Monday, December 26, 2011
When the dermatologist's office called me after I returned home from a two-day jaunt to my daughter's and said I had to come in today (there were three messages on my answering machine), and I subsequently was told that the small biopsy from my revealed malignant melanoma, my world began to reel and rock. I barely made it out of their office, with its chaos, strange office helpers, and a myriad of instructions before the deluge of tears came. I sat in the car talking to Dave, the tears flowing as we discussed what had now interrupted the forward flow of my life: Cancer. The big C.
An appointment had been made for me with surgeon the next day, so I dutifully went to do my lab work in preparation for the surgery that would surely follow this diagnosis. I felt like I was in some sort of a bubble as I had my chest X-ray, my blood drawn. Instead of going home, I went to the grocery store to buy the food for our own Christmas Eve meal, which we had decided to hold that evening (we had plans to spend Christmas Day with our children in a faraway state). I zombied around the store, trying to keep my wobbly self intact, trying to answer this pressing, inane question: what kind of food do you prepare when you've just been diagnosed with cancer?
Answer: sauteed mushrooms, London broil steak, potatoes. Apple cake with a rich lemony butter sauce. Food that grounds you. Food that makes you shop because you have none of this in your house so it forces you to do regular little things like interact with the meat guy, smile at the checker, to stuff an extra dollar or two in the Salvation Army's red kettle on the way out of the store. To drive home. To not talk to anyone while you put away the groceries, to start the laundry for the trip you hope you'll take. To try not think. To try not to cry.
At dinner, I tell Dave about my two hands, one with a complete break of the life line, the other with a tenuous connection between the two halves of my life. I realize it's a silly thing (bunk science, he agrees) but when all the things that make your world itself, those the multiple layers of normalcy that keep you upright and sane and going forward suddenly crumble, you are left pondering the truths that an eleven-year old once believed in, yet find them wanting.
In one of the multiple phone calls and emails that followed in the next few hours, I was reminded of other dark days when the layers of normalcy were suddenly seared away. I got through them with a more mature faith, through the knowledge that there was a power much greater than an illustrated booklet. I got through them one prayer at a time, both by me and by others in my behalf. For after all is said and done, none of us control much of our mortality.
In the end, all we can do is place our trust in hands not our own, but in those of our Heavenly Father.