Today, the 1st of April, was chemo infusion day 3. I had been having PTSD since last Wednesday, worrying myself sick and not sleeping. I simply could not stop thinking about all the trauma that happened to me on Chemo infusion day 2 and all that had happened in the weeks since then. It was like a video playing over and over in my head. I was making myself sick about it and dreading going to Chemo again.
I had a lovely weekend, my son and granddaughter, and her friend came over. On Saturday, I took the girls to The English Tea Room and we had scones, Cassie’s favorite chocolate chai tea, and a lovely English breakfast. I was so happy to be with the girls, we went to church together, and my granddaughter approved of me wearing my wig for the first time. She said it didn’t look too terrible. If you don’t want the truth, don’t ask a kid. It was my weekend to cantor and I was a little embarrassed wearing the wig but the parishioners were nice to me and said it looked good – they are so very kind. The rest of the weekend the girls played together and we watched movies, and took walks outside. And, best of all, I was feeling really well. But, I knew my feeling well days were going to come to an end soon and it bothered me.
It was in the middle of the night when I was praying (if I can’t sleep I always pray), I asked Jesus, “How in the world am I going to make myself go to the next treatment, I’m terrified of what will happen to me – and I don’t know if I can take two weeks of being so sick after the treatment again, I don’t want to go – this last session was so debilitating, Lord.” Then, I started thinking about Jesus’ Passion and how He knew how much pain He would have to endure and exactly what would happen to him. Yes, he was so scared he went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, asking His Father,
Jesus was willing to do the Father’s will, for love of humankind, for our redemption. Love brought Jesus to the cross and love kept Him hanging there until He died. As I lay there pondering Jesus Passion, I thought of each time He weakened along the way, when He was scourged, beaten, crowned with thorns, made to carry a cross that was so heavy He fell with it three times, then He was nailed to the cross, and hung on Calvary. What made Him keep going? Why did Jesus keep getting up, when most of us would have given up, just as soon dying where we lay. Jesus had a mission and that mission, fueled by love, that mission of redemption, gave Him the willpower and the courage to keep moving toward that cross of salvation.
I can’t tell you how many nights, just like Jesus, I prayed for the Father to take this cup of cancer away from me – and modeling myself after Jesus I always say, “not my will but yours be done.” I have had to fully surrender to God’s will so many times in my life, in whatever dire situation I was going through at the time, before I was prepared to face my “cross” with courage and strength. Surrender is not easy, but when we give the Lord our surrender, our gracious God gives us what we need in order to persevere and endure our circumstances. He loves us through it, guiding our way. So, determining to get my head on straight, I went into deep prayer, and self-reflection. I talked to some of my friends and the Doctor’s assistant, and met with my Spiritual Director (all those angels God was sending to give me strength). Prayer helped to lessen my fears, and assured me of God’s love and care of me, my friends were my cheerleaders and encouragers; the nurse gave instructions on taking my meds regularly and not skipping them like I had been doing. She also gave me more information on what to eat and drink that would help me not only on chemo day but through the weeks in between. My spiritual director, in her usual way, helped me to figure out, on my own. that God loves me and doesn’t want me to suffer any more than I have to. God got through to my stubbornness and opened my heart and mind until I was ready to listen to what the nurse said, and ready to follow her instructions. Once again, God’s grace gave me the gift of believing that “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
I now had a plan for chemo day and for the weeks that followed and was prepared for anything that could go wrong. My husband got me up early, his presence is always a source of strength to me. Thankfully, there was only one minor glitch on chemo day, the nurse hadn’t put enough Lidocaine numbing cream on my port so when the chemo nurse punctured my skin over the port, it hurt, a lot. But, only for about 20 minutes and it was nothing I couldn’t take. Instead of letting the chemo nurse push the Benadryl, the doctor’s assistant told me to take 2 Benadryls before I left home, that way there would be no chance of the Benadryl causing me a reaction because it was pushed to fast, like last time. She also ordered Ativan for my anxiety, which helped immensely and kept me pretty much zonked out, only waking up when the nurse was putting in the last chemo drug as she said to me, “This will only take about 30 minutes and you are done.” That made me so happy! I was also surprised that I didn’t even have a bad reaction to the Rituxan chemo drug like I had on the last two treatment days. It was such a relief that all went well. God knows how stubborn I am, and it seems He lets me do things my way because of that darn ‘free‘ will (though I know He hates to see me suffer) until I finally come to the conclusion that I cannot do it alone, not without God’s help. Then, when I am ready to listen, He guides my path and the Holy Spirit gives me the gifts I need, courage, faith, knowledge, wisdom, counsel, understanding, and awe (fear) of the Lord. I am also blessed to live in what I call my “Garden of Eden.” This place of beauty where I can work in the garden with beauty that surrounds me, where I can play fetch with my dogs and take them on long lovely walks, where God speaks to my heart every day in the silence and in nature, where my husband of 48 years loves and cares for me. Those are the things I try to think of when I am feeling low and lonely. My husband always tells me that I must remember that this is just a “season” of my life, this trial will have an end in just a few months. Who knows where God will lead me when I am well again? Perhaps things I’m learning from having cancer will lead to new volunteer work, make me a better spiritual director, or open new ministry opportunities. These things I’m learning are changing me, helping me to see others like me, and what they are going through, teaching me the gift it is to others when I am compassionate and kind. Having cancer cannot help but change my heart; I pray a heart like Jesus’ heart is forming inside of me, and that His ways will always become my ways, more and more.
Keeping the faith when it seems as if your life is on a downward spiral, filled with worries, pain, and sorrow is very challenging, especially for people whose faith is shallow. But, Jesus says, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). God is always present, offering His love and support – all we have to do is ask Him for it.