I’ll be honest. I have no idea what many of you are going through right now. I have never had a friend call me on the phone or send me an email, telling me they have stage 4 breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter. I have heard news of cancer from my Mom, from grandparents, from a friend about her husband, but never from a friend.
I remember sitting in the car after getting the news of my mammogram from the radiologist and talking with a few of you. None of us expected to have that conversation. We were all expecting to get similar results to the previous year’s mammogram and then to mourn the fact I would have to stop drinking coffee again. Then we would have chatted about the kids and what was going on for the rest of the day. That was the conversation we were expecting.
But that was not the case.
Instead, I told you that the radiologist believed the tumor was malignant. She hoped she was wrong, but in her professional opinion, she was confident she was not.
What can you say when you hear these words from your friend, daughter, daughter-in-law, niece, cousin, etc. on the phone? There is nothing, no words, no wisdom, no way to solve it. It just leaves you speechless and feeling horrible, right?
I was the one delivering the news and I didn’t know what to say myself. Many times I prepare for the worst when I go into appointments, meetings, etc. But this time I had not and it had totally surprised me! This was not part of my plan.
Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end with nothing, no words, no wisdom and no way to solve it. If it were up to us and the doctors, it would end there. Because unless God chooses to heal me or take me home to be with Him in another way, stage 4 breast cancer will most likely take my life. Maybe in a year, maybe in 20. Only He knows. And while stage 4 breast cancer was a surprise for me, it was not a surprise for God. He has allowed this to be part of my life and will be with me each step of the way.
So whether we like it or not, we are on this cancer journey together. I am going to fight it and not give up. I have no idea what the next days, weeks, months and years will look like. We can’t control these things. It is in God’s hands. The one thing we can control is how we handle each day, week, month, test result, etc.
I have had a similar conversation with a few of you about this journey ahead of us. We’ve talked about what it’s going to look like. But most importantly, we’ve talked about doing it well. We are on this journey together and we have a choice as to how we handle it. Let’s do it well. Let’s seek God each step of the way. There’s going be good days. There’s going to be bad days. And then are going to be some really bad days. But through it all, God will be there with us. We having nothing to fear. This is part of His plan, remember?
During the month I was waiting to know my final diagnosis, my friend Kim told me about a blog and an online community started by a woman named Kara Tippetts. She has walked this journey of stage 4 breast cancer I am on and she did it well. Her written words, both on her blog and in her books clearly point people towards her Savior, in whom she found grace and peace in the mist of her cancer.
Before she went home to be with the Lord earlier this year, she co-authored a book called Just Show Up. I know. Here I am talking about a book again . . . this past elementary school teacher who hates to read and never reads unless she has to. But guess what? I read this book. AND I CRIED THE ENTIRE TIME! It was amazing.
It’s an interesting thing to think about. How do you really show up for a friend or family member when they are walking through a hard time in their life? What does that look like? How do you help when you have no idea what they need? What do you say? What should you not say? And I’m not talking about me. We all know someone who is struggling with something right now. I know someone is popping into your head as you read this.
As I look back on my life I think of the times I have shown up for friends when they needed me and then I also remember times I completely failed and didn’t help when I could or should have. So many times I have been so wrapped up in what was going on in my little bubble, that I’ve totally missed the pain or silent cry for help from a friend. I didn’t “show up.” And for that I am truly sorry.
So this journey through the “hard”, whatever it be with me or with someone else, we just need to show up for each other. The book gives some really great practical ideas of what that looks like. It’s not an easy read. Like I said, I cried the entire time. But they mention things I never even thought of, both from the person suffering and from the friend’s point of view.
If we are on this journey together, we have a lot of things to figure out. We have no idea what lies ahead. But God will be there with us as navigate this road ahead of us and as we seek to do it well, together.
Hugs to you my friend!
PS: Over the past month and a half, I’ve been writing down things friends and family have done to help us and have also talked to some friends about what it looks like to “Just Show Up”. I’ve compiled a fairly large list of ideas and resources that I think you’ll find helpful as you walk alongside that friend you were thinking about above as you were reading. I hope you’ll look at it and share it with others!