The Rising Up

easter picIt is Easter. It is Spring. It is the season to rise.

Last Easter I found myself in the fetal position on the floor of my parents’ bedroom.  I was dealing with intense physical pain.  The months and months of chemo had left me tired, and broken.  I was crying.  The people I love the most felt helpless as they watched me struggle.  It was a low point, for sure.  And it didn’t feel much like Easter.  Instead of rising, I was breaking, I was falling.  I was slipping under.

This Easter – for starters- I have hair! I felt like singing at church.  My muscles are sore from taking a spin class.  I laughed while my kids bit off the tops of their jellybeans and smashed the two remaining pieces together- creating their own flavors.  I had pumpkin pancakes, and coffee.  I built Legos, and drew really terrible pictures of Easter bunnies.  I shared a delicious meal with my family and friends.  This year, I felt like rising.

But I’ve come to learn that rising isn’t always this dramatic.  It doesn’t have to be broken to whole, bald to hair (crazy thick hair that I don’t know what to do with), crying to singing, weak to strong.  It doesn’t have to be that clear. Sometimes the rising happens in the in between.  Sometimes the rising happens in minutes, or moments.  Sometimes it is simply making the decision to look up, to ignore the voice of fear, to start over, to try something new, or to just realize that you are okay.  Right now in this very moment – you are okay.

Yesterday my boys were riding their bikes up and down the sidewalk while Joel worked in the yard.  I was getting dinner ready when Alex ran in the house and told me that Andy was hurt.  I ran outside and found Joel carrying a hysterical Andy towards the house.  Andy’s knee was bleeding, but he was okay.  He had attempted to follow his older brother up a steep driveway, but instead of being able to turn his bike from the driveway to the sidewalk, his tiny bike sped straight into the street and then toppled over.   Joel watched the entire thing.  He said he sprinted as fast as he could to get to Andy, but it felt like he was moving in slow motion.  All parents know this fear.  One minute we are all here, riding bikes, blowing leaves, making dinner, looking forward to snuggling up to watch Harry Potter, and eat popcorn -and the next minute life happens –and tiny bikes roll out into the street.  Andy is okay.  There wasn’t a car flying down our street at that exact moment . . . but there could have been.  After the boys were tucked in last night, Joel and I sat next to each other and together we felt the weight of the “could-have-beens” and the “what ifs.”  But we also felt grateful.  We didn’t let ourselves stay with the fear for too long.  We know our boys will be back out on their bikes.  And they will teach us about rising.

The things that break us, and make us bleed – they rip us open so that we can heal.  It will always be like this.  This cycle of winter to spring, dark to light, broken to whole.

We can’t escape this promise.




Five Slices

During one of my many oncology appointments my oncologist told me that one day this would all be behind me.  He said I would barely ever remember having cancer.

ice creamI laughed.  A sad, sarcastic laugh.  Impossible.

As the days pass, it does become easier to imagine.  There are even stretches when I forget the quiet depth of my sorrow.  Was I really all the way down beneath the waves?  Was it really that hard to breathe?

Yes. It was.

My scars remind me.  Five slices tell the short version of my story.  One small slice below my left collar bone.  The port scar.  The point of entry for chemo. For 361 days it lived there.  Shallow, beneath my skin.  And then the two half moon slices under the curve of my missing breasts.  And two more small lines just beneath each of my armpits where the drain tubes were placed after surgery.  Five slices.

There are days when I remember.  Dreading all doctor’s appointments.  Even canceling my kids’ dentist appointments out of my newly found hatred for waiting rooms.  Every three months walking back into the cancer center for a shot that shuts down my ovaries.  My racing heart, my stomach in knots,  the quick stab of pain.  And the pill that I have to take every single day.  The one that blocks estrogen.  And the waking up in the middle of night drenched in sweat.  Missing the easy way my body used to belong to me.  There are days when I remember.

And there are days when I forget.  Pushing red Target carts, sipping coffee, frustrated by traffic jams and long meetings.  Days when I am too short-tempered with my kids.  Annoyed by hundreds of Legos littering the carpet, wondering where in the hell the other matching socks have gone, shaking my head at the laundry that seems to mate and multiply between Sundays.  There are days when I forget.

And then I catch my breath.  And remind myself about how I prayed for days like this.  I begged and pleaded to have days like this.  This ordinary, extraordinary life.

And then sometimes I get chills.  Just smelling the coconut shampoo in my seven-year-old’s hair as I read him Harry Potter.  Or feeling the gentle squeeze of my four-year-old’s hand as we cross the street.  Listening to the rain outside the window, or seeing my husband asleep with moonlight on his face.  I am here.  I am still here.

And I realize, I don’t want to forget.  I don’t want to separate myself from my five slices, from memories of my ocean-deep sorrow.  I sunk deeper into the earth, and stretched higher into the clouds.

This week Alex had a piece of artwork in an art show at the mall.  As he pointed out the details of his picture, I felt my heart in my throat.  What if I would’ve missed this?  We celebrated with ice-cream and gazed up at the sky admiring the clouds.  And this ordinary, extraordinary life — felt like heaven.

alex art show