Sometimes hope is hard to find. Smiles aren’t always easy to come by. Happiness is fleeting. Sometimes even the best intentions are squashed. Days envelop in worry, fear, and regret. Nights end in tears. Thoughts can trick you, emotions can be your worst enemy. Optimism can be an elusive ghost. Sometimes dark clouds roll in, bringing thunderous roars and floods that rain on your parade. Choosing joy can be an exhausting and tumultuous battle. Sometimes the “whys” and “what ifs” outweigh understanding. Sometimes purpose eludes us.
A few weeks ago, I found myself crumpled on the floor heaving burdened sobs into the quietness of our closet. This particular Saturday started as many weekends often do, full of possibilities, adventure… and laundry. The sun was out (per usual for a Texas summer) and the birds might as well have been chirping if they weren’t so dang hot. My husband and I had regained the glorious sleep that our work weeks stole from us and we faced no agenda, no errands, and no stress. I knew it was going to be a great day. I just knew it.
Yet somehow, no matter my intentions of enjoying this beautiful Saturday, something overcame me. My tone became rude, my words short, and I could feel a temper flaring up. Like a dragon from within, I snapped at Matt. Snipping and snapping at… nothing. My meaningless and unjustifiable frustrations bellowed. I can only imagine what he thought as I continued on my whining streak. Soon, I even began wondering what the big fuss was about. Why was I upset? What’s going on? Not long thereafter, as it always does, the real reason burst forth.
“CANCER HURT ME! IT TORE MY LIFE APART. I HATE WHAT IT HAS DONE TO ME. TO MY BODY. TO MY THOUGHTS. TO MY FUTURE. TO OUR LIFE.”
Each word sharp, searing truth. I meant them, and I still do. I hate what has happened because of cancer. This isn’t the life that I wanted. This isn’t my fairytale. I’d be lying to say that joy and hope and faith and happiness is boundless and everlasting.
You often don’t see my journey to hope and joy. You read only the wisdom that I glean from the trenches of my grief. You hear the thoughts after they’ve been processed, the pain after it’s started to heal, and the loss that has already found hope. I must let you in on a little secret, though. Sometimes finding hope is downright miserable, and sometimes impossible. My life isn’t as triumphant and victorious as some may think. I struggle. Often, quietly, I wrestle with the realities of what I now face on the other side of cancer. Not yet 30 and menopausal. A body that no longer feels like my own. Barren, infertile, and childless. Broken and scarred. Deeply wounded and downright sad.
I hate pity parties, but sometimes we just need to be the “hostest with the mostest.” I try my hardest to trudge through, to find hope and hold onto it. I try to reach for gratitude for I know it has the ability to overcome anguish, but sometimes I fail. And it’s not fair for me to only show you the finish line. Understanding what it takes to get there is where community, empathy, and growth happens. I can’t let you think that where you’re at is uncommon. If you’re depressed and forlorn, you’re not alone.
The truth is, I miss my life before cancer. The wounds are so fresh that I still cry at the thought of what once was. A blissful, yet naive marriage. Grandiose dreams that really felt attainable. The world, our life — a fresh palette of the most vibrant colors ready to be whimsically painted onto a clean canvas.
I wish cancer didn’t pick me, though I’m grateful for the gifts that came with it. I wish God didn’t choose me, yet I know my calling was found in this chaos. I was supposed to live with the security and assumption that my life would be long. We were supposed to live out our dreams. After marriage, I was supposed to get pregnant. We were supposed to land those dream jobs and have the ability to buy our dream home. Our savings account would grow to thousands, not diminish to pennies. I’m mad that it didn’t go that way. I’m hurt, and angry, and disappointed.
I don’t want cancer. I never wanted cancer. I wish it was different, somehow. To be honest, there are moments when I wonder if any of this was worth fighting so hard for. The scars, the infertility, the remnants of emotional and physical pain, the grief. But would I really change it? No. I’d fight for it all again, because life is worth living, no matter how painful it may be. It’s only with eyes towards Heaven that I can grasp a minuscule understanding of my life here on earth.
You see, God often deposits resounding truths in my trenches. He allows me to feel the depths of despair with tear-stained cheeks and profound sorrow in order to see with greater understanding and empathy. Into the dark places, I feel the weight of it all. The gut-wrenching pain of tremendous loss. The burden of shattered dreams. It’s in the trenches where I find hope. Hope is not found when life is beautiful and grand, but when there is nothing left to hold onto. We must sit in the dark, quiet, muck of the trenches in order to discover the light.
Psalm 34:18 (ESV)
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
MomSeptember 29, 2016 at 9:31 AM (7 years ago)
I’m speaking Jesus’ name over you, for it has the power to break strongholds. All hail the power of Jesus’ name! I love you, my sweet and courageous daughter!Reply
Julia GardnerSeptember 29, 2016 at 11:02 AM (7 years ago)
Your honesty broke me today. I can’t relate to most of what you’re going through, but what I do relate to, you described it perfectly. Thank you for spilling out the truth! <3Reply
StephanieSeptember 29, 2016 at 11:47 AM (7 years ago)
Thanks for sharing Julia! It was painful to write, but oh so necessary. Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace. I need it all!
SkyeSeptember 29, 2016 at 11:59 AM (7 years ago)
Your words are a gift to others going through struggle. Thank you for being real. Sending vibes of strength, courage, and healing – from another young adult cancer survivor.Reply
Kendra SurprenantSeptember 29, 2016 at 12:31 PM (7 years ago)
I can completely relate. It’s almost like I wrote those words myself. Thank you for your openness and honesty and for writing these blogs. They help me tremendously to know that I’m not the only one struggling – it really is real! I look forward to your posts and although I’ve never met you, as a fellow cervical cancer survivor, I find strength and comfort in your words, as I reflect on my own cancer journey and the loss of my fertility because of cancer. You are a beautiful soul inside and out and I thank you for sharing your courageous story. Stay strong!Reply
KatrinSeptember 29, 2016 at 1:14 PM (7 years ago)
We have a great many differences in our struggles, bot oh so much more in common! I started following you maybe a couple years ago. Not really sure why. I think its because your words spoke so much truth and hope to me. I’ve prayed and hoped the best for you along the way. Not knowing that this year I too would face a cancer diagnosis. Just wanted to thank you for putting such beautiful words to how I often feel. Being in the trenches really stinks but like you, I will never give up! Brave Joy!Reply
Amy AndersonSeptember 29, 2016 at 1:18 PM (7 years ago)
Love you, Steph.Reply
Donna CarlsonSeptember 29, 2016 at 3:32 PM (7 years ago)
Thank you for your words today-they deeply touched my soul-sometimes I get so weary of being hopeful and kind and loving through the heartache and then the guilt sets in for being weary – what you wrote fed my soul and made so much sense to me.Reply
TamiSeptember 29, 2016 at 6:12 PM (7 years ago)
I can relate to your feelings. I too, had cancer and I have to be honest, cancer broke me and my life has forever changed. Stay strong and may God Bless you and bring you peace.Reply
KimberlySeptember 29, 2016 at 6:31 PM (7 years ago)
Your words, they are mine. Your pain, it is mine. Cancer? That’s ours too. But God…
I love your strength even though you may see it as weakness. Your transparency is so helpful to those of us who are trying so desperately to hold tightly to our days and hours… thank you. I have battled cancer for over four years and carry that heavy label of “terminal” like it is my favorite Coach bag. Today, I was close to losing it all, that is until your writing landed in my email box. But God.
Thank you. Thank you. You are a soul sister and are loved by many – even me, a stranger who shares something so intimate with you that it makes us almost besties. Tight hugs.
Sue StagisSeptember 29, 2016 at 9:13 PM (7 years ago)
Stephanie, you have touched me with your sincere words of honest expression of the true reality of cancer. As you know, we too are going through this exact thing with our precious children. All that is true for me, is the love that surrounds them no matter what. Thank you for sharing your most honest feelings, disappointments, and truths…. All I want for our children is for them to know how much we love them, that we are there for them, and that we know that God has the perfect plan for them…that sounds so trivial, but it is what we rest in. God bless you and your husband, and your families. We are right there with you precious girl!Reply
HollyannOctober 9, 2016 at 8:06 AM (7 years ago)
Thank you for your honesty. It really helps those who are where you are — out of grueling treatment and grateful to be alive, but still surveying the wreckage of their before-cancer hopes and dreams. Cancer is big. It cannot be defeated with greeting-card sentiments. But honesty is big, too. In honesty there might be despair, but despair is the bridge we must cross in order to see hope beckon. Love and peace to you.Reply