I have started writing this post at least 10 times and then I can’t finish it. God, this is so hard to write. Lord, give me the strength to write humbly, wisely, unselfishly, amen.
First of all, let me give you a quick update on how Kevin has been doing. Interferon has been getting harder and harder for both Kevin and I. He has been pushing himself and has made it to work most days, although last Friday, he had to come home shortly after going in, because he was just feeling too sick. He’s been struggling with nausea and indigestion, but not the way I’d imagined it. It’s not like he’s just throwing up all the time, like on the first day. He just has that yucky kind of “I need to throw up” feeling and it’s persistent throughout the day. Sometimes the side effect medicines help, but it really only keeps the feelings at bay. He’s got a general feeling of yuckiness most of the time. That has led to more exhaustion as well, simply because the schedule of going to labs, then to the office for a few hours, then back in for treatment is really a lot.
Though I am not struggling in the physical way that he is, we are both each going through our own kinds of personal hell right now. For him, it is truly a battle with his body, and he is fighting so hard. I am so proud of him. Everyday, heck every hour sometimes, he asks God for more courage, more strength, and God is faithful and gets him through. My battle is more emotional and spiritual. I focus on trying to make it through the day, tending to little children who still don’t feel well, various large household issues, financial issues, and trying to figure out ways to make my husband feel more comfortable.
The feeling of helplessness in that area is probably the most difficult thing I’m dealing with. Well, one other thing is pretty damn difficult. You see, cancer has never made Kevin sick. He had all of the melanoma that they could find removed surgically, and the sickness that he has had has all been recovery from surgeries or side effects from treatments that are intended to make him “better”. We both never realized how hard it would be to watch him be so sick from something that we were doing to him on purpose. Let’s just say that the perversity of the whole thing is driving me batty. At the end of the day, we are both exhausted, just in different ways. And at the end of just about every day I feel like I cannot bear it any longer.
I know that I haven’t written for something like what, two weeks? I can’t avoid talking about it any longer, and I can’t keep writing and re-writing, trying to find the most perfect, most eloquent ways to talk about this, so here goes. Some of the first people we met when we moved into our house were a couple named Curt and Maya. Curt’s mom, Tammy lives two houses down from us, and Curt and Maya live at the other end of the street. So needless to say, we saw them a lot. Kevin really bonded with Curt over them both having been raised by single moms, both being only children, even their love of poker. And Maya and I have grown close over these past few months through all kinds of shared experiences from things as little as trips together to Trader Joe’s or just long talks into the evening over coffee. On the first day of Kevin’s interferon treatment, Maya’s uncle passed away. Curt was really struggling because this man had been like a father to him. He ended up on my porch where we ended up talking some and I prayed with him. I didn’t know what to say or do, as there really isn’t much of anything that one can really say to be comforting during a time like that. I pulled out one of my favorite scripture cards, Isaiah 41:13…
For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
I made a mental note to ask Miss Rachel for her to make me another one, because honestly I just loved reading it in her handwriting (See how I’m still thinking about my own needs?). Then I ran inside to print out my favorite prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis De Sales. It’s a beautiful prayer that has gotten me through so much in the past 15 years of my life. I have a lovely print of it that was given to me by an old friend and I’ve literally had it in a frame for the past 15 years. For some reason, I couldn’t get my printer to work, and so, somewhat unwillingly, I pulled the card out from the frame and brought it down to give to Curt. He sat and read it and with tears streaming down his face told me “Thank you. Thank you so much. I need to hear this. I will pray this every day.” And then I had to go in to take care of Kevin and so I said goodbye.
Two weeks later, Curt died. He had a brain aneurysm that burst very suddenly. A few hours after he arrived at the hospital, he was declared brain dead and his mother had to make the decision to take him off of life support. All that weekend long, I couldn’t stop thinking about Curt. He and his whole family had become a part of the little life and community that we had been creating for ourselves in our neighborhood. I was in such shock. Curt was our neighbor and friend. He high fived my son and held my daughter. We shared meals together. Kevin and Curt played poker together. Maya and I grocery shopped and gabbed together.
He and Maya were planning on getting married and they had so often talked of their plans and dreams for their future together. They talked about a house up on Oakhill (one street over) that they were maybe going to rent and attempt to buy. Maya talked of getting her drivers license and getting back into college. Curt told Kevin about the ring he was saving up to buy. Curt was such a wonderful young man. I loved his spirit, his sweetness, the way he would get so excited about the littlest things and the positive outlook he always had on life.
And in the midst of Curt dying, Kevin and I were struggling minute by minute to make it through. The whole time that we have been dealing with this cancer, even from the very first diagnosis, neither one of us has wasted much time questioning God. We’ve never asked why us or even why now. I don’t really know why. It’s honestly not because we are just so spiritually mature or our faith is so stonger or anything like that. It just hadn’t really crossed our minds or been some difficult hurdle for us to get over. I know that it is for some people, and trust me we’ve had lots of other challenges in our faith these past seven months (God, has it really been seven months?) but for whatever reason, questioning God about Kevin’s cancer wasn’t something that we’d struggled with.
But as soon as I heard about Curt, I immediately went there. And quite honestly, I’ve stayed there. I can’t get over it. I ask God, “Why? Why Curt? There are so many other guys that are total losers… why him? He was such a good guy!” Notice I don’t seem to have any trouble suggesting that he should have “chosen” someone else. Someone who wasn’t a nice guy, someone who wasn’t our friend. Like I said, we still have plenty of our own sinful challenges. Also, I find myself asking, even more selfishly, “Why this week, God? This really isn’t a good time for us. We are in the middle of this horrible time, and we have nothing left to give for anyone. No way to be there for Tammy or for Maya. Nothing to offer in the way of time, support, money, nothing. Plus, God, we are already feeling so broken, why do you have to kick us when we are down? We have been praising Your name, counting our blessings, trusting You in the midst of all of this. We have trusted You through transmissions that die on minivans three days after purchasing them. We have trusted you through squirrels in our attics, heaters that break down, sick children, sick husbands, carpenter bees, for goodness sake! We have trusted You in moving across the country without a job. We’ve trusted You and followed You and leaned on You with our daughter in the NICU, two giant insurance battles, six months of colic, houses we tried to buy and lost out on. We trusted that You had plans in all of this, and You have been faithful! We see Yoru hand all over our life, in the home we have now, in the beautiful, healthy children, even in the beautiful mess of our cancer journey. But seriously God, how do I trust You in this? When You take the life of a dear friend, so senselessly? When You leave his partner without her soulmate? When you make a mother bury her only son? Why now? We cannot bear it any longer. I cannot bear it any. longer. I am selfish, and at this moment, I have nothing left to think of or care for others. God, I am worn out and weary and at the end of my rope.”
I have found myself crying out to God so much these last two weeks. And honestly, selfishly, I wanted my prayer back. I wanted to read it on that beautifully printed card, to see if the words that had given me comfort so many times, when my own uncle died so suddenly, when Kevin’s mother passed away, when we encountered so many challenges and trials that we honestly felt we could not bear it any longer.
But the morning after Curt died, when I spoke with Maya and prayed as best I could through choking tears and a selfish heart (After all, it was her soulmate who had died, not mine) I gave Maya a bible, and asked her if she had the prayer that I’d given to Curt. She pulled it, worn and folded, out of her back pocket. She said it’s the only thing that’s made any sense, and that she reads it over and over. I knew that my prayer was exactly where it should be. Someday, I may pull the text of the prayer off the internet and type it up in a lovely font and put it up in a frame again. But for now, I simply pray these words, again and again… For Curt who will be so sorely missed by so many people, for Maya, for his mother Tammy, for myself, when this cuts so close to home as I constantly flirt with the thoughts that I too, may lose the love of my life. I say this prayer.
Be at Peace
Do not fear the changes of life, rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are will deliver you from out of them.
He has kept you hitherto, and He will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in his arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and everyday.
He will either shield you from suffering, or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
St. Francis de Sales 1567-1622