Anxiety issues run (deep!) in my family. Sometimes so terribly deep that they led dear, good people to suicide, as was the case with both my mother and my father. I always prided myself, though, that my “pessimism” was in fact realism. I had good reason to WORRY, to “over-think” every issue, and not be a “Pollyanna” about life.
Just to help you get the picture, here are two examples from my past:
The days just before Tom and I were married were extremely stressful for me. Not because of the typical pre-wedding jitters (oh I had them too!), but because I was “sure” there would never BE a wedding. Tom was driving up from Los Angeles a day before the Big Day, and I was in full panic-mode. Every time the phone rang, I “knew” it would be about a fatal crash along I-5! I was actually surprised when he (finally) walked through the door! (I’m sure Tom thought my wildly ardent embrace was brought on by how much I missed and loved him; but the reality was that I was just reacting to the pile of STRESS that had just fallen off my back!)
During the weeks before the birth of our third daughter, I was again in “panic-mode.” Christina was our “late-in-life” miracle baby, (really, I was only 35!) I had been reading all the dire warnings about pregnancies in older women. “For every year over thirty statistics rise for still births, infants with special needs, etc.” To find a little peace, I picked up my Bible and flipped it open at random. These words stood out like a neon STOP sign: The blessing of the Lord maketh rich and He addeth no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22) Truly, Christina has enriched our life and she has never “addeth sorrow…” (Well, maybe her teen years… but that’s a story for another day.)
Now that I have (I am sure) convinced you that I am not, nor have I ever been a “peaceful,” positive thinking person, let’s re-visit May 4, 2015. The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Actually the more critical day came eleven days later. On May 4, we had received first test results: The Easter egg size lump I had found recently was cancerous. This initial diagnosis led to further tests (I had already had a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy). The added CAT-scan, and bone scan made things excruciatingly clearer.
On May 15, we heard the ultimate news: I had “stage-4, metastatic, lobular carcinoma which had spread to my bones, one lung, and the liver.” But wait there’s more! My tumors were “ER+/PR+, HER 2 NEU negative.” This was all VERY important info; but I am sure your eyes are now glazing over, as were mine, listening to the oncologist trying to explain all those (very important!) plusses, minuses, and the rest of that “alphabet soup.”
Now let’s step back a minute. Imagine, readers, the person I described at the beginning of this post – a young woman unable to rejoice at the most joy-filled times of her life because of a life-long pre-disposition to anxiety and negative thinking.
I will be honest, those endless minutes listening to the oncologist were both shocking and mind-chilling. Though she never used the word “terminal,” that is what I heard, loud and clear. She did address “life expectancy” of course; but it’s funny, I can’t remember what the oncologist said! Was it “median life expectancy of two years” or “median life expectancy of the three years.” “Median” being the important word: I suspect she actually said “three years” but my habit of “seeing the glass half empty” automatically translated that to two years!
Yes, the news was a shock. To both Tom and me! When we left the office that day, we didn’t talk much. It was only later, as we did talk, that I noticed something odd. I wasn’t afraid. I was concerned about how to break the news to our daughters; but even that was not a fear, only a deep concern that they understand that I am all right.
As those first days went by, filled with further doctor’s appointments, blood tests, “infusions” and pill-taking, I kept waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” I would go to bed at night and this thought would slip into my mind: you won’t be able to sleep, you know. You never can sleep when you’re worried.
For a minute or two I “entertained” that thought, then I found myself talking back to it. But I am not worried. I don’t know why I am not worried. I should be worried, right? But I am not. Then I’d pray, “Thank you, Lord” and fall asleep! Each time this happened, I would wake up in the morning, amazed. Who was this person who could sluff off worries and sleep through the night?
I wish I could go on and on, describing moments like this, when the “peace that passes understanding” began to dawn on my mind. (It had already captured my emotions.) Yes, Amazed is a good word to use; but it doesn’t begin to cover it (that must be why it is called “a peace that passes understanding….)
Can I still worry? Can I “overthink” things, as my daughter, Lisa, often says? Can I begin to fret, to play the “but what if” mind game? Oh YES. But what is different now, is that I can stop it, as I do at bedtime when I “talk back.” Trust me. I could never do that before!
The first cogent thought I had at the oncologist’s office that fateful day was clear, certain, and is still deeply imprinted on my mind and heart. It had nothing to do with death. Or even cancer. It was this: I want to live the rest of my life, however short or long that is, focused on two things. 1) getting to know God better, and 2) spending time with my husband, children and grandchild!
These are the two things I should have been doing every day of my life! But I have always been a dyed-in-the-wool Scarlet O’Hara. I always thought there would be a “tomorrow.” Now I know that “tomorrow” is probably the worst lie the devil whispers into our souls: you can do that tomorrow. It is a great coping mechanism, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” But, in reality, we ONLY have today!
Let me end this post with words from a song that has had new meaning for me since the cancer diagnosis. It’s from Sandi Patti’s CD, Artist of My Soul, and comes close to describing what it’s been like the last year “walking in the dark with the Prince of Peace.” By the way, here’s a little secret I have discovered: He’s been walking with me all my life! Remember those Bible pages that “just happened” to open to Proverbs 10:22? (When you read the following words, just ignore the word “speechless.” That is never going to happen.)
Overcome by JOY
Into my heart so deeply.
It’s almost too good to be true.
[hmm. A little anxiety peeking through]
In this quiet
I’m in wonder of Your kindness
By how GOOD You are to me!
In the next post (or two or three) I’ll be sharing a little more about this last year – about some “miracle drugs,” the disappearance of an egg size tumor, along with the even more welcome disappearance of my misdiagnosed depression. And, more pertinent to you, maybe, why this all led to a resurrected blogsite! Till then,
“Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.”