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The Checklist

It’s Radiation Day! You get radiation, and you get radiation and YOU get radiation!! (Admit it, you read that in your best Oprah voice like the good Lord intended. If you failed to do this, go to the beginning and try again.) I am too pumped to begin my first day of radiation today, because it means I’m one step closer to completing this cumbersome, long winded and dramatic healing process. I love a good checklist. Nothing is more satisfying than checking off a task on the to-do list and feeling that sense of accomplishment and adulting. The gratification is so good that I will intentionally write remedial tasks on my checklist, such as “brush tooth” and “feed dog”, just so I have something to check off. I digress. Here is where I currently stand on my cancer checklist:

[x] Chemo x 8

[x] Surgery x 2

[ ] Radiation x 33

See that!? One box left! Now, I know this list seems relatively short. You’re thinking “Jewel, whats the big deal? It’s a 3 step process.” Truth is that this checklist expands, to include what was needed for the emotional healing and journey. What doctors and nurses don’t tell you, is that healing from cancer can range anywhere from a 1 step process to a 352 step process. My checklist reads something more like this:

[x] Grieve.

[x] Make sister touch your lumpy boob.

[x] Purchase pink stuff.

[x] Phone call with oncology finance office.

[x] Phone call with insurance company.

[x] Throw phone against wall.

[x] Wait. Patiently?

[x] Chemo appointment.

[x] Get Neulasta shot the next day.

[x] Hate everything.

[x] Love everyone.

[x] Pray & cry lots.

[x] Repeat steps 1-12 a total of 8 times.

[x] Celebrate the end of chemo .

[x] Get felt up by all doctors in Dallas.

[x] Make appointment for surgery.

[x] Get labs drawn for surgery.

[x] Contact insurance company 2,347 times for approval on MRI needed for surgery.

[x] Cancel surgery due to hurricane affecting insurance company.

[x] Make second appointment for surgery.

[x] Check into hospital.

[x] Let nurse attempt to find a vein 9 times for an IV.

[x] Access port instead.

[x] Cancel surgery because hospital forgot to do a needed procedure for surgery.

[x] Go home and cry. Eat lots of food.

[x] Make 3rd appointment for surgery.

[x] Surgery.

[x] Lay on couch for days while touching boob.

[x] Schedule appointment for 2nd surgery due to cancer appearing in lymph nodes.

[x] Panic.

[x] Pray.

[x] Surgery #2.

[x] Send text messages to friends while sedated. Laugh about it.

[x] Lay on couch while touching armpit.

[x] Heal while watching Blackish.

[x] Oncology appointment.

[x] Heal.

[x] Radiation appointment.

[x] Get freckle sized radiation tattoos.

[x] Show sister tattoos with pride.

[x] Get radiation.

[ ] …

And it was all necessary.

One of the most frustraiting things about this process is that I don’t know what to expect, nobody can prepare me for whats to come and the checklist is forever evolving and shifting. I didn’t know that I had to go through so much for the process to be complete within me; the expanded checklist was necessary to build my character, strengthen my worship and heal my soul. This is reflective of life for all of us on earth, whether sick or not. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, our expectations rarely become reality and our life projections of growth and prosperity become overshaddowed with life’s cancer.

Life is a cancer.

We suffer uncontrollable abnormal growths of life’s complications and sorrows and at times it can feel cancerous. And in these cancerous stages of life, when we want nothing more than to feel better, for the pain to go away, sometimes we mistakingly convince ourselves that if we adhear to a set of tasks, that all pain will go away. We treat our healing journey like a perscribed checklist, believing that if we go through the motions, all will be fine. We try to shortcut the healing. Dont. Go through the expanded checklist. Work through every mundane, annoying and painful detail with God. Check each of them off, proudly, knowing that you are growing in the process. Embrace the crazy.