The Storm

Three months.  Maybe, a little more.  No pen to paper.  No journaling.  No additional chapters to my current novel.  Nothing.  Empty.

It’s not that my life has been boring. ¬†It’s not even that I didn’t have ideas or material to work with. ¬†The thing is: ¬†I’ve been frozen. ¬†Shut up deep inside myself. ¬†My world spinning around me, faster, faster. ¬†I became so dizzy with all that I kept inside that I became literally unbalanced. ¬†Sitting in the passenger side of my husband’s pickup, I would feel myself falling and would jerk myself upright. ¬†The sensation was so real. ¬†The panic I felt scared me. ¬†Days later, after sitting through a class, I rose to walk but my legs felt numb from the waist down. The gravity of my world was pulling me to it and I had to grab hold of James’ arm to stay upright. ¬†I was tired. ¬†So tired.

I got out my tablet and began my research. ¬†Using clues as search words, I found one article after another that pointed towards vitamin deficiencies. ¬†Monday, I made a call to my physician. ¬†I walked through her door with my list in my hand. “Here. ¬†These are my symptoms.” ¬†Dr. Mulupuri looked at me with concern in her dark, exotic eyes. ¬†She agreed that some of my symptoms pointed toward my diagnosis, but she concluded that together, they didn’t make complete sense. ¬†“Have you been under a lot of stress lately?” ¬†She asked. ¬†“Yes.” ¬†I nodded to affirm my answer. ¬†“Is it something that will go away anytime soon?” ¬†I wanted to simply say, “No”, but instead burst into a flood of tears.

I left with a prescription in my hand and shame in my heart.

All this time, I had felt my world spinning out of control. ¬†I prayed. ¬†I read book, after book, after book, trying to free myself from my own drama by getting lost in someone else’s. ¬†I pushed myself. ¬†Made my body go against its inclination to remain still. ¬†I filled my days, my time.

Poor James.  The only stable thing in my unbalanced home.  He watched me yo-yo.  He must have been scared to call me, and yet he still did.  He must have dreaded getting out of his truck to come inside, but he came.  He let me storm around him with a look of sad desperation in his eyes, and yet there was love as well.

All those feelings are still within me. ¬†The storms are still raging around me… Mom’s cancer and loneliness. ¬†My business failure. ¬†Two dear friends with breast cancer. ¬†A grandson with Autism. ¬†Secrets shared that weigh heavy on my heart. ¬†Illness in James’ family. ¬†World devastation in the form of earthly storms with people I love affected. ¬†The child who lives the closest to me is now moving further away. ¬†My father’s last surviving brother’s unexpected death‚ĶAnd through all this, no tears. ¬†I can’t cry. ¬†The hurricane is just off the shore but the waves are just playfully lapping at my feet.

My energy returned.  I made lists and gloried in marking through each entry.  I even felt a little happy.  I knew that storm was still out there but the sky above me remained lit by an eternal sun.

I spoke to one of my daughters. ¬†I told her, “I feel like everything is just falling apart around me‚Ķall these terrible things‚Ķand yet, the worst is still out there. ¬†It hasn’t hit yet. ¬†I don’t know what it is.” ¬†“Mom!” ¬†She said. ¬†“That’s terrible!” ¬†I nodded and looked down. ¬†“I know it is. ¬†But that’s how I feel.”

And then, ¬†it hit. ¬†That storm that could bring me to tears‚Ķat least just a little. ¬†I sat in a waiting room with my mother and my sister. ¬†It was my mother’s birthday. ¬†My brother came out with his wife. ¬†Both shaky like they had walked away from a wreck. ¬†“It’s throat cancer.” ¬†He said.

My little brother. ¬†The one that I spent so many childhood days playing with, fighting with. ¬†The one who was Tarzan to my Jane. ¬†The one who was Batman to my Batgirl. ¬†The one who took me aside and told me his darkest fears and secrets. ¬†The one who¬†was a storm in and of himself. ¬†Who spent his life bouncing off one rocky cliff to another, never quite able to stay in between the lines on life’s curvy road.

I’ve been down¬†this¬†road. ¬†This cancer nightmare. ¬†I can’t help him, though. ¬†I love him. ¬†I pray for him. ¬†I listen to him. ¬†The choices are his.

Now, I still take that little pill every night even though it doesn’t numb me quite enough. ¬†I wish I was stronger.

A dream comes to me. ¬†One that I dreamed so long ago. ¬†I was in my mother’s back yard. ¬†We all were there, the living and the dead. ¬†A tornado came. ¬†I grabbed hold of a nearby pecan tree. ¬†Just a sapling, really. ¬†I held on to it while the wind blew me like a flag. ¬†If I could just hold on. ¬†If we could all¬†just hold on.

Newness of Life

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I recently found out that someone close to our family has been diagnosed with lung cancer. ¬†This information, on top of my own mother’s battle with leukemia, lymphoma, and lung cancer over this past year, has left me thinking a lot about the disease. ¬†I know many of you have dealt with some form of this rotting, wasting, life-eating illness either yourself, or with a loved one. ¬†I realize the word itself provokes nightmarish fears for us and those we care about. ¬†My heart aches with each mention of it.

The year I turned 45, I was given the diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia which had already enlarged most of my lymph glands. ¬†I dreaded the diagnosis I would hear after one year of tests and a previous diagnosis of fibromyalgia. ¬†A dark cloud hung over me as I celebrated my grandson’s birthday, my youngest daughter’s glorious fall wedding on top of a mountain in Arkansas, my 45th birthday, itself. ¬†Thanksgiving was just around the corner. ¬†So much life to celebrate. ¬†I tried, but I was exhausted.

In between my birthday and Thanksgiving, I received a call from the surgeon who had done my biopsy. ¬†It was late in the afternoon. ¬†My friend, Marian had come to help me at my shop. ¬†Unpaid, she worked and held me up. ¬†When the call came and they insisted I come to their office that very day to talk to the doctor, I told Marian, “This can’t be good.” ¬†She said, “I’m coming with you.” ¬†And, she did. ¬†We closed up shop and drove about an hour to get to his office.

Once there, the doctor very gently told me the lymph gland was malignant,¬†but if you have to have cancer, this is the best kind to have. ¬†“We caught it early”, he said. ¬†He referred me to an oncologist who in turn recommended bone marrow biopsies. ¬†This lead to a specific diagnosis of CLL and gave him a course of treatment to recommend. ¬†Dr. Kirby, kindness himself, said, “You can get another opinion, but this is what I would suggest to a member of my own family.” ¬†I told him that I believed that God was in charge and that this whole process had led me to him. ¬†I talked it over with my family, did my research on the proposed drugs, and decided to go with the chemotherapy regimen.

Ignorance is bliss—isn’t that what they say? ¬†I had done my research. ¬†Still, I wasn’t prepared for what was on my bumpy road. ¬†I sat in a recliner one week of the month for six months, tubes and needles feeding me poison and antibodies, playing card games with my oldest, pregnant daughter. ¬†She drove all the way from Arkansas and spent those weeks away from her beloved husband to keep me distracted and upbeat. ¬†My other children had jobs that prevented them from being there for every treatment, but they did many thoughtful things to give me comfort and were there for me when they could be. ¬†My grandchildren were like a golden trophy held out for me to obtain and live for. ¬†Once my course was set, I trusted God.

The poison went in and did its work. ¬†It killed off the cancer cells, but was no respecter of cells. ¬†It murdered the good ones as well. ¬†I received shots to boost my white count. ¬†They would rise weakly, only to fall flat on their faces. ¬†They were pooped. ¬†I had asked too much of them. ¬†It was during this time that death started to look like my very near future. ¬†Maybe I should have just rested knowing that heaven was on the other side, but I am a weak sinner. ¬†I love life. ¬†I love my family. ¬†There was so much that I felt I hadn’t done.

I read a book and found out about a holistic clinic in Dallas. ¬†They didn’t accept insurance because insurance companies won’t pay for holistic therapies. ¬†I felt like hope was wrapped up in their treatment plan. ¬†I was to detox and eat only certain foods, plus take supplements. ¬†I was a good patient and followed their plan to the letter. ¬†By the time I went back for my blood work at Texas Oncology, my blood count was finally out of the danger zone. ¬†Finally, I could do things, normal things, like go the movies, stay in my pew if someone had a coughing fit in church, floss my teeth, go shopping, shave my legs without worrying about cutting myself. ¬†It has never dipped back down. ¬†I am still in remission.

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I wish I could say that I learned my lesson, that I take super-duper good care of myself, eat the perfect diet, do yoga and meditation, and pray…well, I¬†do¬†pray and I do half-heartedly try to be good. ¬†But, that “loving life” thing keeps getting me.

Well, like I stated from the beginning, this has all been on my mind—a lot. ¬†Thinking one thing usually leads to another and I’ve come to this conclusion, right or wrong. ¬†I think that cancer is like sin. ¬†There I’ve said it! ¬†Just mull this over: ¬†all of us, according to scientists, have cancerous cells dormant in our bodies. ¬†It plays nice with all the other cells, pretending it is harmless. ¬†Then, one day, you let the stress of business, children, marriage, or some other illness get you down and the evil cells say “Whoo-hoo!!! ¬†It’s time to take over, boys!”

Our souls, pure from birth, develop cracks like our skin develops wrinkles. ¬†Sure they are just tiny little cracks at first. ¬†You can’t even see them. ¬†Oh, but Satan is so tricky! ¬†A crack is all he needs. ¬†Just like cancer, or the opposing poison in my veins, he wants to take over. ¬†He sees that crack and waits, patiently waits until you open it just wide enough for him to get his wedge in. ¬†He works at it until he himself is in and BOOM, before you know it, the cancerous sin is trying to take over. ¬†Keeping sin at bay is a lot harder than fighting off cancer. ¬†A lost battle with either one is serious, but which would you rather lose—death to the body, or death to the soul?

How do you fight it? ¬†Same as cancer, friend. ¬†You get down on your knees and ask your God for help. ¬†You let Jesus’ blood wash you clean. ¬†And once He gets it out, you fill that space back up with Good. ¬†Let God’s Spirit direct your path. ¬†Stay on it. Stay in the Word. ¬†And if you wander off, (like I, to my shame, do) you fall back on your knees. ¬†God loves you. ¬†He wants you at home, just like my family did. ¬†He will be faithful to lift you up if you come to Him and worship Him.

I realize that all who want a cancer cure will not find it. ¬†I know many battles will be lost, because let’s face it, we all have to go some way, don’t we? I know this sounds extremely harsh to the ear. ¬†I am sorry. We may wish we could pick our fate, but all is not in our hands. ¬†The good news is, God has laid out a plan. ¬†He is the Kind Doctor. ¬†He knows what will heal our souls. ¬†Get out a bible, if you haven’t already done so, and see what treatment plan He has prescribed. ¬†Then, follow His steps. ¬†He will lead you to eternal life, where there is no sickness or dying. ¬†Isn’t that the healing we all really need?

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. ¬†There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”¬†Revelations 21: 4 (NKJV)

Romans 6:3-5 says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? ¬†Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”(NKJV)

NEWNESS OF LIFE…personally, I like the sound of that!

Love to you all!

Author: Taken by James Smith
Author: Taken by James Smith