What Lies Around The Bend
You know those stories that begin with, life will be wonderful, as long as this doesn’t happen?
Then – this happens?
Of course you do. That’s every story.
It’s also my story.
New Years Day 2009, I went to the clinic for antibiotics. It’s just another bladder infection, I thought.
The doctor called the next day.
You’re a sophisticated woman, she said. I thought you’d want to know this.
I paced the kitchen. My husband cocked his head at me. Three year old Noelle and eight month old Elliana begged to be put to sleep.
Shhh, I said.
That random blood test we did – your white count is 142,000, the doctor said.
The nurse in me knew what she would say before she said it.
You have a leukemia.
In one moment, the life I’d planned stopped. A hand reached down, lifted my merry-go-round off its anchor, and planted it in a shockingly wide open field.
I have no grid for this, I thought.
Friends and family surrounded us. What can we do? How can we help? What’s going on?
To answer their third question, I began What Lies Around the Bend. I wrote out of necessity. I wrote for ease of update. I wrote for clarity.
It became a bit more than that.
The grid started to form. I began to see something very, very bright.
Two years in to a fight that will likely end only with my death, two years on a drug that is keeping me alive, my husband looked at me and said,
How did our lives get better with cancer?
The strange and wonderful answer is that our lives got better because of cancer.
Like any of you who’ve been through anything that seems insurmountable, we’d started to recognize that pain can make life more satisfying.
So in the spring of 2011, I started to write not just my health status but about what my health status had taught us.
Every post led back to the surprising truth that
suffering can make the best – and happiest – version of us.
And then something interesting happened:
Life got worse.
The last year has been perhaps the most difficult of my life. The cancer is not gone, nor has it returned. I live in the constant wearying tension of sick, but not sick enough to warrant anything spectacular. I’m “probably okay,” says my oncologist. In the last twelve months, this “probably okay,” chemo-dependent, almost-thirty-two-year-old-mother-of-two has faced the threat of a worse cancer, become a home educator, started to learn what it really means to write, and watched her faithful, fun-loving, optimistic husband take his own bend in the road.
I’ve learned how frightening it is to watch someone you love go through pain. I’ve learned what I really care about. I’ve learned who I want to be – and its not who I am right now.
I warn you – I am shockingly honest at times. I write to find that smidgen of hope buried in the middle of an awful mess. And I hope that you walk away feeling more able to crawl out of your valley with humor, hope, and something like optimism. I hope you can say, like me, that the valley itself is not necessarily evil.
I hope you’ll see that despair and bitterness are not our only recourse when life deviates sharply from what we expected.
We don’t have to become hard. We don’t have to become sharp. We can become something rather… powerful.
We won’t get there alone. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, its that who surrounds us will determine who we become. Inexplicably, mercifully, I have been given amazing relationships with spectacular people who are so much more than just “friends.”
These like souls make sure we’re not in the valley alone. Nor do they let us stay there.
I am powerfully indebted to these people. I hope to share with you what I’ve learned from them. And I hope you feel safe enough to share your own story with me. Feel free to comment. Feel free to email me if what you want to say seems more suited to a private conversation.
After all, don’t we all need to know we’re not alone?