We don't learn what to do in the waiting.
When I was 17 we found out incidentally that I had a large mass in my mediastinum between my heart and right lung. I had gone in for a test for my stomach grumbles and left knowing that my cancer was probably back. This was in May of my junior year of high school, about a month before school let out for the summer. I was brazenly optimistic about the situation and had organized the game plan to a T. They scheduled a biopsy for 2 weeks after this initial finding. 2 weeks. That's 14 days of knowing that something was terribly wrong, but not knowing exactly how terrible it was. Suddenly my end-of-year projects were completely unimportant (now that's a big deal because in high school I was as driven and as high-strung as they come) and finals seemed ages in the future. I became disengaged. The waiting was disabling. It was the longest 14 days of my short little life; easily the worst part of that whole summer (yes, worse than the surgery!). The biopsy results came in a couple days after the procedure to confirm that it was indeed ASPS, the same cancer I'd had twice before. The moment I heard the results, I immediately sprung back into the brazen optimism that carried me through the next few months. Knowing was easier than waiting. Knowing the worst was easier than waiting with a hundred possibilities.
The waiting is the worst.
No one teaches us how to wait. No one really knows how. At 17 I determined that disengaging from the world around me would be the easiest way to cope with my hurt. I wasn't ready to worry people with such a burden if there wasn't going to be anything to worry about. So I shut myself off. Probably not the best tactic, but it worked at the time. There was no way this method would work for me this time. The time between the knowing and the doing is about 5 months. Half my pregnancy. Shutting down would not help me and John cope with our hurt. Shutting down would not allow for joy or hope. Shutting down was never an option.
This last echo showed that the tumor had not grown and is still not causing any disturbances in blood flow to the rest of my body. Our prayers before this test had been both pleas for no growth and thanksgiving for the healing that The Lord was already providing. Everyday The Lord is wrapping his hands around my body and providing healing and strength. Once a month we get to see the evidences of that work that he is doing daily. So our spirits are continually filled with joy and thanksgiving at the work that The Almighty is already doing and will continue to do in my body and in my spirit!!
The waiting continues now. But the longer we wait, the longer sweet baby girl gets to grow and develop. So really, the waiting is a blessing for her. It is the first gift we get to give to her, even before life. That makes the waiting worth it!
So now I have told you that the waiting is the worst AND that it's a blessing. Confusing, right?! That's how I feel. The reality is that some days I can fully realize the immense blessing before me. I get to live my life similarly to how I may have been living before! I'm not on treatments, I haven't had surgery. Baby girl is 27 weeks and still growing everyday! And then some days the waiting is still the worst. It's difficult to not be able to do anything, because that's what I have been trained to do. It's difficult for life to look so similar but simultaneously so dissimilar to what I thought it would look like. There are days that feel almost normal and there are days that all I can do is cry and sleep. The waiting is such a blessing and is also so difficult.
So when people ask "How are you?" or whatever their variation is of the question, this confusing narrative of blessing and waiting runs through my head. Because the answer is that I am good, but not really good. I am hurting, but not always hurting. I am so blessed, but don't always remember that. Confusing!!!
A conversation with our small group revealed another way to describe this confusing narrative. We are a part of a small group of about 30 people, over half of which are all new to Nashville. As we talked about our lives, there was a resounding theme of transition and uncertainty. One person remarked that there is sometimes a need to mourn what you are leaving behind as you push ahead into the newness. Another conversation revealed this same sentiment- a friend said that in order to truly embrace your new reality that you have to mourn the loss of the life you expected to have, but will not get to experience. Even if the life you are entering is wonderful, it does not exclude the need to recognize that your life is going in a different direction than your previous dreams.
That's a little more concise :) But grieving is confusing, so I had to drag you through the confusings so you could understand where my mind is.
The thing we have found that we really can do right now is to change our eating. I mentioned before that we have switched to an organic diet. We have always felt that eating God's food will lead to a healthier life than eating man's food, but now we are trying that philosophy with organic foods rather than grocery store produce. Science people: no there is no evidence that eating organic is more beneficial. Natural people: no there is no evidence of exactly how harmful pesticides are. There are a lot of unknowns here, but we are taking a step of faith saying that what God has given us must be better than what we have created ourselves. And if there is a chance that organic food is more beneficial or a chance that pesticides are a little bit harmful, we'd rather play it safe while there is so much happening inside my body. There are so many amazing stories about how people change the way they eat to a more natural way with beneficial supplements and their diseases go into remission. I don't want to limit the ways that God can work in my life or the methods in which he heals. This is another path that God may or may not use for healing, and I don't want to close it off because of my love for velveeta and chips :) I cited a link earlier that outlined the specifics of the paleo diet. We don't follow it fully, but use it for guidelines of how to make the switch. We still eat dairy and some grains because we like them and need the calcium that dairy provides. If you would like to know more about this part of our lives, we would love to share with you! Our email addresses are under the "Contact Us" tab at the top.
In the last few weeks we have been living in the new normal as fully as we can. John started his second semester at Ezell-Harding teaching the senior boys (and girls now) Bible class and tending to his roles as administrator and campus minister. I have been resting and enjoying some free time. We've been mourning with our friends in the loss of their father and one of John's favorite Harding teachers. We have been deepening our new friendships in Nashville and clinging to our old friendships near and far. We have been preparing ourselves to be parents! We rearranged our furniture. We are planning for many friends to come by in the coming months. We've been going to the OBs almost every week. We've been plugging in to our church. We've been cooking delicious food. I've been reading the psalms to sweet little baby girl. We are truly living as fully and robustly as we know how :)
My next echo and big spurt of appointments will be February 22. Between now and then our families will have 4 birthdays (including mine!), we will have 2 baby showers, and I will start and hopefully finish my last class of PA school! Life continues on, even in the waiting. I'm learning from the Spirit how to live in peace rather than intervention and results. And the Spirit is visibly clearing a way for me through the waiting by providing a balance of doing and receiving. Receiving peace and healing while doing work for school, preparing for a baby, and eating as medicinally rather than gluttonously. We serve a great God!!
Sweet little baby girl at 27 weeks :) Can you see that John Sullivan nose??!