More than a million things are swirling around in my head. I compose the most brilliant and thought provoking masterpieces in my head. In the shower, or while driving, or while laying there not falling asleep. About perspective and change, about our trip to New York, about undocumented birthday parties, about cancer and life and morbid thoughts, about parenting and working and surviving, about living and experiencing and thriving.
I come here, and I also don't know where to start. My blog has become a short and sweet (thankfully) commentary on the skin cancer that I had. I say (thankfully) because it was removed so quickly, it is won and done. Mixed with that is a lot of pictures of our family on Mount Hood this winter. And we are basically in the same outfits in each picture. Cancer, beautiful white mountain silhouette against a blue sky, eye bandage, same green snowpants, same blue coat, same gushing of gratefulness.
This winter, like no other, being on the mountain, made me feel the most alive. There and quiet moments alone are the places I felt closest to God, and I felt clarity. Clarity of priorities and emotions. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was living a good life. I can feel it when I breath in the frigid air and feel the burn of the cold wind on my face. When I smile at my loved ones and when I use my muscles and power to move my strong body along in the snow.
I am filled, consumed with emotions, and it's just swirling there inside of me.
Let me see if I can start to explain, and not delete my post for fear of judgement. I need to get something out. A good friend told me to just try and process one emotion at a time. I want to start to unravel the knots my thoughts are in. So here I go, one thought.
I think that I've always thought deep inside that if I had to guess how I would die, it would be from cancer. I mean, I know it's morbid, but if we are honest, most have a hunch one way or another. Or a hunch might even be too strong of a word. We aren't supposed to talk about it, unless we are trying to be weird or creepy. Anyway, Lawrence told me long ago that he thinks the way he will go is in a car accident, he's always had that feeling. My guess is that a lot of people, if ask, think cancer. Why not? All we hear about these days is this or that has links to cancer. I sure remember thinking as I baked to a crisp while running on the logs and flumes of Wallowa Lake summer after summer that of course I would probably get skin cancer, not that I even knew why that was bad. Not that I imagined the good kind of skin cancer was THIS bad. Not that I knew anything. Except that if I got a really bad sunburn, it would eventually fade into a sort of tan after a few painful days. If everything causes cancer, why even try to fight it?
Well...that's not entirely true, but you get my point. I don't live that way now. We do a lot of things to fight it. We eat organic fruits and vegetables when we can, we have a toxin free house, use make-up, soap, cleaners, and laundry soap that don't have harmful cancer-causing chemicals. I breastfed all of my kids until they were a year. I don't use deodorant with aluminum in it. I mean, I do things, lots of things. Now I'm eating a Paleo diet, and feeling great on that hoping the supposedly cancer reducing effects are also true.
Before my real cancer experience, I've worked myself into tears imaging myself as the title character in "Tuesdays with Morrie", I've written my own "Last Lecture" stories in my head, recorded imaginary videos even. Most of my imaginings are consumed with the great impact, what I must leave behind, documentation and advice for those that love me, for those who aren't old enough for the wisdom and teaching I must give them. I've thought about how I would be at peace with going to Heaven, but then am filled with anguish about the pain of those left behind. Now I know I am an extremely thoughtful person, with a big imagination, but I can't possibly be the only person who thinks about these things. Or maybe I am, no one ever shares these thought with me if they have them. And I'm am closer, close-close, with more people than anyone I know. People who would share it.
So when I heard the word cancer, it was like a confirmation of my worst fears! My worst fears, that really weren't supposed to be true, those were just crazy fears that I'd conjured up. "A little bit of skin cancer" she said, and I couldn't imagine what that meant. But there was a plan, and I needed a plan in order to let her off the phone. Then I waited a few weeks and prayed and had more faith than I ever have before, and that's saying a lot because I have loads of faith in my heart. I felt love like I've never felt before, and again, I have more love in my life than I know what to do with, so it is saying something when I can pinpoint the time in which I was most loved, and I just experienced that time. Then I had the surgery and it is all fine. Fine. Soreness near my eye, fullness in my heart.
And, you know, that's not what you think of when you think of cancer, when your worst fear plays out as a true story. When you think of cancer, you think of long term battles and treatment plans, you think of life changing perspective and bald heads. And the thing is, some life changing perspective did come, and I was brave, and I am forever changed.
I asked one of my friends why no one was commenting on my blog these last two weeks, while I wrote about my recover, when I know so many are reading. She said, what is there to say? It's awkward when you don't know what to say. I guess. Except that since I'm a blog writer, when I read a blog and I don't know what to say, I say "hugs", "thinking of you", "yay!". Say something because nothing feels like, well, nothing.
And now it is all over, and I'm not going to die, and I never was going to die. There wasn't even a shadow of a doubt that in the end I would be cancer free and go on living. I went through a battle and I was scared and I was strong. Yay me! My support network surprised and amazed me. Yay loved ones! While I physically can see a scar, and a misshapen eye that every day looks and feels better, emotionally I feel changed in more ways than I can say. I guess that is because I let myself go there, even if for a few minutes. To the land of what if. To the land of I need to be here no matter what. To the land of ohmygoodness, what if I wasn't? And my cancer that used to be a fear "out there", one that I was just imagining in my head, just like I am nervous when my great driving husband goes on a drive without me, just like I don't want my family to fly separately. But now, it's in here. In. My. Body. It was in my body for 5 years and I didn't even know it. and I looked at it in the mirror every day. It reminds me of May 1994 when my fear of the dark changed from boogie man fear to real bad-things-happen-in-the-dark fear.
What other cells could be malforming in my body? I want to get my cervix checked and my breasts too. I want to go BACK to the dermatologist, just to be sure there is nothing else. I want to go right now, not in another year. I want the same for everyone I know, get checked, all places. I want some sort of guarantee that what I just went through is as bad as it's gonna get. That was my life long bout with cancer, and man was I lucky. But that's not the way it works. And to be clear, I'm not living in fear, but with new prospective. Easy to beat cancer or not, I am a cancer survivor, and a very blessed woman. Those two things I know to be true right now.
How do I integrate back into the mundane chores and responsibilities of every day life? I mean, every day life, do you know that I just beat cancer? How do I do it during the months of April and May, when I would typically live at the office, releasing my poor mommy-time-wanting-kids to the care of our nanny and my husband and their teachers? I usually dig deep and just do what is needed of me, but work isn't the only or most important thing to succeed at, not in my new perspective. In fact, I want to go there do my best job, and be home for dinner most nights. Every night. I certainly wasn't able to do that last year, and I'm trying to figure out if that is even a choice I have, one I can make. Am I pretending I don't have control over that, or do I really not have control over that. I need to find a way to have control over that, to find out if that can be my choice. I think it is, I think it can be. A two inch scar on my eye tells me that I get to make every second count. Every second of my only eight hours at work, and then every second of my nights and weekends at home.
The thinker and planner and doer in me knows there has to be a way to make that possible. To be more disciplined, to make a plan. But how? I can't think of a way to make it possible, but I know deep down that I must. I must. This cancer didn't threaten to take my life away like it could have, and it might have just reminded me to take it back. I can't be the stay at home mom and wife I often dream of being. But all or nothing isn't the goal here, finding a way to make the most of every second in a wise and present way...that's what I will set out to accomplish. The tugging in my heart tells me to resolve to make some changes to celebrate living. To celebrate the blessings I was given. By God. To me. Whoa.
This week I resolve to:
-Look in the eyes of the person who is speaking to me and listen, especially my kids
-Spend more time holding my children, and less time directing them
-Say, "in a minute honey" 50x less per week
-Acknowledge the small stuff as small stuff and move past it
-Delegate the work
-Less time outs, more looking to the root of the matter
-Pray often, lift up the little stuff, the details, God's not just there for the catastrophes, draw close in the moments and listen
-Think about this moment at this moment
-Give less value to what others think or feel, give more value to what I think and feel, what Lawrence thinks, Lily thinks, Addie thinks, and Bryson thinks, and to what they each feel
-It's okay for others to disagree with me, it's okay for others to roll their eyes at me, they aren't where I am at. That will not break me, nor should it change my feelings about myself. Consider carefully at these moments who I am living for. I am not living so that I won't ever disappoint others, so stop acting like I am
-Eat dinner with my family every night M-F
-Look at the beautiful reflection staring back in the mirror, not the swollen eyelid, not the red scar that cannot yet tolerate make-up, not the wrinkles, but instead the truth, the youthful face of a big hearted, blessed, and healthy woman
-Memorize one verse which will uplift me when I forget Who's got this
-Sleep 8 hours a night. Every night.
Laugh, laugh, laugh
Is that a lofty list? Maybe, but my full heart is just getting started.