Yesterday the doctor said “Go live your life.” No more surgeries, no more chemo. Some regular screenings, but the healing and moving on officially starts today. A colon re-section, as a nurse anesthetist friend told me, is MAJOR abdominal surgery but that is now in the rearview mirror. Mild chemo is a misnomer. There is nothing minor about the poison that my husband infused and swallowed. The saving grace was that it was short-lived. Right now, tests are saying that 3 months did the trick and there is no sign of cancer. He is one of the lucky ones. We are on the other side of this unexpected disruption to life.
Cancer makes you feel small in an incredibly large and unfamiliar landscape. The first days of knowing the diagnosis felt surreal. Life was buzzing all around us yet we had a secret that was making our world stand still. There was a wall between us and everyone else in our lives and we were pressed up against it’s cold hard truth.
After a couple of weeks of processing the shock of a diagnosis, my husband and I made a conscious decision to share this news. I look at generations past and how they were more apt to keep the hurt, the sadness, the struggle private. To put the cloak of hush around your shoulders as you face the world outside your front door sounds incredibly difficult, especially in 2019. The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It has walked in that front door and taken a seat at our kitchen tables, our family room sofas, our favorite chairs. We are connected in so many ways to so many people that, to us, it seemed like it would be an added layer of stress not to share our news. So, we told our world, either in person, on the phone or through social media that we are now fighting cancer. And that led us to a conversation with a long lost friend who we happened to see at a holiday party.
Because he saw a Facebook post update, he shared that he is a 4 year survivor and looks back on his cancer as a blessing. I’m not sure that we are quite there yet, but hearing him so sincerely proclaim this gives me hope that we may be able to have that outlook someday as well. He also helped me reevaluate. For weeks we had been saying we are ready for 2019 to be over; but an honest accounting of the last several months reveals many blessings indeed. So many of them have to do with the friends and family who have been there for us in so very many ways. I have learned the importance of an encouraging word on social media, a text, a phone call, a card in the mail, a kind word in person. All of the ways people reach out nowadays have helped us power through the last several months. After we started sharing this we have never felt alone in it and for that we are grateful.
My husband looks forward to the day when his news isn’t the news that prompts a person to start a conversation with, “We think about you all the time”, or “You are in our prayers.” Feeling surrounded by so many thoughts and prayers is both humbling and extremely touching. I am certain even just the knowledge of those prayers have helped both of us through the bad days and kept our eyes on the prize of the end of chemo and the beginning of recovery.
As my children were facing the hurdles of growing up I would often tell them to find the good in a bad situation. Discovering your spouse has cancer feels like no kind of good. It is the worst kind of fear, a lonely vulnerability and permeating sadness all unexpectedly dumped on your doorstep. The script of your life suddenly flips and ready or not you are taken down a path you never planned to travel. But there is goodness in the friends and family in our lives who are willing to show up and walk a piece of that path with us.
We are now on the other side of this time in our lives. It will take us a good part of 2020 to unravel what we unexpectedly went through in 2019. But as we emerge changed from this experience I am clinging to my friend’s declaration of cancer’s blessing and grateful for the gentle reminder to continue to focus on all that is good.