In the Middle of the Mess

Middle of the Mess

I had hoped that the end of my cancer treatment would bring renewal into my life, that of both my life and my marriage. Instead the opposite is true. My life continues to fall apart, bit by bit.

When dreams are crushed and suffering is long, it can be tempting to wonder “why” all of this is happening. Too, it is very easy to lash out at my soon-to-be-ex husband, pushing my hurt and anger onto him in that moment. But it doesn’t make things better.

The hurt and anger and heartbreak and anguish don’t go away by unleashing my inner “mean girl.” Instead it only starts the cycle of crazy once again.

As Erwin McManus says in The Last Arrow,

“Sometimes your geography doesn’t change at all, but the journey is still long and hard….Having the courage to live a life of honor and integrity may be the greatest battle you will ever face.”

Divorce is hard. There is nothing good or positive or normal about this situation. Add into that still recovering from my latest surgery and cancer treatment…life just seems impossible at this point.

And living a life of faith and honor? Each day I pray for the strength to make it through just that next moment, the courage to face my challenges, and an extra measure of love to extend to others. All too often I fail. But I get up and brush myself off, pray a bit more, and try again.

Life is just really, really hard at the moment. Could you please pray for me that I am able to live a life of faith, honor, and integrity, even in the middle of this mess?

Breaking Apart

Breaking Apart

It seems like joy continues to race ahead of me, taunting me with its presence in the lives of others. Finishing my cancer treatment was supposed to be a happy time, one of celebrations and new beginnings.

And yet…now a divorce.

The pain of this breaking–both physical and emotional pain–is indescribable. Having prayed and pleaded and discussed and loved, I only have emptiness. The man who once shared my bed and my life is leaving, looking forward to a life without those responsibilities.

I don’t know if I can love again. Perhaps I have missed that chance at happiness, that chance at having a forever partner.

Looking around at what was our home, I remember all of those dreams that we had and wonder what lies ahead. I now face what remains of my middle age alone. The prospect of that loneliness stretching on forever saddens me.

Although some apparently have divorce parties nowadays, I see nothing to celebrate. Marriage is a lifelong commitment–a covenant–and the breaking of our vows will only lead to heartbreak.

It is overwhelming. Somehow, though, I must move forward.

Cancer and Family

cancer-and-familyBoth love and cancer have bound our family.

Cancer has often seemed like an unwanted and violent relative who continues to show up for dinner. Demanding everything and leaving nothing, he shakes our lives until very little remains.

As the dust settles from his appearance, we hug each other closer and breathe a sigh of relief, thinking this will be the final time. But no. We bury family members, struggle through holidays, and continue on. And still he returns.

I hear those who are newly diagnosed with cancer whisper sadly, “But I don’t have any family history! I never thought I’d have cancer.” Murmuring, “I’m so sorry,” I silently wonder if it is better to be thrown headlong into a cancer diagnosis or to have a family history full of cancer.

Is it better to have an unfamiliar enemy? Or to know intimately this ghastly disease?

When medical professionals ask about the history of cancer in my family, it usually takes about 5-10 minutes to discuss it fully. They take notes furiously and then look at me with glazed eyes. Their expressions seem to be a mix of sadness and disbelief.

Occasionally I’ll elicit some surprise, even from those who have experience with this sort of thing. When I spoke with the genetics counselor, she questioned me further about those family members with skin cancer. “When were they first diagnosed?” she asked. I gave her a guess as to dates but then explained that this cancer was ongoing. “You mean there has been more than one time?” she asked, shocked.

Yes, cancer keeps knocking at our door. Only two of us left now.

But then there are those who ask about my family history, specifically a history of breast cancer. Taking my vitals, a nurse in the hospital during my most recent visit asked me if any of my family members had had breast cancer. “My mother. She died in 1999,” I responded. The nurse nodded and then left my room.

Lying there in the darkness, I could guess as to why she had asked me that question. She wondered why someone my age had already had breast cancer twice. As I have a family history–plus the PTEN mutation–it’s explainable. And she could leave my room feeling a bit better about her own risk for cancer.

Our throw of the genetic dice resulted in snake eyes.

We’ve grown stronger, though, and appreciate each other a bit more after all of this. Those of us that remain are scarred and a bit hobbled, but we know well the fragility of life and that cancer can return at any moment. So we talk more, sharing stories from our lives and simple pleasures like reading and movies and good food.

And we do our best to kick that unwanted relative, cancer, to the curb for good.

Competition in Marriage? Yes!

2013-09-27_0918Competing as a married couple can be fraught with difficulties, but it can be a whole lot of fun as well. True competition without a sense of love is useless in a marriage as it can cause strife in the relationship. However, competing for the sake of enjoyment can bring a new element to even a long marriage that has seen its share of ruts.

How do I know this? It’s pretty silly, really. My husband and I recently began playing The Tribez on Facebook. It is a game similar to Age of Mythology in that you build a town and progress through the evolution of your society. There are some different elements as well—an ongoing and mysterious communication with a professor, for example—but that’s the basic gist of the game.

Although it is a simple Facebook game, it has become a source of fun and competition for my husband and myself. We talk about our own tribe, how we are progressing through the game, and what quests we are currently completing. Not so surprisingly too considering my husband’s personality, it has also brought out his extremely competitive nature, and so we have found ourselves taunting each other about a lack of progress, but in a fun way.

Is playing this game productive? No, it sure isn’t. But it has injected a bit of fun into our relationship during a difficult and uncertain time. We can talk about something light hearted and tease each other in a silly way. Oddly, we’ve even found ourselves growing a bit closer. And that makes it worthwhile.

Commitment

Anakin with Lambie
Anakin with Lambie

“There are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.” –Benjamin Franklin

Commitment—even when it entails sacrifice—seems to have gotten a bad reputation of late. In our society’s rush to pleasure and enjoyment, we often forget that true love must come with commitment, and this with self-sacrifice. Whether it is a marriage or caring for an elderly dog, there may be some suffering along with the joy.

Yesterday, I took our beloved little Anakin for his first post-chemo checkup. He appears to be in remission at this point, but there is some evidence of further age-related deterioration. At the age of nine, he is a senior dog, but not necessarily elderly. We have begun to see some weakness and loss of coordination, along with possible signs of dementia. Small things in the larger view of his health and abilities, considering that he is an overall very happy and loved dog.

For us, he is still that straggly little dog who showed up on our front doorstep at the age of one. He was scared and wet from the rain, but he seemed to know that he had found the right house. We took him in and helped him through most of his problems. He learned to bark and play, realizing that the abuse that he had experienced before he met us was finally over. He was our “Little Mister,” and we were his family.

Now, eight years later, we all have aged. Some may question why we went to the expense of chemotherapy for a dog, but we couldn’t imagine not giving him that chance for additional life. I was brought up to believe that taking care of pets is a commitment that you don’t simply discard when things get rough. Like marriage or any other worthwhile relationship, you stick with it, showing that person—or little dog—just what love really means.

Anakin is still our Little Mister. He may not be able to run like he did when he was a younger dog and may require some extra supervision, but we love him just the same. His abilities and health may change, but our love only grows stronger. And that’s the true result of commitment, a strong and abiding love borne out of sacrifice and pain.

Talents

Original Photo by  wallyir on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by wallyir on Morguefile.com

“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” –Benjamin Franklin

Repairs seem to be the order—or perhaps, the disorder—of the day. While at work this morning, I waited for the repairman to fix the church’s dishwasher, only to come home and find my husband busily working to repair our bathtub faucet. Not a trained plumber, my husband still has the talent for looking at such a problem and being able to find a solution. I, on the other hand, would most likely have to do hours of research in order to be able to even discern the problem. Luckily, opposites do attract.

One of the many benefits of my marriage is living with and loving someone who has vastly different talents than I do. My husband has numerous practical skills that I seem to lack, or perhaps just haven’t developed. He loves everything technical and mechanical, easily taking apart a radio, for instance, and finding its problems. Woodworking and even metalwork aren’t farfetched when it comes to his abilities either. He’s one smart cookie as I often say.

Obviously, learning to appreciate our differing talents has been a blessing to our relationship. Even as our skills grow and change over time, we readily compliment and utilize the other person’s talents. As we’ve gotten older and our relationship has changed, we realize that there’s no need for competition within our marriage. God has blessed each of us with our various talents, and we can use them to benefit both of us.

While being married to your opposite can bring about some lively arguments, it can also bring some great opportunities for learning and growth. While I may never reach the technical proficiency of my husband, I can easily let him know just how much I appreciate his work around the house.

I may not be able to fix a faucet or disassemble a television, but I’m certainly capable of expressing my admiration for his efforts and sincerely thanking him for that work.