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No, it’s not okay.

April 17, 2018

One of the lessons I’ve been learning lately is to stop saying (specifically after explaining what’s going on with my cancer) “but, it’s okay.” I think it’s our natural reaction to want to cushion the blow when delivering bad news. My sister has been telling me for a long time to stop worrying about how people are going to receive my bad news. I always want to put a happy spin on it or something.

Jonathan talked to the school secretary and told her what was going on. He finished with, “but, it’s okay”, and thankfully, she said, “No, it’s not.” I’m not throwing him under the bus – I do it too. I said it to a friend who is also a therapist and she set me straight. She said if you’re saying to someone, “I’m ok” there’s a good chance you’re more worried about making sure that they’re not feeling too uncomfortable than you are about actually being honest about how you’re feeling. Dang…

The truth is, sometimes things are just terrible. They suck. They are bad. I got my teeth cleaned today and the lady was telling me how her husband works third shift so they see each other one day a week, “but it’s okay.” Girl, it sucks. Only seeing your husband one day a week is miserable. And just because your situation isn’t as bad as the next person’s doesn’t make it any less sucky. Just because you don’t have cancer doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal that you got fired. There’s always someone in a worse spot than you, but that doesn’t minimize what you’re going through. I’m not saying go around and tell everyone how bad things are all the time, but don’t deny it when your reality sucks.

And speaking of sucky things, we saw Dr. Z yesterday. Ever since my conversation on Friday where I found out about all the lymph nodes, I had been thinking that he was going to tell me I need to do chemo. And I was right. He feels like my surgery in the fall was inadequate, and while he doesn’t know for sure, he suspects that the current cancer is a variation of the original one. The hormone receptors aren’t as strong, but my hormone levels had been significantly reduced following my fall surgery. It sounded like sometimes the cancer can adapt. He said if I don’t do anything besides surgery, there’s about a 50% chance the cancer will recur within the next 3 years, and it would likely be somewhere else (liver, lungs, bones). With chemo and radiation, it brings it down to about 30%. There’s a 40% chance chemo could drive me into permanent menopause… Ugh. I still have to heal before I can move forward, but I have an appointment with him in 2 weeks to talk about it more. Waiting to check out, I met two ladies who confused my hair with a pre-chemo buzz. It will never stop being confusing.

We left the office and drove home, asking each other questions and discussing the appointment. Christine ask what scared me most about the whole thing. Thinking about dying. Having to face that I really have cancer, stage 3 cancer, and if I don’t bring out the big guns, it very well may kill me. And I don’t want to die. Also, thinking about getting a port put in/having a port also gives me the heebie jeebies and makes my stomach turn.

When we went to Unicoi a couple weeks ago, we had to wait to check in to our cabin, so we went down to a playground and creek area. The kids started playing with other kids, talking to parents and introducing all of us. I talked to a mother who had four kids there. We chatted and eventually told a little bit of our stories including my upcoming mastectomy. I noticed that she was wearing a bracelet that said “peace”. It made me think of Betsy, a friend and also a mother of four, who had written the same word on her front door or somewhere super obvious during a time when they really needed it in their home.

We ended staying in different parts of the park and didn’t run into each other again like we had hoped, but a few days later, I got a friend request from her on Facebook. I had thought about looking her up, but didn’t even know their last name. I’m sure one of my girls told them all of our entires names, as they tend to do (good thing identify theft isn’t a concern…) She messaged me saying how nice it was to meet us and asked me for our address.

Last week I was sitting out back (I think it was my first day outside since surgery), and Jonathan came out with the mail. He asked if I knew anyone in Dalton, and handed me an envelope. In it was the bracelet I had noticed on our friend at Unicoi. She said she had felt compelled to give it to me since we met and was praying for us to have peace, whatever that might look like, during this time.

Like I said before, I don’t like to point out gifts I’ve been given. I’ve received so many beautiful, thoughtful gifts and don’t want to imply one is better in some way. But bear with me – as I went away from that appointment, I felt so calm. I had expected the news, but to be able to just accept it was really surprising to me. I can’t tell you how many times over the last 8 months I’ve said and thought “I just can’t/ won’t do chemo”. The destructiveness of it scares me. I always feel like it causes more problems than it fixes. I’ve had an almost physical repulsion to it, and wondered what I would do if it came down to that.

But here I am. It’s come down to chemo, and I feel okay. I thought maybe I was just numb or in denial, but at some point yesterday, it dawned on me – all this time, we’ve prayed for a clear path. We’ve prayed for peace with the hard decisions we have to make. Peace in our home and hearts. I’ve been wearing that prayer on my body for the past week. Is this the answer to that prayer? The peace that passes understanding? Did God prepare my heart to hear the news so I could go ahead and do what I need to do to get rid of this cancer?

Our pastor says that being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid. It means that even when you are afraid, you still keeping moving forward. I am afraid. I know that chemo is going to be hard. But, I also believe that at this point, it is the best way to get rid of this cancer.

I also know that the current physical state I’m in is much healthier and more able to withstand harsh treatment than if I had tried in the fall. Others have said it better – it may be time for the big guns, but now we have a stronger fort. And Dr. B and the RHM staff will be able to provide me with supportive treatments that will build me up as the chemo does its work.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ruth Petersen permalink
    April 17, 2018 22:27

    God’s unfailing Peace to you Sweet Grace ((HUGS))

  2. Andy Zimmerman permalink
    April 19, 2018 01:16

    Hi Grace! Kim and I continue to pray every day for God’s healing hand upon you. I understand your struggle. I started talking to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC this morning about alternatives to surgery they are investigating for cure of rectal cancer. I had an “excellent response” to the daily chemo-radiation treatments and I’m hoping they will include me in their study.

  3. April 30, 2018 22:31

    I am newly in survivorship from ER+ breast cancer. 2017 sucked as you say and thank you for pointing out the very thing I believe we all say but it ok. I was also saying It is what it is. I mean all I can do is accept it and do what I’m told to live. It is scary as hell. The survivorship has been much more difficult than radiation and chemo drugs. I’m on 1 now for 5 years. Thank you for your post. God bless and keep up the fight. God only picks the strongest and I so believe that.

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