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Bonding With Purpose

I’m. Cancer. Free.

I completed the checklist. Chemo. Surgery. Radiation. My understanding was once that checklist was complete, once I was officially a cancer survivor in remission, that life would return back to “normal” and I would operate as I always had. My old life, my definition of normalcy, is what I coveted for 10 months. What I did not know, what nobody told me, is that cancer (and I imagine all life altering events) shatters normalcy, leaving you with fragmented bits of your old life. Like shattered glass, you can’t mend it back together, as some pieces are chipped, scratched and missing all together. Instead, you’re left with a few familiar pieces and the scars, wisdom and revelations that cancer left behind. Then it hits you: life as you knew it is over. You can’t go back to who you were despite how desperately you may have wanted to. There is a spiritual and emotional shift in the atmosphere, orchestrated by non other than God, and it requires every ounce of your attention.

I’m not the same. I never will be. There is something terrifying, yet so freeing about not recognizing yourself. There’s something even more surreal about realizing that you’re simply at the beginning of this transformation and that a month from now, a year from now, 5 years from now, you’ll continued to be shocked by who is looking back at you in the mirror.

Because Cancer.

Because you spent too many moments questioning death. You saw too many patients suffering more than you had. You wrestlers with God in your attempt to convict Him for what He has allowed. You can’t shake these things; the experiences bond to you like thick adhesive, becoming an extension of who you are. It’s like a heavy tumor, a sudden growth attached to your side, which causes you to now walk with a perminamt limp. I have a perminamt limp. A glorious limp that oddly enough I wouldn’t trade for the world.

The tumor’s name is Purpose. I’m so glad that she has found me.

Purpose will cause you to walk differently and therefore I no longer anticpaite going back to “normal”. Instead I’ve come to realize that further change is on the horizon and it will affect every facet of my life: relationships, career, vision. Changes that will further propel me into my new relationship with Purpose, are coming and have already arrived. I acknowledge that these changes are frightening as I’m not certain in which direction I am moving. But I’m certain in this: God is in control and I am His own possession.

So this is what I say to you loved ones: that which has not killed you has come to shed light on your kingdom purpose- to proclaim the excellence of God. And as you shift into this purpose, do not resist, attempting to glue back the pieces of your old life, but rather embrace the changes within and truly bond with your purpose.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” -I Peter 2:9

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10 Reasons Why Cancer is Awesome 

Cancer isn’t awesome. It’s pretty craptastic actually. Despite this, I have come across a few benefits to entering this hell storm.
1. Airport Benefits

Aw, the power of the wheelchair at the airport! My sister convinced me that I would need wheelchair service at the airport, as I would have just had chemo 6 days ago. The first week typically depletes me of all energy, so this sounded reasonable to me. Bruh, I contemplate purposefully breaking a leg the next time I fly internationally just to receive this glorious and devine perk.

This. Was. EVERYTHING.

This service allowed me to be pushed around by airport personnel, bypassing the lines at security, customs and boarding. I waited for nothing (except for my Starbucks order to be filled, because let’s not be greedy) and moved not a single one of my legs. It was glorious. Particularly when we arrived in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at an airport that was very crowded, busy and foreign to me. Being escorted through the mass of people trying to get us to stay at their hotels or purchase their taxi service was a blessing, and without it we may still be there trying navigate through the crowd of people.

Might I add my travel buddy also benefited from this perk. You’re welcome.

2. Free Hugs & Kisses 

I’ve never been caressed more than I have in the past 6 months. As I’m writing this I realize that for some of you this is not a win. With irritation you would consider this a loss because you hate being touched, whether by loved ones or strangers. For me it brings me comfort and at times I’m a little tickled by it.

During my vacation in Mexico I repeatedly ran into an elderly woman who was fastenated with my bald head. She complemented me often, telling me how well I wore my look. At our last encounter, without saying anything, she grabbed my head with both hands and kissed it. While this is both strange and an invasion of personal space, I recognize the love behind it. She wasn’t the first (and I hope not the last) to show spontaneous love toward me.

3 Converstaions with Debbie

Cancer forces you to have a lot of deep, personal conversations with yourself. None have been more challenging to have, than the one you must have daily with your inner Debbie. You know Debbie, that heffa that keeps telling you to give up on yourself. She always says things like, “You can’t do this. You should give up on yourself. You’re not strong enough. Eat more kale.” I can’t stand her. When faced with trials you have to learn how to talk back to her, and put her in her place.

“I’m. Strong. Deborah. I’m resilient, disciplined and courageous. I can overcome anything. I will overcome everything. Heffa.”

I’ve gotten to a point where I like having these conversations with Debbie. Nothing like going in on her at 4am while drinking ginger ale and eating crackers while trying not to vomit. I feel like a true warrior, and it’s at that moment that am I truly connected with my inner strength. I think she’s made me a better person.

Thanks Deb.

4. Care Packages

I have been blessed with many wonderful care packages since diagnosis! There are many items a cancer patient is in need of to help them through their journey- thick creams/lotions & chap sticks to combat dry skin, hand santizers, ginger snacks and crackers to defeat nausea, head scarfs and more! My Villiage made sure that I never went with out, by sending several care packages throughout treatment! I have received magazines & coloring books, journals, candy and scarves ( I’m currently using one of these beautiful head scarfs to wipe the perspiration off my forehead, from a current hot flash I’m experiencing. I’ll tell you more about the joys of that internal hell later. I digress.) all of which have been used and appreciated greatly! To My Village- you’re the real MVPs. Thanks for your generosity which helpes me to defeat this thing with comfort, dignity and love.

5. Obscene and Indulgent Eating 

Because cancer I am deprived of nothing. I see it, I eat it. All of it. Nothing was considered to be too fat, to have too many calories, to not contain enough nutrients etc. I ate the chocolate cake, the burger, the milkshake, the Snickers, the fried chicken and the cobbler, while helping myself to seconds and dessert. I knew nothing of kale and treated myself to gluten everything.

And it was deliscious.

What made this all the more marvelous was that nobody felt the need to correct this bahavior- everyone cheered me on! Because cancer! Because I was apart of the rare few who didn’t lose their appetite and suffer from sever weight loss. My Village took this as a sign to “feed it” and consistently blessed me with snacks and food deliveries of all kinds! Who doesn’t love no judgment eating?! We could all use a little bit more this, don’t you think?

Speaking of over indulgent eating, I’ve had some amazing free homemade meals! This was such a blessing during chemo weeks to not have to think about cooking or grocery shopping. Food just arrived at my house. Good food. Free food. Heaven on earth!

Can you tell I love to eat?

6 Found Purpose

Oddly enough it’s not the cancer that reveals your purpose, but the living. It’s the fact that I am living and thriving through it that causes me to question my exsistance and pay close attention to fulfilling my purpose. If you’re breathing, you have purpose and this fact brings peace to my soul. I have work to do, people to bless, joy to give, hope to send and gospel to spread. This is my purpose, my mission and I’m excited and honored to fulfill it.

Thanks cancer for making it oh so clear.

7 Naps

I love a good nap. Always have. I certainly have taken more naps in the past few months, not only because they’ve been needed but because it’s been easier to convince myself that it’s okay. Who cares if bills need to be paid, lesson plans need to be done or the dog hasn’t been fed all day!? You have cancer, take a guilt free nap and rest yourself!

8 No hair. Don’t care. 

I have a long history of hating my hair (It’s a black woman, cultural, historical kind of hurt that I would love to discuss in a separate post.) and attempting to grow it to long lengths, so you can imagine the pain I had watching it fall out. Despite this aggravation I have found some amazing benefits to the bald life:

* I haven’t bought shampoo or conditioner in months.

* No need to shave! Yaaassss!

* I’m jumping in this swimming pool care free! I don’t have to worry about getting my hair wet…because…bald!

* I don’t have to do my hair in the morning, which means I get ready in 2 seconds (well, after I spend an hour drawing on my eyebrows).

* It’s an awesome reason to shop for scarves and head wraps! (Like I need a reason to shop.)

* I’ve kept cool in this Texas heat!

9 Period Free! 

You don’t realize how convient this truly is until it’s gone. What?! It’s hard for me to believe that I tolerated it for so long! Women, how are you doing it? You deserve a cookie. Always eat the damn cookie because…periods.

I can’t wait until I get mine back though…because babies.

10 Love Displayed 

I’ve never been so aware of how much God’s love is on display for me, until this journey. He shows us the love He has for us through all things- even cancer. It appeared in your text messages, cards, embrace, packages, listening ear, kind words, prayers, food deliveries, rides to the hospital, balloons, well wishes, shared laughter and margaritas. I’ve been so overwhelmed by this display of love- my heart is full and aches from rejoicing. He’s a good good Father.

 

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The Evolution of Why

One of our scholars has passed away from cancer just a few weeks ago. He was 16 years old. I instantly feel guilt.
When I receive news of someone passing away because of cancer, it affects me entirely differently now that I have it. Each time I hear of someone dying because of cancer, it forces me to dive deep within myself and question my exsistance. Especially when it’s a child that has been taken far too soon. In this journey I frequently ask myself “Why me?”
The meaning and root of that question has changed several times over the course of this journey, and I imagine will continue to transform and evolve until the day I’m heaven bound. My mind twirls around “Why?” frequently these days, taking on new meaning in each phase of this cancer journey. So far, my “whys” can be categorized into 4 stages:
1. Questioning Current Circumstances 

“Why me? Why did I have to get breast cancer?”
2. Questioning Past Pain
“Why me? Why has my burden been my health? Why has it been relentlessly attacked my whole life?”

3. Questioning Blessings: 
“Why me? Why has my journey been smoother than most? Why has this been “easy” in comparison to others whom I’ve gotten know along the way? My appetite is still intact (I’m gaining weight!), my energy is stable and I’ve been told time and time again, ‘You don’t look like you have cancer!'”

4. Questioning My Unique Purpose:
“Why me? Why do I get to live and they didn’t? Why have I been blessed with life? I’m not going to die. Why?”

I’m troubled that I don’t have the answer to that last question, yet incredibly greatful, honored and inspired by the fact that it’s mine to ask. It’s terrifying and humbling to know that the very thing that has ended someone’s life, is the very thing that’s brewing inside you. You realize that both you and the deceased have fought the exact same fight, possibly (and likely) equipped with the exact same weapons. I’m watching beautiful strong soldiers climb into the exact same wrestling ring that I’m to climb in and not returning. It feels like I’m carrying death with with me. Carrying it right in my breast.
Which is why that last question is the question of most importance, the most transforming, the one to meditate and pray upon. Lord, why have I been allowed to not only live, but thrive? Have you ever thought to ask God “why?”, not when it comes to your misfortunes but as it pertains to your blessings? It’s human nature to be an expert at asking the first type of “why me?” question- we must fight these thoughts of pitty, self loathing and resentment sometimes daily. Why did my children have to be born with disabilities? Why did my parents have to get a divorce? Why did my spouse cheat on me? Why did I get rapped? Why did my mom die when I was 25? Why was I born into poverty? We ask these questions relentlessly, but rarely ask “Why did I come through it? Why did I get this far in my life? Why did I persevere? Why did I live?”. What is the purpose behind you surviving your trials?
He has an answer. Because He’s sovereign. Because there’s no such thing as happenstance. Because it’s not by coincidence that I have breast cancer at 30 years old. Nor is by chance that you have lived through the hell you have gone through. Once you fully recognize and respect the fact that not everyone made it, you too will ask “why have I?”.
Why?
This is by design.
Some may say that I shouldn’t question it- that questioning God is wrong. The issue is not the questioning itself. In fact I urge you to forever be in pursuit of your “why” and to press into gratitude, thanksgiving and slefeshness in order to evolve your “why” from phase 1 to phase 4. Let your “why” grow from complaining to purposeful action. Afterall, you didn’t make it this far for nothing. I’m alive for a reason and it compels me to do something. I’m not certain of what that something is yet, but I know this: someone will be blessed and God will be glorified.
Why, against all odds, are you still here and how does this fit into your unique purpose?
I pray your “why” is forever evolving.