One sunny crisp morning, I headed into one of my local Starbucks, aka, my happy place, and ordered a giant hot tea and oatmeal. As I chatted with the barista, a young man about the age of 27 (ok, when it’s a man, do you say, baristo?) and with the usual small talk, he asked me, “So, any fun plans this weekend?”
My response came very naturally, without any self-pity or woe, I said with a chuckle, “uh, no. I’ll be at the children’s hospital all weekend.”
He then asked, with causal curiosity, “Oh are you a nurse, do you work there?” Again, my response just came out, very matter of fact, flat with little emotion, a simple answer to a question:
“No, my daughter has cancer.”
I had never actually SPOKEN those words before until that moment. It shocked us both.
Naturally he replied, “I’m so sorry.” I said, “Don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault. S**t just happens……Do you have any fun plans this weekend?”
Totally aghast, he muttered, “uhhh, no.” as he handed me the delicious overpriced drink. I thanked him for the tasty beverage and said, “Do me a favor bro, go do something FUN this weekend! GO live life! For me! Go out and make a memory.”
Smiling sheepishly, he said, “OK.” (In truth, I think that poor guy might now by slightly traumatized to make small talk).
I walked out smiling, amused at the look of shock and fright on this poor dude’s face, and the raw honesty and mutual kindness that I had just been privy to. I got into my car and BOOM: I just started crying. I could barely drive myself to the hospital to see Amelie, I was crying so hard. My sweet, lively, loving 4 year old who, only a few weeks earlier, had been diagnosed with Pineoblastoma, a very rare and very aggressive form of brain cancer that has metastasized down her tiny little spine. I had never said those actual words before and it sliced my heart open like a samurai sword.
When we initially got the news, we were told by our Chaplain, “This will be a spiritual battle.” At the time those words didn’t impact me. The only words I heard were “Your daughter has cancer” so the only battle I could reasonably conceive was with surgeries, chemo/radiation, hospitalizations, finances, and so forth. You just have no concept of what lies ahead until you’re in it.
But as the weeks have progressed and, in a flash, our old life became a fond distant memory of the past, I now understand what that means. Fighting cancer IS a spiritual battle. It is a daily, hourly, sometimes moment-by-moment struggle to keep forging ahead. I truly believe cancer is an ENEMY that needs to be eradicated.
Our doctor, when telling us the immense gravity of her diagnosis and very bleak prognosis told us, “Prepare for battle.”
That phrase has popped up on several occasions. When I met with my friend’s pastor, she told me, “You need to become a badass. You will need to fight.” I have taken those words literally. I, stupidly, walked straight into a Crossfit gym and attempted to become a badass in one workout, which, since I hadn’t done a pushup in two months, was not a good idea.
I listened to Led Zepplin, Rage Against the Machine, TOOL, and an assortment of heavy metal so loud I’m pretty sure I blew the speakers out of the car. I focused on the work that had to be done, not my old life, the life I loved, no longer had. I hadn’t cried at all. I felt empowered and fired up coming to and from the hospital. Then I’d go inside and see my daughter suffer, scream, cry, kick, lose weight, not eat, vomit, and it was—IS—torturous. I have to walk away in those moments because I just can’t witness it. I don’t feel like a badass at all in those moments, rather, I feel like a coward. Nor does it feel as though we are winning any sort of battle…..but I just keep forging ahead.
I take time for myself. I have been to the spa, gotten a pedicure or two, gone out drinking with the girls (I can’t seem to bring myself to the gym: my temple, my haloed room of addicting pain and sweat which I used to earn for. I’ll get back there one day.) Sometimes I come home rejuvenated and ready for battle. Other times I come home guilt ridden and anxious. Nothing tastes as good as it did before, which is a pity because I seem to be eating EVERYTHING my daughter is not. My husband and I love each other one minute and hate each other the next. See, cancer is sneaky. It cheats the game it plays. Not only does it infect a person’s body, but it then moves into that person’s soul, and then the souls of those around that person, until it casts a wide net of despair, suffering, anger.
My strategy is gratefulness. Yep, good ole gratefulness is the name of my game right now and I’m clinging to that playbook like you wouldn’t believe (Silver Linings Playbook has been my jam these days). I’m so grateful for every offer of help, every prayer, every voicemail, EVERY OUNCE of support has made this process not only bearable, but LIVABLE! Not having to clean my house, for one thing, is this HUGE relief for me (a self-diagnosed clean freak). I wish I could hug and kiss with every person who’s helped in some way.
I am choosing to Be Brave. I am choosing to Believe. I am choosing to LOVE. Not just her, because that’s obvious and easy for me, but to LOVE everyone. Everyone around me who offers to help, everyone in my life, even if for only a brief encounter, like the poor Starbucks dude who was merely trying to make light-hearted small talk, I am sending love to. The friends that don’t serve me? Done. Drama or judgment? Over it. Those are like cancer’s ugly cousins who want me to get distracted from the game plan. I won’t buy into it.
I once read a quote from a famous actress who had cancer, she said, “ I didn’t want pity. Pity makes you weak.”
At first I thought this viewpoint was callous, now I totally get it. I don’t want pity. I want prayer. We want empowerment, positive energy, laughter, loyalty, patience, understanding, forgiveness, favors, donations, help, kindness. I want people to BELIEVE. We want to build an Army of Amelie’s Angels who will pray, like they never have before, for a MIRACLE. Because what is more important than saving a child’s life? What will you do today that will be more meaningful, more powerful than praying for the life of a child? Nothing is more important that praying for an affectionate, affable, delightful little girl who, despite the inauspicious suffering, has been the embodiment of love, courage, graciousness, tender-hearted kindness. Amelie has tolerated more than I can even describe, and she STILL smiles. Well that is the very person I hope to be during this hellish nightmare: a woman who can still smile and live. Because, if not, then otherwise cancer will have infected two people. I refuse to allow cancer to destroy my daughter’s body and poison my soul. That is the spiritual battle.
Learn more about Amelie’s Battle & Offer Support @ Amelie’s Angel’s ~ https://www.ameliesangels.com