Today is August 23, 2023. It was one year ago today that the first suspicious spots under my tongue were noticed (read more about that here.) which turned out to be cancer. Over the past few weeks, I have given a lot of thought to what I’ve been feeling as **this** day approached. It seems like everything in my life has changed over the past 12 months. A year ago, I was living in my own house in Illinois with my husband. Now, I live in a lovely “apartment” with my eldest daughter and her family in their home in Iowa. John is doing well and receiving excellent care at a Veteran’s Home. I miss John. I miss my hometown. I miss being a homeowner with the space to hold items that were dear to me. I miss my friends. I miss my independence.
My health is improving, but there have been and will continue to be some physical challenges along the way. The quick succession of surgeries in late 2022 certainly took their toll on this old body. At the time of the December surgery, I was told to expect it to take 6 months before I began to feel like myself. That prediction was spot on. After so many weeks of being off my game, I am having to fight hard to get back to where I was when all of this started. I’m not there yet but I’m getting closer.
My speech impediments are permanent and drive me bonkers, although everyone tells me I am doing well and they can understand me “just fine.” I believe them, I really do. But there is no denying that both the quality of my voice and my articulation have changed since the Big C. I’ve spent a lifetime as a public speaker so this is a tough reality to accept. As my speech therapist keeps reminding me, “Your anatomy isn’t the same anymore.” Yeah. I know.
It’s not only my anatomy and overall health that have changed. It’s where I live, who I live with, how I fill my days, what I can and cannot eat, what I wear (I lost over 50 pounds along the way…), where I worship, who I socialize with, my very livelihood and career, my independence…the list goes on. The bottom line is not a big news flash but it is the cold, hard truth: Change is hard, and change can bring waves of grief. If you know people who are experiencing change, please give them your support and patience. They probably need it more than they can even put into words.
Now, before you get to thinking this is a “poor, pitiful me” post, you need to keep reading because it is not. I am blessed and I am alive! There are many people who have not had the positive health outcomes that I am experiencing. There are people who die from this cancer, including one sweet gal who was one of my strongest supporters on this journey and recently died. I’m still here and so far, all is well. There are too many folks who are not getting the quality care that John is receiving. There are families who are unable — or unwilling — to turn their lives upside down to take in a sick and aging parent the way that my family cares for me. And while it saddens me to realize that there were people in my life who no longer are, I am blessed with some precious friends who continue to make the effort to stay connected. I am making new friends, too. I remember a round I learned in Brownies and sing it in my mind as I type: “Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.”
My space in my new home is comfortable and pretty. I still have room for the most precious of my belongings, although only after being heavily culled. Having a place for my piano and organ was no small accomplishment but we did it! I have a new wardrobe. I can now eat almost anything I want as long as it’s soft, I eat slowly, start with tiny pieces, and keep lots of water nearby. I spend more happy time with two of my grandkids than I ever dreamed possible. I’ve grown closer to my daughter as the beautiful woman she has become, not just as my child. I’ve come to love and appreciate my son-in-law for his character and dedication in leading his family’s faith journey.
Is there anything that hasn’t changed? Yes… and no. The one thing that has been a constant this year is my faith in God. The confidence I have in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God has never wavered and has sustained me in a way nothing else could ever do. Yet, if I am being honest with you, even my faith has gone through some changes. I’ve come to truly cherish the massive difference between a lifelong familiarity with the Psalmist’s words “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” and living it. Whew. That’s a biggie. I am constantly reminded of God’s presence in my life in ways big and small. Things that the world might see as coincidences, I accept as God’s reminders that He is paying attention to even little ol’ me.
I matter to God. So do you.
After a year of intense physical pain, emotional anguish, and heartbreaking changes, I am finally truly looking ahead with hope and joy. I’m ready to face the future. I’m learning to be content with what is without dwelling on what was. I end each of my History Heights YouTube videos with the same words. They have taken on a new and very personal significance for me this year.
“We can learn from the past but we do not live there. Go be awesome today, and make your own history.”~Gail Masinda