This will not be your typical blog post.
If you dropped by here looking for a 3-step plan to this or a 5-strategy approach to that, you might want to click over somewhere else. It’s okay. I understand.
Today’s post is personal, a response to the hundreds of messages, emails and comments I’ve received in the last three weeks. If you’ve been following along, there’s a good chance you saw this post and this post. Since then, I’ve been quiet, as my medical team tried to come up with a plan. Now that I have a few answers, I want to fill you in.
So imagine we’re sitting in a quiet corner of a quaint indy coffee shop. You’re having a latte or dark roast, and I’m sipping a soy chai. (There’s a solid chance I’m also eating a cream-filled, chocolate-covered donut. But anyhoo … )
What I’m about to share is both raw and real-time. But, first, I need you to know something.
This will not turn into a cancer blog.
[go ahead and exhale]. Unless a divine messenger sends me a flashing billboard saying otherwise, I have no plans to be the next cancer spokeperson. Hallelujah and amen. As far as I’m concerned, cancer already gets far too much attention. I don’t plan to add to its press.
That said, I am a writer. Through and through. Like a child on a long road trip looking out the window, a writer takes in a scene, turns it over in her hand and heart, and then attempts to recreate the vision with words.
For today, the scenery outside my window holds the color of cancer. Not what I wanted or would choose. It simply is. And so I’m writing about it. But tomorrow—or next week or next month—the scenery will change. Life will move forward and a new view will take shape outside my window. I’ll write about that when the time comes.
For today, I must honor what sits outside my window.
Now for that update.
[my turn to exhale]
Many of you have written and asked specifics about the type of cancer, treatment, etc. Be warned, if medical things make you queasy, just skip to the end. If not, read on Oh Brave One.
This is a squamous cell carcinoma, officially cancer of the tongue. It’s typically a smoker’s cancer, although I’ve never used tobacco a day in my life. Never. No one can tell me the hows or whys. In 2010, at 39 years old, it was smaller than a pencil eraser. They cut it out, and (except for several months of complications) we thought it was over and done with. Now it’s back, much bigger than before. Again, no one knows why.
Now for the good news. As of two weeks ago, the PET scan showed no evidence of spread or lymph node involvement. That means it’s still a very curable cancer, as long as we deal with it. As for what’s next? Surgery, Thursday, March 20: a resection of the tongue, possible skin graft, and removal of the submandibular gland and left chain of lymph nodes. They want to avoid radiation, because of the wretched side effects. It may come later, but for now we’re sticking with the knife.
Practically speaking, I won’t be able to talk or eat normally for several weeks, maybe longer. The doctors are fully aware that I make my living as a communicator and are working hard to preserve my ability to speak. They’re confident they will be able to do so, but the process between now and then will be excruciating.
Those are the rock-hard facts. Now for the more tender part.
It’s tough to take. All of it. The massive change in our family. The endless doctor’s appointments. The halting of my dreams and plans. The questions about my career. The isolation of not being able to talk. The hunger from not being able to eat. The unrelenting pain. I hate it. This is not what I wanted, prayed for or would choose. Not even close. If I could make it go away, I would.
STILL. There’s something worth savoring here. Not the pain or trauma or grief it’s causing those I love. But the way this darkness makes light shine. There is a real, honest-to-goodness glory about this place, something rich and taut with emotion and utterly full of awareness. Like chaff in the wind, the insignificant and trivial of my life have blown away. All that’s left now is the stuff that feeds a soul.
The tender touch of my strong and believing husband.
The constant prayers of these children who call me “mommy.”
The profound and inspiring stories that pour in from other strugglers.
The outpouring of encouragement from friends, near and far.
No, I wouldn’t choose this. But as long as I’m here, I’m taking in the view. And there’s far more light than dark.
Thanks for being present with me, friends. If you want updates on Thursday or after, be sure to connect with me via Facebook. Othewise, I’ll return to this blog as soon as I’m able.
No fear, friends. Just belief. God’s got this. And there’s a killer view waiting for us outside the next window.
Is there a hint of glory in your unwanted circumstances? Look for it, and share a piece of it here.
Love this post Michelle and appreciate your honesty. I am in a season of care giving for extended family members and am seeing how it affects not only me, but also my immediate family as they learn to share me both physically and emotionally. I know this is a tough season for me and can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is to be the one being cared for. God bless.
I agree there is something worth savoring in the dark seasons of life. Seeing God in the little things, watching him reveal himself and learning to trust him, learning that the trivial things really are trivial and not worth our energy, and gaining a new respect for life and all that is good in it, these are things to be savored. I know God will see you through this and I pray that you’ll be able to rest in that truth.
Thank you, Tracy. Being a caregiver is so tough. I think I’d rather be the sick one than watch my loved one suffer. I admire you, and so many others, who get up every day and make their lives about caring for someone else. It’s honorable and worthy.
I have been in a “waiting for the other shoe to drop” place as well, and I know that glorious place you speak of. Any time I get the teeniest bit afraid I get a glimpse of heaven in my soul. It brings me back to the preciousness of each and every day, each and every touch and I love you from my family and friends (even my online ones!). Prayers for you going forward, my friend.
Darn those dropping shoes! 🙂 And I’m praying for YOU, friend. God, show us your glory.
Michele, You write so beautifully. Your faith and hope shine through. My prayers are with you and your family. I’m so glad we have the Great I Am who provides all we need! You do a beautiful job of pointing to Him through your struggle. Much love & prayers.
Thank you, Gwen.
This is brave writing. And clearly your courage comes from Christ, and your family. I barely know you, yet I love and admire you. Even more now. You already have the victory over this insidious disease, and before all is said and done it too will bow to the name Jesus. I pray for your peace, and the peace of your household.
It was tough to click “publish” on this one. I’m guessing you understand that only too well, Ray. But the darkness remains dark only when we refuse to shine light. Pressing through. Thank you for the words and prayers, friend.
It is wrong and unfair and infuriating. Bad things like this shouldn’t happen to anyone, especially unexplained. My dad was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer about eight years ago and he passed away two years after the diagnosis. He was a smoker for 38 years and had heart disease prior to that. His prior behavior resulted in his illness. It was a very trying time, to say the least. He wrote a journal about his disease and treatment, which our family self-published to give away to friends and relatives. One phrase that resonated with me is “Cancer is not who I am. I will heal or I will die, but cancer will not be with me forever.” When I read about it in your recent post, my heart sank. I feel your worry as a mom and as a wife. “Who will take care of my family while I’m going through this?” As much as we don’t know “why” these things happen, we do know that there are many people walking with you and praying with you. Cancer sucks. Let’s punch it in the face together. God bless, dear Michele.
Such a wise man! It’s so important that you and I refuse to be defined by our struggle. It’s scenery, but not who we are along the way. And not our ultimate destination. Thanks for sharing a piece of your heartache with me, Lily. P.S. As for punching cancer in the face, I’m glovin’ up now. 😉
Michelle, you are in my prayers. Thank you for your beautiful words about an ugly situation, and for reminding me that the view is what we choose to see.
Thank you, Amy. Not easy to do, I can attest to that. But worth the pressing-through.
“Is there a hint of glory in your unwanted circumstances?”
Yes. So very much, yes! Unwanted circumstances have open my eyes to renewal in my family. Unwanted circumstances have brought me in contact you, Michele. Now, I sing “Hallelujah” for those unwanted circumstances.
Michele, may the Lord our God, bless you and your family. May He keep you. May He shine His face upon you. For you are a child. A child of the ONE TRUE KING.
I choose to sing Hallelujah right along with you, Rick. Thank you for the inspiration.
One thing from so many of us who are blessed to call you friend: You are real. You share things which give us an inside look at your life, which enables us to pray specifically, yet with the perfect balance of the public and the private. And most importantly, you radiate faith, encourage us by your life. We are trying to hold you up.
I love you dearly, Lins.
I know in this world we will have trouble. And I cherish the HOLY opportunity to witness the display of God’s glory in and through that trouble. It’s the only way I know how to cope with so much sorrow, sadness and disease. Whether it’s cancer, alcoholism, or any other debilitating disease we all know “someone” and we cannot escape it. So we might as well savor the journey and become part of his holy kingdom of warriors fighting for his precious ones to remain close to Him and be reminded of WHO they are, not what they have.
You are prayed for daily. You are loved by many. You are revered among sojourners. You are a precious friend and I am honored to walk alongside. Thanks for allowing us to.
True. Cancer is only one example of sorrow. Everywhere I look, someone else is suffering unnecessary grief. The glory hidden within is the only way we find the courage to keep moving forward. Thanks, Sarah.
Oh Michele, thank you for sharing this trial with us. You are so dearly loved by so many people. My prayers are with you and your family. Big hugs and love to you. I’m here if you need anything!
You touch a piece of my heart every time I read your brave posts. I only began to follow you a day before your must recent battle with cancer…. Hmmmm there must be a reason for this??? No doubt! I will keep you in prayer sister friend – and look out my window today with NEW eyes 🙂 (thank you)
Dear darling Michele —
I praise the Lord for the great gift he has given you to share your spiritual luminosity with a hurting world. What an example you are of unflinching faith! Focusing on “the stuff that feeds a soul” is where we all need to be in our walk with Christ — you give us this shining goal even despite your suffering. I am praying constantly for healing and that you feel God wrapping you in the warm cocoon of his endless love through this terrible time. Love and blessings – Joy
Thank you, dear Joy! What an encouraging message. Appreciate your heart.
Beautifully written,Michele. Your faith is inspiring . We have seen first hand the faith of your mom and dad and see in you and Chris the fruits of their labours for the the Lord.
Victory is in view through the window. Praying for you and your family.
So, so sorry Michelle. Been praying for you since I heard. Thank you for this beautiful, rich look into your heart during an extremely difficult time. Only you know what this is like for you. But, this piece blessed my soul….so thank you!
Thank you for that, Kelly. Knowing there is purpose even in the pain takes some of the sting away.
Michele, I am not gifted wit the writing ability God has given you, burp thank you for sharing your thoughts and pain, and please know that all that knnow you continue to pray for you and your whole family, and admire your faith and gain strength ourselves from it as well! May God bless each of you!
I know what it is like to see only the pain right in front of your face blocking the view of everything else, including God. Yet the faith is there in the background carrying you along in the river of life. There are circumstances that put our faith to the test in ways that we could never have imagined. Let Jesus love you through the pain, the waiting, and the uncertainty. I leave you with the words you spoke at the Platform Conference in November. “Your value is who you are. No one can take it away.” You are infinitely precious in the sight of God. No one or nothing can snatch you out of his hand.
I am praying for peace and true rest in the days ahead.
If we were sitting face to face, talking about our difficult, painful places and how God’s immeasurable love carried us through, just know it’d probably be over a huge bowl of ice cream — extra toppings included.
You’re right. God’s got this.
Thinking of you and praying for you, friend.
Oh, ice cream. I’ll take it. Especially if it comes with face time with you.
“No fear, friends. Just belief. God’s got this. And there’s a killer view waiting for us outside the next window.”
It wasn’t until I got Stage IV breast cancer that I truly started serving the Lord. Oh I have loved Him for a long time and I followed His teaching, but I never served Him with fervor until I thought I might not be around much longer. I have actually gotten involved in prison ministry, going through various tests to get clearance at the same time as I was undergoing chemotherapy. I am not saying this to boast, but to say that when you think you are done, God’s not. God bless.
“When you think you are done, God is not.” I LOVE THAT. Thank you, Roberta.
I was present at cowgirls of faith in tyler texas. My daughter and I really were blessed by your speaking. Our god is a healing god and today we are praying for him to lay his healing hands on your body. Praying for you and your family.
Michelle, thank you so much for your honesty and candor. I don’t know you, but my heart aches with you. I’ve never fought cancer, but my son and I fight a genetic disorder that has turned our lives upside down. I feel the loneliness and fear that comes with a diagnosis like this. And, I, too, have seen the way that we get to share in God’s glory in the midst of it, like the blind man in John 8. I can’t quite explain it, but I’ve felt it. Thanks for being real and honest. And thanks for pointing us to Jesus in this. I’m often encouraged by your journey as I walk mine. And, your honesty in your journey has inspired me to write and be honest about mine, as well. Thanks for being a voice amidst pain. (I wrote this blog about my journey, inspired, in part, by your candor: http://www.robtrenckmann.com/5-cant-miss-lessons-for-walking-with-people-in-pain/)
Michele, even in the midst of all you are going through, you share so beautifully. Thank you, I’ll be praying. I love this…”For today, I must honor what sits outside my window.” I am thankful that seasons do change, new and better views are ahead!
I’m sniffling right now. My heart physically hurts for you. But how you shine, dear friend. I see God all over you. Thank you for resisting the pull to hide away and instead sharing your heart with the world. You are part of the light in dark places.
Hope, Peace, Joy, Strength, Endurance, and Love to you.
Sometimes it takes a while to take hold of that “hint of glory”, but it’s always there, threading me back to truth, anchoring me tightly to home. I love Jesus, and I love the grace he extends to me every day to walk the faith I so boldly proclaim.
Peace for the journey, elaine
Tonight at 8:00 I will light two candles – one for you and one for Jenna Hinman. Jenna is part of my husband’s family and needs extra help (google her and you’ll see why.).
You touch so many people with your beautiful writing. And I can’t help but feel the weight of your burden and the emotion underlying the words. I am praying for your strength and a positive outcome. I am praying for your family. And I am praying that one day I can read the 5 Steps to Slamming the Door on Cancer or 3 Ways I Overcame Cancer …posts! As you travel this journey, know that there is a large online community thinking and praying for you. Whether you have time and energy to post or not.
Skip, it’s been a couple months since you left this comment. I read it within a day of when you left it, and I’ve carried your words with me ever since. You encouraged me more than you know. Thank you.
Absolutely beautifully written. I’m blinking away tears and feeling gratitude for stumbling across this post. God is good.