“How am I going to explain this diagnostic summary to this parent?” I asked myself. Twenty-two years of life is all I had under my belt. Teaching, and motherhood, were new. My heart answered: “Be kind. State the facts. Tell this mom that a test does not define her child. Speak with love and compassion. Share the gifts and talents this young boy possesses.” My prayer at that age is the same prayer I speak aloud today. “God, give me the right words.”
Sometimes my words can’t clearly express my heart. To my advantage, I knew a world before cell phones and devices. I’m so blessed to have grown up in the seventies and eighties. Speaking with courtesy and having good manners seemed to be a reasonable standard. The heart is even more powerful than words. The lack of words, too many words, the wrong words…they don’t always represent the heart well. A miracle might be needed.
“It seems you got the short end of the stick.” “You’ve had some rough times.” “You’ve healed already.” “You look good.” “This isn’t fair.” “Keep fighting” …just a few recent phrases I’ve heard. I’m going to share something crazy. In ways, this diagnosis gave me relief. Relief? Are you crazy, Karla? Multiple issues were skeletal due to various injuries. Since I’m as vulnerable as vulnerable can be now, I’ll share one diagnosis of I.B.S. (irritable bowel syndrome) years ago. My neck and back issues and other struggles poised me for pain. When life’s complications swirled it became harder to stay poised. I found joy in simple things, yet life was not always simple. There was internal joy despite a touch of depression (did you know you can experience depression and joy at the same time?). Others might label you as a “people pleaser” rather than recognize kindness and respect (friends, you can still have elevated expectations for yourself without others thinking you’re a pleaser). Love drove me. Respect for my position made me want to rise to the occasion of leading with love. This was not idealism. This is the truth I learned from an incredibly early age.
We were born to love. We’re made to love. Can it be harder when you physically can’t provide? It was for me. I scratched my head and wondered what was going on in my body. As much as I tried to be a support for others, a shoulder to cry on, an understanding ear-I was confused. The more I gave, the more expected. The bar seemed to rise. That’s when I fell flat on my faith. God wasn’t raising the bar; humans were. We can’t do things fast or conveniently enough. Comfort is craved. Our world spins faster and faster. We want immediate satisfaction at a touch of a button with lightning speed. We’re angry when it’s too slow. We need this. We need that. Me? My hope is in healing. I’m not fighting. I don’t want to fight. The quiet life of being alone with my words, working with those in need, and most importantly, spending time with my kids, grandkids, and family…yes, I desire those things. It’s an amazing stage of life. A stage. I don’t want to be on a stage. Particularly, Stage 4.
For several nights before meeting with the oncologist last Thursday I prayerfully, and quietly, asked for guidance on my words. The right words. The day came. He called us to his office to show us the scans (my scans were moved up earlier than expected). There was a shift in his demeanor when I shared my thoughts on “quality vs. quantity of life.” It was not easy sharing I desired a second opinion. In my research, I learned that any treatment is not a home run. However, I was willing to “step up to the plate” to try. My heart and head shared. He slipped off his mask and locked eyes with me. I told him how much I appreciate him and liked his manner and sense of humor. On Friday I will have another scan. I’m refusing to have “scanxiety” as I already know the facts. Cancer is everywhere. Radiation is our next step. There are additional tumors, and the chemo had no impact. Pain is more prevalent; it’s part of it. Neuroendocrine cancer is a slow-growing cancer, but it spreads quickly. I’ve had it for years. It’s essential to catch it early. There are good moments every day for I have an internal/eternal joy that will NEVER leave me. I didn’t get the “short end of the stick.” Life hasn’t been unfair. I’ve had a beautiful life filled with love and lessons. The hardest part about having a chronic illness? It can become a full-time job. You’re opening yourself up to the opinions, suggestions, and thoughts of others. Take it with HEART. Those that love you CARE. Friendship is a miracle.
I take full responsibility for my life-my decisions, what I put in my body, what I think, and what I do. Books loaned to me by well-meaning friends share all about nutrition and cancer. There’s truth and wisdom. What we put in our bodies DO MATTER. One young man wrote about how he beat cancer. I’m so happy for him! He beat it with nutrition! But the book began with how he had surgery. Surgery. After surgery, he prevented further cancer with great nutrition and exercise (and quite costly habits). My cancer is inoperable. For the last 7 years, I have eaten salads, proteins, and exercised. I even climbed a mountain one time! Choices, at times, may not have been the best for my body. I found a doctor who lectures about stress and its impact on the body. Also, about sleep and its importance. Stress and the lack of sleep can do major damage. Knowing I have cancer is a relief. Are you crazy, Karla? Yep. I was beginning to feel like I was crazy. There was an answer. Just as I heard the whispers of a heavenly Father telling me to get out of unhealthy situations, I wasn’t heeding the signs of physical pain that could have led me down a different path. In a recent message shared with me, these words hit straight to the heart: “God can baffle or bless. He can devastate or delight. He uses all circumstances to show HIS mighty works. He’s the God of life and the God of death.” Statistically and 100% truthfully—we all die. If you’re reading this, it’s a miracle.
All we can do is our best. Balance is important. I’ve never been radical in any way. I know what’s good for me and what’s bad. Still, I’m human. We all are. If a situation is not fixable by love and communication, then how does it benefit you? What are you doing that is helping or hurting you? WE ALL SUFFER. Mentally, physically, and emotionally…so many ways. Can we love anyway? Just the simple words, “I’m thinking of you and love you” can bring more healing to a hurting world than any other treatment available to man. I’m not a tragedy. There are daily tragedies-young people, babies, and catastrophic events that take lives in an instant. To be alive–it’s an ordinary miracle. Don’t take it for granted.
Finley and I watched “Charlotte’s Web” (one of my favorite childhood books). “With the right words, you can change the world,” Charlotte shared. Like Wilbur and Charlotte, we all must accept change and transition.“Why did you do all this for me? he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
Living with love, kickstarting kindness, digesting the fruits of the Spirit, giving grace, and yes, even protecting your peace when needed, are all ways we can cure the cancers of conflict. Let’s try chemotherapy of compassion and radiation of respect. How about a prescription for peace and a diet from dread? Let’s fast of fear and make appointments of appreciation. And me? I’ll keep living on love-an ordinary miracle.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”-Phillipians 4:6-7