Simply put I am a list maker. I am a task-oriented person. I have even written a “to-done” list to mark off the things I accomplished in a day purely for the gratification of scribbling out the task completed. With this idea in mind, I also make grocery lists. Even if you are not a regular to-do list maker, I think quite a few people make a grocery list, so hopefully you know a little of the language I am speaking. For the first time in 18 months I wrote down “conditioner” on my grocery list. Although this may seem like the most unnecessary news you have ever read (which it really is), it held much significance to me. I am a Sam’s Club shopper and had a large bottle of conditioner I had been using 6 months leading up to chemo. Pretty soon after my treatment began the hair loss commenced. I lost well over 90% of my hair during my six months of chemo and then trimmed off 8% more. As Jake would tell you, I have a bird nest on the back of my head. The little curly poof that remains is small indeed and on a windy day truly does resemble a birds nest. It doesn’t help that my once long hair, when short, is VERY curly. People often ask me if it is coming back in curly. Yes, but because it always was curly and it was too heavy and thick to note previously. My little stubbin’s are about 2″ long and I am so pleased with my curly fro that sits upon my head. If I maintain this rate of growth it will likely only take 6 years to grow my hair back to the pre-chemo length. That would mean not a single hair cut, so we are really looking realistically at 8 years. People often said, “it will grow back.” Yes that is true. But how often do we wait for 8 years for something to grow? (I think there are people who wait 20+ years for rare flowers to bloom…but that is not really my cup of tea.) I am in it for the long haul, so overall that will be just fine.
A year ago yesterday, I had my very first meeting with an oncologist. Still that idea shocks me. It sometimes seems as though it never even happened because the mere idea of fighting cancer is such a far reaching thought. I had cancer. Whaaaaattt? That seems so odd to say. I survived cancer. Now that has a much better ring to it. I feel like beating cancer should stand out as one of life’s great accomplishments. It does, but it doesn’t mean that there will be no more struggles or life battles. We know that from scripture. John 16:33 tell us “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I recently went through one struggle in some relationships with people. People can be difficult. I can easily be stubborn. But it too was hard. At some moments I was certain it was even harder than cancer and that is saying quite a bit. By God’s grace there has been some peaceful resolution. I am not positive that if I had not gone through cancer would I be aware enough of the magnitude of God’s grace in a really tough situation. Isn’t God’s grace sufficient? Andrea’s words spoke so clearly to me today at Brown Bag Bible Study. She stated that unbelief is the underlying sin of all sin. We often don’t actually believe God will provide. Unbelief is an insult to God’s goodness… Can we get an, “AMEN!”? Just because I went through the waters of chemo, is does not guarantee an easy road from here on out. Does that mean that God is any less sovereign? No! Just because I fail in how to love people best, it does not make God any less of a loving and forgiving God. For these I am so thankful.
I recently was asked to write a letter to a man battling cancer. One of the things that my dear friend, Amy and I have discussed before is that we didn’t really like being called into action when someone lost a sibling. We didn’t like giving advice on ways to handle grief. We simply wished we had never gone through it so we wouldn’t know how to give the advice. I found myself feeling the same way about writing a letter for a fellow cancer battler. But God didn’t have me go through it to have no return on the gain. I was pushed further and I have an opportunity and responsibility to share the Gospel to this father fighting cancer. This is what I said to Eli, and what I would probably say to anyone:
My name is Brandee and I am a recent cancer survivor. I am also a good friend of _____. She has shared with me that you are currently fighting cancer. One of the things that irritated me most was receiving unsolicited advice. It was hard enough to hear all of the awful things that the doctors told me, let alone all of the other suggestions everyone else made. It was exhausting to decipher truth from myth. I stuck with what my doctor told me, but I was blessed with a phenomenal oncologist. I also hope you have an excellent oncologist. Doesn’t that suck? To say you have an oncologist. I agree! Eli, the fight is hard. I am not sure of your treatment regiment. I received chemo for 6 months. I did learn that fighting and my mental state was half the challenge. After about my fourth round of treatment, depression started to take hold. Eli, I have no idea what your faith looks like and it is absolutely none of my business. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. As a result, I prayed. But I was also too exhausted, too mad, too frustrated and too sad to pray sometimes. Because of this I asked others to pray for me. As sure as I write this letter, there were many, many times that other peoples prayers helped life me up. Eli, I am so sorry if I am preaching to the choir and you already know of the power of prayer, but if you don’t I challenge you to at least consider it. It is a free gift I can give to you. I will be asking the Mighty Healer, Jesus to intervene on your behalf – to give you comfort, peace, rest, courage, boldness and a soft spirit to receive these gifts. Eli, cancer sucks! The journey is hard! There is such a burden to bear and it can certainly feel completely overwhelming. It is important to remember that there are people who love you and need you. Many prayers, Brandee”