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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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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.