Finding Hope, Redemption, Courage... from Cancer

"(At one time) my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend." - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Monday, October 4, 2010

I don't know

I don't know what this day will bring
Will it be disappointing, or filled with long-for things
I don't know what tomorrow holds
But still I know I can trust Your faithfulness

I haven't listened to Brian Doerksen in a long time. I haven't been able to listen to worship music period in such a long time. The average worship experience in church today is just not what it used to be (ooh, don't I sound so old, already complaining about the good ol' days?). There's just a disconnect for me in so many ways in that area of my relationship with God. But this past week I found this song, connected to Brian's other song, called "Faithful Father," which started going through my head after I discovered a friend of mine had died, that line where it says, 'from the moment my life began, You have been faithful.'

I remember when I first got sick, friends of ours visited from Calgary, brought dinner and prayed over us. I had told them that I had no "grid" to put cancer on - how do you fit "I've got leukemia" into a 28-year-old-mother-of-two-preschool-aged-kids channels of thought without getting seriously derailed on major issues of faith, hope and just... life? I remember later that night my friend Jodi prayed over me and asked God that I would see every single thing on a grid of God's faithfulness. That prayer has echoed in my mind these past eighteen months, growing in fervor, as each step shows even more clearly that He certainly is faithful.

That was no more true than this week. I am so, unbelievably tired. On Monday I had been playing "Your Faithfulness" (quoted above) on the piano when the phone rang. It was Noelle's kindergarten teacher, wanting to share some observations of Noelle's responses in class. It seems that Noelle may have a learning process difficulty, or auditory command process difficulty, of some sort. We are merely speculating here and there will likely be further tests to find out exactly what is the problem. Her teacher is meticulous and cares very much about each student achieving their best, but it was very hard for me to hear that my child might not be doing as well as she needs to. Those of you who went to school with me might understand why. I didn't have that kind of experience at school. It came easily for me. I don't know what to do with this. And the worst part is, really, I have no control over it. I can't be in the classroom with her to help her respond to directions appropriately. I can't coach her through this. This is something she has to do all on her own.

So I asked many of our close friends to pray for her, us, and those involved in her education, that we would all learn what we could do to help her. I must confess that I have spent nearly every conscious moment this last week trying to set up an environment that can make her successful. I know, it sounds kind of insane, but this week all I really cared about was what Noelle needed. So much so, that when I went to the oncologist on Tuesday and my next philadelphia chromosome test results were back with not great news - not terrible either - I barely cared. Really. Apparently there has been some minimal improvement in my philadelphia chromosome count, and it was really only a month into Sprycel treatment, so there's no need to panic or anything. He just said, let's wait till December and see what it says then. Me, so tired and sleep-deprived at the time, just asked him straight out: and then what? What if it doesn't work then? He looked uncomfortable for a moment - I don't think he's the type to give false hope to anyone, even someone as young as me - and he said, well.... maybe, we.... well, we could probably live with it. I laughed out loud and said, do you mean that literally? Like could I, literally, live with it? Which made him laugh out loud, and believe me, this guy doesn't laugh much. And he said, sure, you know, I think you could. That really is the bottom line, isn't it?

We left the office laughing and shaking our heads. I had just had this conversation with David's Grandpa - who unfortunately has cancer as well - about how many unknowns cancer brings to life. It's kind of hard to plan your life around something that could take you at any time, that could surprise you with something new just around the corner. We don't know how each day is going to go, sometimes each moment.

We just don't know what's coming. At. All.

But David and I - on hearing this news of "you could probably live with it" - we laughed. Both of us! Some of my friends asked, why on earth did you laugh at that? And deep down I knew its that I'm living out in a very concrete way what is ultimately the reality for all of us, in that we just, don't know. There are no guarantees anymore. Anything can happen.

This is not easy for me. I'm a planner. You all know it. But this is totally God in my life. He has gotten my attention. He is focusing me. I have always needed this, this focus, this bigger-than-life problem that shakes out who I really want to be and what I really want to do. We often spend so much of our lives in tomorrow that we totally miss today. This situation with Noelle - with her transition to school - is the same way. It's focusing me to pray continually, searching for insight into what God has planned for my child, and then doing what she needs me to do that day. And the next day after that. After all, when I first got sick and asked God to make me well, I told Him that I wasn't really worried about me so much, but about my kids. They need a mom to help them grow up, and yet I spent much of this last year not focused on them like I should have been. He's keeping me to my promise. Them first. Then me.

And this is causing radical changes in my life. I'm starting to study my kids to see who they actually are, not who I thought they would be. I always knew Noelle had an artistic bent, but I didn't want to force a love of arts on my child. So, I took her out of ballet this year so she wouldn't be overwhelmed with school, piano and dance. And every night since school has started, she has cried and asked us when she could go back to ballet. She even asked one night if we could have her ballet teacher over for dinner. And we don't know her that well! So I made a plea to her dance school to let us back in, knowing she may never be a dancing star, praying that she does it well enough to keep going, because all of a sudden, I see such a release in my girl. She's smiling again, she's less stressed about school. She begs to practice piano, hugging me after we finish practicing, proud of herself. I guess she is a little right-brained artist -type after all.

This thing is also making me a morning person. No, not seriously. That will never happen. But I'm forcing myself to do what my kids need me to do. For example, this morning we tried a new (well, sort of old) church at the 9 am service. Why? Because Noelle has a friend in that Sunday school class and wanted to see her. Turns out even though she didn't see that friend, it was the best move for the whole family. And there's some benefits to early mornings, right? (I'm not seeing that right now, of course, as I frantically try to get a blog post finished at midnight! =)

It's also making me a pseudo-extrovert. I am a girl that desperately, frantically craves alone time and just time to think and be by myself, or with my Bible, or reading a book, or (cough) working on that novel I dreamed of writing since I was ten years old (yup, Erin, I guess I never got rid of those artsy-daydreamer tendencies!), and yet my life is filled with so many people, so much talking, so much NOT alone time. And that's what my kids need from me, for me to know their friends, to invest in relationships with their families, to take them to church as much as I can, to invest in relationships with their teachers. Its overwhelming for me, and I'm not getting the down time or the sleep that I crave but I know its exactly where I'm supposed to be. And if that's the case, God will not forget me. He will keep me right in the palm of His hand. Really, where would I rather be?

On a side note, I do pray for sleep. And soon. So, to conclude my ramblings for tonight...

All through this week, despite emotional and mental and physical exhaustion, I look back and every single step showed me how God is leading us to be exactly where we should be. I told David tonight, I know I'll have those moments where I sit and think about dying and what all that might mean and how I might go before those around me, and yet really, that could be such a huge waste of time. I've had lots of those moments, and everyone needs those, and I'm sure I'll need more in the future. But really, if I don't know how much time I've got, then its about time to start using that time. No, not to take on some crazy-huge project that has no meaning. Not to do more, but to be more, to intentionally build more into the lives of those around me.

Really, what better legacy is there than that?

I don't know how or when I'll die
Will it be a thief, or will I have the chance to say goodbye?
No, I don't know, what the future holds
Still I know I can trust Your faithfulness