Count the pieces underneath us
Been here long enough
Are we strong enough
Bruised and swollen, lost in motion
When it falls apart
Never far apart
Isn’t everything a love song
Isn’t everything a love song
Even when it’s all wrong
(~Drew Holcomb, Isn’t Everything A Love Song)
It was one of those long nights of discussion, the emptying of struggle and sadness and frustration. We started far apart, listening as we each unloaded our hearts. He kept inching closer to me as I poured out pain and fear and oceans of feelings. My knees were pulled up to my chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, As he moved toward me, he finally laid his arms on my knees and put his chin on his arms, looking up at me. Finally, I tearfully whispered, “I’m going to die from this cursed disease.” His eyes, those beautiful hazel eyes that I can just sink into, those eyes surrounded by so many lovely laugh lines, filled with tears. “I know,” he sighed. “I don’t even know how to think about a life without you.”
This is our reality. And while I’ve heard all the things people can throw at you… you don’t know; you could die of something else; you could still beat this disease; they could find a cure for cancer; God could still heal you. I know all of this. I believe all of this. But I also know this is the reality of living with a terminal disease. We don’t dwell on it, but we have to be honest about death and dying and our family and face the reality and talk about it sometimes. And we need people in our lives to listen to the hard parts, too, without jumping to the pat answers.
We’ve chosen for years to live and tried to live well even with a harrowing diagnosis hanging over us. And we will continue to choose to do so. But the disease is spreading, the chemo is harder, the hospital visits drain us and feed my medical PTSD, the mental and spiritual battle is often one of anguish and struggling with chronic illness (no matter the kind) is so stinking lonely.
I often get asked (even my nurses during my recent hospitalization asked), “How many treatments do you have left?” It’s hard to know how to answer that. I’m on this chemo until it stops working or we decide to stop treatment. If it stops working, we can try another type of treatment, but I’m running out of options and my future options are harsher than this current one. I see so much confusion in people’s eyes as I try to explain it. Stage 4 cancer is a difficult disease to explain, and different types of cancers are dealt with in different ways. How do I say, “This never ends.” or at least, “This doesn’t end the way we all want it to.”
On a recent Wednesday night I sat with a roomful of high school girls and my co-leaders and we talked about the omniscience of God. He is learning nothing; He already knows and His knowledge is certain. I looked around that beautiful group of girls who are struggling with many of their own unknowns and legitimate fears and told them to consider Job. Had he known what was coming in his future, He could have never borne up under the weight of it all, it would have crushed him. What he did know was what mattered….God was with him and God is always enough.
This we believe, my Bri and me. God is with us and God is enough, even on the days when it doesn’t feel like it. And so we choose to live life as we are able—Bri likes to say “our no is no and our yes is maybe.” We live with the uncertainty of death literally living in my body. But we live with laughter and joy and sadness and fear all mingled together into faith, hope and love. These three.
Cancer stinks. Chemo stinks. Living in the constant uncertainty stinks.
God is enough. The greatest of these is love.
“It’s still a mystery to me, encountering the presence of God in our lowest most soul-breaking places, in the grave places, in the ashes places, in the pit of despair, but every time l’ve been there, I hear the whispers of light and love….’this isn’t the end of the story.’”
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