Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When We Need to Cry

Any type of walk can have it's challenges.  Those that are quick walks have the pressure of being done in a shorter amount of time than you might want to do it in.  The longer walks can have hills and valleys that test your endurance and your stamina, and you might want to get it done sooner than you should.  My cancer walk is definitely the second one. 

I am at a point in my walk right now where I am sad.  A journey that we thought would only last about a year has now passed the 4 1/2 year mark.  There have been many ups and downs, from the highest of highs of reaching remission, to the lowest of lows when I was going through drug withdrawal.  In some ways, those parts of the journey were easier because either there was an end in sight or because we could see God's hand at work in a very visible way.  Right now, neither one of those is clear.

I had my CT scan last week.  We got mixed results, some good and some wait and see.

The good -- all the spots where they knew there was cancer have stayed the same.  That includes the lung nodules, the ascites around my lung and the lymph nodes in my abdomen.

The wait and see -- my CA-125 went up again to 83.  Once again it's not a super big and in the big picture as far as where my number was it's a very small jump.  The one thing that did get bigger was the lymph node in my esophagus area.  (That's the one that led me to have my breast MRI)  My oncologist didn't mention that yesterday, but the doctor I saw today did.  She said to watch that and my number.  If my number or the lymph node increases significantly then a biopsy or removal of the lymph node might be done.  

The interesting part of this is that my oncologist and the doctor I have seen a bit more often disagree on the new lymph node.  My oncologist and the radiologist think it might be inflammation.  The doctor I've been seeing is a little more cautious.  We did ask why we just couldn't have it biopsied now.  Because it is small and it is in an area where they could hurt some important body parts, it isn't wise to do that now. 

So where does that leave me?  I really don't know.  I am thankful that the places that we know there is cancer are staying stable.  That allows me to stay on the PARP inhibitor in pill form rather than having to go back on chemo.  But at the same time I have all these emotions coursing through me that I don't enjoy.  They include sadness, anger and even bitterness because there is no end in site.  I know I've written before about looking at my disease as a chronic condition, but right now it's hard to hear those words.  They are a curse rather than a comfort.

So I cry, alot.  And that in itself can be a conundrum.  I want to be thankful for all that God has done for me, but I just want to be done with this marathon walk.  I want to look at the positive that the cancer is stable, but there is that spot that scares me to death.  I want to be thankful for the energy that I do have, but I want to feel like I'm a normal, healthy person again.  And I really want to just break down every time someone asks me how I'm doing, but sometimes people just don't understand how hard this is, so it's easier to appear strong.   So often I even feel guilty for crying to God and even questioning Him.  I wonder at times what His plan really is.

The only thing that can really comfort me is God.  I think of all the Psalms where the authors showed their distress, even wondering if God was listening.  Psalm 77 expresses so well how I am feeling.
I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.
 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
 You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
 I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
 I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
“Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

Then the next part of the Psalm says this:
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
 Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.

There are many amazing things God has done for me, and for you.  The most important one is that He sent His Son to live and die for us so we could be with Him.  Even when it feels like He is farther away than He ever could be, He is still right there carrying us in ways that we can't even fathom.

So, I don't wonder if He is there.  I know He is.  Even though all the emotions run through me, I know He is carrying me just like He carried all those before me.  But I know there will be times that I need to cry, and that is just fine, because He will meet me at that place.  And sometimes He uses us to help others see God again. 

You see, when someone is hurting, he just wants to hear God's voice in any way.  One song that resonates with me right now is Steven Curtis Champaman's Sound of Your Voice.  Here are some of the lyrics:

There’s a woman who’s crying ‘cause her hope is dying
And a friend whispers “You are not alone”
And I hear Your voice
I hear the sound of Your voice

God, You know how much I wish

 I could just hear You say the words
And answer all the questions everybody’s asking
But until I hear You speak
Will You help me hear the songs You’re singing

over all this noise
I will be listening for the sound of Your voice

When you meet someone who is in a place of extreme hurt, show them empathy and meet them at that place just like God does.  Don't tell him about all the good in his life that he should focus on.  Instead point him to Jesus.  Don't tell him that God's plan can take time.  Instead point him to Jesus.  And I think one of the best things you could do for him is instead of telling him you will pray for him, say a prayer with him, right then, right there.  Tears might flow, but that just might be what is needed.  Then they just might be able to do this:

And I’ll close my eyes for a moment
When I open them again
You’ll be standing there face to face
And I’ll sing for joy
And I will finally hear Your voice