Oh yeah. About year five I got a little thing called breast cancer.
No, that wasn't when it changed.
Yes, Shana. Yes it was.
Hmm, maybe you're right, other Shana.
(Actual conversations that take place in my brain, minus the third person references.)
That led me to decide I need to create a list of what might have been if I had NOT gotten cancer. Brace yourselves.
1) I would still be a stressed out, ninny pinny, neat freak who felt judged if someone came over and I hadn't vacuumed in a month and they would KNOW that it had been that long. And the laundry, and the dusting, and the bathrooms. They would know. And that would make me a bad mom. Thank the Lord that all those months of laying around recovering showed me that a clean house, while important and good, is not a requirement for daily living. Gasp.
I'm a minimalist now people. Dishes get done daily (thanks Daddywayne) and I keep up with the laundry. Everything else gets done as needed.
2) I would not value people the way I do now.
Something deepens in you when you stare death in the face. The reality that those relationships are really all we have that will remain for eternity, sinks in. I am intentionally nice to people. Even when I'm in a bad mood, or tired, or frustrated, or dealing with my kids. I say please and thank you to everyone: the check out lady at Walmart, the gas station attendant, the person who holds the door open for me. I have conversations with random strangers (okay, I did that before, but they are deeper now). I tip well even when the service wasn't great. I smile more.
And I pick and choose who gets to be in my innermost circle. I want people in my life who will love me for me. Who I can talk about the deep things of Christ with. Who I can be make-up-less and stretchy pants on the couch with and laugh and talk and eat brownies. People who value my relationship with them as much as I value theirs. And it's okay that there aren't very many of those people in my life. Really it's a good thing.
3) I would not empathize or have grace with people like I do now.
It's funny how your own shortcomings help you to see that everyone has them. I couldn't do anything for months at a time. It sucked hard. But I realized that people have lives and junk and hurt that they are dealing with and the grocery store check out lady's life does not revolve around ME!
Nope, it doesn't.
Grace. Patience. Smiling. Kindness. Lord bless them, be near them, help them. Lord, how do I bless them?
4) I would not pray like a crazy woman.
Man that would stink. So much of my faith has been built on watching God's hand move in my life, particularly surrounding cancer. Now I don't want to be held back out of fear of man or that I'll miss Him somehow. I want to walk up to that stranger at the mall and pray for them when and how God tells me to. I want to be so vulnerable in the Spirit, that if God wakes me up at 3am to pray for someone halfway around the world with intensity...I just do it. I want my knee jerk to be in prayer, not fear, or worry, or self-fix-it mode.
5) I fear that I would not just enjoy the simplicity of living life.
Fresh air. Birds. Sunshine. Laughing children. Wind rustling through the trees. Cold air. Hot air. Walks holding hands. Pushing a daughter on the swing. Laying beside a son long past his bedtime and listening to his mind work as he chatters. Snuggling with a sweet sleeping baby just because. Napping. Playing. Reading.
These things are so hard to miss in the busyness. In the hustle. In the to do list. I am not perfect at this but I find myself trying harder to stop. Breathe. Listen. Praise. Be in the moment.
It's strange to think about these things and others. What might have been before cancer used to be depressing to me because it wasn't possible any more. Normal breasts. More biological children. No scars or hot flashes. No hysterectomy.
But something has happened to make me see how much I have been given. I am grateful for what cancer has taught me. I am grateful for my battle scars. I am grateful for dark, hard, painful moments that showed me Who is in charge and Who calms the storm and Who numbers my days. I feel myself truly moving forward with fresh wind and knowing that this season of fear of cancer is behind me. It was a season. It is not my story, but is part of my story. Five years ago today I lost both breasts. And I am a new person now. I like who God has made me to be through this. Can I say that? Wow, that feels powerful. He is most certainly not through with me yet, but there is so much joy in me when I see where I have come from and where I am now and in His revelation that cancer is over. That door is closed.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.2
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—3
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,4
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,5
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.