Deja vu – but worse. So, so much worse. That’s the only way I can think of to describe what we’ve been through this last month.
A month ago, on January 14th, 2016, I went to the hospital and was told a shock diagnosis.
I was told my body was fighting an aggressive form of breast cancer.
I’m 26. I have absolutely no family history of it. And yet they told me the diagnosis was a grade III, stage 3(c) triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma which, according to the doctors, will require surgery and possibly more. Unbelievable. Unthinkable.
It still doesn’t feel real. It feels like a dream that I’m going to wake up from any minute. Even when I talk about it, it feels like I’m talking about someone else. Distant. Far, far out of reach. And yet over the last month, with the never ending tests, ultrasounds, biopsies, mammograms and consultations with surgeons and oncologists, it’s become agonizingly real. Too real.
I thought I knew the extremes of emotions a human can feel. It turns out I didn’t know the least of it. It’s the same feelings all over again that we felt when we first heard our 21-month old son’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome – shock, disbelief, anger, denial, despair, fear of the unknown and of the future. The same feeling of being blindsided and hit by a monster truck with no warning. Times those feelings by ten thousand, and it comes close to what we’ve been hit with this last month.
The first two weeks were the hardest. I was exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually. But somehow after the initial onslaught of emotions being ravaged and getting so angry my husband had to stop me from punching through the car window; after all the tears had been spent and questions of why had been thrashed out; after it felt there was nothing but emptiness left inside me, somehow, this inexplicable peace started slowly filling the void inside. It was as if I could feel heaven’s tears and I knew – I was not alone in this. I would get through this.
The last few weeks I’ve felt closest to Heaven that I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve felt a deep peace and joy that make absolutely no sense, given the circumstances. The important things in life have become more real and clear to me than ever before, and all the unimportant things have faded into the background. My faith in God and personal experience of him as a kind, good father has been what I’ve clung on to; it has given me strength when I felt I had none left. It has carried me through these last few weeks and become more real than this tempest that has been raging around me. It feels as though I’ve been taken above the dark clouds to a place where I can somehow, unbelievably be at rest and have hope – despite the circumstances surrounding me.
I know that this is not the will of God. Though I believe He is all powerful, I have been searching it out the last few weeks and I also believe that His desire for us to have free will and love Him freely is more important to Him than the ability to exercise power and to control and micro-manage our lives. We live in a broken world where terrible things happen as a result of this. This does not mean that He makes these things happen. I believe it grieves Him when things like this happen more than anything we could feel in our finite human emotions. I have felt Him closer than ever before in the last few weeks, and I know that His will is for me to be healed from this.
I don’t know what that will look like. It could be an instant supernatural miracle (which is what we’re hoping and praying for), or it could be through doctors, treatment or other ways. I’ve been learning there is no formula; there’s no way to predict what He will do. As C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia: “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” But this I know – He has a plan for me, to prosper me and give me hope for my future; whatever that may look like. Something my sister said to me that she heard from a teaching by Danny Silk has helped me through this time – that instead of having specific expectations of what will happen, we need to live in a state of constant expectancy. We don’t know what will happen, but we do know the promises that we’ve been given. And we can know that these promises will happen somehow. This is the rock I’ve been clinging on to. We know that though it seems like there’s a fierce army at our backs and a sea of unknown ahead of us, He will split this sea so that we can walk through it.
We have had so much support these last few weeks. We’ve been surrounded by incredible family and friends throughout this whole time that we feel so, so thankful for. So many people have been supporting us, praying for us, believing with us for a miracle and offering to help in practical ways. We appreciate all of you more than we can say. All of this has helped us get through the difficult time we’ve been going through.
What’s helped us the most though, after our faith, is our son. This boy, so full of life and joy and personality, has been the furthest thing away from being a burden or added difficulty as most would think having a small child with Down Syndrome and additional needs would be during this time. He has been the opposite – he’s been a bringer of joy and a reminder of the good things in life. No matter how low I feel; no matter how weighed down I may be feeling, I can’t help but laugh when I’m with him. He is constantly laughing, doing his party tricks of animal noises and raspberry-blowing, doing whatever he can to make people laugh – his favourite thing to do in life it seems. His latest thing is taking your head in his hands, holding your cheeks and putting his face as close to yours as possible, and doing what we call an ‘old man laugh’ – not letting go or even letting you turn your head away until he gets you laughing back. He seems to have this uncanny ability to read people’s emotions and know exactly what they need in that moment – whether that’s to make you laugh when you’re down or reach up to give you the tightest hug he can when you need it the most. I am so thankful for this boy. I know he will help us through whatever this next chapter of our lives may be.
I don’t know what the future will look like. But I do know that we can trust that even this, like so many other storms we’ve been through in the past, will somehow be turned around for our good. I am thankful for having family and friends around us, supporting us and being there for us. I know I’ll get through this – and that I won’t be alone in it. I’m continuing to live in expectancy. And I know that though it feels like we’re walking an impossible road with walls of water on either side and though it feels like this night will never end, we will come through it and the light will come. It’s just a matter of time.