The only sound to come out of my mouth was a whispered, “Oh.”
“We’ve found a 5cm tumor and it’s either cancer or lymphoma.”
It sounds kind of limp, especially as I’m not known for my muted, low key responses, but there were no tears, no screaming, no swearing.
Not then anyway. It took a while to hit me and when it did, it shook me to the core.
I was still shaken and aching for my sister Jo, who’d died of cancer just six weeks before, and my mum who’d lost her battle six years before that.
Now it seemed it was my turn. Had the heat-seeking missile of death now locked in on me?
I was utterly shaken.
Not in a cool, calm, and collected, James Bond, 007, “Martini; shaken not stirred” kind of way. It was a tectonic plate shifting, seismic shift kind of shaken.
Everything shook then shattered in an instant.
If you’re freshly diagnosed then I’m sure you feel the same: S-H-A-K-E-N and S-H-A-T-T-E-R-E-D
You’re still raw, shaken and broken open by those three destructive words, I understand. I’m so, SO sorry.
It stinks. It really does, and I wish I could take away your pain and worry.
Please know you’re not alone.
Nothing could prepare you. Nothing could prevent your world crumbling. No amount of faith, friendship or fitness could stop this juggernaut plowing into your peaceful life.
Forevermore our lives are divided into before and after.
I know fear’s got its grip on you and anger is coursing through your veins.
What the hell are you playing at God?
Why me? Is this it? What did I do wrong?
Questions tumble faster than tears spill down our cheeks.
Is this it? What about the kids? Are you mad at me?
Where are you anyway God? Are you even real, or good, or both? What kind of God allows suffering?
Like an astronaut sucked through an airlock, no tether to her spaceship, we drift away from reality, observing ourselves from afar as we simultaneously experience every emotion magnified. How could this be, this cold numbness and blazing fire coexisting?
I know you feel the same.
But you’re not alone friend.
If you’re an external processor like me and need to talk it out to get it out, go ahead – there are no rules – except the golden one – and even that can be flexed at a time like this.
We get to play the cancer card – it’s a get out of jail free card for cancer survivors, so it’s yours to wield with abandon!
If you’re a quiet reflector, churning your thoughts inside like the silent cogs of a clock, churn away friend, churn away. Just make sure you come up for air and a cup of tea every now and then.
I know it hurts and I know you’re scared but, like Winnie the Pooh told his friend Piglet,
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
You are too you know.
Like mine was, your outcome may be unknown, but there are a few things we do know, even if we’re not as sure of them as we once were.
God is good, He isn’t punishing you, and He won’t leave you.
I don’t know why you’ve got this horrid disease, I don’t know how long your treatment will be or if you’ll lose your hair, but I know you’re not alone.
You’re not alone because God is with you and will not leave you. You are not alone because we are with you.
I love the story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael RosenHelen Oxenbury. It recounts the journey of a family heading out on a bear hunt only to meet one obstacle after another (sound familiar?). Cheerily they shout
You can’t go under it, you can’t go over it, you’ve got to go through it!
Oh, how true. As in life, a bear hunt, and now in cancer – we can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we’ve just got to go through it.
Let’s embrace the journey, however gut-wrenching and difficult, because it is there, buried amongst the rubble of our shaken lives, we find some of the most precious rubies.
To all of you feeling shaken, scared, overwhelmed, and untethered by your fresh and recent diagnosis, please know you’re not alone, you are seen, you are important and loved.
God is with you.
And so am I.
With humor and grace as always,
Hi, if we haven’t met before I’m Niki, a pastor’s wife, mum, author and yes, rectal cancer survivor.
If life’s sideswiped you with a diagnosis, a painful divorce, infertility or anything that’s left you exhausted, overwhelmed and yes, even angry, I get it.
We want our old lives back, we look longingly at other people’s seemingly easy and pain-free lives and we want what they have. It’s easy to get resentful and bitter too as we’re left dealing with the fear a second mammogram call back, or realizing our son might not just be a sulky teenager but actually dealing with depression.
My new book Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart is a road map for thriving, not just surviving, no matter what life throws at you.
I’d love to send you the Intro and 1st Chapter straight to your inbox for FREE.
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It’s not a quick fix, “how to keep going” kind of book. It’s a road map to finding all God has for you, right in the middle of all life’s thrown at you. Just click the orange button and I’ll send you the first chapter and intro so you can begin to breathe again right this minute.