saturday, june 8, 2013.
Concerned friends and family say hard words to say that are also hard to hear. They do not know what we know: I am healed... or at least, few believe. It's hard for me to believe too sometimes. They only know my levels are up (now hCG 5578) and I haven't started chemo. Most are loving and kind and risk their own comfort to share their hearts for us and with us, but some are careless and cruel. They speak of my death and my motherless son. They mock our faith and question our character. They forget that we have feelings. We are at a bit of a loss, feeling no need to defend ourselves and our choices, but having no desire to invite harsh words from any in our community. Words have such power and weight and meaning. It makes me painfully aware of how I have confronted some of them in ways which were hurtful, and I know for myself how easy it is to be so intent on speaking justice that you forget entirely about love. We try to remember that we are not the only ones who are suffering. Many of them have fears about our choice to follow our hearts and take a big, long, deep breath instead of dive directly into treatment. It's a good problem to have: people being upset because they love you... kind of like having to pay taxes because you make money. We assure them we have fears too! We are open and honest about those fears, but we don't look to others for consolation or validation or answers or anything else -- we look to Christ. He is a dear friend and we hold nothing back, we say it all. He can handle us pig-piling all our fears and worries and burdens and hurts and frustrations on Him. Not only can He handle it, but He is the only one who can truly know us, truly understand us, truly comfort us, and give us true and lasting peace.
My contractions continue. I ponder the past and remember just how easily, how skillfully, how naturally my body delivered our son. It occurs to me that the very placement of our suffering lends itself to the possibility of deliverance, in the most literal sense. The contractions intensify and for nearly two weeks my body expels cancer. I hold it in my gloved hands. It is strangely beautiful, delicate, intricate, fascinating.
We see the Naturopathic Oncologist for a follow-up appointment. I explain I am shedding the cancerous tissue and ask if it is common. He is surprised and, when repeatedly pressed for an explanation, reluctantly admits that such behavior can only be expected when a patient's hCG is in the hundreds of thousands (an enlarged womb essentially overflowing with grape-like clusters of tissue may shed a small amount under certain circumstances), but since my hCG is closer to 5,000 (now down slightly, back to where I started the day of diagnosis at hCG 5297), and my womb more normal in size (not overflowing) and with no circumstances to account for the shedding... well, there isn't really an explanation.
As my body continues to shed what ought not to be contained in my womb, we play along and try to help. I repeatedly see an acupuncturist. I ingest some seriously unsavory tinctures. I boil a small mountain of Chinese herbs until the whole house stinks to high heaven for weeks on end. The more I try to encourage my body, the less my body delivers and the more I become discouraged. But I do have this growing sense that the cancer is no longer attached to me, no longer feeding off of me, no longer being nourished by me, but the numbers tell me the cancer is still there. I once knew a man who had been healed of 17 brain tumors. If I remember correctly, the day he went in to have brain surgery they did one last scan and were astonished to find that all 17 of the tumors were nothing but scar tissue. Is that not a miracle? But if it was, why the scar tissue? Why not just heal the man outright and let him carry on with his life as if none of it had ever even been? I do not know. In my own life, miracles look like all kinds of different things: Like the brief moment in which I feel an overwhelming physical sensation and know that I had been healed of epilepsy. Like the 5 minutes it takes for the surgeon to perform (free!) lasik and heal my sight. Like the 9 hours it takes for Little Buddy to finally sleep through the night last night, giving The Music Man & I our first full night of sweet sleep since October 2011. Or like the 6 and a half years it takes for God to heal even just begin to heal a broken relationship in my life that I haven't even been entirely certain could be mended. What is happening to me, to us, feels like a miracle... so where's the proof?
That I can even say it astonishes me, but our miscarriage is a very real answer to so many prayers we've prayed: God, are you even good? God, do you even love me? God, are you even there? God, heal my bitterness. God, I really don't want You right now… but I want to want You, to love You, to need You, to know You. I remember laying awake in the middle of the night a few months ago, only hours after the surgeon emptied my womb, tears streaming from my eyes and pooling in my ears as I cried out silently, "okay, God. If this is what it takes to transform my heart, then okay. I trust you. Just don't let me be the same after all of this pain fades away… I don't want it to all be for nothing. I want to be changed." And it astonishes me to say this too, but this cancer diagnosis is another answer to all these prayers, and we are grateful. He is showing us every day how good he is, how much he loves us, how present he is. He is healing my bitterness! He is changing our hearts and changing our desires and making all things new. He is birthing something new and good out of all the horrible and heartbreaking and terrifying things that have happen. These are actual answers to actual prayers. We would have never prayed for any of these things that have taken place, but we were praying for a renewal of our faith, and we were praying for closer community with our friends, and we were praying for freedom from my bitterness… and voila! Definitely not in the ways we were thinking, and perhaps we should have been much more specific, but answered prayers nonetheless. And it feels like God is answering our prayers for a miracle too, though again it is not in the instantaneous, snap-your-fingers-and-make-the-cancer-magically-disappear fashion that we'd love to see. So we keep praying. We keep waiting. We keep hoping. We keep trusting. We keep listening.
We don't know what's next. We remain open. We believe God has led us to where we are now, and we are committed to following him wherever he leads next… to chemo or to more waiting or to something else entirely that we haven't even conceived of. But that we are right here, right now, is a miracle to us. That we are not one month deep into chemo is a miracle. That I'd been fired by my doctor and could say on my medical insurance application that, "no, I am not currently in a doctor's care" and therefore qualified for insurance is a miracle. That I have not had to wean Little Buddy too quickly and break the trust I've worked so hard to build with him is a miracle. And if all God is giving us through this process of waiting is the glorious gift of time, and it is a gift, and even if he sends us to chemo… well, we are grateful for this time and we will be grateful for the chemo too.
Believe it or not, there have been times when I've actually wanted to go chemo. In fact, there have been moments when the fear has felt so terrible and when the weight has felt so crushing that I have been anxious to get a new doctor and just head to chemo straight away. I mean, chemo is basically a guarantee with GTD and who doesn't love a good guarantee? It's a funny thing that when I had a doctor I wanted to wait and when I wanted to move forward, I had no doctor to lead me on. It may yet turn out to be the grace of God keeping me from giving up when going on seems too great a load to bear. Time will tell...