How is it that November is already here?
October was a blur, starting with the two-week “welcome to winter” in Calgary that threw me for a bit of a loop. We had So. Much. Snow I was certain it was here to stay. And so, after grieving the shocking loss of an autumn that hadn’t really come yet, I resigned myself to what I thought would be the first of many long months of winter.
But, as always, God is full of surprises and the snow melted and autumn came after all. All the seasons, just in the wrong order.
Year after year, I quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) dread the shortening of daylight hours and the steady tumble of leaves, knowing that on the heels of autumn follow days and months that are characterized by darkness—long after I wake up and well before I go to bed. It happens every year, I know to expect it.
And, year after year, I resign myself to it. Seasonal depression grips me and I let it weigh me down. Treading water for the next several months, hoping that I can stay on the surface for the duration of the winter.
Year after year, I acknowledge it, saying things like “winter is not my best time of year” and when people ask me how I’m doing, my response is always qualified by this fact, “Not bad, considering…”
You might say, year after year, I even embrace it. I know it’s coming, I relax my posture and I let the tide pull me out to sea. “This too shall pass.” “I’m fine.”
I have a lot of people asking me how I’m doing these days. Not because winter came early, but because I’m in the middle of a six-month dance with chemotherapy. And I have to say—with all honesty—I am more than fine.
For the first time in many years, at this time of year, I am not dreading winter. I am not mourning the darkness. I don’t find myself being pulled down and dragged around by the circumstances of my life or even the weather.
The other night I wondered aloud to my husband if the reason I seem to be faring so well during chemo might be the fact that I started from a place of good physical health and strength. And he looked at me and said, “Well, you do have a ridiculous amount of people praying for you…”
And it hit me that, yes, a little divine intervention goes a long way.
I’ve written before about the physical reminder that I daily wear on my wrist. (If you want, you can read that little post here.) A little bracelet that continually reminds me of these verses:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” ~Psalm 46:1-3
Our day-to–day walk through life can often feel like the earth is shifting beneath our feet, am I right? Relationships, jobs, health, parenting, grieving, loss, uncertainty, politics; I know a lot of people walking through some really hard things right now. I suspect you do too.
In this dance with cancer and now with chemo, I don’t know the steps or the moves. It’s new territory and I’m navigating a road that often feels unsteady and quaking. But I have this reassurance in Scripture that whatever life looks like on the surface; I know that I am not alone.
“Be still, and know that I am God…” ~Psalm 46:10
Be still. And know.
In Psalm 40:2, the psalmist writes, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadies me as I walked along.”
And so, right now, I am more than fine, because I know that I’m not walking this road alone. He sets my feet on solid ground and steadies me as I walk along.
It doesn’t mean that my road is easy or perfect, (I wasn’t sidelined by a mystery fever this month, but I did have a mystery rash!) or that I’ll miraculously know all the steps.(Yes, I called the emergency triage number and had several conversations with my team.)
It means that I have the assurance that whatever my road happens to look like—piled high with snow or covered with a blanket of leaves (or, as the case may be, an itchy, red rash)—that my ability to walk confidently on it doesn’t depend on my abilities at all.
Treatment update: here’s a little picture of my current road this month…
With CLL (the type of Leukemia I have) the treatment protocol involves a first line of attack, which is traditional chemotherapy with some tried-and-true drugs. If my cancer journey was laid out on a directional map, there would be a little sticker reading, “You are here.”
BUT, in the event that traditional chemo isn’t effective, there’s a second line of attack treatment with some other drugs. I confess, I don’t know too much about these, because, when it comes to cancer, I have a policy to only fill my brain with what I need for the moment. There is just way too much information, variables, best and worst case scenarios to allow myself to entertain more than what’s in front of me at the moment. You could say—possibly for the first time in my life—I’m focused.
Last-ditch treatment efforts usually involve a Bone Marrow Transplant. Which is, by my limited understanding, pretty serious stuff, and so relegated to the “Does not currently apply” category I mentioned above.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
I don’t know how it works everywhere, but at our local Cancer Centre, Chez Tom Baker, I don’t get to book my chemo appointments; they’re booked on my behalf and an appointment confirmation is mailed to me.
Imagine my surprise last week when I received my November appointment confirmation and saw that I was booked into a bed in the BMT department. That would be Bone Marrow Transplant. Clearly, this was either a grave mistake, or my doctors had maybe missed giving me some critical information regarding my treatment plan. Maybe it wasn’t actually going as well as we thought?
Also, I emptied my mailbox at the end of the day Friday and would have to wait until Monday to discuss either scenario with my team. You could say I was a little unnerved throughout the weekend.
The great news is that it turns out when chemo is scheduled for the weekends it takes place in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit. Go figure. So, I’m not getting a bone marrow transplant yet. Just chemo in a different location.
In other excellent news, Round Two is done. I’m one-third of the way finished! Hard to believe isn’t it? And the blood work done after Round One was outstanding; for the first time in more than four years my white blood cell count is within normal range. I’ve never been so happy to be normal! (No comments from the peanut gallery!)
So, here’s the one thing: I feel a bit bad that I’m not doing worse. But the truth is, I am amazed at how good I’m feeling. It would be easy to attribute my positive outlook to my initial low expectations. (I guess I could also thank my doctors for managing those expectations downward.)
However, as I mentioned in my reflection above, I know that I have more people than I even know of praying on my behalf and I believe God hears and answers those prayers. (I John 5:14, 15)
I owe a debt of gratitude to the people in our lives who have made meals and sent baking, who offer rides and company, and send texts, emails, messages and cards of encouragement. There is not one good wish, act of kindness, thought or prayer that doesn’t move me in some way. In short, we are overwhelmed.
And, quite honestly, there is a part of me that feels undeserving of the goodness coming our way because I’m not “sick enough” to warrant the kindness. I’m just trying to work that out with God and receive the grace being offered.
In the meantime, I continue to embrace each good day as it comes and to walk the delicate tightrope between living and not dying, but really, for right now, the reality looks a lot like living and I’m so grateful.
A few last things:
If you’re new here and you want a more comprehensive picture of my cancer journey to date, here’s a few archive posts to get you up to date: My diagnosis, the decision to stop watching and waiting and actually do something, some thoughts on bravery and the subsequent fall out (of my hair).
In case you’re wondering, I do still have hair, although it’s significantly thinner than it was. I acknowledge that I started at a very good place in terms of how much hair was on my head at the beginning. (Thank heavens for THICK hair!) But, there is something a little unnerving about cleaning out a small handful of hair from my brush or the shower drain every day. I also now have a couple of hats at the ready in the event that I’ll need them, so I’m not overly worried.
Second, you guys are TV experts and, because I apparently have a thing for British accents, (LOVED Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife) I finished the Crown during Round Two. Round Three begins November 10 and I’ll be picking something out of your recommendations for sure.
If you’ve enjoyed this little musing, it would mean the world to me if you subscribe to receive future blog posts. On the sidebar of my homepage, you’ll find a Subscribe button. Feel free to enter your email and use it! Thank you to those of you who’ve trusted me with your inbox.
I’m doing my best at navigating the twists and turns of this life with faith, hope and humour. I’d be so honoured to share the journey with you. Putting one foot in front of the other, and—hopefully—not in my mouth.
Based on my previous track record, I don’t promise that my posts will be consistent, or inconsistent, but I’ll try for amusing. At the very least, I hope you’ll come away encouraged.
Thanks so much for visiting,