Tears stream down my face as I write these words exposing my heart, my feelings and my emotions. It has been a whirlwind of a year. My continued prayer to God is that I prove faithful to Him through this and continue to allow Him to use this journey, and me for His glory.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
“Father God, please reveal Your clear and perfect will for my life.”
Layers have been unfolding in me and I have welcomed distraction after distraction, conveniently avoiding having the time to put down in words the flood of emotion I am walking though. Exposed and vulnerable, walking in obedience, I am no longer able to conceal the truth in my heart so, here it is.
December 19th at 7pm will be exactly one year ago that I received the most terrifying, immobilizing and paralyzing news of my entire life, “You have breast cancer.” Sitting across from my best friend in a restaurant booth sharing sushi and wine watching her crying because she knows now, like I do, that I have cancer.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
I have been through a lot in almost 12 months but through it all God is victorious. Mid February 2015 I had a bilateral mastectomy (both) and began the stages of reconstruction. Complications ensued with infection, two emergency surgeries, delayed reconstruction and the very real possibility of not being able to reconstruct one side. God proved faithful to me. Miraculously healed by His hands I am cancer free. Fast forward to December 22, 2015 I will have my sixth surgery in 10 short months. I’m tired.
The thoughts of dying from cancer and abandoning my three boys, doctor appointments with an entire medical team of professionals, discussing your options, lab work, tests, test results, waiting, waiting and more waiting, decision making, pre-ops, surgery, recovery, follow up appointments have kept me and my girlfriends busy. All of a sudden I look up and almost a year has past since my diagnosis. I promised God I would acknowledge, receive and process every emotion that comes with this journey and let them go by casting them at His feet. This I have done with one hiccup. Unknowingly, while I was busy walking through the trauma, the surgeries, the infection, the set backs, more surgeries, little did I know or realize heavy grief emotions may, could, and would reveal themselves at any time, in any order, without warning.
Most days, okay ALL DAYS, I wish grief strategically worked in ordered stages, methodically present one by one, falling in perfect order, and each stage would only be allowed one presentation. For quite some time I have been trying to find my voice through the stages of loss and grief through my cancer. Being very self aware, grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ, prayerful, fasting I must tell you it still crept up on me catching me by surprise. One day I believe I am healthy and balanced then the next I have anger sitting beside me snuggled up ready for a campfire. “What are you doing here and where did you even come from ?”, I thought to myself.
Writing, writing and more writing of the images and events that appeared to be the source of my anger. Justifiably, abandonment of family members, walking through cancer without a spouse, boyfriend or significant other, loss of a few friends and a life as I knew it tearfully graced the pages of my journals. Some I felt bad for even writing down but that doesn’t make them any less true. Others circumstances were so hurtful I knew only God could anesthetize the sting. And He has, replacing the sting with love and a peaceful forgiveness.
December brings me images and memories of snowflakes and snow globes. Each snowflake is unique. Circumstances must be just right, perfect if you will, before a snowflake can begin to form. Looking at them through a microscope reveals an elaborate, magical and wondrous display of exploding science. From quite simple to intricately complex the smartest researchers have confirmed, much like fingerprints, no two are alike. Physics proves no two snowflakes will fall to the ground in the exact same way or at the exact same time. That is where snowflakes and the stages of grief ARE exactly alike. Randomly, un-orchestrated, unique and different every time the stages of grief fall.
I can never get enough of frantically shaking a snow globe just like a little kid, setting it down quickly only to watch the whirlwind snowflakes swim, swirl and gently fall finally resting ever so still at the bottom. The stages of grief fall like the snow in a shaken snow globe. Snowflakes in the shape of sadness, denial, fear, anger, acceptance and so on, swirl around in a mad beautiful chaos, a dance if you will, until they lose energy and fall gently, resting at the bottom. Once the snowflakes settle I think I am free, once and for all. “Whew, I made it.”, “That one was close!” All is quiet, balanced, healthy so it seems until someone, something, some event or some date shakes my world stirring up unresolved grief. Well, yuk! That just stinks.
The quietness of an unshaken snow globe is peaceful, undeserved yet quite misleading to me. I’m thinking the storm has passed. All is calm until movement happens then here we go again. Someone could say or do something to trigger the grief. A special date of loss, birthday, anniversary could be the trigger, all of which has happened to me. The only way I survive and thrive is with my relationship with God. He is my Protector, my Healer, my refuge.
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)
I’ve learned that it’s okay to be in shock. It’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be all these things and make no mistake, it is going to happen. What’s not okay is staying there. I’ve learned that reaching acceptance and hope again will look very different for everyone. The timing will be different for everyone, including me. It’s normal.
Grief is timeless and does not discriminate. Whether it’s a loss of a relationship, the loss of a dream, the loss of a body part or the ultimate loss of life of someone you knew and loved, grief happens. Grief hurts. Grief looks differently on everyone. It is that unique. Grief is necessary when we have lost something we love. If any part of the grief process is avoided, stuffed or overlooked it will continue to swirl around in the proverbial snow globe until dealt with completely.
There is good news and great promises in all the chaos of grief and it is Jesus. In the book of John the enemy is clear about his promise and purpose for our life. The best news is in the promise of Jesus in the words that follow.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)
As I lay my head tonight I remind myself of Paul’s writings to the Ephesians and the promises of the righteousness of God. I imagine Paul sitting on the cold, damp prison cell floor fumbling for just the right words to adequately describe ALL God is capable of.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
Realistically, I may be far from finished or near the finish line walking through my stages of grief through my cancer. The days have become fewer where I feel as though I am walking through a blizzard and my visibility is poor at best. Most days are completely victorious! I can and do trust God completely to appoint the right people to walk beside me, give me the perfect vision to see His path for me, the discernment and wisdom to choose wisely, and lovingly equip me in order to continue walking this out. My life is His. The victory is His. The glory, honor and praise is His, my King, my King Jesus.
photo: made by Missy McCann