In July I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. I had major abdominal surgery and began chemotherapy, which continues today. It’s been a long, tiring, terrible journey – and it’s not over yet. My physical body has been opened, cut, poked, drawn, and filled with poison. My emotions have tugged and pulled. The illness has wrecked my preveiously ordered life. I’m too tired to maintain a schedule of work, athletics, socability, and too worried about germs to always attend activities and church service. The doctors keep me close with an endless schedule blood draws, appointments, transfusions, and infusions. I am left desperately trying to keep up, working only part time, and watching the bills pile up.
I worry a lot. About dying. But more about living. How will I recover? And get on my feet again? What things will never be the same again – and how will I grieve the losses? How will I know how to rebuild the pieces that can be recovered?
It is from this dark place of uncertainty and loss that I write three things I am most grateful for on this Thanksgiving weekend.
1. I am thankful that I can see God.
In the midst of my exploding life (last summer), a path was cleared, and in the wreckage some things were illuminated. I believe it was the hand of God. I was handed the right health insurance; I was transfered to the right surgeon; I was provided the right recovery location; and I was given the right part time work. There were no missteps or tangles around these items, they simply were – available and present. And while the cancer still came to me and the cup was not passed over, I felt God with me in the hospital and on the journey. I heard the voice saying, “you will be OK” and “things will work” and “got to sleep; we will fix this in the morning”. My heart has been granted peace many times. I believe it was and is the hand of God – and I see it more clearly because it shines in the darkness.
2. I am thankful for the goodness, kindness, and humanity of others.
The massive outpouring of goodness from other people has come to me in the darkest night. Others have both sat with me in that darkness and lifted me out of it. It has been extrordinary.
In the hospital, I was never alone. Every time I opened my eyes, my friends were there, committed to staying and being near. They stayed in uncomfortable chairs and slept on uncomfortable benches. They held my hands and unhooked me from myrid machines so I could move. They were a constant.
And then the steady march of visits, calls, prayers, lunches, and well wishes came. And the mountain of cards and gifts – and flowers, quilts, food, scarves, funds, chemo remidies, and chocolates. I have been overwhelmed and humbled with the kindnesses – even from strangers.
My family, immediate and extended, have been formost in the effort, assisting me at personal cost to themselves and their families. They simply made themselves available and cared for me.
The most incredible part is that I feel like the help is far from being expended – rather that it is close by me – like an accessible well of goodness – full and waiting. I simply need reach out and scoop it up.
3. I am thankful for the divine spark that I find in myself.
This time of trial has brought me a deeper appreciation for the divine spark within myself. I feel the will to live, to go on, to push forward. I am filled with the sense that I am important and I have something beautiful to add to the world. I feel stronger deep inside. I have a desire to move beyond the darkness and live outside the despair – in a place of joy. I want my spirit to shine.
For these things, I am most grateful at Thanksgiving.