These pictures were taken ten days ago. In this moment, my joy could not be contained. As my granddaughter sat on my lap clapping, I could literally feel her innocent joy travel through my body and out my heart. I was there to babysit her for a couple of hours and I’m not sure who was more excited.
This is the same baby that sat on my lap on a cold emergency room gurney eight weeks ago, right after I was diagnosed with Carcinoid Cancer. She was more subdued that day, eerily sensing something was wrong. I don’t know any 9-month-old that would sit for hours on a hospital bed, smiling and playing with whatever was put in her hand, but she did. As my faith waivered that day, she gave me hope and love.
June 12th, I received a diagnosis no one wants to hear. “You have a large mass on your liver and we recommend going back in to find the primary tumor, and oh, we’d like to transfer you directly to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for treatment”. I’ve obviously left a whole lot out, including the doctor thinking I was CRAZY telling him I “knew” something was wrong. Suffice it to say, this man was humbled and will most likely remember that moment as long as I will.
My husband was out of town, so I had gone to the E.R. alone and wasn’t prepared for his diagnosis. All of a sudden, the little cold room seemed really hot. I was nauseous. Dizzy. I knew what was coming as my legs started to shake … they were generous with the Ativan and it prevented a full-blown anxiety attack. I could see his lips were moving, but I wasn’t comprehending what he was actually saying, as I could hear water sloshing in my head. “So are you saying this could be malignant?” He replied, “Yes, this is consistent with Stage 4 cancer since it’s already in the liver”.
What … the … bleep.
It started to sink in, yet seemed surreal, as they rolled me back in for more scans. I wanted to scream, “You’ve got the wrong girl! I’ve been juicing celery juice every day for weeks. I’ve been eating clean. I don’t smoke, rarely drink. I’m a good person. My life is the best it’s been my whole adult life – I’ve finally got it together. You’ve GOT to have the wrong girl”!
I now reflect back on those emotions and realize the prideful mindset I was in to think they had the wrong girl. Who was I to think I was exempt from any diagnosis that could rock my entire world and shake me to my core?
What if I WERE that girl? That one girl who could go through a difficult journey and be vulnerable enough to share the joys and sorrows along the way? Be bold enough to share her faith with others? To have the balls to cook up alternative treatments like in the beat-up motorhome on Breaking Bad? To be open to receiving various modes of healing? To conjure up the strength to find divine peace and the courage to face the uncertainty of it all? What if God pointed down and said, “Yup, she’s my girl”!
Who am I to question? Who am I to think I’m above it all? When did my EGO become so great that I had “Edged-God-Out”?
Finally, how did I miss the memo that I AM MEANT TO FIND JOY in the midst of this journey? This … this is the best part of it all. The JOY I feel with the most trivial things. The appreciation I feel for the people in my life. The home I live in. The mountains I look at. The patients I’ve met, the staff at MD Anderson who are the cream of the crop.
Every single thing looks different through the lenses of JOY IN THE STORM.
I’ve felt more alive in the last couple of weeks than I’ve felt in years. I’ll be honest…the first six weeks were REALLY rough with a yo-yo of emotions. I was so scared, it was crippling. I didn’t want to leave my house, talk to people, or be too far from my husband. He’s been my protector, my confidant, my rock.
After many, many weeks of digesting information, researching this crazy disease, and having some deep conversations with my soul, I came out with a renewed sense of clarity. I told my oncologist that I would be speaking at one of their conferences one day on all the ways I I used my mind and soul to help heal from this.
You see, this insidious type of cancer is treatable, but there is no known cure. It’s known as the “Zebra” cancer because it walks like a horse, it smells like a horse, but it “ain’t a horse”. Why would it not surprise me that I’d be diagnosed with one of the rarest cancers known to man?
WHY? Because WHEN I live another 10, 15, 20 years managing this whether it be a complete cure from my heavenly father, or fighting it every step of the way with the weapons I arm myself with, I’m going to be giving HIM all the glory along the way.
Cancer – the ugliest word on earth. It’s invaded my body and my world now. I will do whatever necessary to overcome and heal, but I’ll do it MY way. Radically. Authentically. Boldly. With grit and grace. I’ll believe I have the power through my heavenly Father to heal my body, yet embrace my diagnosis, because it’s more comfortable for me to be a friend to this disease rather than an enemy. I thought I had to choose – somehow deny it’s existence in order to heal. I don’t believe it. LOVE heals.
This task feels like a full-time job, undoubtedly the most important job on my life resume. I didn’t apply for it, but see it as a divine assignment that I will show up for every day with gratitude and trust.
I’ve been in “treatment” ever since that bleak night in June. By treatment, I mean MIND, BODY AND SOUL.
I’ve been scanned, poked, biopsied, and now preparing for major abdominal surgery August 29th. Once I recover from my surgery, the liver journey will begin, and with it will come a multitude of uncertainties, procedures and tests that will hopefully lead up to the removal of my entire right lobe. I’ve chosen not to give my energy to worrying about that now. I’m also choosing not to worry about the tumor on my spine, because my oncologist doesn’t seem concerned. After all, it’s “slow growing”. #goodtoknow
Something shifted in me early last week. More on that later. Suffice it to say, I no longer waste my time on fear. POOF. Just like that – I’m completely trusting this journey because I finally realize it’s not even about ME. It’s about helping OTHERS. It’s about leaving a positive imprint on the dozens and dozens of people I pass in the halls of the hospital each week. It’s about sharing the light that shines within me even on the hard days. It’s about helping OTHERS heal through the love I show them. Ultimately, it will be for the people who come after me, who will fight the ZEBRA and need hope and inspiration.
In all reality, we’re ALL dying. Every single one of us. This realization was pounded into my head by my friend, Liz. It could be the next time we get behind the wheel of our car, so why waste a second worrying about dying?
I see this cancer diagnosis as a true gift. It’s taught me humility. It’s shown me how many people truly love and care about me. Who knew? It’s brought me even closer to my husband when I thought God was done with that miracle chapter in my life. It’s allowed me to realize I haven’t been crazy all these years – all the misdiagnosed symptoms. All the unexplained changes to my health, as they estimate this has been growing for 7-10 years or more.
I realize the importance of boundaries. I can say “no” and not feel guilty if something isn’t in alignment with what is healthy for me. I’m learning to finally take care of myself. I’m finding ways to bless others along the way, which brings SO much joy to my heart. As a result, the Universe is winking back at me every day, with a “I see you” smirk, asking what took me so long to join in the fun.
Most of all, it’s given me clarity on my purpose. I thought I knew what it was, but I HAD NO IDEA WHAT MY LEGACY WAS GOING TO BE. I always thought my life-work would be exclusive to women in the Direct Sales industry, but nope – I guess I wasn’t thinking big enough.
If I can leave you with one thought, it would be to wake up every day with a grateful heart. We never know just how good our lives are until they are unearthed, roots bare.
Live your life NOW. Keep the FAITH, never lose HOPE and remember that LOVE for ourselves and others is the only thing that truly heals.
After eight weeks, I’m ready to document the miracles happening in my life and I invite you to “follow” this blog, and share it with anyone you know who’s fighting their own battle.
My sincere hope is that it will inspire you to live life on a GRANDER scale, showing up more intentionally, realizing the opportunities you may be missing every day to ease the burdens of others.
“Be brave, be kind, be bold, be fierce, be YOU”