The Suburb Woman
Mercies In Disguise
Posted on December 10th, 2014

I’ve been having a pity party. Pitiful, I know.
I’m not the one with brain cancer. I’m not the one whose young daughter has been diagnosed with a cancerous kidney tumor. I’m not the one mourning the loss of a spouse or the excruciating loss of a child. I haven’t lost my job, I’m not fending off creditors, and I’m not living hundreds or thousands of miles away from family.
This time of year is always difficult for many. The days are shorter, trees resemble skeletons and the landscape is a muted gray bedecked by LED Christmas lights here and there.  Musicians exclaim, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” and Baby Jesus is center stage, but I’m not feeling it yet.  Even with decorations glowing a warm white at home and the possible bidding adieu to chemotherapy in a couple weeks – I just feel sad.
I know there is always a lesson when we travel to MD Anderson, but I never know how, where or who it will come from. This time, the lesson came from a child.
I heard her mother say she’s two and a half years old. She wears a ballerina shirt, sparkly pink tutu, white tights and black Ugg-like boots and has natural-curly blonde, shoulder-length hair. Her name is Abby and she appears almost angelic as she dances around her stroller, plays with her “people,” and is waiting much more patiently than I am.
I can’t tell if she’s the one waiting on a scan or if it’s her mom.  They’re a sweet pair who has calmly waited for two hours in a quiet, but crowded room.
I’ve been reading when I hear Abby exclaim, “Daddy!” I look up to see a technician bringing out a young man in a wheelchair.  It’s her daddy.  He smiles broadly with the half of his face he controls and weakly waves with the one hand he still commands. While the couple makes decisions for what appointment they will go to next and how to get there, the little angel flits around her father ready to help. “How’s you daddy?” “How’s dis daddy?” she asks as she rubs his limp hand.  “I wuv you daddy!”
As I watch the young family leave, the sweet girl holding her daddy’s hand, it strikes me, “why do I focus more on what I don’t have than what I do? Why does it have to be a certain way for me to be content?”
I see this family again today while we wait on our doctor appointment and receive the result of Mike’s MRI. This time the father is bravely walking with the use of a cane and the mom is pushing the stroller with the little ballerina tucked quietly under a blanket. I have no idea what news they just received, where they live or are going, but the young couple smiles at each other and share a kiss waiting on the elevator. They are so brave. I whisper a prayer for Abby and her daddy.
MD Anderson seems unusually crowded and I see more tears today than on our last couple of visits.  We know we won’t see Dr. Gilbert today because he is settling in as “America’s Neuro-Oncologist” at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda where we’ll see him in February. Our wait is longer than normal and we’re tense.
Mike’s name is called and he grumbles to see he’s gained a few pounds when he steps on the scale. The Trinidad-born nurse gives him some friendly ribbing as we make our way to the small exam room.  The cheerful physician’s assistant arrives to run Mike through a series of motor tests. While he touches his finger to his nose and moves his legs around they talk about the time she visited Oklahoma when her niece was a foreign exchange student from the Philippines living in Catoosa
Soon, Dr. O’Brien enters with a warm smile, shakes our hands and shares she’s disappointed to not deliver an “all clear.” There is a flare appearing near his brain midline that could be the result of changes still occurring from radiation or new tumor development – they can’t be sure which. The picture was sent to Dr. Gilbert overnight and they have spoken this morning about next steps. The upside is Mike doesn’t appear to have any new symptoms so that’s encouraging.
The plan is Dr. Gilbert wants to see Mike at NIH right after the New Year to conduct a higher resolution scan and compare it with the radiation plan that was used during his treatments a year ago. This will help him determine if the new area is in the radiation field or not and decide where to go with treatment based on those results.  We’ll also find out if December is truly the last round of chemotherapy.
Disappointed? Definitely.
Hopeless? No.
However, I did want to stick my pity party hat firmly on my head and defiantly blow my imaginary horn. But Mike looks to me for assurance and I cope by immediately focusing on the positives. “It’s going to be okay,” I smile and say. I know that’s true.
A year ago we were living in hell and even that description feels like an understatement.  The husband I kissed goodbye before surgery had not returned. He was physically there, but exhausted from treatments and emotionally detached. The kids and I along with our family were sad with the whirl of Christmas in the air and the fear of what we might be celebrating. I was emotionally fragile, full of distrust and physically drained.
A year ago I pictured December 2014 much differently. Yet, here we are – happy, fairly healthy and together.
Mike is “back” in all the ways we love. He still has his “no filter” moments, but he’s afforded those with what he is battling. He has a wonderful job with leaders who have patiently given him the time needed to get back to his A-game.  I’m blessed to be working closer to home and feel a part of a community for the first time since I left home 25 years ago. Our kids love their schools and are surrounded by wonderful teachers and great friends. We have closer, more honest relationships with family and friends who make up an invaluable support system. Plus, we made two trips to our beloved Cape Breton Island in one year!
So my pitiful party needs to stop.
Sure, it’s okay to have a good cry every now then – but I can’t live in that place. Because even in the midst of uncertainty and disappointment there is so much more to be thankful for and to celebrate this Christmas season.
On our flight home the words of a song that played continually in my head a year ago returned and are a good reminder now...
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe
'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home
'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

Posted in Our Journey    Tagged with Brain Cancer, Brain Cancer Surgery GBM, GBM4


Christi Estes - December 11th, 2014 at 7:10 AM
We used this song for our vow renewal ceremony in February. I love it and it's message. Thank you for your post. I too have been having a bit of a pity party. Each big event, tradition or holiday is relished only to be followed by a breakdown with me wallowing in fear that this one might be our last. We must concentrate on the blessings!!
Prayers that Mike continues to beat this beast. %u2764%uFE0F
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