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.