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Cancer . . . A Roller-Coaster Ride

For those of you who don't know, I was diagnosed with Papillary Carcinoma, or Thyroid Cancer in December 2017. 

The ups and downs of this journey have already made me feel as if I’m on a roller coaster ride in the dark . . . and, let me assure you, that isn’t something I enjoy.

I didn’t feel all that badly coming out of the initial surgery - even though the results weren’t the best they could have been. We were settling into a routine of medicine and rest when I realized that my lips weren’t moving correctly as I tried to talk to my parents . . . almost like I’d had dental work done. Then, I remarked to my mom that something was wrong - my arms and legs felt tingly and heavy from the elbows and knees down, from the collarbone up everything felt wrong about how my neck and face felt. I might be the world’s worst at ever admitting that I feel funny or that something is wrong. Somewhere deep down, I’m convinced I’m imagining it or over-reacting to things others would think was no big deal. I’m sure the simple fact I mentioned it to my mom was enough to raise a red alert. 

She called the surgeon’s office and was able to reach him. He immediately said those were signs of significant calcium deficiency which was the number one concern post-surgery, and we should go straight back to the Medical City ER. I don’t have much reason to go to the ER ever and certainly not one down by Medical City. It was a zoo. There were papers waiting from the doctor with instructions on what I needed and yet it took SIX HOURS before they could find a room to put us in and began to give me IV calcium to prevent seizures or even cardiac arrest. 

Most disappointing for me was that the same six hours I was waiting for an ER room and an IV drip, a good chunk of Joe’s side of the family was arriving at our house to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s over the upcoming weekend. The chaos may drive me to hide in my room at times. The mess makes it feel as if we are ever cleaning. But the laughter and the precious moments together . . . Watching the little ones discover unique relationships with cousins, aunts, and uncles . . . Filling our home with people - OUR people - is maybe my favorite thing in the whole world. And instead I was left sitting in a tiny hospital room in the corner of the 8th floor of a drab old building near downtown Dallas where you could not tell there was any holiday or any reason to celebrate. 

I had visitors. I sent visitors away. I felt horrible. It wasn’t enjoyable for me, and I couldn’t imagine it being enjoyable for anyone else. Joe did leave his family to come spend the night in the hospital with me to ring in the New Year . . . and the only reason we were awake to kiss at midnight was because a dear friend FaceTimed me so she could ring in the New Year with me even if we couldn’t be together. 

2017 was a tough year for more reasons than I have time to list or could adequately explain. It was a year of broken dreams and loved ones torn away. It was a year of hard, back-breaking, heart-wrenching work that didn’t always pay off. It was a year of loss . . . and pain . . . and betrayal . . . and hope deferred. It ended with a series of events none of us saw coming, and we all would have desperately avoided if we could have. The last week, the last day, the last hours felt as if they fit perfectly into the year I had already lived up to that point. 

And yet . . . Jesus. Tears sting my eyes as I write that because I know some of you whom I love desperately just rolled your eyes and now want to race through the end of this post because I said His name. Please allow me to have earned the right in these last few days and weeks for you to at least listen to my story - because He is a part of it that cannot be ignored and should not be minimized. 

There have been times in my life when my heart was destroyed by people who claimed that name but didn't truly know Him. There have been days and weeks and months, if I’m honest, when I was angry with Him, and I didn’t believe He could be good or that He could love ME because of circumstances that didn’t make any sense and seemed as if no possible good could come from them. 

But I will tell you as much hell on earth as 2017 brought me, I wouldn’t have made it without Him. 

I am not exaggerating. I am not a weak person. I do not need an excuse. I refuse to mince my words. 

Without Jesus, this year would have left me a wreck, a puddle of a person who either ran away delusionally believing I could escape from the hellish circumstances around me or who literally shut down and had to be put into a mental ward because I was catatonic. You don’t have to get it. You don’t have to believe I know what I’m saying. But if you haven’t lived day in and day out in my world, if you haven't felt the utter devastation in my heart, if you don't know the torture that my mind has ground itself through, you don’t get to tell me this part of my story isn’t valid.

You know what I learned? That as smart as I am, I'm not smart enough to understand it all. And if you don't have all the pieces of a puzzle, you'll never be able to put it all together. So you either throw your hands in the air and decide none of the puzzle pieces add up to anything or you decide to do what you can with what you have and trust that Someone else can see the full picture and knows just where all the missing pieces are and when they will arrive. 

I learned that the Jesus I thought I knew - who I tried to hide my mess from in fear of scathing disapproval and condemnation for not meeting some ambiguous, ever-changing level of perfection . . . He was a lie. He doesn't exist. He was a tool used by weak, powerless people in my past to coerce cooperation and adherence to THEIR standards, not anyone else's. 

Instead, I made it my mission to discover the Truth - whatever that was, and I found a Father who cheered me on with each new step I took and for every brave attempt I made to learn something new. I found a Friend who never left my side - no matter what I did or how I behaved or whether I deserved it or not - He stood by me and He loved me and He told me what an amazing daughter I was and how proud He was of the things I was accomplishing when I was able to stop trying to be perfect and plan it out and make it all go my way. I found a Foundation that didn't waver - not when I collapsed under the mounting pressures, not when I was angry and hurled frustrated questions and flimsy allegations at Him, not when events occurred that shook all that I thought I knew to be true. When everything else fell away, when I felt as if my flesh had been filleted off my body one strip at a time, when I doubted myself and everyone around me, I found the answer I had searched so hard for in other places was right there, patiently waiting for me to be ready, always loving, always patient, always loyal.

2018 doesn't promise to be an easier year - although I wouldn't complain a bit if it was. I don't know what tomorrow holds for me, let alone the next 6 weeks or 6 months. But I know Who is going before me and Who is coming behind and Who has promised to not leave my side. 

It's okay if you don't know Him in quite that way yet. It took me a whole lot of years myself. He's not impatient with you. He's not angry. He's not wondering why you haven't figured it out yet. He cheers with the angels at every step you take, and when you inevitably fall, He gently encourages you to try again, to keep going, to avoid those things that keep eating away at you from the inside out for your own sake.

So, for 2018, my goal is to take it one step at a time . . . no matter where you're at in your journey, that's a commitment we can all make together:

We will continue to put one foot in front of the other. 
We will continue to move towards Truth. 
We will be patient with ourselves in the process. 
We will love others as they work through their own journey one step at a time.

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