Cancer is Not Cancer; The Agony of being Dependent.

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This was written when I was still quite sick a number of months ago.  I was too low at the time it was written to post it.  I’ve decided to post it now.  I  share it to truth-speak about how painful cancer can be. Sharing what it was for me, as a way of being a voice for those who have not words to share.  This rant of sorts is not an attack on any one person, but a broad-brushed painting of the reality of what it is to be sick and dependant on others.

Cancer is not cancer. It’s not breast cancer or thyroid cancer. It’s strokes, heart attack activity that isn’t, doctors treating you like a hypochondriac while functioning slips away.  It’s skin that peels, clothes that don’t fit anymore, potassium levels so low that legs throb through the night.  It’s not recognizing yourself in the mirror.  Foggy mind half the time not remembering what I’ve said, what you’ve said, what we were talking about.  It’s family sweet as can be, and condescending sometimes too.  It’s having to listen to people “Oh you look like you’re feeling better” while the entire left side of body is numbed out, can’t hear from the left ear, do laundry for five minutes before having chest pain and doctor saying “you’re heart is in great shape”.  It’s your little six year old daughter telling you that you get first place for being the meanest one in the family.  The mean mom that gets tired of the denigrating remarks when trying to get kids to do their chores, one by one the entire family decides they are going to be sicker than Mom today – until their pals come over and off they race across the yard, Nerf and laser guns a-blazing, and once again, when they return to the house, asked to pick up coat, or feed the dog, the sudden illness takes over and death is at the door. 

It’s the doctors passing their job off to another doctor.  Oh it’s the endocrinologists job, no the oncologists job, no the primary care, … .on it goes, while the mystery symptoms that take away my ability to take walks, swim, drive, to care for my kids get worse.  The computerized diagnosis is last word, with physical problems all hovering in the “rare” category, no one bothering to dig deeper while symptoms hold me in place, so much piling up around me, and I must be still. 

Cancer is having all the kind persons who have pitched in to help become judgmental of the way my life looks, judgmental of what happens in this house, condescending of who I am.  It’s having to receive help from others who don’t respect me because they are incapable of helping and empathizing at the same time.  The most empathetic person is the world can flip a switch when doing another a good turn.  It’s watching them lose respect by the day – each and every act of kindness they provide decreases the peer to peer relationship – me having no alternative but to receive it. 

Cancer is not a surgery and missing body part.  It’s the loss, week by weakening week of clients, and eventually a career.  The destruction of a business.  The death of a dream.  It’s not rosy and romantic.  It’s ugly – creepy … the stopper of life.  And I’m stuck between.  Alive and not at all.  Stuck receiving support, care, favors, errands, driving kids to school, with bitterness in the doer, irritation of the helper, and shame at being the taker. 

The part of cancer I can do quite well is walk into the hell hole of the chopping block.  I can tolerate physical pain.  I can usually manage being mangled.  I can’t handle the shame I feel receiving assistance – the baring all – the inside scoop on our junk, irritably of the one doing all the favors due to their superiority and my shame. 

Cancer could be the most ideal way to go if it weren’t for all that.  Known outcomes, time frames, managed symptoms until death.  What makes it awful is loss of dignity (relationship) with people I care about most due to my neediness at the end, and their inability to give and maintain respect for the person they are giving to.  A few of us can give without shaming – most of the time, a few can receive without feeling the shame, but most can not.  We call it being “stewards” of our time and money by nosing into others lives when a need arises.  ‘If she hadn’t let herself go, he’d have never looked elsewhere.”  “There are consequences to slacking on the job”.  “Live and learn”.  We have all said things like this – or thought them.  It’s obvious it’s wrong to give cash to a meth addict.  We take this reasoning further and do harm – judge – while extending a helping hand.  I tell you from the receiving end, it helps more to not help but maintain a relationship of respect then to help with judgment.

Most of us have ZERO BUSINESS being involved in another’s crisis, because crisis is a HOLY PLACE.  It’s where God hovers.  It is SACRED.  Anytime we have all the answers, we do harm.  Anytime we can’t give without judgment, we harm.  Anytime we get inside the disaster of each other’s life and can’t set judgment aside, we hurt each other.  I’m getting to feel it, first hand.  No one means to harm.  They just want the system to work better.  Just want routines in place that make things better, but that’s not how it feels to the one is on the receiving end.  If I ever get beyond this cancer mess, I vow to God and to others that I will NEVER HELP SOMEONE UNLESS I CAN HAVE A SOLID CHECK ON MY ATTITUDE. 

Do I resent helping my kids with things they need help with? 

How does that make them feel? 

Do I resent making supper. 

Giving a gift and resenting the giving DOES HARM. 

Do I resent helping a friend, I HAVE ZERO BUSINESS HELPING UNLESS I CAN HELP FROM A PLACE OF EMPATHY. 

Cancer is not cancer. 

Cancer is everything else – but one thing. 

Cancer is not Boss, God is. 

God is the only one out there I know what manages disasters and love all at the same time. 

If i’m well enough to work again, I’m working for Him.

Weight Loss

Summer and Fall 2013 179
The writer and butterfly.

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

Always hiding sloppy me

I didn’t the match the girl inside

And as I prayed and struggled on

Appeared, one day, just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

Inch by inch

and

Size by size

I finally matched the girl inside

The years went by

most all was well

And then a cancer came to tare

And ripped the breast from off my chest

And choked my trust

And froze my bounce

And once again the hiding came

I didn’t match the girl inside

And still I prayed and struggled on

Appeared one day just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

I grew to love

the one breast me

18 months of

all is well

And then a cancer came again

This time to claim

my thyroid gland

And spill around throughout my nodes

And throw my body balance off

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

And now I know just what to do

A friend I’ll make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it comes

I grow to love

the one breast girl

fat and covered in cellulite

And as I friend away the shame

The outside me

it starts to

match

the girl I’ve always been

A Cloudy Bootcamp

This was written last May for my professional blog.  I’ve decided to share it here today as my niece Annalee is joining the Marines same day she graduates from h.s., which is two short days from now, and has 12 weeks of bootcamp awaiting her.  I know God uses bootcamp of all shapes and sizes, and I know he has a plan for her as well.  Blessings to my niece.

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Profound thoughts, for me, seem to show up in the middle my mundane.  It happened yesterday as I was tackling a task called ‘cutting lawn’.   When I say I was out cutting the lawn, please don’t picture a postage stamp turn-about.  Picture a rolling random football field that never ends.  Now picture a rather tottery set of legs, pasty lady, gloved fists all trying hard to shove forward another shaved swath.  As the lush green blades shot sideways, so did my glee at all I was getting done.  I found myself irritated at the moisture, so soppy-damp, that even with the shocking arrival of sunshine, warm on my shoulders, I was still unable to use the bagger for more than a couple feet without it clogging into a spongy ball of clippings.

The last few months have been, shall we say, un-fun.  Just recently I have taken on the challenge to act on the belief that God inhabits praise, and to praise God, even when my circumstances aren’t praiseworthy.  And so atop the roar of the mower, there in wet grass I started praising the Lord for His goodness to me, for His goodness to the land around me. For being the God of provision.  That He provides cloud and drizzle in “*$#@*%!! FREAKING EXCESS….. GOD OF SUCH GRAND GIFTS, GOD, YOU MAKE SURE THIS SPOILED ROTTEN SUPER SIZED PIG OF A YARD HAS ALL IT EVER WANTED – !!!!”.  Ya, sometimes even my praise sessions turn earthy.  God being the father of many, He’s use to fit-throwing.  From me, anyway.  Well, as I kept up my praise service out there in the back 400, my heart started experiencing an actual shift.  Praise for God became real.  God hovered nearby.  And all around me.   The grey cloud that had dampened my spirits, and over-dampened the grass, was now warming me, it was noticing me.  On slippery hill downward, with mower in race to the bottom, it steadied and strengthened me, giving balance and protection.  ‘I’m cracking’, I think to myself.  Grey clouds do not warm peoples spirits.

And then I remember the story.  The Israelites had, by the thousands, been led on foot away from a country in which they had been enslaved.  A land where they were unable to function fully as humans.  They had been rescued from a meaningless life of being used.  From a death unnoticed.

And for the journey, God used a pillar of cloud to guide them for their daytime travels.  A cloud to guide and protect?  Why not a bucket full of sunshine?  Couldn’t God have used cut crystals hanging on ribbons from heaven?  If He’d have asked me, I would have suggested rainbow shivers for really freaking out the bad guys.  But He didn’t.

Toward a better place, the Israelites were routed through misery.  With intention, God arranged a journey with healing opportunities in mind.  Each hopeless situation, a desert march with no water, no food, power struggles, snakes, belly aches, each cloudy trial offered one opportunity after another to build trust in God, learn to love, learn to trust less in what is seen and more in who God is.  The journey was to provide deep healing for these rescued slaves, and for generations after them.

I ponder these ideas, row by row, grass looking better by the hour.  I think of all the ways the grey of life has protected me, and brought God near.   The deep depression and anxiety as a little kid.  Would I have known God as early as I did, had I not hung on for dear life during those early suicidal times?  What was I protected from while hiding in the black hole of pain, hiding next to God?

The eating disorder.  Would I ever have know the freedom of an addiction if I had never experienced one?  Would I have misjudged others who struggle with addiction if I had never had to fight for years with something bigger than my own smarts?

The struggling to read.  What kind of evil could I have perpetrated onto others if there had been no struggle to recall what I read, requiring me to read the same materiel over and over again, even throughout college?  Would I have been condescending to others who struggle to understand if everything about learning came easy to me?

Early Miscarriage.  Would I have had opinions about others pain which I knew nothing of if I’d never had one, let alone six?  I can never say that the loss of a child would bring a blessing.  It is a pain I have never experienced, and pray I never do.  And still, each of us, in our own painful travels, notices the Lord near by, even in the cloud.

Marriage Pain.  Would I have even found the time – busy with life, four kids, work and all, to pray, if my heart had not been raw so much of the time?  Would I have ever discovered on a knowing level what PTSD looks like, and how healing occurs if I’d never been in an intimate relationship that rattled the cage of monsters past?

Would I have anything of substance to offer my clients if my understanding was exclusively derived from a book?  Trust me Lord, I prefer not knowing beyond course work all of what a human is capable of suffering from and experiencing.  I thought I’d throw that out… just incase you decide to read this:)

Allergies.  Would I have learned to let go of the toxic nature of being a “pleaser” if I had not been forced to impose, irritate and annoy others using the boundary of “no thank you”, otherwise embarrassing myself by way of anaphylactic drama?

Cancer.  Would the reality of the brevity of this life have been as real as it is now, if I’d not had my breast cut off my body, my thyroid cut out, my body scanned and scanned some more for a look at where the cancer has traveled?

Stroke.  Would I have laughed at the way God took the pain of the bone on skin where breast used to be, and with one quick stroke, remedied by TPA all deficits but left-side numbing, removing this irritation, just because He wanted to?

Brain Fog.  Well, this is the other stroke deficit still remaining.  It has turned up the brain fog dial that already existed.  Remembering paper-work kinds of details, remembering names, reading manuals, working computers.  Would I know God was always hanging about, following me throughout the day if He didn’t have to constantly help me in my pathetic state, over and over and over.  I’m talking about getting lost driving to some location I’ve driven to a dozen times.  Loosing the car keys today, my shoe the next.  Forgetting we make kids lunches every day, remembering to go to bed, remembering to pay the bills, remembering to wear my prosthesis, remember to stop singing when I’m in the Costco public restroom.  Would I find myself too special to love others who struggle with the details?

Step, and another forward, the mower moving on ahead, I recall my own clouds, and the clouds of others.  It’s obvious that God works to rescue each one of us from the meaningless life. Ask someone to tell you their story.  If you have a heart to hold what they tell you with care, you will hear the pattern.  That of God intentionally routing one, then another and another along a personalized bootcamp journey. All challenges personally designed to remove each one of us far from anything that would prevent us from being fully human, and fully alive.   The gloves are still gripping, but lighter.  Stride steady.  I praise God for being the God of the Cloud. Hovering near, He and I, we cut another line of hearty green grass.

“The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.  He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”                                                                Exodus 13: 21 and 22

Lisa Boyl-Davis, LICSW

Minimalist For God

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Based off of Mark 10: 17-22

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.  “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.  “No one is good – except God alone.”

Good.  What is good?  Running up to Jesus?  Falling on knees before him?  Asking the way to eternity?  Very good, I’m thinking.  But not good enough. 

Jesus listed off more:

Do not murder

Do not commit adultery

Do not steal

Do not give false testimony

Do not defraud

Honor your father and mother

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

Loved him for what he was, and for what he still lacked.

And loved.

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” 

At this the man’s face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Couldn’t trade the goods for Good. 

Couldn’t exchange what is good for what is GOOD. 

Neither can I.  I lack, and he looks at me and loves me. And still he asks me what I call good, and reaching out beyond his heavens he reaches further still into the the piles of good heaped all around me.  The good that gobbles up ever last second of my day and night.  The good that must be done, for how else will it get done?  The ultimate minimalist action.  To release the good for good. 

“Come, follow me.”

The Race of Purple Toes

This past year has felt like running a race in a rainstorm, in deep mud, up a hill with large family on my back, wearing shoes loosing their souls, kind of half way attached and flapping.  It started out with determination.  We had completely rid ourselves of consumer credit debt, and somehow managed to hunt it back down and take it on.  While taking on more shifts than I should have taken on, between the two of us, my husband and I cleared the debt just in time for me to get breast cancer.  Then a year after breast cancer and changing my career for health reasons, our debt doubled as we had two kids in college, and I was diagnosed with cancer again, thyroid this time.

Today my drummer friend stopped by.  We had worked with the same band a few years back.  He had left his music stand behind, and was finally stopping to pick it up.  His booming voice greeted me.  I was able just barely to scratch out his name.  Throat lump, memories of the last time we worked together.  No cancer then, singing jazz standards for the big band he played for.   Singing.  Can’t even speak a solid word.  

Today the sun shines warm, an early springtime day. The kind of day I would have loved to hit the trail with bike and trailer, kids and husband, lunch and water and …. a day to track miles and sweat.  And I walk across the floor, heart races, pains at too fast a movement.  Limbs jiggle, all tone gone, and ache.

Today All Mr. Business is sick.  He’s been fevered.  He lays around listless.  Cheeks pink, eyes glazed, and miserable.  I know the past couple weeks has taken a tole on my kids.  Our dear friends have worked hard to love our children.  Regardless of the loving care from others, the kids stress level and health has been harmed from the angst brought on by my surgery, then the emergency surgery hours after.

In dozens of ways, life is not the same.

And so I paint my toes purple.  That’s the color Little Miss chooses for my toes.  I make a smoothie.  The kids ask for one. I’m the designated smoothie maker, and feel strong enough to stand in the morning kitchen to make sweet and fluffy.  I sit on couch and watch the kids play Sequence and argue over rules.  I visit with my Mom awhile.  And think about what I miss out on when my voice is strong.  When my biking legs are able.  When I can work shift after shift, clocking 60 hours in a week, can hurry scurry about the house to do the the things the kids need of a Momma.  And purple toes get another coat.  A deeper purple.  And the rainstorm race is calming down for now.  I plod with purple toes and give thanks. 

Rose Blooms

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Freshman girls, grand pals they were

That walked among the beauty here.

The stories shared of boy on bus,

A broken car in drifts of snow.

Batons and cheers, and soldiers back.

The years have passed, the girls are old,

But still the path is lined with trees

And roses bloom along the wall.

The girls, they sit with silver hair,

Our small talk words get in the way

of rare and treasured moments now.

A quiet hug, goodbyes they say.

Freshman girls, grand pals they were

They walked among the beauty here

But still the path is lined with trees

And roses bloom along the wall.

Dedicated to My Mom who took a trip with me back to where she was raised,

walked with me around her old neighborhood,

peeked with me into window of the church where as a little 5th grader she gave her heart to Jesus,

walked down her violin teachers street,

round the campus of her beloved school,

past the drug store where she and Grandma had been many times,

and the drive through she worked that has since been torn down,

the pool where her Dad had been a lifeguard,

introduced me to old friends, one town friend, one country friend,

both wonderful women,

I now understand why Mom has held on to these friends over 65 years.