With the exception of a few posts, I haven’t blogged for close to a year. Not since my son, Kyle, relapsed with leukemia. I wrote a few posts on that topic that I won’t repeat. But here are the links if you or someone you love is struggling with cancer. When Life Stops, Wishes, Wants, and Secrets Fantasies, You Want Me to be Thankful for...
I am amazed to be asked to teach at the West Texas Writers’ Academy next June along with such wonderful and talented people as Margie Lawson, Cathy Maxwell, Alexandra Sokoloff, Matthew Sherley, and Romney Nesbitt. Registration opens in early 2015. If you come see me, here’s what I’ll be offering! Dates are...
Have you watched someone suffer from Alzheimer’s? Or know someone who’s navigated the wilderness of being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s? This debilitating disease impacts more lives than we think. After I moved to Texas, I began attending a monthly Saturday writing group hosted by The North Texas Christian...
Cancer doesn’t observe holidays. Doesn’t take a vacation. Doesn’t step away for a brief time-out. Since the week before Thanksgiving, when my son, Kyle, discovered an unusual mass, cancer dictates how we spend our holidays. The day before Thanksgiving, Kyle went in for an ultrasound. After the results came back abnormal, we spent Black...
But every time I try to finish this blog, my fingers freeze on the keys and all the energy I thought I had to put into some life-changing revelation drains away.
I wanted to write a beautiful story of the way my family has bonded and pulled together over Kyle’s fight with cancer.
I wanted to say I’m a servant, a martyr, willing to do anything and everything for my son with an attitude of grace.
I wanted to say Kyle is quietly strong and humbled by what God is doing in his life.
I wanted to say Alek has shed the role of selfish, teenage boy and strapped on his superhero brother cape and that my boys spend time together cementing a relationship that can never be broken.
I wanted to say even though I can’t be there 24/7 for Maddy, she trusts in my love and feels secure in our family and believes God will heal Kyle.
I wanted to say Pat and I have rallied as partners and parents.
But I can’t, because those things are only my secret fantasies.
So here’s the truth. Cancer destroys—cells, bodies, lives, relationships, families.
I do love my son. But I’m not a martyr. I have no grace. I’m a lousy servant. I get tired and angry and let my emotions explode all over the place.
Kyle is quietly strong, but there’s nothing quiet about his anger. Alek has stepped up in many ways, but he’d rather escape our new life than settle into it and he’s gone more than he’s home. Maddy cries. A lot. Especially on Wednesday mornings. Clinic mornings. She’s afraid to go to school because she thinks Kyle will die and she won’t be here and it will be her fault.
Pat and I argue about stupid things, like cookie sheets left unwashed on the counter and laundry going moldy in the washer.
I wish I could say because we’re Christians, things in our house are different. I wish I could say we’ve risen to the task set before us and that we don’t doubt or cry or fight or wonder if God is even here.
But I can’t.
I can say this—what gets me through the hard days, and there are a lot of hard days, is knowing God doesn’t deal in wishes or wants or fantasies.
God deals in promises. Promises that my feelings and my fears and my disbelief can’t change.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who[a] have been called according to his purpose”
(Romans 8:28 NIV).
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”
I claim these promises for my family. I believe God wants us not only to survive Kyle’s cancer, but to thrive, to come out on the other end as better, stronger, more compassionate people. I believe He means for our family to grow closer together. I believe He wants to use our dark moments for His good.
I don’t have the first clue how that can even happen, but I do know that God is the only one who can take something terrible and tragic and create something amazing and beautiful.
I’ve seen it before. The first time Kyle conquered cancer. And the work God’s done in the past is what I’m holding onto for our future.
*If you missed the first post in the series, you can find it here: When Life Stops.
Life is complicated.
Full of out-of-reach dreams and in-your-face commitments. We are busy with bosses and deadlines and spouses and kids and extended family obligations. Even time with friends doesn’t always come baggage-free. Throw in a few hormonal teens, an excess of extra-curricular activities, an aging pet, and piles of laundry and dishes that never deplete, and peace feels far-fetched.
Sometimes I want off the Tilt-a-Wheel.
Sometimes I need to be more careful what I ask for.
Want to know a sure way to find perspective in less than half a second?
Wake up in the storm of serious illness.
Life stops. Everything going on around you fades. Because all those complications just became irrelevant.
My blog has been silent these last few months, minus a post or two. Up until the last few weeks, I’ve been silent too. Now I’m ready to tell you why. Not because I want sympathy or pity or an I’m-praying-for-you comment fest, but because I wrote a challenge a while ago about being transparent.
Here’s an excerpt from my 2012 Christmas Letter:
What doesn’t get put in Christmas letters are the struggles. The events that hit the hardest. The moments that brought life-altering decisions. The impact that forced the most personal change.
I find it interesting that we don’t share our struggles and our triumphs over them. Those stories would inspire instead of defeat. Those stories would bring hope instead of despair. As a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, I know I’ve failed. Now I want to know there is redemption. (If you want to read the entire letter, the link is HERE.)
One word stilled my Tilt-a-Whirl life. You know the proverbial fork in the road? That single word sent it crashing down in front of me. Not in a choice as to which way I would walk, but as a Mt. Everest barricade.
A sick feeling twisted my stomach. “Anything else, Lord.” I dropped to my knees on my bedroom carpet. “I’ll do anything else. But not this.”
Yes. This. His voice whispered across my heart. Remember your challenge? Are you still willing to be transparent?
“I don’t know.” I crawled to the couch, clicked on Netflix, and got lost in Grey’s Anatomy. For fifty-seven episodes.
I asked if you were willing to be transparent. A gentle poke had me push pause on the remote.
“I don’t know, Lord. Maybe.” I limped from the couch to my comfy bed and curled up under the flannel sheets and read my way through the bestseller list on Kindle.
What about your challenge? The reminder came quietly.
My heart squeezed and I pulled the comforter over my head. “I think I need to clean out the closet under the stairs. I should repaint Maddy’s room and go through all the old photo albums and—”
How long are you going to hide? His words stopped my ramble.
Hiding. I’m not hiding.
You are hiding. Do you want to escape or be real?
As a writing coach, I’ve spent the last three years teaching people how to tell their stories in a way that will effectively impact the lives of others. New writers don’t always know how to structure their thoughts into words and paragraphs and pages. They don’t know how to get across what they’re feeling.
But I do.
Someone once asked me if my blog posts are cathartic. In a way, yes. I’m a writer. When I’m stressed, I write. When I’m excited, I write. Words are my release. But I’ve always believed that we go through hardships for a reason. If I can’t turn around and encourage those behind me, what good is my journey?
Some days I think my story doesn’t matter.
Other days, I’m convinced it does.
Every day I want to be real.
I’m ready. I’m ready to share. I haven’t written The End. Not yet. Because I’m still stuck behind that huge fork. My upcoming blogs may not be the most eloquent, but each post will be transparent. If I can reach out and steady someone else, being transparent will be worth it.
So here it goes. That word that changed our entire lives in half a heartbeat?
I’m a Cancer Mom. I’ve never had cancer. I’ve never had my body turn against me. I’ve never suffered from the poison of chemo and radiation.
But I’ve watched my son suffer.
The first time Kyle battled leukemia, the war lasted three-and-a-half years. That’s 42 months or 168 weeks or 1,176 days of muscle pain and nausea and weight loss and rashes and mouth sores and fatigue and fear.
Not every day was bad. But most days weren’t great.
This time, he’ll have to fight another two years. Two years of putting our lives on hold. He’s had to drop out of nursing school and come home. He’s had to say goodbye to the friends that are moving forward without him. He’s had to revisit that place none of us ever wanted to go.
I am a Cancer Mom. And I’d like to share my journey.
Look for upcoming posts with the tag—Surviving the Storm.