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Control, Defiance, and Joy

I meant to blog on Friday.

But then I got a phone call – from my oncologist’s office.

Yeah, those usually aren’t too fun. Oncologists are – unfortunately – busy people. No news is good news, they say. And its true. If they’re calling you, then, well, something’s up.

Or down, as the case may be.

This time, there was something down. I blogged on Wednesday about having microcytic anemia (low hemoglobin due to small red blood cells). I’d had a Ferritin level blood test (iron levels) done on Tuesday, to see if the low hemoglobin was due to low iron. If it wasn’t, then we had to consider that I might be sicker than we had thought.

But, it was low. 6, to be precise. Normal is 20-100, so yes, I’m a bit iron-deficient.

Good news, right? Because then I can just take iron supplements to correct the problem.

Or, maybe not.

See, we’re still not sure why I’m losing iron. Most women in my age group have low iron due to heavy … yup, you guessed it. But considering my history, my symptoms, and the bloodwork, there’s a slight possibility  that I may have a very rare side effect of my chemotherapy drug, Sprycel: pulmonary hypertension.

That’s high blood pressure in the veins going from your lungs to your heart.

Basically, it causes heart failure.

And, the best news in all of this, is, of course, if I do have this very rare condition, it’s not technically curable.

All they can do for me – worst case scenario – is use medication and procedures to prolong the inevitable.

Yes, that’s such a bright thought, isn’t it?

We’d just gotten to a point when I thought I might be able to breathe with this thing. I learned from it, I shared what I learned, and maybe now that I’d gotten my miracle I could concentrate on my kids and living the rest of my life with purpose.

To have to worry about something potentially even worse, all due to the thing that is supposed to be making me better, was not what I’d expected. Not at all.

The good news is that everything I’m experiencing now could all be due to hypothyroidism. I hope to get a blood test done in the next couple of days, and if that’s what my problem is, it is very, very correctable. Hypothyroidism is best case scenario. But, like I’ve said before, once you’ve had the ‘worst case’ once, you ‘go there’ faster.

We have this amazing group of people that we share dinner with once or twice a month. They asked me tonight, are you finding yourself ‘going there’?

Yes, I definitely am. The worry, the fear, almost flattens me at times.

Two years before pancreatic cancer claimed his life, my dad had heart failure. I remember how he looked. I remember how his life was never the same afterwards. I remember how sick he was.

And I think about how that could be me, just, thirty years younger.

And sometimes I wonder, do we get punished for things beyond our control? When bad things happen, should we look at ourselves, and asked if we’ve deserved it?

If I was talking about someone else, I’d instantly say no. Why would suffering be used as punishment? I know there are consequences for our actions, but I don’t want to believe in a world where I have to hold my breath, hoping I don’t ever mess up, and when I do, wonder what calamity will befall me because I wasn’t perfect.

That’s a judgmental, ugly, toxic way to live.

But I’m harder on myself than I am on others.

So, instead of blogging, I cleaned my house on Friday. I did the dishes, I vacuumed, I scrubbed the floors, I put everything in its place. When I was done, David asked if the Queen was coming to visit.

I said, no, but this way, if I die tonight, at least you’ll wake up to a clean house. 

And we laughed. Because we both knew what was really going on. I needed to control something. I wonder, how many of us do that? When there is a storm inside, do we try to make everything perfect on the outside? Is this why we care so much about our houses being perfect, our skin being perfect, our hair, clothes, makeup, tans, and eyebrows being perfect?

If everything looks okay, then it must be okay, right?

The girls were in bed. The house was clean. David and I sat down to take mental videos of how peaceful everything was. Because it was. There was something about having everything in its place on the outside that let me breathe. It seemed quieter, somehow. There was less noise in my head.

If only we could do the same with our circumstances.

I think the most controlling of us feel deeply out of control on some very big issue. The most invasive and judgmental of us likely judge ourselves worse than anyone else.

And the most peaceful of us realize all of our junk and are somehow comfortable with it.

I read this book last week about a woman with early-onset Alzheimers: Still Alice. I’m sure many of you have heard of it. Lisa Genova, an expert on treating Alzheimer’s, chronicles her character’s descent into dementia from the patient’s perspective. She writes of a woman used to being so smart and so in control, who suddenly felt desperately dependent and out of control.

And, she started to live.

A couple of days after I read that book, I discovered (okay, I was listening to Beth Moore and she said 😉 that the Greek word for rejoicing  is the verbal derivative of the Greek word for joy. It means a continuous, defiant, nevertheless! A, ‘I may be going through (@*#$^ right now, but! I choose joy.’

Good grief, that choice takes courage. You Insanity workout people, you know when Shaun T. yells at you to ‘dig deeper!’ because ‘you can frickin’ do it!’ ?

Yes, that’s what choosing joy requires.

I think I need a ‘choose joy’ trainer. You know, one that yells at me when I want to give up. It’s like doing ‘joy pushups’: You can frickin’ do it! You can be joyful even when this stinks!

I’ve never really been one to conform to things. I have this rebel inside me that loves to defy things that other people think I should or should not do. Now, it’s time to put that defiance to use.

It’s time for one, giant, nevertheless.

Every day.

I won’t know my prognosis for another six weeks or so – I can’t get an echocardiogram until then, unless of course, I have a lot of heart symptoms between now at then – but if it turns out I do have hypothyroidism (which could be causing all of the symptoms right now), I can start working on that very soon. We could have very good news, soon.

Or, not.

But, nevertheless…

I don’t know if any of you needed to hear this today, but I needed to tell you. You may feel out of control. You may feel overwhelmed. But there are roads to joy, somewhere. I promise. I’ve already found a few.

Just, don’t try to find them alone.

I drive myself to the worst possible scenario every single time when I’m alone.

Surround yourself with safe, candid, loving people. They will help you find your road to joy.

This weekend, my safe, candid, and loving people – family and friends who make this road so much easier (you know who you are) have done that – once again – for me.

Thanks, guys.

With you, I can say that giant, powerful, nevertheless.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Doris Beck #

    Choosing joy is always a choice…….but it isn’t easy. and you have to do it over and over and over again(speaking from personal experience) Doing it today doesn’t count for tomorrow(even when we wish it did)….like the children of Israel picking up manna for every day except before the Sabbath when they could pick up twice as much, so we daily have to choose joy for this day, this moment…this minute….As I like to say my journey of joy hasn’t always been easy, but I have learned that I have a choice, and this moment, I choose joy. Praying for you tonight because I know how hard it is to do that some days…..thanks for being honest!

    September 25, 2011
    • Thanks Doris! This is such a great analogy – that choosing joy is like the Israelites collecting manna each day. We do have a choice. Thank you for encouraging me with your own journey.

      September 26, 2011
  2. Lana, thinking of you tonight and praying. You are inspiring. My challenges may not be of the same nature, but I have learned from you tonight! Wishing you joy in the details of this week…big and small.

    September 25, 2011
    • Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers. I hope you are also able to grab joy where you can this week… despite this wet grey stuff I see outside! Oh dear. I’m grateful for it, though. I like being surrounded by green things. 😉

      September 26, 2011
  3. Michael Johnson #

    You are right of course. Personally I tend to go with the anger and defiance rather than control. I’m afraid I’m like the doctor in City of Angels telling the angel, “You can’t have him!” Eventually the absurdity of that sinks in, and then I begin a conversation with God. I frequently hate what He has to say, but that is the path to fuller understanding, seeing the big picture beyond myself, and ultimately joy. To be absolutely truthful, there are little pockets of joy along the way before I ever get to true obedience and understanding. My guess is that those are God’s grace and mercy to help me along the way.

    I will keep praying for you guys.

    September 25, 2011
    • Hi Michael! I know about anger and defiance too!! Thanks so much for your prayers and wise words. We all SO appreciate that.

      September 26, 2011
  4. Lana,
    Just found you via your mom’s facebook entry. I didn’t know you were in the midst of this struggle. My stomach feels tight. . .I’m blinking to keep my eyes clear. .and my heart is feeling squeezed. I’ll be praying for you Lana ..and will be back to catch the rest of the story …so far.

    You write so beautifully and honestly.

    September 26, 2011
    • Hi Lovella, I’m so glad you stopped in and said hello! I so appreciate your thoughts and prayers. We can get ourselves into quite a state inside without the support of great people. I’m headed to a specialist in Vancouver right now to hopefully have a better idea of what we’re dealing with (though it won’t be definitive until November 15th, I guess 😉 Hugs to you and your family.

      September 26, 2011
  5. Anneliese #

    Hi Lana,
    My first visit here and I will be back. I like the honesty that comes through in your writing and I can relate to some of what you share about the need to control what we can. I do that.
    I will pray about your iron deficiency. I hope it’s the best scenario. There was a time my iron was as low as yours …(without the concerns that you have to deal with) and my heart actually felt like I was having heart problems. It is a scary place to be, especially when anxiety makes it worse. This is one side effect you do not need… May the Lord cover you with His peace and grant healing to your soul and body.
    Love, Anneliese

    September 28, 2011
    • Thanks Anneliese! I’m so glad you stopped by. I appreciate you sharing your story with me too. I sure hope that it turns out to be something simple, in the end. But until then… well, I so appreciate your prayers for peace. We need that above all!

      September 28, 2011

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