Cancer, Chemo, and College | A Daughter's Reflection

Mom and Daughter, before Mama's surgery || Courtesy Liv Waltz, from her blog

Our family has always been tight. We communicate. There are no secrets. We're accepting and forgiving. We share meals together, vacation together, run errands together, enjoy Starbucks together...we do life together.  

Our only daughter, Liv, was in Arizona visiting her boyfriend's (Jacob) family when we received the news that my wife, Laura, had breast cancer. Laura had the painful task of telling Liv over the phone. Liv experienced the equally painful reality of hearing the news about her Mama - over the phone. 

We're facing the truth: this is cancer. But, there's more. This disease isn't going to take her life. It was caught early. It was operable. However, there are months of treatment ahead of us. It IS a new chapter. Certainly for Laura, and inevitably for all of us. 

Thursday evening Liv had an impassioned conversation with me about the tension she was feeling about the plan for her and Jacob to begin their junior year of college in Indianapolis at the same time Laura's chemo and radiation journey is scheduled. She loves her Mom. This seems impossible.

She later did some writing on her blog and shared it with Laura and me. We were moved. Even inspired.  

So, i thought I'd share it with you here (or you can jump over to her blog). 

 

            At this moment, I feel angry. I can’t remember a time in my life that I felt angry with God, and I don’t even know if that’s what’s going on. I was scared when cancer was a possibility and shocked when it was a reality. I was in Arizona when I found out, so being thousands of miles away was extremely difficult, when all I wanted to do was be with Mom, but I was never angry, just anxious and upset. Being home, I haven’t been scared and there has been barely any sadness, if at all. My mom is the fiercest and most courageous woman I know and her positive reaction to all this is extremely contagious. Her incredible belief that God is holding her in the palm of His hand and wants to use her in a big way through this, is unbelievably exciting and positive for her. I feel like it’s rare for a person facing cancer to say, “let’s get this party started!” before having surgery and to be brimming with happiness that Jesus is choosing her to use in all this. So you could say our family is dealing pretty well with the big C-word, thanks to this particular cancer patient.

            I wasn’t mad when she had to have the surgery, wasn’t angry with God while I watched her recuperate for a week after… I sure wasn’t angry when we sat in the hospital and listened to the surgeon say everything went perfectly fine, it hasn’t spread at all, and chemo most likely won’t happen. I didn’t think I was mad when we heard him say in a follow-up appointment yesterday that the lump was bigger than originally thought, the cancer had just barely spread to her lymph nodes, and her being 50 all pointed to the one thing we didn’t want to hear and thought we wouldn’t have to: chemo. Her incredible, unbreakable spirit shone through immediately as she responded with, “Well, it’s life, so I’ll take it.” She’s right. Even though chemo freaking sucks, she’s alive and she’s going to get better because of this treatment. So, I cried a little, immediately feeling anxiety about college and being gone when it seemed like all this would start happening, but I didn’t feel mad. I didn’t really realize I was actually angry until I started talking out loud about what’s going to happen when August 17th rolls around and I move back to Indy to start my junior year of college.

            My poor Dad was on the other end of the conversation, sweetly trying to reassure me that we don’t even know when it will start, the kind of chemo it will be, or how often it will happen, yet. The rage in my tone kind of surprised me as I talked about how it didn’t matter, that it would be happening during the school year, and how my junior-level painting block is supposed to be the most rigorous and time-consuming year I’ve had at art school so far. Coming home on weekends and succeeding in my major seems like an extremely far-fetched possibility. Then I get so mad at myself for even comparing the two, because, duh, home and my mom and chemo is SO much more important than school. But then I hear Mom in my head saying what she did yesterday. As soon as the doctor left the room after the chemo news, I jokingly (kinda) said, “Well, I’m quitting school!” She jerked her head at me like, “not even funny,” and said, “Liv, the last thing I want is for your life to stop. I want you to live life and keep doing things you want to do.” How incredible is she? It’s just still very hard to shush the voice in my heart that’s saying, “but all I want to do is be glued to your side and laugh my butt off with you and sit by you in every chemo and radiation session and go through losing your hair with you and make taboo cancer jokes with you and pick out a wig with you and read with you and make you smile even when your body feels like death.” My mama is my best friend… why would I want to be anywhere but by her side? The last thing I want is to try to be excited about my junior year of art school and the millions of hours of painting and endless all-nighters. But I guess that it’s usually not about what I want. If it was, then it would be my selfish little life and I wouldn’t be growing or maturing or becoming the person God wants me to be. So, this sucks. But under all the sadness and the anger, I really am trusting Jesus. Obviously I have no idea how everything will go or how I’ll accomplish anything this year, but I have to trust and I believe God’s got it. So, I’ll just hush for now and hold on for the ride. 

            The amazing positive thing is that no matter how unsure the future is and how angry or doubtful I may be at times, I’m thanking Jesus for the constant downpour of support and love and prayer we’ve experienced from the very beginning of this. Hundreds are praying for my mom and our family and so many people have reached out to me, offering such reassuring wisdom. Several have been right where I am and know how I’m feeling and my close friends have been amazing. That’s something that only an all-knowing, unconditionally-loving God could provide for me. My mom feels absolutely enveloped in love and encouragement with all the prayer and comfort food and sweet words, and my dad, Jacob, and I are in absolute awe of the ways people are really rooting Mom on. We’ve experienced extreme generosity and selflessness that leaves me knowing that the God who is responsible for all these wonderful things is not going to send me away to school and leave me hopeless, wishing I was home. I have no doubt that whatever happens and how it happens will be challenging, but I’m slowly learning that the absolute best lessons that have helped me grow more than anything came out of some of the roughest phases. Whatever the next year looks like, I know I will grow, my mom will heal, and my family will continue to be cradled in the arms of Jesus and all the love He and His people have for us.

 

In the first week of this diagnosis Laura remarked, "I have a front row seat to see what God is going to do through this!" Her experience with Jesus to this point has informed her faith: God is bigger than this cancer. And he's likely up to more than merely healing her body. She has been open to whatever God wants to do to redeem this disease. She's expecting she'll learn and grow and watch God be God. 

Apparently that opportunity exists for our entire family - and the many lives Laura will touch through this season. Liv is certainly leaning in to the already difficult challenges that come with this new reality. My gals are leading the way. I'm learning. I'm inspired. I'm grateful to be making this journey together.