is breathtaking. I’ve always said that if I had to move from our home here, Tennessee is where I’d go. We shared so many lovely moments as a family, laughter and adventure and joy. We spent time with friends, sharing and laughing and catching up and crying and celebrating. It was a gift.
But unlike our trip last year, this trip was fraught with struggle. Ending my chemo two days into the trip, I knew I would be tired, but four days in, the wall I hit was unlike any I’ve hit with chemo so far. We were in Nashville, planning to go to church and lunch with our dear college friends and then move on to a new location in the Smokies. We woke early that morning and met our friends at church. I kept telling Brian I just didn’t feel “right.” I cried through song after song of God’s faithfulness and halfway through the sermon on Esther, Bri leaned over and wrote on my notes, “Change of plans. We are going to stay an extra day in Nashville.” As he is so apt to do, he read me like a book and knew I needed more rest.
After church, Bri spoke with the attendant and we moved to a new site in the campground right next to the lake, plugged Merlin in, got the A/C going and waited for Josh and Kristin and their girls to meet us there after picking up lunch. We ate and then planned to sit on the beach at the lake and watch our children splash and play, but I just looked at them all and shook my head. “I. just. can’t.” I stayed in Merlin while they went and tried to rest, but I am incapable of even describing this fatigue that makes it hard to lift a glass of water to my lips yet will not cave to sleep.
Later that afternoon, I curled up outside on a chair and we all chatted for a while until they left. And then the nausea that had been nipping at me all day overwhelmed. Emptying my stomach for hours and curling up in Brian’s lap begging God for relief, I kept saying to myself and to Brian, “I have to get control. I can’t let the children see me like this.” But y’all, this is the life we live, and I cannot protect them from it all. The night, as I held my weeping son, I told him over and over, “Life is hard, but I am okay and God is with us.”
It was days of this mind-numbing fatigue. Days of Brian and the children adventuring while I watched from the sidelines. Days of hearing him change plans and tell the children, “No. We can’t go there today. Mom is too sick.” A side effect of chemo, my anxiety was off the charts and I spent many a night wrapped in Brian’s arms sobbing quietly over fears I know are not real.
Our friend, Tiffany, joined us several afternoons and evenings and her presence was a gift, sitting quietly with me in my grief and laughing heartily with me in my joys. By Wednesday I was stronger. I managed a trip to Dollywood with my loves and sat on bench after bench watching them thrill to new rides and new joys. By the weekend, I was back to normal strength and we were able to enjoy things together as a family, yet another visit with good friends and a ride home from Chattanooga that found me talking and sharing non-stop with my Brian. It was like we were catching up on lost time.
Through it all, I kept reminding myself, “I am here. This is now. We are together. God is with us.” It doesn’t have to look like our dreams. We are learning to accept each day as it comes. I have friends who wouldn’t be physically capable of going on a trip like this. I am fully aware of what we were given even in the hard.
Was it hard? Did we suffer?
But we were together as a family. We enjoyed sights and sounds and treats and friends and worship and Coop and life. We explored new surroundings and we fought for faith and joy in the midst of trial.
In the coming days, as I organize photos and collect my heart thoughts, I will share more, but just know it is not lost on me that this time was still a gift. That every day is a gift.
This week I am couch-ridden with the same mind-numbing fatigue. I finish my chemo cycle tomorrow and will start to get stronger. Maybe, one day, I won’t cry when the new chemo cycle starts as I anticipate the pain and fatigue to come, but it’s okay.
I am here. This is now. We are together. God is with us.
She thought to herself, “This is now.”
She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.
(~Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Little House in the Big Woods”)
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