Friday, February 3, 2012

Thank You, Cancer

As I lie on the bathroom floor in the middle of night, sick to my stomach and pressing my face into the welcome cool of the tiles, it is hard to think of getting cancer as a gift.

And again, when I'm strapped down into the radiation mask and it is digging into my increasingly red and sore neck - the idea that cancer is a gift can seem very far away indeed.

I'm tired all the time.  Typing this post will take me several hours, because I can only get a few sentences in before I drift off to sleep.

The worst of the symptoms are in full swing now, as I head into the home stretch.  I count that I have only seven more radiation treatments, and the thought of strapping myself onto that radiation table seven. more. times. is almost more than I can bear.   Yesterday, I had a panic attack in the mask; I'm surprised it took me this long.  I just couldn't take one more second of the screeching sounds and searing heat.

The feeding tube was put in place last week; I finally have hang of how the feedings work, and am grateful for the extra energy getting enough calories (or almost enough) provides.   But I will never, never, get used to the idea that I have a tube that goes directly into my stomach.  It's kind of cute, actually - it's called a "Mickey Button" and it lies flush with my skin, which is nice.  It comes with all kinds of tubes and attachments  - the food is gravity fed, flowing from the top of a tall IV pole next to my bed directly into my belly.  

I try to sit with Steve and the kids as much as I can while they eat their dinner; sometimes it's the only way I get caught up on the kids' busy days.  But sometimes the smell of food is too much, and I just need to curl up and sleep until dinner is over.

The world swirls around me, moving at its usual hectic pace, and I feel frozen in place, taking it all in, from a mental space that is very far removed from everyone else's reality.

Cancer has reduced me, as a corporeal being, down to four bare essentials:  eating, sleeping, medicine and pain.  My body is weary, and the most basic task can reduce me to tears of pain or frustration in an instant. My body is not enjoying this cancer experience one bit.

But getting cancer is the best gift my spirit has ever received.   I don't know if I can adequately describe how it feels like the scales have fallen from my eyes, how I see everything so much more clearly now.  I see what a miracle my kids are, how lucky I am to have them in my life.  I see how profoundly blessed we are - with each other, with friendships, with a comfy house on a pretty tree lined street.

I don't want for anything. Everything in my life is perfect just the way it is, even with the cancer, because the cancer is the instrument that shows me - like a treasure map - how valuable every single moment truly is.

I know how hokey that sounds; how Hallmark Card-y.  But it's absolutely true:  cancer has enabled me to treasure my life, my family in a way I'm not sure I could have without it.  Cancer brought me right up to the this-could-be-taken-from-you-edge, and instead of fear, what I found was gratitude and grace.

God willing I will come out on the other side of this cancer-free some day.  But I will come out a changed person.  I will be more joyful, more patient, more loving.  I won't be too busy - ever again - to notice how lucky I am.  How lucky we are.

Cancer is taking a profound physical toll on my body, which I expected... dreaded, even.   What I did not expect was this feeling of completeness, of understanding that I have all that I need, right here, right now, and that I always did.


49 comments:

  1. You are incredible. All my best, Ellie.

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  2. You are truly amazing! Prayers are always with you.

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  3. You WILL come out of it a changed person? Ellie you ARE changed. Changed, changing and will change - in every way that is good and lasting, in the sweetest of ways your spirit is shining through your body's limitations and reaching past our own corporeal barriers into what matters most. In everybody. Your cancer is not only a gift to you - but by sharing about it, to us. What a horrible, unbearably sweet and precious gift.

    You are in my prayers and thoughts, often. I was almost going to say that you will overcome this...but I believe that _you already have_ overcome it, in every way that counts. Thanksgiving is the first thing on my lips when they speak your name to God. May serenity, courage, and wisdom continue to be yours.

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  4. Oh, Ellie...praying your next 7 days fly by and that they are easier, not harder. This was a beautiful post but not as beautiful to me as the one where you say "I'm done". I know we don't know each other at all except through this computer screen, but I think about you every day, and pray for your healing.

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  5. Oh my goodness your poor, poor neck. That picture just makes me want to hug you except I'm afraid a hug would make you want to scream! Thank you for continuing to let us know how you are doing. Miss you. Thinking of you and sending you love.

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  6. Ellie you are such an inspiration and a powerhouse. Your grace is beautiful. I'm praying for you and hoping the rest of the treatments go by quickly.

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  7. "and that I always did."

    yeah.

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  8. Sending you so much love, Ellie! You amaze and astound and inspire me -- before all this happened, and even more so now.

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  9. Ellie I'm so glad that God is giving you the strength to make it through each day, each hour, each minute. I am praying for you and know that your gentle grace will carry on!

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  10. You are the most beautiful person, Ellie. I think of you so often. Many hugs and thank you for this post, for the reminder. Love.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your lessons with me, Ellie. I can use hearing about them. Big hugs and much love, and I hope to hug you in person this fall.

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  12. Ellie,

    Thank you for your post. Your strength and grace under pressure is an inspiration. And thank you for reminding me again what I need to be thankful for in my own life...

    Deena

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  13. You Go Girl! A wise man (Father Chris) once said... Life is Hard. People are funny. God is Good. You are living the hard part now, but the good will come!! God Bless- Keep your chin up- Always thinking of you!
    Dawn B.

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  14. that I always did.

    So, so powerful. You remain in my prayers. I know this took no small effort to write and share. Thank you for knowing we all needed it so much.

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  15. This is such a beautiful post. It does not sound hokey at all! A lot of people go through trials like this and have more joy and love for life than someone who doesn't experience the pain, sickness, or hurt. I will pray for the cancer to be out of you, for your health to return as quick as possible. You certainly have a wonderful spirit and attitude about being sick and that has made you a stronger person. Praying for you!

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  16. I feel like I run out of ways to tell you how you touch me...to the depth of my soul. God is using you in a mighty way, in so many ways. I am glad He gives you the strength in small pieces to get this out to us. I am very sorry for the parts of this that are so difficult, I am so thankful you have the other thoughts to carry you through. You are turning a valley experience into a mountain top. May God bless you with a special peace, extra energy and ease of pain in the days to come. You remain in my daily prayers.

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  17. Thank you for sharing here yet, even through so much pain, Ellie ... glad you are finding gratitude in the midst of it. You are so close to being through this very hard time, so close. Praying that these days will be easy for you.

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  18. It's amazing to me that you live in this place, now, when the hurting and the weariness are as bad as they've ever been. Thanks for reaching back out of it, to us, to share.

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  19. Wow, that truly leaves me speechless.

    Noel Ratch

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  20. Beautiful words, Ellie.

    {You are inspiring.}

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  21. Hi Ellie,
    You're a wonder. You inspire. You heal others with your words as you share your journey. Thank you for making me stop and reflect on just how good I have it. Sending heartfelt hugs and healing prayers your way.

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  22. This is my first post that I have read on your blog. Tears are streaming down my face. You won't come out a changed person... it appears you are already a changed person. Absolutely beautiful and not Hallmarky at all.
    Cancer changed me and I really am a better person because of the experience. It took me a little bit to realize it though.
    Many prayers and good thoughts are being sent to you and your family.

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  23. Sometimes it takes someone with cancer (in the depths, throes, long-wrangled, wiry, breathtaking grasp of cancer) to show the reality of this life, this very short but beautifully poetic life (of tree lined streets)...you make me literally gasp and pause and take stock of my surroundings, you make me see clearly the stunning beauty that is life in it's simplest, most basic and profound form. You make me grateful. Thank you. Once again, your way with and without words is stunningly beautiful, and rings so full of truth. Thoughts and prayers and gratitude. And love for a stranger who is so strong.

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  24. I am shocked and extremely sorry to read this Ellie - I am so sorry, I've been out of the loop for a while and I didn't know.

    But you're dealing with it, really dealing with it, I can see that. That takes some guts and a half.

    I am thinking of you and sending you much love and moral support.

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  25. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. I can relate to how you are feeling - I remember feeling much the same way as I went through brain surgery. I can tell you that I wanted desperately to hold on to the perspective that experience brought me, but in all honesty - 10 years later - I've lost it. I remember feeling it - (remember it even more vividly when you write about it) but It's lost its' intensity and I'd give anything to get it back. So write, write, write. I don't know if your experience will be like mine - and if 10 years from now you will wish you could have that sense of perspective back - just for a moment. The world, "normal" life - it just pulls at you ... pulls you away from the core that you are so immersed in right now.
    Hang in there, dear Ellie. Lots of love to you. xo

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  26. Ellie, I'm so incredibly sorry for the pain you're going through. But I am so grateful that you share your gratitude and grace with us. It is quite miraculous that you can share what you are seeing and feeling through this "lens" right now. It blesses me every time I read your posts. God is right beside you. 7 more. You can do that, one treatment at a time. You are almost done and you are more than strong enough to finish. I am lifting you up, way way WAY up in my prayers on a daily basis. I wish I could be there on the day of your last treatment and rip you out of bed and whirl you around in celebration, but I know I'd injure us both. Just know that I am celebrating your recovery, pain and all, with you, my sweet friend. You are one of the bravest people God put on this earth. Thank you for sharing everything you share, no matter how exhausting it is. It gives and gives to others, some with no voice. Bless you a million times over. xoxo

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  27. Isn't it wild, Ellie, the way your body can be sort of falling apart and your spirit just soars?

    So glad you are experiencing the second part of that equation - and hoping you are finding as much ease as possible with the first.

    Sending boatloads of love and admiration...

    XOXO

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  28. I sent you some nonsense in a card. I hope it makes you laugh in a way that doesn't hurt.

    Because it's terrible to see you hurting.

    And still here you are sharing yourself and OMG how we benefit.

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  29. right here, right now.... complete... YES!!!!!

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  30. I'm amazed at how you can write so clear and easy as you describe your bipolar existence between what your mind is registering with your pain versus what your mind can extrapolate from this pain to find such goodness from this experience. It is a very wonderful thing to be able to surmount your pain and tiredness with such a strong mental frame of mind that you could even consider writing that "everything in my life is perfect just the way it is." With that tremendous strength of internal fortitude you will always be a winner with both your family and in our minds.

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  31. I try look at painful life experience knowing that for some reason they were put on path for a reason. When my husband, soul mate and best father ever, died 2 years ago in a moment without warning I was left wondering what the experience would teach us, wondering why we had chosen this particular life experience. I am still struggling to put our life together and to understand who I am in the midst of it all...but I can say without a doubt that I have changed and so has my son. We see things so differently now and know exactly where we want to put our time and energy. We don't waste a lot time with what doesn't work and we can put life dramas in there proper place. Was Joe death a gift? Well if I didn't think it was on a spiritual level...I 'm not sure I could have with stood the pain.

    Sending you love and light for your recovery.

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  32. I ache for the pain you feel and my heart feels tender to how you are choosing to look at this experience. I send you strength and healing. Joanne

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  33. Ellie, you are so inspiring. I am trying to do exactly what you describe and just be grateful and enjoy all te moments. Thanks for all your hopeful posts.

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  34. If a Hallmark card said the things you said, in such an amazing way, I might actually BUY a Hallmark card for once! Ellie, you are a wordsmith. Thank you. You are always in my prayers.
    Lee Ann

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  35. Stunningly beautiful post Ellie! Thank you for sharing you experience, strength and hope with us!

    Much love,
    Libby

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  36. Wow. Those pictures of your neck really tell a story on how brutal the treatment is. WHEW. You are so brave, Ellie. Hugs and love, I think of you every day and pray for you to continue to be strong. You are an inspiration to me.

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  37. Beautifully written. I admire your strength and hope. Much love, Dina

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  38. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
    D

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  39. Your neck shown in this picture is really a big infected. There are treatments available for cancer. I hope you will recover as soon as possible from your cancer.

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  40. You, my friend, are amazing. I marvel at your words and how they speak so clearly to my heart convicting me to be more at peace with my life. Praying for you often. xo

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  41. I have been counting the days. Last one was yesterday. I hope you have found blessed relief in not having treatment today. Thinking of you so much.

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  42. I hate to see you hurt and I'm quite convinced that you were an extremely grateful person who knew what a gift life is before cancer, but I am still inspired and awed by your ability to hold tight to life's gifts and let your spirit soar. So much love to you.

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  43. I can tell you feel the grace. I can feel it through your words. I wouldn't expect anything less.

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  44. Ellie, I am so grateful to have found this post. I wish you continued clarity and vision to inspire others. My husband and I are heading up to the NCI at NIH for his every-three-month scans results following his clinical trial treatments tomorrow. We are faithful he will remain cancer-free...making it two years since cancer has taken up residence in his body. Our supportive words for you in the shared fight: remember the grace of this experience, stats be DAMNED....they mean nothing about YOUR case, your FIGHT, and always, ALWAYS remember people you've never even met are praying for you, and wishing you WELL....bodily. Your mind is healthier than it's likely ever been. Love and peace.

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  45. Thank you so much for sharing part of your journey. i know it must be a pianful one but know that i will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers, may the lord be with you. actually, scratch that, he IS carrying you. through all of this and through this he is showing you what beauty is all around you and giving you strength to fight becuase you cant be without your kids or husband. please keep us updated, best thoughts and wishes....~christen

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  46. Thank you for sharing that with us. Perhaps some of us will learn your lesson without paying your price.

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