January 23, 2015 . . . It was a normal day in Lexington, SC. It was also my brother’s birthday, so I called him (not normal . . . I usually forget). This time, I had more to say than “Happy Birthday.” I had to tell him I was on the way to the hospital. Earlier that day, I had an MRI because one of my eyelids had been swollen for a week or so. Three hours later, my doctor called and told me to go to the hospital. They had a room ready for me, because the MRI showed “an infection” touching my brain.
Little did I know that that was the first night of a year that would be filled with pokes, prods, scans, fears, tears, insertion of a PICC line, daily self-administered IV treatments for hours at a time, at-home nurse visits, misdiagnoses, allergic reactions to medicines, a craniotomy, a port surgery, chemo, hair loss and other side effects, hospital stays, lots of trips to Charleston for doctor appointments, and much more prayer for myself than I usually offer up . . . oh, and a job change for Eric, yet another move for us, another new school for the kids where they would know no one, a search for a new church, starting over with new doctors (and new out-of-pocket expenses), the sale of a house, multiple house-hunting trips while going through cancer treatment, and a purchase of a new house in the suburbs of Atlanta.
Today, I painted a room in that house. That’s kind of a big deal, because it was just so . . . normal. The last 363 days have not contained a lot of normal for me. I’m exhausted right now, as I am still not at 100% strength, but I did it. Tomorrow, another big deal happens . . . my port is being removed.
I must confess that I’m a little nervous. Truthfully, while I am so thankful there are doctors, nurses, technicians, and hospitals to deal with those of us who have a year (or often many years) of the abnormal, I am tired of it. I don’t like being poked and prodded, slit open and sewn back together. (Prayers greatly appreciated that all will go well!)
And another confession . . . I’m scared that I may need that port again. It’s how my chemo was administered and my blood is drawn and my contrast for my scans is given. What if, once it comes out, the cancer comes back? The first two years is the most common reoccurrence time frame. Most people don’t keep the port in for two years, as it has to be flushed regularly to make sure a clot doesn’t form. The doctors won’t tell me what the normal time frame is for removing ports. I get the generic “anywhere from two months to a year” answer. So, is now the right time? It’s scheduled, so I guess it is for me.
Once the port is gone, my only visible, daily reminder that I had cancer will be my hairstyle. My hair is now short (until it grows out), curly, and red (because gray is just not my color). Yet another confession . . . I don’t like it. I feel very self-conscious about it (because I’m quite sure my hairstyle is a real concern for most people I see :-/.) Still, I truly am grateful my hair is growing back, and I spend entirely too much time looking in the mirror and stretching the strands out straight to see if maybe it’s just a little bit longer today than it was yesterday – a great use of my time, I know. It’s totally different in thickness and texture and style than before January 23, 2015. But now, it is my new normal.
As I reflect on the past year, I wonder what normal is anymore. I think I put far too much emphasis on life being normal or my feeling normal in the past. In an instant, on a normal day driving through car line at school, it all changed for me. I can’t help but wonder what this next year holds in store. Will it seem normal? Am I going to be obsessed with wanting to feel normal again? I don’t know. But I do think I want to look back in another year and know that whatever the year has held, some things will be normal for me: loving my family well, being grateful to God for each day, encouraging those who are struggling, praying regularly for those on my radar, spending time in God’s Word daily, using my time purposefully, using my words to build up and not tear down, and trusting that my normal is in God’s good and sovereign hands regardless what may happen. I hope this will be my consistent normal and yours, too.
And I hope I will remember to call my brother and tell him “Happy Birthday!" . . . and have nothing else to say.