An Unintended Journey

If not for this plain little table…

Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way. But we all know that life has a way of showing up with surprises. Especially when we least expect them. Or want them.

You, my wonderful readers, have not heard from me for a while. Nearly a month. That is because life showed up unexpectedly on August 14th: the day when my internist came into the exam room, her face half-covered with a pink mask with charcoal grey trim on top, and her eyes giving away her words to me even before she sat down and leaned toward me.

“It is lymphoma.”

Blood tests, biopsies, CT scans, a PET scan, genetic testing, all further delineated what was first seen on May 8 this year when I wound up in the emergency room at Mayo Hospital.

I had moved the table that you see above, being oh, so careful to do it correctly, with sliders even. It wasn’t that big, but it was solid pine. Heavy!!! Too heavy for a 79-year-old to be thinking of moving it…

The pain a few days later was what had sent me to the ER. I thought it was a heart problem. My family has circulatory problems in its long history. I was supposed to have a stroke. Or a heart attack.

Not cancer.

Being a top-notch medical center, the Mayo doctors had done a CT scan of my abdomen that night to see if the pain was originating from there.  They saw 5 enlarged nodes. Follow-up was recommended, and that was how I found myself hearing those words. Four of them had either shrunk or disappeared. One was enlarged further. And there was a new “smallish” undifferentiated mass as well that had shown up.

I saw “my” new hematologist who specializes in lymphomas (do you know that there are 50 of them???) a week later. Now it had a Big Name. Diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The kind seen most often in elders. Like me.

There was more, though. Genetic testing showed that two little bugger genes had decided to “rearrange” themselves, making treatment more of a problem. They call it a “double-hit” lymphoma. I am special! I always wanted to be special.

I learned all about bone marrow biopsies (the angelic doctors put me out completely!). And PET scans (looking for any more tumors anywhere in the body). And remembered the messiness of having gel all over from the echocardiogram (checking to see my heart health, since the treatment can be hard on the heart…oh, great! So my heart is part of this after all…). Nothing new was found! This is good.

The best estimate – given the rogue genes and my age of 79 – gives me a 50-50 chance of a cure. I’m going for the 50!

I shall lose my hair. A charming wig has arrived and looks quite cute. I am learning to tie turbans in 6 different ways. Otherwise, I should tolerate the treatments “quite well,” says my doctor. I intend to prove him right!

If it had not been for my “foolish” decision to move that table 22 steps from my living room to my bedroom, I would be sitting here without a clue that something so life-threatening was growing inside me. I have had no symptoms at all.

But for the table…and Grace…

I don’t know how White Hair Grace is going to fare moving ahead. I really don’t want to write “A Cancer Blog.” On the other hand, my intent has always been to lift up the graces that we may only discover in our old age. And already, there are dozens, each with the name of a loved one, friends from high school and college, people from so many places where I’ve lived; family that is surrounding me with everything possible, churches that I’ve served.

I have been so regular in publishing on Fridays. That may change. I’ll write when I can, because I don’t want to lose touch with the world outside and all of you who have so blessed me. You, too, have been grace.

As I finish writing this on Thursday, I have finally made peace with the reality that my chemo will not happen for another week: September 17th. Scheduling, you know. My doctor wanted it to begin this week. I have agonized over the long wait. But last night, I simply let go and surrendered it all. “It is what it is.”

And I was reminded of the prayer of all the Anonymous groups, written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Wisdom often lies in the very act of surrender. And unintended journeys often wind up leading us to the best and deepest graces that life offers. That is already happening.

 

27 thoughts on “An Unintended Journey

  1. I have gotten behind in my blog-minding and so have just come across your post. Someone I know has just recently started on the same journey you’re on. I will now add your name to hers on my “healing thoughts” list.

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  2. Liz, thank you so much for your encouragement. I always wait for your next post, so I know what that anticipation is like. During these weeks of chemo, I hope to have the energy to write. If I do, my writerly mind will probably not be able to resist putting some words down. Hopefully so.

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  3. I’m so sorry to hear of your cancer diagnosis, but so glad that it was caught early. Please don’t worry about posting regularly, just blog when you feel like it, and write about whatever you want to write about. If that means you write a “cancer blog” for a while, then so be it. Your honesty and optimism are a gift to your readers no matter what subject you happen to be writing about. Meanwhile, I’ll be praying that you feel God’s strength and love every step of the way through your treatment, and hopefully all the way to a cure. Take care, my friend!

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    1. My dear Ann, you are always a source of authenticity in all that you write, and I have always so appreciated your honesty and grace in facing these difficult times. Thank you for your kind words. I shall heed them!

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  4. My dear friend Martha — now we have another “thing” to share in addition to our name and worldview. Wrestling with the “c” word as it hijacks every aspect of life for a while, facing the fear and uncertainty, putting on the brave face for others, and trying to stay conscious through every bit of it to see how we can translate the experience into words that may serve in some way down the road.

    I’m so sorry that cancer will be your teacher for a while. The first assignment is to put yourself first, give yourself permission to feel all of it, ask for help, and let go of anything that you feel you’re “supposed” to be doing for other people right now (including keeping to a particular blog schedule). Choose what feels nourishing, let go of the “shoulds” if they don’t contribute to your mental or physical healing.

    Holding you in my heart and walking right next you. With virtual hugs and gratitude, TOM

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    1. Oh, Martha, my dear friend, thank you for all your wisdom and compassion and love. Going through this is an adventure at the least, and a wisdom school in the end. To have the companions on this road that are gathering is such grace. Learning to listen to the Spirit more intently than ever!

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  5. You seem to be a strong woman. You can do it! You know what they say, God gives you what you can handle. And being positive about it helps a lot. A big hug from Romania. 💕

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    1. Jo, thank you so much for those words of encouragement!! Being positive is hanging around pretty well, despite some dips of anxiety here and there. The support I’m receiving from good people like you is just a blessing. It helps!

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  6. I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, Martha. I was thinking about you just a couple of days ago, wondering if we were about due for a new post. You will remain in my thoughts as you go through your treatments.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Please let us know if you need anything. Pat and I are both cancer survivors. I know you have the personal strength to move through this short term condition. My guess is “White hair grace” will continue even without the hair. My prayers are with, call if you need anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Mike! I remember Pat’s bout, but I’d forgotten that you’ve been through this, too. So there are things you understand. As for WHG, I suspect you may be right! Can’t keep a writer down! Thank you for your prayers and your offer to talk!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is tough news. I wish you well in your upcoming treatment. If you have an interest in reading a “cancer” blog, I recommend you check out Anthony Wilson, here on WordPress. He is a poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your bright and beautiful spirit shines through in your writing of this post. It is that bright and beautiful spirit that will go through this chapter of your life. And God is there within you, pulling you forward, holding your hand each and every step of the way. Amazing that little wood table made such a difference between the road to wellness, and then the other road, of not even knowing that you needed to be healed. Praying for you, knowing we have the full confidence that God keeps His promises and never, ever, leaves us alone. Jeremiah 33:6: “I will bring health and healing.”

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I will keep you constant in my prayers. Your words and your wisdom have touched so many of my days. I pray that the blessings you have bestowed upon others will return to again and again.

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  10. I am sending out a giant thank you to that plain little table…and to you my friend…for sharing your story with such beauty and grace.

    You are in my heart….always!

    Bill

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can’t think of a kinder place to be! I’m forever grateful that 2 years ago this week, you and Sandi published my first blog piece on Oxygen Buzz, and launched me into a whole new adventure! And it has been the epitome of grace and goodness!! Thank you for every good thing you have brought into my life, and for sharing your wonderful family with me as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I will not click the star of Like on this post. But I must write and tell you I Like your last paragraph and I am rooting for you as you surrender to this next phase of living. May the Lord lead you on, filling your days with grace and peace and well-being.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True, there are times when that “Like” just doesn’t cut it! Thanks so much for your good hopes and wishes. I shall continue to bless myself as I read your wonderful blog as well. I’ve fallen behind the past couple of weeks, but I look forward to getting caught up! Hoping that your skies are not orange, and your temperatures have cooled!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. But despite the bad news your post is hopeful and positive. That’s why you received a little star from me. 🙂 💕

        Like

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