Love in the time of COVID

Photo by James Emery, creative commons licensing

I am grateful for my cancer. Cancer has taught me to focus on the moment. No matter what happens to me, nothing can take away the moments I’ve lived in. It is impossible to fully take in a moment without love. Without love there is no inner peace, there is no stillness. Can you imagine fully appreciating a hot shower, a quiet walk, or looking out at the stars without love? 

I’ve read that 99.9% of our universe is composed of empty space. But I don’t think so. I think it’s composed of love. It’s hidden in plain sight, right in front of us, waiting to be taken in. 

Yes, there is also great suffering. But suffering can show us how love unfolds. It can show us the infinite dimensions of love.I don’t know why we need suffering to really see it, but we do. Suffering forces us to focus of the moment with sharp resolve.

There was once a man who was running in through the jungle, chased by a hungry tiger. After breaking through a clearing, he came to the edge of a cliff. The long fall into the river below would be fatal. The tiger forced the man to stumble and fall but he grabbed onto the edge of the cliff with his hands. The tiger was relentless and started for the man’s hands. The man saw a branch growing from the face of the cliff just below him and he managed to grab onto the branch with his hands. Dangling from the branch, the man saw a plump strawberry had sprouted out of some greenery on the branch. Hanging on to the branch, he reached out and grabbed the strawberry and popped it into his mouth. “This strawberry tastes delicious,” he said.

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Life Post Cancer Treatment and Life During COVID

I remember the first moment we decided that we were going to shutter-in because of COVID. It was March 13th and I ran some errands. I was at Publix and I felt like I knew a secret no one else did– I loaded up on food and milk to get us through what I hoped would be a couple weeks (it wasn’t). It was a Friday so it was easy to slide into a typical weekend routine and just tell the kids we were eating at home and not going out for meals. 

Then we woke up on Saturday and it’s been the same day ever since. No work to go to, no school for the kids. 

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Flu / Not-the-flu

Image from ramdass.org.

I’ve got the flu. It was very bad Tuesday night and all of Wednesday. 
When you’ve got flu-like symptoms no one wants to see you. The cancer center didn’t want me to come in at all even though this is the lowest I’ve felt since my fainting / fever spell in December. I considered going to the emergency room. 
I went to urgent care and strange enough, I tested negative for flu. The doctor immediately starting talking about false negatives. The paperwork I left with still says I have the flu. I know what you’re thinking– don’t think that. It’s not. Is it some universal joke that after I survive the big C-word that now’s there’s another c-word that’s scaring everyone? Another c-word. Great.

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Everything and Nothing

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels

[Preface: I have amazing support from my family, Paige, my church, friends, doctors & other health professionals. I am lucky. But it’s still a struggle.]

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

Hugh Laurie

For me, the revelation came after a sequence of words. Like a certain combination and cadence unlocked a door. “You’re not feeling yourself today, are you?” That was what my nurse asked at my latest cancer center check-in. Before the question was even done I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and then hot streaks down my cheeks. “No,” I answered weakly.

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The Fellowship of Survivors

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

There is a certain form of a secret handshake among survivors. A knowing nod. A recognizable depth to the eyes. When a person has gone to the edge of the unknowable and yet is still present in this world, that person cannot hold themselves the same.

Survivors speak the same language. Cancer has its own vocabulary. While some forms might require new terms or lingo, we still understand each other– like an American and a British person speaking to one another.

One afternoon I was in a doctor’s exam room. It is actually one of Paige’s doctors. This doctor in particular had advanced stage breast cancer and was absent from her practice for a long while. Eventually, she returned as a survivor but forever changed. On a checkup, Paige heard her story. Then when everything happened to me, Paige told her my story. The doctor and I actually have the same oncologist and radiation oncologist. I remember sitting in that chair and drifting in and out of sleep, exhausted from the high-dose steroid fatigue and lack of sleep.

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