Today, in Psalm 112, the psalmist says that their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord. Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid. John 12 is the discourse regarding the grain of wheat which falls into the earth and dies in order to bear much fruit. My heart is somewhat steady tonight now that my decision is made. I apologize to some of my loved ones reading this who will hear learn the news here. I wanted to write it all out in one message to everyone at the same time.
On Friday, I met with the oncologist who surprised me with the news that when the doctors met in grand rounds they recommended chemotherapy. Initially, chemo was not an option. I was a bit shell-shocked by the announcement. I had just begun to plan my life again, when I was broadsided by this news. The decision was ultimately mine and after asking a bunch of questions, I signed all the papers and took the weekend to consider this plan of action. St. Ignatius recommends that one does not make a decision when in desolation and that echoed in my mind.
I have struggled at various points during these past seven months. Cancer is an unsettling disease. I know many people think I have been strong and there is truth in that but honestly I know that I have been carried by all the prayers and love that have surrounded me. I am unsure where I would be without it but the strength I show is not mine alone; the power of an incredible community fortifies my heart and makes it steady. Of course, for me, my mantra is God.has.this.
The cancer I have is rare. The literature is divided about whether chemotherapy will stave off a recurrence because there are not many statistics. The goal is to be proactive and ensure that no stray cancer cells remain in my body. Because I am young (that was what the medical team said–God bless them!) and otherwise healthy, the belief is that a milder dose of chemotherapy will shift the odds in my favour. The side effects of this chemo are not as severe as stronger doses. Apparently I will even be able to work at least part-time.
The frustrating thing about cancer is that one is always readjusting expectations and plans. This is what sent me into a tiny downward spiral over the weekend. I was thinking about what my work schedule would look like, making travel plans, and discerning service opportunities. As the plans fell out of my hands at the news, I crawled back into God’s protective hands and had my mini meltdown. I have emerged with my heart steady and while my knees may quake somewhat at the unknown of what is to come, I am girded with faith and resilience. God is in all things, and mostly definitely God is here. I will die to my fears and frustrations in order to have new life and bear the fruit that God is planting in this.
I think it is no coincidence that I will begin my treatment on the Feast Day of St. Clare of Assisi. St. Clare has accompanied me since last summer when I wept unknowingly by her tomb. The quote in the daily missal for tomorrow by her is: Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you and loves you as a mother. On the eve of her feast on August 11, and of the initial chemo infusion, I find great comfort in these words. God has created me holy, has always protected me and loves me tenderly. I will go forth without fear.
When has your steady heart gotten you through a tough situation?
How do you find God in all things, including the challenges?
Steady my heart, O God
Strengthen my quaking knees
I shall not be afraid
Because You are with me
Gathering up the fruit
that falls plentiful
around me as I die
to myself and my dreams
Plant the seeds that will
blossom for all to see
Seeds that bring You glory.