Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fragile

Goodness...how I never wanted to write this post, and now here I am...writing it.

 
 Rob, the girls, and I went to the beach about two weeks ago, and we found out shortly after arriving that my Dad has relapsed. This is his third time to be living with mantle cell lymphoma. A recent CT scan revealed the news, and with those words, "I have a mass..." my world froze again.
 
I've written about my Dad before. He is and always will be my hero. He's been my number one fan my entire life, and I have never once doubted his love for me. And I have always loved him big. I guess you could say I'm a Daddy's girl.
 
I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was nearly 10-years-old. That was, of course, the hardest thing I've ever experienced, and for a long time I kind of felt like the "hard" was over for me. I'd already gone through the unimaginable; it was someone else's turn next. Until it wasn't.
 
Dad was first diagnosed with this particular type of lymphoma over seven years ago. I was finishing up nursing school and planning my wedding when we found out. I remember wondering how I would move forward, and somehow, I did. After intense chemo and a stem cell transplant, Dad went into remission and returned to work. I can't tell you how thankful we were. Life went on...and yet, there it was...I kind of felt like I was living always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hoping and praying that it wouldn't yet at the same time wondering when it would.
 
We found out Dad had relapsed for the second time a week after I had Hadley. I'm an oncology nurse, and I understand the reality of relapse. I remember Dad telling me the cancer had returned, and I sat in the glider in Hadley's room and cried until I couldn't cry any more. Once again, he opted to go through intense chemo and another stem cell transplant. How he did it (physically, mentally, emotionally...) I'll never know, but I'm forever grateful that he did. The second stem cell transplant was much harder than the first. The recovery took longer; some of the side effects lingered. Thankfully, remission was again achieved, and Dad even returned to work part-time!
 
And now...the damn shoe has dropped again. I'm going to be honest, my first reaction was, "Seriously, God?!?! Pick on someone else. We've had enough." But I know that's not how life works. And I know that my life (our life) has been so much smoother and easier and wrinkle-free when compared to so many in this world. But still...
 
I am a little angry, but mostly I am sad. I am so sad that my dear Dad has to deal with this again. It's so freaking unfair. Sometimes I wish cancer would take the form of a person, just so I could hit it, kick it, scream at it, and pull its hair. I want to ask cancer...couldn't you have chosen the guy around the corner? The father who doesn't really love his kids? The man who really isn't so good? But there again...I know that's not how life works.
 
So how does life work? Ha...I wish I knew. I do know that random, bad things happen to good people every day. And that's just the nature of this fallen world we live in. Thankfully God is with us through it all, and it's by his grace that we survive any of it.
 
Dad has already met with his oncologist, and a third transplant is highly unlikely...it hasn't even been mentioned, I don't think, and if it were, I doubt Dad would go down that road again. He has started chemo (both oral and IV), and he'll have another scan in about a month to make sure the chemo is working and is effectively shrinking the mass. The hope is that chemo alone will send him into remission, and that is my prayer every day. Thankfully, Dad has taken both of these chemos in the past, and he has few side effects (if any!) while taking them. That is such a blessing.
 
So, where do we go from here? Baby steps...one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. I've already had a few meltdowns. I cried in front of a co-worker, and I cried again at church on Sunday, in front of a precious doctor I know and adore.
 
The nurse in me, the realist in me, understands our reality. If you just Google cancer relapse you can see for yourself. No one ever wants to relapse, a second time or a third. But the daughter in me, the optimist in me, just can't go there. I am choosing (and it is a choice...a choice I have to make each day!) to be positive; I am choosing to have hope; I am choosing to believe in the good and not in the bad.
 
And in the meantime? I've described it this way to a friend...but I feel like I'm going about my normal life yet there's this dark cloud that hovers above my head and follows me everywhere I go. I'm able to function, to go and do, to laugh and to live and to love...but I'm still aware of that dark cloud. I've felt this way before, and the good news is the dark cloud clears (at least a little bit) over time.
 
So...yesterday, today, and every day going forward I'm doing this: I'm doing what we should ALL be doing every day anyway. I'm loving my people extra hard. I'm giving more hugs (and you better believe they last a little longer); I'm letting petty things go; I'm making those phone calls or sending those e-mails or text messages. I'm listening more. I'm more willing to forgive. I'm recognizing our common ground as broken humans just trying to get by. I'm letting messes go; I'm seizing the day; I'm choosing fun over vacuumed floors. I'm putting on my bathing suit, and I may even just do a cannon ball off the diving board. Y'all, this life is so precious. Why does it take the hard to make us realize this? And at the same time, I'm thankful that I am realizing this...that I am making each day count more and more.
 
The past few weeks have been hard. Thankfully, God's grace is bigger than anything I will ever experience on this Earth. We've been lifted up by friends and loved ones, people just reaching out to say they are praying...friends offering to put us on prayer lists, loved ones offering to take us to lunch. People being the Lord's hands and feet on this Earth. Through the bad, there has been so much good. I have had days where I do the ugly cry and can barely catch my breath. And the next day I have woken up and had such a sense of peace. That is God's grace, y'all. Friends have prayed for us when I haven't been able to pray. God's grace. Laughing with my Dad while he was getting chemo, sharing funny stories with him about my girls, watching him (really watching him) love and hug and hold Lily and Hadley...God's grace.
 
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Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, friends. They mean more to me than you will ever know. Love to you all.