Some of you may know that I used to have another blog. (I’m going to transfer the essays to this website. But, if you really want to, you can check it out here.) One of our local new stations did a news story about it. A news crew came to my house and it was fun to get a little publicity. It was my five minutes…
But, after the tragedy and devastation of Louisiana’s Thousand Year Flood, I took a hiatus. Many of our friends were suffering. And, it became my family’s focus to help others heal.
Why did that mean I had to stop writing? Well, it’s complicated. But, one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, says, “Write from your scars, not your open wounds.”
As I was blogging through Cancer 1 (my first round with cancer), I was writing from open wounds. I would write in the chemo chair. I would write late at night, in worried states of insomnia. I would write after small peaceful family moments. I was writing through the journey.
After several blog posts, I felt like maybe I was oversharing. I was making my story and my struggle very public. I was writing from open wounds, not scars. It started to feel heavy and overwhelming. I found myself taking those beautiful life moments and viewing them as “material.” I needed to stop feeling like I was some sort of cancer-cheerleader…some sort of expert on faith or suffering or grace. Because I wasn’t. I was the opposite. I was a was a wife, a mother, a cancer patient, a tiny human in survival mode. I just needed to focus on BEing and healing… So that’s what I did. I took a 10-month break. Though I continued to write, I kept it private. Words for me. Words for my family. Words for my heart.
It was always my intention to blog again. Writing is therapy for me. It is cathartic and liberating and healing. It is part of my process of becoming whole again. But, I knew that if and when I blogged again, I didn’t want to write exclusively about cancer. I wanted to write about God and grace and healing. I wanted to change the name of my blog. I wanted to switch gears from the pink ribbons and the “let’s fight” vibe. That theme was appropriate then. But, the situation and the season has changed.
I knew that I wanted to share the beautiful experiences I have encountered over the past year at MD Anderson, on the streets of Baton Rouge, or in my backyard. Now, here I am: one year and one-hundred tumors later. (Literally. I have more than one hundred tumors in my lungs.) I never thought that I would write about living with cancer again. But, this is my experience. This is what I have to offer.
Anne Lamont, the brilliant author, once said about writing, “You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart — your stories, memories, visions, and songs. Your truth, your version of things, your own voice. That is really all you have to offer us. And that’s also why you were born.” (She’s wise and hilarious and spiritual. I adore her. You can check out her awesome TED Talk here.)
Really, Annie? I’m going to feel like hell if I don’t write all the stories in my head and heart? Well, cancer and chemo and treatment already make me feel like hell. So, I don’t want to add to that by not writing. So, I suppose I should get back to doing something that gives me pleasure. Something that gives me an outlet. Thus, here I am: back at the keyboard.
A few months after my last radiation treatment I lost my mind and convinced W that we needed a puppy. I read somewhere that petting a dog actually causes the human body to release the hormone relaxin (which is exactly like it sounds: an anti-stress hormone.) This “relaxin” factoid was part of my very aggressive sales pitch for why our family desperately needed a mini goldendoodle (part golden retriever, part poodle.)
As a side note, I once had a very unsuccessful sales career. I sold college textbooks and curriculum. I would spend my days on college campuses, visiting professors. Occasionally, I would forget that I was supposed to be selling stuff. And, often times, after a sales meeting, the professor and I would be best buds. I would know all about her painful divorce, that time she met Boy George in a hotel elevator, and how she dreamed of becoming a charter yacht captain who never shaved her legs again. I love people. And, I love hearing people’s stories. But, my boss kept wanting me to, you know, sell stuff. (So annoying.) So, the book company and I parted ways. FYI, my husband is a sales manager. He once told me that he would marry me, have babies with me, spend all his money on me, but NEVER would he hire me to sell something.
All of that to say: I am still shocked that I was able to close the puppy deal. To this day, Will claims he was duped. I think I finally found a product that I believed in. I think I’m a sales all star!
Last November, we picked up our new family member, Lulu Sparkles, from a mom and pop breeder in Texas. This tiny creature was absolutely perfect. Her little squeaky yawns, her droopy brown eyes, and her warm stinky puppy breath warmed my soul to its ooey-gooy center. Puppy bliss was in full effect.
Then she started to destroy our home. Her favorite chew toys are plastic doll parts. Nothing says “yum” like Barbie’s leg. Moana, Elsa, Shimmer, Shine… You name it. They are ALL missing their hands and feet. Lulu also loved to poop in covert locations that would not be revealed until the foul odor spread throughout the room. You know those YouTube surprise-egg videos that kids love? (Does anyone else think they are really weird and obnoxious?!) Well, Lulu would leave surprise eggs on my nice rugs and under the coffee table.
But, my favorite Lulu-ism is how she would grab a dirty diaper from out of the garbage. (Tell me again why de don’t have a Diaper Genie or trash cans with lids?) Then, she would take said diaper, and army crawl under MY BED (my king size bed) and snack on the damn thing. Layer by filthy layer. And, she would do this right in the center of the bed bunker, so I couldn’t reach her. I wouldn’t even realize that this happened until I found a trail of diaper shards sprinkled around my bed. Are you freaking kidding me?! Alert! Alert! Where is the relaxin?! I’ll tell you where it’s not… it’s not under my bed wrapped up in a half eaten poo diaper!!
Now, imagine Veronica going strait LOCA–with a gumbo of profanity spilling out of my mouth with the name “Lulu” intermittently mixed in.
Damnit, Lulu…. You fuzzy-wuzzy, darling, little disgusting little $&@#%!!! Don’t you DARE lick my face right now, caca-breath!! Ahhh!!!!
Since I was so adamant on this whole puppy thing, I often took it upon myself to take Lulu outside to potty. One particular chilly night in December, I was outside with Lulu, feeling annoyed. It was cold; I wanted to be under the covers, and Lulu was just poking around the grass pouncing on crickets, doing everything but her business.
“Come on, Lu,” I pleaded, as my warm breath contrasted with the cold air. I tugged at her leash.
Then something shifted. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was bundled up, and shuttering at the chill. I looked up at the winter sky. It was deep and dark and vast and absolutely full of stars. Bright, silver wondrous stars. This glorious sight took my breath away. I forgot about Lulu. I forgot about being cold. I felt suspended in beauty. I felt hypnotized by grace and miracles and mystery. I smiled and whispered, “there you are.”
I was speaking to God. I was marveling at the Great Creator, the Holy Spirit… And how His presence was so obvious in this majestic Christmas sky. I chuckled to myself, somewhat embarrassed in the realization that it took puppy potty-training for me to step outside, raise my face the heavens, and see the shining light.
From that night on, I looked forward to my walks with Lulu. It became like a secret rendezvous between God and me. I would sneak away from Disney Junior and my never-ending “to do” lists to catch a glimpse of my Beautiful Love.
In the mornings I started to notice the subtle flutter in the leaves on the branches of trees. “There you are,” I would say. I would notice the perfect formation of migrating geese flying through the royal blue sky. “There you are.” Every time I said these words, I felt comfort. I felt joy. I felt like I was staring at one of those optical illusion paintings. The ones where you can see the two faces faces or the wine glass or the guys playing guitar? Well, I had always seen things one way, and I was finally starting to see all the butterflies and rainbows and birds and trees and clouds and love and miracles.
I was finally starting to get it.
“There you are” became my mantra. I knew that if I was going to blog again, it most certainly had to be about the there you are moments. I had to write about how my life has been so radically transformed. I had to write about how it took the trauma of cancer, having my world end (and begin again) and a mini goldendoodle named Lulu to see the world in this new way.
I wish that metastatic breast cancer wasn’t part of my new blog. Hell, I wish it wasn’t part of my life at all. I never thought this was how my thirties, my marriage, and motherhood would be. But, I must let go of how I thought my life would be. Lamenting on an old narrative doesn’t serve me. It only hurts me.
Cheryl Strayed said it best: “Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
This is my truth. This is my story. And, I refuse to surrender my joy.
So, here we are again. And, there you are, my beautiful God. There you are.
It’s good to write again.
Here are some pics that make me melt and whisper, “there you are.”