Guys. Post-surgery rest, the Internet, and a tendency to brood are a bad combo. I was warned about this, but unwisely, voluntarily, boarded the Breast Cancer Worry Roller Coaster last week. Face-palm. Face-palm. Face-palm.
Here’s the good news: I’ve exited to the right of the ride, the surgery on January 31* was successful, and I think I’ve learned (or re-learned) a few things. I pray that if you read this, you will be encouraged rather than discouraged.
So, I’m writing today from Robious Landing Park, where I used to run after work, particularly when I was pregnant with Lincoln. I come back to this park occasionally because it’s peaceful here no matter the season. I want to run, but I am sooooo not allowed. My body is basically out on parole, with strict orders, until my next surgery on February 16. The Frankenstein walk and the bench will have to do.
Earlier this morning, I met with my plastic surgeon so she could check on how things are coming along. She was all business, and I was overly friendly. Here is a reenactment of our conversation:
Liz: (Points to a framed drawing that has surgeon’s last name signed underneath) Did you do that?
Surgeon: No, that was my mother’s.
Liz: Oh, do you do any art as well?
Surgeon: Yes, but it’s nothing like this.
Liz: Oh, what do you do?
Surgeon: (Pauses, purses lips, seems to laugh to herself.) I was about to respond, “I’m a surgeon.”
Anyways, in the waiting room before my appointment I met a young mother of three kids who was having the same surgeries as me. She was kind, and honest. It was a relief to meet someone who “gets it,” but whenever I meet another cancer patient, I want to hit a wall and yell, “NO! Not again!”
There are so many of us out there.
The post-surgery Internet brooding I mentioned began with good intent. I wondered, “Are there any podcasts where cancer patients tell their stories?” A few clicks later, I learned about Holley Kitchen, who does indeed share her story about being a “Cancer Lifer” via breastcancer.org. Her short, earnest video posted in June 2015 went viral on Facebook and continues to bring awareness to metastatic breast cancer, which she endured. I learned Holley passed away in January 2016.
I also spent time on the Look Better Than You Feel site, where Kim Newlen explains her vision for her patented post-surgical camisole in a video produced by Christianity Today: Bolder As I Got Balder: How God Used Breast Cancer to Give Me Courage. (It’s a really encouraging video.)
My breast surgery office had handed me one of these camisoles as a pre-surgery gift a few weeks ago, and I wanted to learn more about them. My interest went beyond the camisole itself, though. I have a personal connection to Kim, who worshiped at our church, had a larger-than-life personality, showed countless women hospitality, and went on to glory in 2014. I think of her every time I see the camisole, which is sitting on the floor of my room next to my bag, ready to go with me to my February 16 surgery.
I think of her family, too.
And Holley’s family.
And my family.
I board the roller coaster.
I get scared, I cry, I pray, I drink green tea and visualize its health benefits, I read about God providing. (Read Exodus 1:15-2:10!)
Eventually, I reach these conclusions:
- I can grieve as someone who has hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
- My situation is within God’s knowledge and care. Isaiah 43: 1-2.
- All of us have a number on our days. I’m not the only one. This fact should encourage me to humbly ask God how to use the ones He gives me. Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
In other words, all of us should listen to that Tim McGraw song and immediately go sky-diving, Rocky Mountain climbing, and go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.
But seriously–and depending on one’s particular side effects–cancer treatment can really make the best pastries taste better. It can make times with close friends more delightful, and the parental urgency to impart wisdom all the more urgent. It can make a person want to impulse-buy in kind of a joyful, spring-is-here kind of way. (But it’s probably better to save money or put it toward something worthwhile, ya know?)
Knowing our days have a number on them can make us bolder. And have more courage.
For that, I am thankful.
*Surgery, what surgery? [Pause: TMI WARNING!] Unless the plan changes, I will have two(ish) surgeries to round out this cancer treatment. The first, which was on January 31, is referred to as a “nipple delay.” (I know, I know, you’re welcome.) The second, which is scheduled for February 16, is known as a “bilateral mastectomy plus reconstruction.” If you want to learn some surgeon-speak, you can read about it here: The Nipple-Areola Preserving Mastectomy: A Multistage Procedure Aiming to Improve Reconstructive Outcomes Following Mastectomy. (Yep, you’re welcome again.) I say two(ish) because if there are any issues I might have some follow-up appointments. Onward!
Isaiah 43: 2
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.