It’s the question I have been asked most often in the last few weeks. How are you really doing?
The most honest answer I can give you is that I feel a little different each day. Mostly I feel peace, but there are always bits of shock, joy and fear mixed in. What changes periodically is how heavily I feel these other emotions.
Other than soreness and stiffness in my arm from previous surgery, I feel completely normal. Sometimes I’m sitting and thinking about other things, and I suddenly remember that I have cancer. It surprises me all over again.
It was easy to remember in the days right after surgery. I was exhausted, I couldn’t move my arm, and I was in a ton of pain. My body didn’t feel right.
Now, I have almost-normal energy levels. Almost-normal arm movement. Almost-normal schedule. I’ve even been able to get back in the gym in the mornings, although I can’t do anything that involves my arms, so I’m limited to the stationary bike.
Everything feels so normal! That is why, on many days, there is at least some element of shock when I remember, “Hey, you have cancer.”
This one may surprise you. Or maybe you’ve been through something like this, so you’re not surprised at all. I have felt tremendous joy throughout the last month. I am so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many loved ones. They make life beautiful, and I’m treasuring them even more than usual.
I also think it’s easy to be joyful when you live among college students. (Ok, for some of you that may be your worst nightmare, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT). For those of you who do not know where life has taken me, I am a resident director at the beautiful, quaint, red-bricked and tree-lined Anderson University in central Indiana. I live in Martin Hall, a residence hall for about 150 upperclassmen women.
No, I don’t live in a dorm room, and I don’t share a bathroom with the girls! I have a spacious apartment on the first floor that is homier and cozier than anywhere I’ve ever lived before.
It’s always hard to explain my job to others. I’m not a “dorm mom,” although there are aspects of my job that allow me to be somewhere between a mom and an older sister to many of my residents. However, there is also the professional side. Meetings, committees, budgets, paperwork… it’s all part of my job. But the thing I love most is walking through life with my RAs. This year I have a staff of 8 RAs, and I get to meet with them as a group and individually. We talk about the building and their residents. We discuss conduct issues. We develop their leadership skills. But mostly, we just live life alongside one another. My couch and my kitchen table are sacred spaces. So much laughter and so many tears are shared there. I wouldn’t trade this “job” for anything.
So back to the whole joy thing. Life hasn’t stopped since my diagnosis. A few nights ago, I sat in the office near our building’s lobby with several students who live here. We were laughing so hard at one of the girls (cough cough… TIFFANY SIMCOX) that I couldn’t contain myself. I think I snorted approximately 100 times. Ask the girls. They’ll tell you it’s true.
There are so many moments like this, and I’m grateful for every one. It’s hard to remember realities like “Stage 3,” “further surgery,” and “debilitating treatment” when you’re laughing so hard there are tears in your eyes.
I only feel fear occasionally, and usually it is when I’ve allowed myself to stay up too late, thinking about all of the “what ifs” and what could be. However, these rabbit trails of the imagination are rare. In my early 20s (fresh out of college and really having no clue what I wanted to do with my life) I lived in a lot of fear of the future. Over the last decade, God has done a lot of work in me on that very topic. He’s taught me how to trust him, rely on him, and seek him in the midst of the unknown. All of that seems to have prepared me for this adventure, and I think it’s why fear hasn’t played too prominent of a role in my present circumstances.
The main feeling of the past month has been transcendent, unimaginable peace. It probably deserves its own blog post, so I’ll leave it at this for now:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philipians 4:4-7