dearest emily,

 

dear one … your world will be turned upside down tomorrow. the call will come with the news you’ve been fearing … you will feel yourself sinking and the world spinning and the dark cloud will descend.  the sobs and heartache will overwhelm and feel like it’s a bad dream that won’t lift.

you’ll wonder if the dark cloud looming over you will ever go away.

i tell you now, with the gentlest of deep assurances, that it will. and sooner than you think. even ten days from now, you will start to feel lifting. you will wake up not terrified by the dark reality of a new day, but taking real steps already toward driving this journey, empowered with choices being made that are already healing your body.

there is SO much: so much to learn, so many decisions – hard, enormous ones – so many choices each day and it feels overwhelming.  it IS.

yet know this: YOU WILL HEAL. you will learn so much and as your dear acupuncturist will remind you: you will learn to really listen to your body. better each day.

and you’ll listen to your heart … even to your breath, as you learn yoga and truly begin to understand how essential still-ness is to your healing.
you will try many healing modalities, never wanting to miss what could be “the one” for you: reiki, massage, sauna, acupuncture, chiropractic. you will find that sauna is an unexpected treasure; that after each session, you will feel invigorated and refreshed and WELL (perhaps the low body temps – 97* – speaks to your body needing this, as you’ll learn that cancer does not like heat and your dear integrated oncologist will suggest going as often as you can).

you will research and read and study and always, dig deep and seek insight and ideas and tools for your journey. you will find so many, and they will become a part of your healing … a part of your life. because how you live in this time of treatment (and after) does matter, and your deep resolve will be your guide in walking this journey with the tools you’ve learned.

you will learn that the seeking of second and third opinions breathes life and changes the course of yours.    

and in seeking those opinions, a few times you’ll go in with an agenda of wondering if you should do option A or B, and they will suggest option C. and your world will shake – again – but your intuition will connect and their words resonate and you will decide: courage not fear, and you will make the best decision.

and there will be countless difficult conversations with doctors and you will speak truth and ask hard questions and  be the “difficult patient” at times and some will defend hard their positions, but others, the really good ones, they will tell you that you – the difficult patients -are the ones they *prefer,  that they wish all their patients were like this. and your research will confirm that being this way is a good thing – that holding the guiding belief that you are in fact in charge of your body and the driver in your healing, not a passive recipient, bodes well for treatment outcomes. so … keep stepping into that tension, even when it feels hard, because you’re worth it. 

you will meet grace – both receiving and extending it to yourself – in ways beyond what you’ve even thought you’ve known before. you’ll learn the gentle rhythms of your body, what it needs, and allow yourself to step in to that tender space often … knowing that pouring in to the nourishment and care of you is beautiful and needful.

emily, you can do hard things.

you will walk in to procedures and appointments and be terrified; you will sit while enduring physical pain and deep hurt and that moment will be excruciating but you will get through that moment – and all of the moments. and you will see how much stronger you are than you could have known.

and, oh the kindness! the extravagant, overwhelming kindness and generosity that will be poured in to your life and the intimacy of friendships and relationships that already are so deep and sweet … beyond what you could even imagine.

you will be loved so well.

and the comfort of the gracious love offered so abundantly by those in your life will pale next to the deep soul comfort you will experience in the presence of your Creator, Who will hold you and bring you comfort and wisdom and peace. He will remind you of His promises and you will claim them and know that as you “walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i (you) will fear no evil.”

the richness of the lessons learned – the forever life-changing lessons about your body and this life and love – those lessons will forever color the canvas of the beautiful future that will unfold.

you are known and loved,
emily (january 7, 2017)

a friend to me

December 30, 2016

as i soaked in the bath tonight, something changed.

i looked over my body and felt a wave of grace; an overwhelming sense of compassion and appreciation and empathy for this body and all that it has endured and walked through in a year.

instead of my eyes seeing faults and imperfections; instead of staying in a place of disappointment at how far i haven’t yet come or how my body isn’t where i want it to be …

i felt almost like a friend to me, seeing me …

realizing – in the past year, this body has nursed a toddler, undergone surgeries, endured heavy chemo, more surgery, radiation.

and i am here, and i am well, and i feel nothing but overwhelming grace

as if i was seeing a friend that i loved so deeply, i saw me

my body

and the tightness lifted

the pressure felt like it floated away

and i knew:

it’s ok. 

this path of healing has zig zags and dips and bends

and like a fighter after a bloody victorious battle,

i carry wounds. and those don’t heal overnight.

but i am healing.

and tonight

i felt like i gave myself the warmest gentlest hug.

pampering?

December 22, 2016

i was on the phone with my mom tonight, sharing (rapturously) about my time at the sauna today. she knows, and heard again this evening, just how powerful and impactful and refreshing my weekly sauna time has become.

one of the absolute highlights of my week, i told her. every time i leave, i feel energized and nourished in ways i couldn’t have expected.

she then commented that it’s been years since she has “pampered” herself as i do weekly at the sauna.

her comment was honest, holding no criticism, and it allowed me to think more deeply through this paradigm that we so often hold as women, and mothers …

that, somehow, taking care of ourselves is “pampering” – something superfluous and unnecessary and reserved only for the select few.

my world has been rocked and one of the ways that i am forever changed is this: taking specific steps, defining real things that are absolutely both physically and mentally healing to me and making those things happen in my life – that is no longer an “extra.”

it is the way of healing.

there are many other parts of my life that are pieces of my healing puzzle, nourishing and energizing my mind and body, and one thing i know for sure: i have zero guilt making sure that they happen in the midst of my very busy and full life.

a very real gift of cancer, as cliche as it sounds, that i absolutely evaluate all that fills the space of my days … does it reflect who i am, what i believe, where i am going? does it fill my life with that which breathes life and healing?

i am still learning and definitely don’t have this all figured out. i still struggle and feel torn and pulled in the directions that call my deepest attention: mothering, being a wife, managing our family’s home and schedule and meals and rhythm.

but i no longer have any question deep within about the value & need for me to do certain things – i must. and it’s not just ok ... it’s good.

 

wrapping up this year

December 21, 2016

2016 has been rough.

i hear people sharing that sentiment in reference to the political craziness that has been this year and for sure, i agree. but that’s just been the icing on the cake for the rest of the HARD that this year has been in my world. 🙂 i don’t know that i’ve *ever before welcomed the coming of a new year with such jubilation!

bring on 2017!

i remember the words of my beloved integrated oncologist who said, around the time i was diagnosed, that  this year would be really hard and have a dark cloud hanging over it … but next year, the cloud would lift, and sun would come out.

yes! in all things and in all ways, i walk with the deepest gratitude in to this coming year … i see more healing and transformation, more truth being revealed and i see plans shaping up and dreams and hopes birthing new and beautiful adventures.

i also see the hard, and know for sure now even as i just start this “after-cancer” season, that fears don’t immediately dissipate and learning to navigate this space takes a new and ever-deepening faith and commitment to stay my mind on that which is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.” this is often (always?) a decision of the will.

a decision of faith over fear.

thank you, LORD, for the gift of life and such abundant love and a new breath today and the  beauty of Your creation!

 

((i have been working on a post about my hair loss & regrowth … i want to share the story and the pictures and hope to have it done, soon:))

oh, hi there :)

December 5, 2016

almost 7 months since finishing chemo,

nearly 5 months since surgery,

and over a month since the last radiation.

these views in my rearview gain increasing distance and time moves happily forward and i feel myself entering in this new space of “life after cancer.”

i remember the long dark days of chemo, the sinking of my heart and my body and the sense that this time would never pass. i could hardly see any light in the distance on some of those days.

and i stand here now, in the light of those days ahead, knowing: THEY COME! we do round that bend, and that spacious place we read about does become ours to step in to.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (psalm 18:19).

as i walk each day in the gift of this moving forward,  my heart and mind also swirl with words and a passion to share this incredible chapter with its lessons and dark hard and highs and lows and forever imprint on who i am and where i’m going.

slowly, the words are coming.

and the learning, it continues to unfold. listening better to my body, following its cues (like, rest! when anemia just hit, rest! oh, this one pushes against my instinct and inclination but continues to be the very needed thing), figuring out the best way to support healing now and what foods make the best sense for me and what rhythms now resonate … i sense this will be a lifetime of learning.

and it can feel overwhelmig but also, it feels very much ALIVE.

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it was after 8 pm the other night, and a snack sounded really good.  nothing unhealthy, necessarily, but something to munch on.

and in that moment, i remembered my plan and the “loss” seemed small compare to the great gain i was choosing.

one of the most urgent recommendations from my integrated oncologist, during our phone appointment last week, was that i should not eat (a single calorie!) three hours leading up until bed, and for  13 hours total overnight.

she explained the reasons, having to do with circadian rhythms and pituitary function and insulin and melatonin and all the things that resonate with the extensive research that i’ve done.

the overnight fasting for 13 hours has been something i’ve been practicing for many months and feels like a very doable. our bodies aren’t meant to be constantly working, digesting and processing nonstop food consumption! they need time to heal and build and repair. this overnight fasting has been fine.

changing the habit of snacking in the evening will take a little time but it’s absolutely doable! it is exciting to make changes that just make sense. in fact, over the years, i’ve had this very conversation with a few different girlfriends and a couple of us have even made pacts to stop eating after dinner – on an intuitive level, it just makes sense.

onward, healing!

 

celebrating!!

October 30, 2016

amazing, how much pure joy & gratitude can fill a day! and one that starts with radiation, no less. 🙂

thursday, october 27 marked the final day of 33 radiation treatments, every morning at 8:15am, and oh my gosh i was SO ready, so done. this morning ritual was a dark spot on every day and on my final drive there, i was beaming.

 

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(pick a robe every morning)

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(i always used this same dressing room – crazy creature of habit i guess :))

i felt the love and warmth around me even as i arrived alone that morning, as i had texts and messages and virtual hugs already surrounding me. and then, i was blown away when i walked out of the dressing room in to the waiting room to find a dear kindred friend there! waiting with hugs and joy! (and the gift of her presence in that place means even more as it was revisiting hard places she’d walked years back with her beloved). she recognized the tech, bruce, who came out to bring me back – and she reminded him that he needed to play “hit the road jack” during my final treatment. yes!

 

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i lay on the table, laughing and with tears rolling down my cheeks as that song blared and i was finished and gave hugs to bruce & kalvin. done!

next was our thursday morning bible study & preschool, followed by an invite from grandma to come to her house for a bowl of soup on that rainy day. perfect. as we finished lunch, my precious aunt nancy arrived with these beauties, and more hugs and love.

 

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when we arrived home, there was a note at the door that a flower delivery had been attempted … it arrived a couple of hours later and again i was just completely blown away. so much kindness from a friend who lives in colorado, who has walked this hard road.

 

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mid-afternoon, the crashing radiation fatigue hit and i tucked in to our cozy bed, sunlight and big puffy clouds out my window, and took a lovely short nap while hubby picked up maddie from school.

then it was time to get ready for our date – the most crazy generous gift ever from heather, offering to have our boys come over (plus kids of our other best friend) so 8 kids under age 9 for the evening while we got dinner out. oh yes!

 

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i sat in her driveway, smiling through tears reading her card filled with words of such deep encouragement and love … then hubby and i tucked in to a booth at a local restaurant and filled our bellies with yummy food, fabulous red wine, and heart-filling conversation, dreaming of things ahead.

 

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the celebration started even earlier than thursday … and thinking of it even now overwhelms my heart. one of my best girlfriends invited me and our other bestie out to a celebration dinner tuesday night. we sat for hours, and they spoke words over me, having seen me at my darkest and hardest and lowest, knowing this journey so intimately.  we cried and hugged and truly celebrated. i couldn’t have walked this hard road without them and i can think few things as life-giving and soul-lifting as being truly seen and completely loved. carried by love; such grace and gift, this kind of friendship.