I did everything I could to prevent it. But, in the end, it didn’t matter.
Thursday I had a regular check-up with my cancer surgeon. The one who performed my surgery in 2010 and the one I’ve seen every two months since. As of December, I’ve been cancer-free for three years.
Which is why I never again wanted hear these words: “Michele, I think we need to do another biopsy.”
My heart sunk when she told me. It’s what I feared, what I’d tried so hard to avoid. I didn’t want to go back in time, to relive those days and months all over again.
But no amount of wishing and wanting changed the reality of what was.
So now, I wait. Life hovers.
This not-knowing place is all too familiar. It’s a place with which every survivor is well-acquainted. A space between suspicions and answers, between illness and wholeness. Results will come sometime this week, I know this. And I also know there is nothing I can do in these days-that-stretch-like-years in between.
Before I continue, let me be clear about one thing.
This post is about far more than cancer.
You know this, right? I always hesitate before I say that dreaded six-letter word. It has a way of stealing attention from what truly matters, of hijacking the heart with much fear and trembling. So please hear me when I say this:
We all have our cancers. That God-awful not-knowing space that shreds us with worry and steals our peace.
The adult child who left home without looking back.
The marriage on the brink of a dissolution.
The church that might close its doors.
The struggling child who may never be “whole.”
The once-precious friendship that flounders.
The financial predicament without a solution.
The mental illness that scares you to death.
I’ve lost count of my not-knowing spaces. These are the places I most dread, when I have neither answers nor control. It is here I’m faced with the truth that everything safe and familiar could change by this time tomorrow. A painful limbo, a long stretching between what is and what will be.
“If only I could snap my fingers and make this go way …” I said those words only a moments ago, through tears while my husband wrapped me up tight. There’s a real grief that comes with not-knowing, and I won’t pretend otherwise.
But life doesn’t have to end in the middle of it. It’s possible to laugh, dance and celebrate all the goodness of this life, even knowing it could change tomorrow.
Maybe especially then.
For me, I’ve decided this: I will not put my joy on hold. I will not wait for the phone to ring before I decide to laugh and dance. It’s a cost I’m not willing to pay. Instead, I choose to live.
If you’re hovering in a not-knowing space, I’m with you in it. If you’re not, you will be, soon enough (sorry to disappoint you). So what do you do when you get there? How do you keep living when your world has stopped?
Tell yourself the truth. Fear thrives on three lies: (1) I am alone, (2) I am powerless, (3) I am without hope. In the absence of answers, fear fills in the gaps. Instead, tell yourself the truth: You are never alone. God’s power thrives in impossible situations. And there is always, always hope.
Don’t get ahead of the calendar. This is a tough one for me. Somehow I think by worrying I can wield control. As if anticipating what might come next week or next year will help me cope with it once it happens. This is a lie. Worrying about tomorrow only serves to rob you of today. Instead, take each day as it comes. No less, no more.
Take stock of all the goodness. Even in the not-knowing, there is good to be found. The smile of a friend. The kindness of a family member. The warmth of the sun. The touch of a hand. The world may be collapsing around you, but beauty is hidden in the rubble. Reach for it, like treasure. Then, write it down. The person anchored in upheaval is the one determined to dig up the gold.
Allow yourself to be loved. Did you read that? It’s okay to lean on someone else in your not-knowing place. It’s okay to say, “I’m weary,” “I’m scared,” or “I don’t know what to do.” Say it outloud. Write a blog post. Allow someone who loves you to hear the truth of your heart. Only then is the burden shared. Only then does the waiting place become a haven of relationship.
What is your not-knowing place? Go ahead, share it. We can help you carry the load.