This trek through cancer treatment is like a nightmare expedition that won’t end, filled with unwelcome surprises and unexpected pitfalls. I have to keep reminding myself that I am almost at the finish line, at least for this leg of the journey. But, I can’t help looking back at all I’ve gone through, and looking forward to the obstacles that stand between me and the elusive beginnings of better health and wellness. The downward spiral I have experienced over the last few months has debilitated me in mind, body, and spirit. At the beginning of my cancer treatment I was able to push myself beyond my limits by sheer determination and will. But, as time has gone on, my body has steadily grown weaker and it refuses to obey my commands, overruling me on all accounts when I try to force it to do what it doesn’t want to. I’ve gotten so used to losing this battle of wills that it frightens me.
This morning, for the first time in over six weeks, I decided that enough was enough and I was going to take my dog for a walk to the end of our road, even if it killed me. Walking Rosie down the road, taking in the sights and sounds and nature, has always been the highlight of my day. Well, it didn’t quite kill me; but, I only made it halfway down the road before I came to my senses and turned around. I wasn’t even able to enjoy the walk because I was too focused on putting one foot in front of the other, convincing myself with each step not to give up, that I could make it to the end. I couldn’t – my body said, “No!”. When I turned around and started home, Rosie looked at me as if to say, “What is wrong with you, you used to be so much fun?”
The frightening part is that I am losing the desire to do things because I have no energy. I am giving in to my body’s weakness and accepting its dictates all too often. I’ve learned from past experiences that when I try to overrule it, it doesn’t go well for me. I think I understand now why people give up on cancer treatment. If I had more than one more treatment to go, I don’t know how I would convince myself to do it. I suppose I could if I had to, but, only by the grace of God and His strength to uphold me. I tell myself this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. When my spirits flag, God speaks to my heart with words of scripture that give me courage, and help me to keep going.
This past week I had guests at Serenity House. Just knowing that they were staying there and seeing them every now and then walking in the gardens lifted my spirits. It brought to light how much I miss being around people. This forced isolation is another part of treatment that is difficult to endure. Especially if you are a people person like I am. People need people! Community is so important. Just the few times that I met up with my guests and talked and laughed was a healing experience for me. It makes me think of all the shut-ins, elderly, and people who are ill that have no one to visit them, no one who even calls them. The texts, calls, and visits I get from my family and friends mean so to me, especially on those days when I am sick, lonely, or depressed. When I get better, I am definitely going to make a special effort to reach out to those people, to volunteer my time to be there for those who need someone to listen to them, someone who cares.
After I came in from my failed walk this morning, I sat in my recliner, dejected and feeling sorry for myself. The window where I was sitting overlooks my back patio. There is an abundance of flowers I’ve managed to plant over the past few months. Just a few every now and then when I’ve felt well enough, and now, they are blooming profusely. Gazing out the window, I noticed a lizard scurrying from one potted plant to the next; then, it hoped off and ran all the way across the patio and up a post to reach the tall heights of the wisteria filled arbor. It seemed to be on a mission of sorts. I had to smile at its antics. My many colorful garden wind spinners were gaily twirling in the morning breeze. The long, delicate fronds of the hanging ferns were also swaying gently in the wind. Here and there bees and butterflies were sampling the nectar of the penta and lantana flowers; they seemed inclined to eat on the run, hopping from flower to flower. In the distance, I could see the blooming magnolias and Crape Myrtles, and the day lilies and fragrant gardenias in the gardens around the gazebo.
The garden setting soothed me, and as I sat there I felt a sense of peace wash over me, a calming of my spirit. Sitting in the silence and the stillness, looking out at the beauty of nature opened my heart to how blessed I am. Even cancer has, in some ways, been a blessing. It has certainly opened my eyes to what is most important to me in this life – my family, my friends, and my ministry. It has helped me to be thankful for the little things in life. Just the other day I was so happy that I was actually able to vacuum for 10 whole minutes without getting tired or my heart racing. Each chore is a victory when I can get it done! Planting one plant, pulling a couple of weeds, taking short walks, cooking a meal, changing the sheets on my bed – I’m so grateful when I can do these things. I’ll never see life the same again. I’ll never take my health or anything else for granted ever again.
It is in those quiet, still moments when God is able to reach into our heart and mind and help us to discern life in a new light, giving us insights that melt and mold us – transforming and creating us anew. That is why making time for prayer or just turning off the noise and opening our hearts to listen to God in the silence, even if just for a few minutes, is SO important. I’m reminded of a poem I wrote many, many years ago on my first directed retreat, when I was new to sitting in the silence with our Lord. It was a life-changing experience for me. This is the poem I wrote after one profound day with Him on that blessed retreat.
Time alone to sit and pray
To listen to what God will say
No words are whispered in my ear
Only words my heart can hear
I breathe in God and breathe out me
It isn’t something you can see
The comfort, the peace, I can’t explain
I feel uplifted to another plain
Where God is waiting to fulfill
My hopes, my dreams, if it’s His will
No matter what His answer may be
I know He wants the best for me
He lights my path with His Word and His Spirit
I hear His call as He urges me near it
Embraced by love, I have to go
God waits at the end
Where the path starts to glow