A break down of the four of us
I tell you, it has been a weird week people.
Last Monday I got great news: the tumors are shrinking.
Cue the happy dance and glee, right? Right! Of course: frolicking and toasts commenced. Celebration. WOO HOO! Period. It is a relief, a breath of hope, a change in trajectory. It is good with an ache in the word. I’m grateful. I’m amazed, and I am grateful.
One-by-one we are all mentally trying to wrap our brains around this.
First, it was Maren; with our toasting glasses still in our hands, she wanted to know if this meant shrinking tumors would eventually be gone-forever tumors. As in, no more cancer, no more cancer treatment. It was oh-so-hard to know the right thing to say in that moment, but we’ve opted for medically-statistical-truth for her, so I gently told her that the expectation is that, “No Sweet Heart. This is good news because it means the cancer is not taking over my body. But the medical team all believe that this will work for a while but that the cancer will eventually grow again.” Will it grow? Will it disappear? We don’t know. My heart bursts with pride and pain as she assimilates into our new normal along with us. On this night hope triumphed in her: her dimple flashed and her eyes were bright with joy. Our message to her beats consistently: we have circumstances (some good, some bad) to accept, we have a God who loves us, and we trust that all things will be made good. Maren is navigating challenges that far exceed what I would choose to ask of an eight-year-old, but she is growing her own gumption, courage, wit, and strength as she lives. She is exquisite, truly.
Brad — my knight who thrives on optimism and best-case-scenarios — has been tempered this week too. Joy first, for sure, but it is restrained. He knows the reality of the chemo on me and his love for me is such that he is having a hard time watching me. He alone sees me in the quiet moments. He asks to know how I’m feeling and keeps asking because he really cares. He promises me I’m not whining when I tell him, “I’m tired,” and “I’m tired of being tired,” for the six.hundredth.time. There’s brutal beauty in my not hiding it from him. Truly I try not to “hide” it from anyone (helloooo internet over-sharing), but when I am out-and-about in my world, I have my Fun Jen hat on. She’s a lot more fun to take places than Tired Jen, so my quiet energy buffering and planning takes place mostly in the quiet of my happy places in my home. I really am authentically Fun Jen when I’m out, but — dang it — I work for her in the quiet. Brad loves me so well in whatever literal and figurative space I’m in at that hour. He is my defender, my guardian, my hero.
Personally, my brain is whirling and I, frankly, feel entirely discombobulated. I’m big on being intentional, focusing on what I can impact, and making positive choices. I have (I think) a solid understanding of who I am, but I am processing a lot of thoughts, swirling feelings, and legitimate limitations as they evolve. It is a lot. I’ve had a series of occasions over the past weeks where I’ve behaved like and felt like a schmuck–LOL, even moreso than usual, anyway. I need the grace, time and patience to Do Today Well. Do This Ten-Minute Window Well is also a very real thing because some days are long. Do This Board Game with Greta Well. (Rest). Do This After School Round Up Conversation with Maren Well. (Rest). One way to explain it is that I’m “smaller”; I have less of all the activities that make me feel like Jen. And, even when I’m not “doing”, I feel like I have the flu most of the time and I don’t often wake up rested or energetic. So the challenge is both simple and complex, as all good challenges are: be Jen. There’s ferocity in the fight. Thankfully, I am fierce, and I fight for good in every aspect. Despite all the challenges I’m trying to explain to you above, I feel I am living a rich, full, beautiful and brilliant life. Today, yesterday, tomorrow. Boom. That’s me being fierce. I’m joyful. I’m happy. I’m good.
Greta is our sweet comic relief. She doesn’t understand the depth of our circumstances so we all get a break in a way when we focus on her. In her small-but-growing world, she is loving and beloved. She is thriving in an independent and service-oriented streak around the house, which is such a blessing. Right? What four-year-old gets up before Mom and big sister and proceeds to make breakfast for the two girls? Yogurt, fruit, and an un-toasted mini bagel is her go-to menu. It’s not normal, but it’s something that she started doing a few weeks? months? ago, and she delights in it. I don’t spend too much time wondering whether she’s overburdened or taking on too much responsibility because she exudes such joy in her effort. She’s proud of herself, I’m proud of her. Her fashionista trends continue: after her breakfast, she spends many minutes in her closet sampling different mis-matches. Thankfully, this month, she has begun putting the clothes not chosen back in the cubbies. This is big, people, this is big. Her random plentiful affection, her service, and her gusto add much dimension to my days. She is oh-so-luminous.
This post is real and it was hard to write because I think it shines on the dark side of our story–not dark as in bad, but dark as in unseen or hidden. The light is brilliantly cast in the first-response, the face-value, the shiny report, the regression. (And cue the spotlight please: da-da-da-DUMMMMM REGRESSION! WOO! THIS CAN NOT BE WOO HOO’ed ENOUGH!) The dark side is the rounding out of the whole story: what it looks and feels like to walk our life out. Today I lit up the whole 360 picture (I hope). I hope that our family continues to be known as adventures, problem solvers, givers, Jesus lovers, relationship dwellers, joy seekers, and inspires others to do the same. Highlighting our challenges — even challenges during the best week of our year — is vulnerable. I hope that you see our goodness far, far outshines our challenges. I’m proud of us. Thanks for reading: for knowing us, for praying for us, for serving us, and — most of all — for loving us in your way. We are blessed.