What do you do when your world has been flipped upside down, giving you a path you never wanted to take, but having to walk it anyway? You buck up and get it done.
I was so strong during the main fight of this cancer journey. I had to be. I worked my part-time job(s) so that I keep some sort of extra cash and normalcy coming in. I took kids to school, to their activities, tucked them into bed at night. Kept their life as normal as I could, while also sharing with them the fight that we were in. Taking care of a husband who couldn’t get near any bad germs. Who couldn’t remember what medicine he’d taken when, who did nothing but sleep when he was home, or lay in bed hiccuping and not able to sleep. Life went on. I stayed strong. I had to. I wasn’t able to do everything for everyone, but what I did do, kept me going. I got ahead on bills, kept the copays paid, the gas filled, the prescriptions filled. I busied myself with budgeting, making sure everyone got what they needed, and I was able to get caught up on some bills I’d always waited until the last minute to pay. I stayed up every night, unable to sleep most nights. Just watching for a fever, making sure there was no nausea, making sure the right meds were taken at the right time and in the right quantity. I couldn’t sleep, just wanting to protect my kids and my husband, all at the same time. Where I wasn’t able to be physically, I was trying to be present emotionally and mentally…. and I was a very strong believer in that God had us. We would beat this cancer and that He would take care of us until the end of this journey. And He did. He’s still taking care of us. I was proud of myself, I have to admit. That I stayed strong and even when I had those emotional outbursts when things weren’t going my way or the way I wanted them to, I still kept life going as it was supposed to in my world.
My mom told me at one point, that she imagined for Miguel, it was like he was just holding his breath through all of this… that at the time of diagnosis, through the treatments, he just held his breath and went through the motions, waiting to breathe again.
After treatments, and once he went back to work, I think he started breathing again. It was a freeing feeling, to be doing something a bit more ‘normal’ for him. But not for me.
This is where I sucked in and began holding my breath. And started sinking, going further and further down beneath the water that was known as fear. Deeper, deeper, and deeper. My worst nightmare come to life. I was drowning.
And while I say this in past tense, some of it is still true even now…. And oddly enough, most of it no one even realized was going on.
I didn’t want to see anyone. Didn’t want to go anywhere. Didn’t want to talk to God. Didn’t want to read the Bible. Didn’t want to smile. Didn’t want to talk.
I didn’t want to work. And when I did, I was just going through the motions. I didn’t want to book photo sessions — in fact, I wanted to quit photography. I came home every day and was grumpy. I was always mad, so I just didn’t talk much, to keep the moodiness at bay.
People got together, asked me to come, I refused. I ate my feelings. And ate and ate.
Miguel went to work, started eating more, going to weekly workouts with a cancer group, started going out with his guys from church more often. I stopped doing anything for myself.
Treatments stopped. The fear worsened this year for me. The year of 2018, when everything was supposed to go our way!! Our 15th wedding anniversary, my 40th birthday, cancer-free, a trip to the beach (or more!!), a honeymoon 15 years in the making, buying a house?! …It was going to be a great year for us!! But not anymore. Or so my mind was telling me. No more treatments mean the cancer had all the opportunity to grow back and be worse. Fear told me so.
What if. What if I had a heart attack since I’m not eating right and not working out. What if my kids get sick and die. What if Miguel gets this cancer even worse or somewhere else and we lose him. What if my parents die this year too. What if we lose our rent house finally. Fear asked me these questions. Hello, satan, I knew that was you.
I hated it when anyone asked me if I thought I was depressed. Nope. I’ve been depressed before. I’ve dealt with anxiety since Andrew was a baby. This was nothing of the sort. This was fear. THIS WAS THE devil.
Trying to swim up for air, and I just couldn’t. I got a few gasps of air bubbles into my soul when I would open up to a friend or two about this. I knew I needed to just talk about it, focus on myself, since I hadn’t in so long. I needed to get away. But when I walked out the door to do something for myself, I was too scared to leave my family, I didn’t want to be alone. But I didn’t want to be with anyone else either, so I would just go back home. Take time for myself, everyone kept telling me this. You need to fill your own cup before you can fill others! Okay, but how. There was no way. It wasn’t about ME. I needed to fix what had been broken and make sure that cancer didn’t destroy our big year of 2018! I couldn’t let my dream of owning a house be torn apart. I couldn’t tell my kids they weren’t going on a vacation again this year. I didn’t want to wait 3 months for a scan to tell us results on our big 15th anniversary. I just wanted it to all go away, for the last year to be erased and for a do-over!! It wasn’t fair!! I hated all that had happened to me, to my kids, to my husband, to our life!! I wanted to kick and scream and pitch a 2 year old fit and have my old life back.
Finally, the PET scan was scheduled, and we went and had it done just last week. What one would think would be the worst week ever of waiting, truly, has been a week of treading water. I’ve made it to the surface, and even though I’m not back at shore yet, my lips are tasting the fresh air and breathing again. I am still alone. Still in fear, that is what is keeping my legs moving, my arms frantically waving around for someone to rescue me from the depths of the fear that was consuming my being. But I can breathe now. I was the one holding my breath for the last 3 months. Give me 6 months of a cancer fight and I will go and go and go and do and do and do. I will donate to every cause around us, as I can, just to pay the blessings forward. I will not stop because I can’t. But give me the end of treatments and the unknown, the waiting, the fear… and I drown.
This week, I’ve felt weak. My body is sick again, probably due to the stress I’ve literally put myself under. I still have not spoken much to God lately about all of this. I still have two more days to wait until we hear if Miguel has any cancer left in his body. But for some reason, I am breathing through the waiting now. I’m not really sure why.
But, maybe this has something to do with it. There’s been a song that’s on all of the time. Come to the table, by Sidewalk Prophets. I told Miguel last week, that I just really felt that God was trying to tell me something with that song, but that I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what it was. I couldn’t pray about it either. Just still wet and weary from the weight of the water/fear that’s consumed me lately. God knew this. And just waited. While I waited.
God is in the waiting. Did you know that?! Wait for the Lord! Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord! He is still there! Waiting with us!
Back to the song. I have listened to the words over and over again. Thinking, duh, I know all of this!! Here are some of the words, in case you haven’t heard it before….
The outside looking in
This is where grace begins
We were hungry, we were thirsty
With nothing left to give
Oh the shape that we were in
Just when all hope seemed lost
Love opened the door for us
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior now
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
These liars and these thiefs
There’s no one unwelcome here, no
So that sin and shame that you brought with you
You can leave it at the door
And let mercy draw you near.