Friday, June 8, 2012

Finding Peace With Birthdays

Ah,  birthdays.  I remember so clearly being a child and anxiously waiting for my birthday to come.  I was able to watch tv in the morning (when I was growing up game shows were all the rage in the morning), there was always a fabulous cake awaiting me, and, at least in my memory, that was the one day I could count on my five brothers to be nice to me.

As we mature, (notice I didn't say get older), our perception of birthdays change.  They are still an exciting day for the most part, but they don't hold that ultimate importance that they did as a child.  Sometimes we even try to avoid them. 

So what happens to birthdays when you have cancer?  Can you be excited on that day, or does it end up being a day of dread?  Do you embrace them or do you avoid them?  Do you even have a choice?

Because I am dealing with cancer long-term, I know my perspective is different than someone who is blessed to go into remission.  But through the past three years I've seen that even though my perception of each birthday has changed, my God hasn't changed.  He has been there for me always.

My first birthday with cancer was a short two weeks after I was diagnosed and my first chemo was a few short days away.  You would think that I would have be seriously depressed with the thought of cancer and chemo.  But I wasn't.  Here's what I wrote on my Care Pages site.
     I've had this song running through my head today, except I changed the words. Instead of "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" I've been signing "It's my birthday and I'll laugh if I want to. You would laugh too if it happened to you."... It would be so easy to say "Why me?" Believe me, there have been many situations in my life where I have done exactly that. Once when [my husband] and I were dealing with our young twins, we were saying exactly that. A good friend who also had twins gave us this advice: Don't look at the why me's, but look for the that's why. That changed our entire outlook and is something that has always stayed with us.I don't know what the "that's why" answers are right now. I could guess that it's to spread the Gospel, which is always God's plan. I'm sure there are more reasons. I don't know if I will ever know all of them. But what I do know is that God has given me peace from the time I was out of recovery from my surgery. There are times that I am scared of the unknown, but they are quickly swallowed up by that incredible feeling of peace.
My second birthday was similar.  Even though my second birthday was two months after I found out the cancer was back and a month after my doctor told me in medical terms my cancer was incurable,  we  received wonderful gifts of a California trip, a family photo session and gift cards to fund all our trips.   My third birthday was much different.  It was surrounded with being on continuous and several different chemos over 9 months, as well as a disappointment of not being able to attend a family reunion.  I wasn't depressed but I was sad.  I really started wondering if I was going to be around to watch my children grow up, much less being able to see grandchildren.  I was thankful for the birthdays God had blessed me with, but I couldn't stop wondering if it was my last.

I'm now approaching another birthday, but the feelings are totally different.  They are feelings of contentment because of these verses of Psalm 139:

 I am content because God has my days planned out.  He had them planned out when I was "knit together in my mother's womb."  When I remember that He has had my plan worked out long before I was even thought of, it gives me peace knowing that He will take me home to Heaven when my work here is done, and not before.  He will lead my family and I each step of the way as we decide what courses of treatment to use and not to use.  And when it's time for me to be done with treatment, He will be there holding me up.  And knowing that, how can you not have peace?

My prayer is that I will have many more birthdays here to watch my children grow up and help my husband raise them.  But even if that is not His plan for me and for my family, I am at peace knowing that He not only has my plan taken care of, he also has the perfect plan for my family.  He has your plan ready, too.  Lean on Him and let Him guide you.

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