When Resilience Shows Up

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”

Kahlil Gibran

This time, anxiety is absent. I am quite surprised by that. I take a little peek back, remembering the last time, when it took up permanent residence. This time, though, I am so different. Seventeen months between then and now have carved out a very changed landscape. Experience has become my mentor, time passed has become a gift that has carried a wealth of resilience that I will need now. Grace is deeply embedded in the present, planted in the past and emerging to do its particular work again.

Monday morning I had a CT scan that would mark the one-year milestone of my cancer journey which had begun in mid-August of 2020, in the heart of the pandemic. I had been free and clear and expected to be so again. Quite certain, in fact.

I smiled at the P.A. as she came into the exam room, but there was not a smile in return. I knew then, before the words were even uttered. I think she said “I have some bad news, unfortunately,” but who knows if those were her exact words. The cancer was back. One new mass had been detected. I could even recognize it as she showed me on the screen; its size is between a pea and a grape.

Time slowed down. My brain scrambled to grasp this unexpected reality, to let go of what I had been so sure was true. I had been so lucky to have been cancer free. How could this be happening? I was walking the undulating floor in the Fun House, trying to keep my footing.

The one thing I did not do was to panic. I grasped each thought that came tumbling in and tried to put this crazy puzzle together so that I could manage to walk out of that room and back into the big world without falling to my knees. By and large, I succeeded. At least the kneeling knees part.

I was able to manage both present and future just enough that I could safely drive myself home, plunk down in my cozy recliner, and begin to let this crazy, unexpected, unbelievable reality take root. I gave myself permission to fall apart for a bit.

Surprisingly, though, I didn’t fall apart. I didn’t project my thoughts into a dreaded future. I didn’t rail against my body. Instead, I promised it that I would again do my best to care for it and love it whatever lies ahead. I emailed my best friend and received exactly what I needed. I wrote my family and knew that they are there for me again.

Tuesday morning I had a biopsy. The last one I had, in 2020, I was terrified. This time, I was carried by such a deep calm that even when I got a chance glance at the very long needle, I did not fall apart. I am waiting calmly for news in a few days and will see the hematology team on Monday to find out what kind of lymphoma I have this time (there are 50 kinds…) and what choices are available to me this time for treatment.

I am calm, I am centered, I am focusing on my return to watercolor painting and the Daniel Smith professional watercolors that are just now dry enough to begin using.

“Start where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can.”

“Begin With Yes” blog

Knowing that suffering changes us, I have long wondered how cancer had changed me. Now I know. I have a resilience now that humbles me. I have a hope that is anchored in my experience and the faith that deepened radically over these past months. A quiet kind of hope that remembers and knows:

“For the Spirit helps us in our weakness…”

Romans 8:26a

And I’m very okay with that.