Of Loss and Pain

My almost four year old little girl asks me if she is holding my good arm or my bad arm.
She has learned to look at my chest where it's flat to check the answer to this question. 
She draws with her finger on top of my shirt the scar she knows is beneath iand says "This arm, the one with the line."
I tell her I will be getting a new line on the other side pretty soon. 
She jumps and says "Will you have two bad arms?"
"No, baby. The other arm will be fine."

Sleep time is the worst time of the day for me. The lymphedema in my arm limits my sleeping positions making it almost impossible to find a comfortable position. The neuropathy in my legs product of the aggressive chemo is also more present in bed. Most nights I sleep in one of the girls' cribs to make sure they don't wake up their dad. I don't mind the ache from sleeping in the confinement of such small space because the pain is the same anyway. Pain wakes me up at least twice and most of the time more each night.

This week I've bathed 3 to 5 times daily seeking desperately for the soothing release from the hot water on my body. I've been short-tempered due to all the pain and discomfort, and I am specially impatient with my girls. I can see clearly how their misbehavior is a cry for attention, my attention, and I haven't given it to them. People look at me and see how well I am doing. They don't realize I'm not the same. I'm just a remnant of my former self. I need to mourn my old self and learn to accept this new self. It is sometimes discouraging when the thought that all this loss could have been for nothing creeps into my mind. 

Chemo sent me into early menopause, so I've been experiencing hot flashes for the past month. At least it won't be something new after they remove my ovaries and uterus. Menopause sucks big time. The hot flashes makes me want to rip my skin off. It comes accompanied by an immediate migrane that makes me want to throw up. I told my mom she'll come to me for menopause advice and for the first time I'll tell her: "You'll understand me when you get it." I would recover ovarian function in two years, but I'll be taking my ovaries out January 5th. 

I don't want this post to be about complaining. Life is a little more normal and easygoing than it has been the rest of the year. It just hurts people only get to see my strong face and not know of the brokenness beneath. 

I loved how David could bear his brokenness to God.

Psalm 22:1-6, 9-11, 14-15, 17, 19, 22-24, 26-27 
My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far from delivering me— from my groaning words? My God, I cry out to you throughout the day, but you do not answer; and throughout the night, but I have no rest. You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried out to you and escaped; they trusted in you and were not put to shame. But as for me, I am only a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by people. Yet, you are the one who took me from the womb, and kept me safe on my mother’s breasts. I was dependent on you from birth; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be so distant from me, for trouble is at hand; indeed, there is no deliverer. I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength is dried up like broken pottery; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, and you have brought me down to the dust of death. I can count all my bones. They look at me; they stare at me. But as for you, Lord, do not be far away from me; My Strength, come quickly to help me. I will declare your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation, I will praise you, saying, “All who fear the Lord, praise him! For he does not despise nor detest the afflicted person; he does not hide his face from him, but he hears him when he cries out to him.” The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him, “May you live forever!” All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations will bow in submission to the Lord. 

Don't hide your brokenness or deny it before God and others. There is beauty in sharing our brokenness, companionship in knowing we are not alone. This is not how I feel about my life or my main daily thoughts, but they are part of my life. They are part of my talks with the girls. They are part of my daily struggles. They are a part of God's will in my daily walk. They are a new part of me: the loss of my body parts, the loss of my fertility, the loss of the ability to breastfeed and procreate, the loss of the capacity to extend my family, the loss of dreams and hopes, the loss of the promise of tomorrow (none of us really have but live as we do), the loss of a good night sleep, the loss of my youth (chemo aged my body ten years or more). 

So what is the purpose at looking at all the pain and loss? For one, it shows you how much you use to take for granted and how much you've always had to be grateful for. It shows you how much your are capable to endure and the beauty of being alive many don't appreciate. It shows you the preciousness of God telling you His mercies are new each day and how now you are able to see those mercies more clearly. It gives you the opportunity to truly test your faith and know if you and your family will praise God come what may, the opportunity to know joy when faced with many trials most don't understand, the opportunity to experience true peace when you trust in God wholeheartedly, the opportunity to be refined by fire and come out stronger and shinier with a mind for the eternal, the opportunity to see and  know who will really be there for you and truly love you, the opportunity to find love in the least expected people and even strangers, the opportunity to touch other lives and leave a legacy. 

Loss is hard. I hope I didn't sugarcoat that. Don't come to a person in pain and tell him not to feel this or that way. Acknowledge pain and be willing to cry with them. That is the best thing you can do: cry and just be there, with no words of what to do. Only those in pain really know and can advice one another. Those who don't know pain usually come with platitudes that do more harm than help: "Don't cry, trust God." "This too shall pass." "You are not going to die because God is able." "Don't let pain defeat you." "If you stop thinking about the pain, you'll feel better." "The Lord is in control." Goodness, they might be true, but don't help one bit and actually annoy the person hurting. Talking of loss is good. It gives the one losing an outlet, and the one beside an idea of what is going on. The only thing you should say is "I'm sorry", "I'm here for you" (and actually being there), and "I love you." 

If hurting was a sin Jesus would not have felt afflicted before being crucified. 
If talking of affliction was wrong David would have not written that Psalm. 
Don't let anyone deny you your pain; God doesn't. 
Don't feel alone in loss or make anyone feel alone for being in pain. 
Remember the end of that pain, like the psalmist did, is to praise God. 


Would you change anything?

Apparenty movie watching has had deep impact in me these past days. 
I actually don't watch much tv and can't stand watching new movies right now, but loved this one.
I am sorry that once again I must give a spoiler alert on one of my posts, but this one needs to get out of my head in written form. 

Spoiler alert. If you haven't watched the movie Arrival and don't wish to know the end, walk away. 

I must say i never knew a trailer could be so misleading. The trailer makes you think the movie is about an alien arrival and the search for the reason of their coming before responding with hostile action. Are they here peacefully? Should people try nuking them even though they haven't made any action that merits that? I love these kinds of movies, the intriguing, intellectual kind. But this one had a component that hit me real hard with the two things I've struggled with this year: the loss of a child and cancer. The movie starts with Amy Adams' character remembering joyful times with her daughter and later remembering the untimely death of this child in her early teens to cancer. 
I really think the trailer should give a hint to this because a parent who lost a child and wanted to go to watch an alien movie to blow some steam will walk out of this movie seriously troubled. 
After these opening scenes, she tells of the day "they" arrived, making individual matters go to the backseat. She is a linguist specialist and is summoned by the military to meet the aliens in an attempt to try to communicate and understand the reason of their arrival. 
Throughout the process of learning their language, she keeps having flashbacks of her daughter and their moments shared together. 
In her final encounter with the aliens, she has mastered their language and makes an astonishing question: Who is that child? 
You realize until this point that she is not having flashbacks but flasforwards. The alien explains that mastering their language gives a person the ability to see the future. 
This is a shocking revelation. Amy's character knows that if she has a child she will lose her to cancer. She keeps having flashforwards and learns that when she reveals to her husband that she knew all along thier daughter would get cancer and she decided to have her anyways, he leaves her. 
At the end of the movie she poses a question: If you knew, would you change anything? 

I couldn't stop crying thinking how I'd feel if I were in her shoes. How would I be able to enjoy a moment with my daughter knowing she wouldn't be with me for long? I would cry every time I see her. There is a scene where Amy's charcter tells her daughter she is unstoppable. The girl smiles, says "I'm unstoppable?", and hugs her mom. I would literally break down. 
I was watching the videos Kinsley's mom had been posting of their time in Disney. Kinsely had the time of her life. Her smile goes from ear to ear. I don't know how her parents do it. How do they enjoy time with their little girl with the knowledge this is probably the last time she'll feel well? I can't even write that without starting to cry. 
Yesterday I was telling a friend I don't live my life as if cancer is gonna come back and claim my life. I live as though I am completely cured. If I live this way and cancer does come back, I would have lived my time left much better than if had lived in fear and hopelessness.
I admire Kinsley's parents deeply. 
In a sense, it is better to know time is ticking and we need to make the best of our little time here.
A conscientious sense of our mortality shows us the nonsense of our time usage. All that time amassing money and possessions instead of amassing great relationships, moments and memories, love and laughter.

But instead we live in the era of information to use that precious knowledge to continue our selfish ways. Nowadays, a parent can know before hand if their child will be born with a birth defect or down syndrome. Instead of using that knowledge to prepare for this child, they choose abortion. 

What about my personal story? 
I have breast cancer caused by my genes. My cancer is hereditary. There is a 50% chance either one of my daughters got the gene from me, and if they did it gives them an 85% chance of breast cancer and 40% chance of ovarian cancer. If I had had knowledge of this gene in my body before having children, the doctor would have suggested I get my embryos screened for the gene to avoid passing this malignancy unto another generation. You could think there is nothing wrong with that, but would those children be Emmalee and Kaylee? Would I risk changing that in my past and not have them specifically? Those toes and fingers, eyes and smiles, voices and personalities?

The movie hit me hard when I remembered something I said when I learned how dispiriting my diagnosis was: I wish I had not become a mom. I said this thinking how awful it would be to orphan my girls so young and how I had always wished they didn't grow in a broken home. I take that back. If I hadn't become a mom they wouldn't be here. Those toes and fingers, eyes and smiles, voices and personalities that drive me so crazy wouldn't be here. 

I don't know if I could do what Kinsley's parents do knowing what's to come. 
And in my case, I don't want to go. 
And I remember One Who prayed like me not to have to take this cup but let His Father's will be done knowing what this will was.
Have you heard the story of the One Who knew and didn't change anything?

Matthew 16

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Jesus knew He would die for our sins. He also knew that through His death He would become the lamb of God to clean the sins of whoever believes He is the Son of God and offers forgiveness of sins for us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. 
I wouldn't change getting cancer if that has allowed me to tell His message to more people. 
We avoid heartache because our concerns are merely human concerns. 
Most of us are not willing to accept that heartache is part of our journey.
There is heartache even in the good marriages.
There is heartache in parenthood. 
There is heartache in compassion and opening our hearts to those around us in need.
It is heartache that makes me pray for Kinsley each day and makes those who read my blog pray for me.
And all that heartache only has purpose if you bring Him glory.

All we have is today anyways; live it right.
Would you change something? 
I would tell you to change yourself today and live for what is worth living.

Check out these gorgeous little ladies I wouldn't change one hair of or one day spent with them.