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Turning Points

There comes a time, it seems, in every game, every career, every life, that there's a turning point; a moment that propels you to another level. I'm no sports writer or football analyst, but there was clearly a turning point in the Super Bowl when the New England Patriots had seemingly all but lost the game then managed to muster the biggest comeback in game history and emerge the victor. Apple rode a wave at the top of the tech world for years then lost its spot only to get it back again under a new leader, and arguably, came out even better than before. It's clear to many political analysts that even in last year's presidential election there was a turning point amongst candidates, a point where Donald Trump seemed like the unlikely choice then turned into the sure bet for the Republican Party.

I've had my own turning points in this cancer diagnosis. I've never felt so depressed, felt such a loss of hope, felt such a despair for my future, as I did in those first weeks. I couldn't get past the sadness. I couldn't see a silver lining in any of it; not the fact it was caught early, not the fact my doctor repeatedly said I wasn't going to die, not the fact I had great surgeons and a support team.

The therapist asked me why I felt that way, but I didn't have an answer. I didn't know. I guess I've never had such an obstacle smack me in the face and threaten my future, my life, my happiness, in such a way I didn't think I could overcome it. I'm used to winning. I'm used to getting what I want by working hard to get it. But this time I was so deep in the trenches, I didn't feel like I could get out.

Then, a turning point. My brother called to see how I was doing. It was a dark week and I honestly told him I wasn't doing well. I wasn't handling it well. I didn't feel like I could do it. He assured me I was a strong person, as many of you have, and used those words to provide me with encouragement to make it through. But I told him I didn't feel strong. Where was that strength? Apparently it wasn't enough. And then he said, "but you are doing it, right?" Right. He was right. I was getting up every day, doing what I needed to do, going to appointments, planning for treatment, I was doing it. He was right.

Turning point #1. Any time I felt myself saying I couldn't do this, wasn't strong enough to do this, I reminded myself of those words: But you are doing it.

I still felt like I couldn't get ahead of the cancer; I couldn't take control of this thing. The 2nd plastic surgeon I saw hit the nail on the head. After talking to me a while, he said, "I think you're probably the kind of person who likes to be in control, have it all laid out, know what's coming." Ding, ding, ding. Give that man a prize. Yep, that's me and he knew it in the first 15 minutes of our conversation. (That's part of the reason I chose that surgeon - he seemed to be so intuitive and I felt like that would go far when it came to my surgery and recovery).

My turning point, though, didn't come until I listened to a TED Talk later that week. I love TED talks and go to them regularly for leadership and career building inspiration so when I felt like I needed some inspiration here, I looked for a talk on cancer. I came across a pastor who was a cancer patient and gave a TED talk about her experience. In the speech, she said, "Claim your experience, don't let it claim you." Man, did that resonate. Sure, there were things I could not control, but there were things I could, and those were the things in my heart and my head. I would not let this claim me, I would claim it.

I felt empowered from that day forward. I set up my appointments at the cancer center to get 2nd and 3rd opinions, and once I had all of the thoughts and drawings and information I could possibly have without traveling out of state, I sat down and made a decision. I dialed the phone, hired my surgeons, booked my surgery, and all of a sudden I was in control. I was making decisions to kill the cancer, get better and cement a future with my family.

The part of this I will never be able to control, though, is the part that answers "why." No family history, no risk factors, no gene, so why? I work out 5 days a week, I take supplements, I eat unprocessed, grass fed, organic, all the key words you see out there, I don't drink too much, I don't smoke, I barely take antibiotics! Apparently, as much of a mystery as it is, it's more common than you or I think. So much so, I'm now part of two research studies tracking exactly why women like me get cancer.

If there's no medical "why," then "why, God," is my next natural question. As you know, the answers to why aren't always right there in front of us, and being the "in control," impatient person I am who goes in search of answers every day for my job, I had trouble believing there were none. At the same time this was happening, there were also changes in my position at work; changes that on the surface didn't seem positive and only added to my sadness and anxiety, changes that threaten my job security and now my healthcare and paycheck that pays for that healthcare, healthcare that is now critical to my survival.

Turning point #3. I was lamenting to my sister about the turn of events, and how the cancer diagnosis and the job change in a week's time seemed like the devil was out for me. What the hell was happening? How did life go from just chaotic, frazzled and hectic to a downright disaster? Maybe it's a blessing, she said. Maybe this is all a blessing. Maybe cancer opens your heart to something new and the job changes open up the opportunities to go get what your heart wants. And maybe you can't see any of that now. Maybe it doesn't all come together until later... this year, this lifetime, whenever it may be.

It seemed like a ludicrous response, a calculated response from someone deeply religious and close to God, a cliché. But two days later, I started to see it differently. Yeah, what if? It made me think about a song I listen to on Christian radio, "Blessings," by Laura Story. She wrote it when her own husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and it seems to speak all the emotion I have now. Until my sister's words, I hadn't really thought about my faith in all of this, except to ask, "Why, God?" I didn't think about how to use my faith to get through this, or how to use my faith to find strength, how to use my faith to find answers. But as the song says, "What if trials of this life, The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are your mercies in disguise?" It seemed to be exactly what my sister was saying. What if this is a blessing?

Again, I claimed my experience instead of letting it claim me. I took the control I'm so hungry for in life. That week I looked for a new devotional, new prayers, new scriptures that would speak to me, be what I need to deal with a cancer diagnosis. A beautiful friend sent me the book, Praying Through Cancer, and it has filled my soul and my heart.

I posted my blog. To say it publicly and see the support was overwhelming. But in a time when I don't feel strong enough, it turns out, others are my source of strength.

Am I at peace? Absolutely not. Can I believe this is all happening to me? No. But do I now believe this is an opportunity to do it differently, see it differently, and be different? You bet. Of course, the part of me who likes to put the plan in motion herself is having a hard time sitting back and trusting God to do it for me. But it could possibly be the first time in my life that I am letting God have complete control. The first time I have had complete surrender. And apparently, it took cancer to make it happen. Apparently, it's a turning point.

Blessings
by Laura Story
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if each promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win, we know
That pain reminds this hearts,
That this is not, this is not our home…

What if my greatest disappointments,
Or the aching of this life,
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.
What if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?


 




Comments

  1. Beautiful! I love that song as well. What a powerful post. I can't even imagine what you're going through but I'm thankful that you're sharing your experience with us. God is truly using you as a vessel and your messages will guide others through this. Know that you're in my prayers and that I am completely inspired by you.

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  2. ♡♡♡♡♡♡

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  3. To dwell on the past or the future, the why and what ifs, is a waste of time. To focus on the now, the solution is to move forward. I was taught if it is worth doing, do it well and I passed this on to my children. The journey you are about to start is worth doing so let us do it well. There is a song,BE STILL MY SOUL,which I think gives me a peace of mind and trust in God. Love ya Dad

    ReplyDelete
  4. Praise. You are so wise!!!!

    ReplyDelete

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