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There’s a light in the darkness, though the night is black as my skin; there’s a light burning bright, showing me the way, but I know where I’ve been – Hairspray

Nine days ago, I sat in a crowded oncology office,


The patient in front of me took longer than usual. He was young, tired, gray.

I knew that look.


Do I look sick? I said to David.

I messaged a friend who was also waiting. Waiting for specialist results. Waiting for answers. Waiting to know if there was a big reason why all these little things wouldn’t seem to go away.

They’d not heard anything yet.

An hour later, the doctor called for me. Here we go, I thought.

Some people might wonder why I still bring David with me to these things. Honestly, its because I’m scared. When I’m scared, I’m half paranoid schizophrenic, half manic control freak. I need another person to ask the questions I’m not thinking clearly enough to ask. I need someone outside the vortex of I might die soon to tell the difference between

really bad news


mere bends in the road.

The door clicked shut. The doctor asked all the usual questions.


Your MRD results are back. They’re at -3.15.

My eyes shut. David sat up straight.

That’s good, right?  David asked.

It was good. They’d wanted me below -3 for years now – and in this equation, a bigger number is actually lower. The past eighteen months I’d flirted with -2.8, -2.7, -2.92, -3.01.

-3.15 is the lowest its ever been.

David and I walked to a nearby fast food Mexican restaurant. I ordered a burrito – because, let’s face it, this is a celebratory lunch – and I complained through the whole thing.

The salsa’s not hot enough. There’s too much cilantro. The tortilla is soggy.

David tried to placate me.

Sorry about your lunch. You want to go somewhere else?

I grinned at him.

Nope. I’m just happy that my biggest problem right now is this burrito.

As three years of surgical nursing taught me, if you’re healthy enough to complain about it, then you’re not that sick.

When I got home I realized I’d not heard back from my waiting friend. I checked in – only to find she didn’t get such great news that day.

Celebration; grief; heartache – intermingling extremes compete for my attention. Thousands of miles from here, another friend fights for her child’s life. Not so many miles away, another loses one she barely got the chance to know.

How is any of it … right?

There’s a cry in the distance; its a voice that comes from deep within. There’s a cry, asking why – I pray the answer’s up ahead, yeah, ’cause I know where I’ve been.

Ten days before my trip to the oncologist’s office I collapsed into one of the hospital atrium couches during my lunch break.

A man sat down across from me, oxygen tank in tow.

You work here?

Yes, I admitted. I guess the alien green scrubs were the giveaway.


Maternity. I smiled and prepared myself for the thing that everyone says when they discover my specialty.

Oh, that’s lucky. You’re on the good side of life.

This man couldn’t know that that very day was one of the most harrowing of my career. He couldn’t know that every delivery has a moment of panic, and some of those moments last longer than others.

He couldn’t know that I see far more heartache at the beginning of life than I ever saw at the end.

Somehow, when we know its the end, we prepare for it. But who prepares for the end at the beginning?

Why should those who could be the best parents ever also be unable to conceive? Why should those who have no energy or resources for children conceive so easily?

Why, why,should any baby be lost before we even get the chance to know them?

It’s just. Not. Right.

Even for those who do get their happy endings – who prepares them for what it takes to raise these little people? Who gets ready for the fears and frustrations to follow? Who learns ahead of time how to deal with the people who know more than you, have better behaved kids than you, and who think they’re doing a much better job than you?

It takes being a parent to learn all of those things.

We don’t know how to grieve with someone until we’ve grieved ourselves. We don’t know how to cry with someone until we’ve carried the burden of pain alone. We don’t know how to encourage until we’ve been in need of courage ourselves.

We don’t know how to celebrate until we understand just how awesome – and rare – good news can be.

Just as some women have hard pregnancies, others hard deliveries, still others hard babies – there are others who don’t get to keep their babies at all, because –

We’ve all got our thing.

I recently reconnected with a friend I’d not seen in fifteen years. I was only half looking forward to meeting her. I wasn’t sure we’d have much to talk about. All I saw from her blog and Facebook was happy, perfect, not a care in the world.

Then she started to talk.

Friends, don’t believe the lies you see on social media. We all know loss. Anyone who says they don’t is lying, boring, or just too afraid to talk about it yet.

We all have our thing, and fortunately –

Our bruises make for better conversation. – Train

This week we celebrate our firstborn’s seventh birthday. My first thoughts the moment I first held her were

oh no, she’s going to have to do this horrible thing that I’ve just done. 

She’s going to know pain.

But as much as I wish I could rescue her from that, I also know

it’s pain that makes us great.

December is right around the corner. We bundle up and cozy in for what promises to be the busiest holiday of the year. We decorate. We shiver. We smile. We sing. We hum.  We add twinkle lights to the darkest days of our calendar.

We brace ourselves for cold, white winter by knowing that warm, green spring will surely follow. Sometime in March, April, or May,

Everything that’s new (will) bravely surface, teaching us to breathe; what was frozen through (will ) newly purpose, turning all things green. – Nichole Nordeman

Branches crack; glass frosts;

Joy cometh. – Beth Moore

I am not the woman I was on January 7, 2009.

I know how to cry with my friends now. I know how to celebrate with them too.

We all have our thing – and it’s our thing that makes us great.

So dear friends, I cry with some of you now, but I also believe that joy cometh.

I’m already planning that party.

There’s a road we must travel, there’s a promise we must make; but the riches will be plenty worth the price we have to pay. There’s a dream in the future, there’s a struggle that we have yet to win… I know it, I know it, I know where I’m going, Lord knows, I know where I’ve been. – Hairspray

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m so happy to hear your good news! Yes, everyone does have their thing. That painful thing. When we were in the thick of Bethany’s cancer, I used to get very angry at people whose problems were in my opinion mild compared to having a child go through cancer. But to them their problems were just as big and devastating. I realized one day that yeah, their problems are just as big and devastating to them as mine are to me- they’re just different. Now i try to be more understanding and not have a, “You don’t know what real suffering is”. kind of an attitude!

    November 25, 2012
  2. sammy #

    oh sweetie, that is such encouraging news, you’re getting there… and again, what an amazing writing mind you have…. many hugs…

    November 26, 2012

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