Monday, September 8, 2014


Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my surgery for uterine cancer.

Isn't muscle memory weird? My head told me that I had great reason to celebrate! Whew! Thanks to modern medicine I am cancer free, healthy, not terribly wealthy or wise, but a wiseacre, at times.

In church yesterday morning I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving to God, so grateful for healing, for all the support we received, for a litany of goodness. We have been very blessed in our life. I am surrounded by friends and family who have my back.

But off and on over the weekend, I kinda felt like crying.

Muscle memory.

My priest suggests that it is very important to acknowledge this muscle memory and take it to our healer.

If we don't, it might ooze out or explode out in ways that we don't wish.

For me, these kind of anniversaries make me wish for a bit of solitude. I don't really feel like baring my soul to every soul I meet, so it helps to have some margin for silence. Tears flow easily, so I make sure to have room to cry. There are times I wish for a comforting friend, but often it feels better to sit on the swing by myself, write for a few minutes, name the feelings, then jump up to get back to work.

So this weekend, I cooked a couple of nice meals to share with the children. I took myself on a date, bicycling to the theater to watch a movie (100 Foot Journey) all by myself. I took a nap, both on Saturday and Sunday! I had a quiet walk with the dogs and a neighbor.

I remembered how frightening it was to receive the diagnosis. I remembered how scary it was to wait on the operating table, wondering what the results would be. I remembered how much it hurt to get an IV put into my dehydrated arm, and thinking that I was such a wimp for being scared, all the time fighting the deeper fear of what might become of my children should the doctors find the cancer advanced.

Throughout the mix, feelings of optimism, fear, faith, guilt, gratitude, pain, hope, anger and love swirled around like soup in a pot.

As you know by now, I was one of the lucky people with a great diagnosis. Cancer was in its early stages. A total hysterectomy plus removal of cervix and ovaries seemed to completely remove the cancer. I see the oncologists every three months and they laugh at me because of my busy, hard-working schedule and good health. I pray to be the woman mentioned in Proverbs 31 who is clothed in strength and dignity, able to laugh without fear of the future. I wish to be that example for my children.

And yet, moments like the anniversary this weekend remind me I am not quite there. I usually have to cry a little before I get back to laughing. I have other friends who are dealing with much more severe diagnoses than mine. Their children are younger than mine. I pray. Others pray. We hold each other up, sometimes spiritually, sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes in each other's arms.

This weekend we had a long spell of clouds and rain. Temperatures in the 60's and 70's. The perfume of wet pine needles and creosote ministered to me. The heavy blanket of clouds comforted me like the beautiful blue prayer shawl Susie Mason knitted for me after Philip died. In fact, I snuggled up with that shawl at nap time, windows open, raindrops fallings, and felt deeply covered by prayers, echoes of hugs, love.

I know that in our culture we are told to move on. To forget about the past and shake it off and slap a smile on our face.

Nice idea, but I find that listening to my heart and my body not only moves me to deeper gratitude, but it also leads to deeper compassion toward others. And once I acknowledge whatever the memory is, I seem to be able to bounce back, get to work, and move on more energetically and happily. Which is what I had better do right now! Empty boxes surround me in the bakery from a large shipment of ingredients that came into the bakery on Saturday afternoon. The paperwork needs to get filed and the fourth load of wash needs to go onto the line or into the dryer. And where did I set that cup of coffee???

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