So so different from last Thursday.
Because I've been a slacker in writing this update to you all… By now, many of you have heard that I had an unexpected stay in the hospital last week. You may also have heard that I am now finished with chemo. And you may have even heard that I have officially become a Hospice patient.
Wow. That's a lot of change in one week.
Actually, that was a lot of change in just a few minutes.
In the span of one conversation - about 5 sentences in all - I heard from my doctor that the chemo options are not helping me and that I'm done with chemo.
I heard that Hospice is the best choice for me and that I would become their patient.
And I heard that I really needed t be admitted to the hospital until my pain could get under control.
In the span of one conversation.
In less than 5 minutes.
And, you know what?
I am so thankful for that.
When I was first diagnosed at 27, one of the things that Chad and I knew after I had completed all my surgeries and treatments, is that we probably wouldn't have children biologically. Not that I couldn't physically have children, but that there might be a risk of recurrence of breast cancer if I were to get pregnant. And, guess what? That was totally fine with me. Seriously. Totally fine. You see, I had never longed to be pregnant. But, because fertility issues didn't run in my family, I just always assumed that I would have children the "regular" way. I didn't long to be pregnant, but since that was just "how you had kids", I just assumed that's how I would have kids. So, when Chad and I realized that perhaps that wasn't the way God was going to make us parents, I didn't grieve that at all - I mean, ZERO grief. Within moments of that realization, I was fine with the concept of adoption and was actually looking forward to it.
And then, a few months later, we had submitted all our paperwork to the adoption agency and we began to wait for a baby. Although there was no telling how long that wait would actually be, we were told that it generally could take 3-6 months. But, because there was a high probability that the adoption would happen without a lot of advance notice, I decided to prematurely stop my job as a management consultant. In fact, I would tell people that I was stopping my job "way early." So…I had my last day of work on a Friday. Chad and I and John and Laura (along with other leaders) left early the next morning to take 100+ kids to Young Life camp and be camp counselors for the week. And, the following Friday, we returned home at 6 PM, checked our answering machine, and found that we had a message at 4:30 that same afternoon that the adoption agency had a baby for us. And, within 48 hours, we became parents to a beautiful 5 lb 6 oz baby girl named Emilie Grace.
Almost two years later, another submission of paperwork to the adoption agency. Another projected 3-6 month wait. Instead, during a rare-turn-off-the-phones-power-nap by me (only ten days after our paperwork was completed), we received another call from the adoption agency that we were to be parents to a 7 lb boy named Daniel Carter. Two days later, we drove to Buffalo to pick up our beautiful son. "Mommy and Daddy are going to Buffalo, Emilie, to get you a brother."
I guess you could say that I do okay when thrown into situations without notice!
As you might imagine, since the beginning of the Stage IV part of my cancer journey 4 1/2 years ago, I've had countless thoughts about how this last part of this journey might go. While I don't think I spent time a lot of time dwelling on it, I would be lying to you if I told you I hadn't had countless moments – even fleeting ones – in which I asked myself and God:
Would I have to be the one who made these decisions?
Would Chad and I agree?
Would I just get too tired out and frustrated with chemo that made me feel yucky?
Would my doctor have to twist my arm to move to palliative care?
Would I have to convince my doctor to let me stop?
Would I have to face my kids and tell them that I just couldn't do it anymore?
Would the chemo just make me so stinkin' sick that I would be virtually destroyed by the drugs that were supposed to help me fight this disease?
Would…. Would… Would…
So…on Thursday when I left my house at 9:30 AM as a girl who was going to get yet another chemo treatment…and when I returned on Saturday at 4:30 as a girl who was now a Hospice patient, I was incredibly thankful that that's how fast this last turn on the course of my breast cancer marathon had gone.
So. Incredibly. Thankful.
It was easy.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that it's easy to be a Hospice patient.
All that I'm saying is that the decision to become one was easy.
So, now that it's been a week, how am I doing with this?
Not sure I can fully articulate it. It's actually a bit surreal.
Because I feel as if I'm living in an oxymoron.
In a situation that shouldn't be true, but is. In a situation that is both simple, yet impossibly complex. Is bizarre, yet totally normal. Is totally acceptable to me and totally not.
Here's what's disconcerting…
It's incredibly disconcerting that I now have oxygen systems lining my bedroom wall.
It's incredibly disconcerting to have to send an email like I did today to my children's teachers letting them know that Emilie and Daniel's mom is now in Hospice.
It's incredibly disconcerting to feel parts of my body under my skin that normally you wouldn't feel.
It's incredibly disconcerting to make travel arrangements to Disney for tomorrow and have to make sure that you have enough meds…that you know what hospital you'd call…that you have to arrange to have a scooter available so that you can physically make it through Disney since you certainly don't have enough energy to walk through the parks.
It's incredibly disconcerting experiencing your body starting fail in more and more obvious and prolific ways.
Yeah; that's not easy.
But there's also STILL a joy that exists at the same time. A richness. A fullness. A peace.
It's hard to articulate, but I guess you're just going to have to trust me – and my 4.5 years of trying to live authentically before you about all this – that this joy is true.
It's true and it matters and it seeps into all aspects of this part of my journey.
At the same time this journey is incredibly disconcerting, it is - as plainly as I can state I - also filled with a richness that is deep and real and important.
Because it certainly isn't me.
And to even remotely pretend it's me is just foolishness. Or insanity. Or a downright lie.
You can't possibly have a positive enough of an attitude or a strength of personality to experience this depth of joy when your body is failing fast. When your lungs aren't working right. When your vision is messed up. When your liver is expanding at a rapid rate. When your bones are hurting and when you have medications lining your counter to help ease that, or alleviate this, or slow that. When you look at your kiddos who are still so needing of a mom.
Oh no; it's not because of me.
It's all because of God.
Because He is present and He promises to make a difference.
He promises to infuse His hope into the darkest of situations, in the bleakest of circumstances.
He makes promises and, much to my delight, He continues to deliver on them.
I haven't tapped Him out.
When we're at this new place.
When the turn in the race has been quick and sharp and the finish line is almost visible.
In closing (to this LOOONG update – sorry!), if I could ask for prayer… would you be willing to pray that this trip to Disney for me would be one in which cancer doesn't get to have a loud voice…that my body will cooperate with our plans…that I make it there and back without any incident… that my time with my family would be sweet and special and fun? I'd totally appreciate it. That would be just an awesome gift.
Much love to you all,