Cancer Tourettes

Lest any of you think it’s been all theological revelations by the fire and completely healthy emotional processing of my husband’s recent cancer diagnosis, please let me shatter those illusions.

But first, I have to start with a story. A few months ago, while Adam was in the midst of medical tests and we were still awaiting a diagnosis for the huge mass on Adam’s neck, we invited a friend over to watch one of our all-time favorite movies: What About Bob? Years of work in the mental health field plus Bill Murray make this movie insanely hilarious to me. Humor is a good remedy for anxious-waiting.

What About Bob? is a story about an emotionally disturbed man (Bob Wiley) who eventually gets well, but in the process, he makes his Psychologist (Dr. Leo Marvin) go mad. There are so many scenes that make me laugh til my stomach hurts.

But on this particular anxiety-ridden aforementioned night, the scene that had me in stitches was the one where Bob Wiley (Bill Murary) and Sigmund Marvin (the psychologist’s kid) are jumping on the beds pretending they have Tourette’s and screaming obscenities in hilarious combinations.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid in a conservative Christian home where swearing was not an option.  We weren’t even supposed to say g-rated cuss-word knock offs like “gosh”, “darn”, or “fart” (not sure how fart made it on the list but it did). I grew up learning to be really careful with my word choices.

Combine ingrained word-caution that with my natural inclination toward perfection and people-pleasing and you’ve got someone who has learned to weigh her words to give off the impression that she has things together.

But on October 2, Adam got diagnosed with cancer and I fell apart. There’s been nothing “together” about me for the last few months. Most nights you can find a pile of tissues somewhere around the house (sometimes two or three).  I understand what the Psalmist meant in chapter 42 when he says “tears have been my food.”

photo

It’s not just sadness (but it’s a lot of sadness). It’s also anxiety, fear, and anger.  And because I don’t have a lot of energy to do much other than get through each day right now, I’ve decided there is no sense wasting energy on filtering my words.

So just like Bob Wiley, I gave myself Tourettes – More specifically, I gave myself “Cancer Tourettes”.

Cancer Tourettes means that I get to say what I’m thinking. This includes (but is not limited to):

* Cussing

* Yelling

* And Cuss-Yelling

At least that’s how my Cancer Tourettes started.

My newfound free vocabulary typically leads Adam and I to fits of laughter. Since I didn’t try out swearing when I was in 4th grade like most kids, I’m like a 4th grader when I drop a bomb now. So Cancer Tourettes is a good humor break.

But it’s also more than that.  Cancer Tourettes, we’ll call it CT for short, has led to me be less calculated and more honest.

CT has paved the way for me to admit when I am sad, mad, disappointed, and anxious without feeling compelled to wrap a nice bow around it. CT has enabled me to say, “I’m having a really hard day” and stop there without having to tack a theological ditty about God’s faithfulness or new mercies being available the following morning or a note that others have it worse than us on the end of it. CT has taught me to be honest in my prayers without trying to figure out what I am supposed to pray (cuss-yelling in prayers is a real new thing for me but God can handle it). Cancer Tourettes has turned into a good thing for me.

So don’t be surprised if in a conversation with me, there’s a new grit, honesty, or even vocabulary; it’s a new thing I’m trying out. The cancer is only temporary, the doctors are telling us, but I don’t know about the Tourettes.

*PS, I know that as a Social Worker, I should probably not even write this post, or at the very least acknowledge that Tourette Syndrome is a real disease that rarely looks like yelling obscenities and it’s not funny and the media has twisted it. But I’m working on not filtering everything I say, so can we just agree to hold this post as a lighthearted one in the midst of a lot of heaviness?

*PPS with Thanksgiving fast approaching, I leave you my most favorite table etiquette scene of all time (of course from What About Bob?)

Posted in Life, Various and Sundry | 4 Comments

Why Does Adam Have Cancer?

I’ve been reading a lot lately; mostly novels. It’s nice to have some fluff in my life. I started re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia a few months ago, and had taken a break, but now seemed a good season to dig back in. So I picked up the Horse and His Boy and trudged through. Some books suck me right in but this one felt like a chore until the end, and then it got real good (and much less fluffy).

At the very end of the book (spoiler alert), Shasta (the main character), encounters Aslan on a rocky, foggy trek (he doesn’t yet know it’s Aslan). And in that encounter, Aslan reveals that He has been the one who caused some of the hardest, most confusing, and seemingly unfair moments of Shasta’s life, and that He has also been the one who caused some of the most redeeming and beautiful moments of Shasta’s life. And Aslan reveals that both the hard and the good had a greater purpose.

And in the middle of Aslan revealing the purposes for both the hard and the redeeming moments, Shasta asks about some painful moments that his friend has experienced.

And Aslan stops Shasta and says, “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one his story but his own.”

And then Shasta asks, “Who are you?”

And Aslan responds:

“Myself,” said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again, “Myself,” loud and clear and gay: and then the third time, “Myself,” whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.

And after I re-read the page several times, I put the book down and did some good thinking.

We’ve had a lot of friends tell us they’ve been wrestling with why Adam has cancer. It seems as though some of our dear ones are struggling with ‘why bad things happen to good people?’ and others are struggling with ‘why Adam and not someone else?’, and still others wondering ‘who or what is the cause of this?’ They’ve told us they’re wondering, ‘Did Satan cause this to happen?’ or ‘Did God allow this to happen?’

We don’t know why Adam has cancer, but we also aren’t really asking that question. I’m not saying that at some point on or after this journey we won’t wrestle with this question, but to be honest, neither of us are asking God why Adam has cancer. Instead, we are clinging to the knowledge that God has already written our story, that he will reveal that story to us in time, and that God is good.

It doesn’t help to ask why our path has seemed steep, narrow, rocky, and unrelenting in seasons, while others seem to have a wide, flat road to travel. Comparison doesn’t help navigate our path. We trust that God has caused good and bad in our lives for His purposes.

We have lived through hard seasons before. Not this kind of hard, but hard nonetheless, and here’s what we have learned each time:

*  God is faithful

*  God redeems

* God can make all things new

* God is good

I’ve been reading some less fluffy books, too, and the same week that I finished The Horse and His Boy, I read this bit from Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow: “God doesn’t sit back as a passive observer and allow circumstances of Satan to hurt us, only to step in afterward and say optimistically, “I can make this into something good.” He has a purpose and design in what is happening to us from the beginning, and even thought what is happening to us might not be good, God intends it all for ultimate good.”

We don’t know why Adam has cancer, and I suspect we will never know. And that’s ok. Instead of pondering questions we’ll never know the answer to, we’re resting in the knowledge that God has a purpose in the story of our lives.

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” – Romans 8:28.

Posted in Life, Various and Sundry | 8 Comments

I Don’t Have Words

blog picI’ve always had a lot of words.  As a baby, I found my words early.  As an elementary school student, I got frequent notes from teachers telling my parents that I needed to be less chatty.  As a social work student doing lots of introspection, I learned that I was a verbal processor with a side of extrovert.

But lately, I’ve struggled to find words.  Many days, I simply don’t have words to text, to email, to talk on the phone, or even to pray.

There are no words to describe the depths of sadness I feel about Adam’s diagnosis. There are no words to describe the heights of fear I feel about cancer. There are no words to describe the weight of exhaustion I feel to my bones.

Lately, I find myself being silent and craving silence.  I’ve been commuting to work with no music and sitting on the back porch listening to only the wind.  There’s been something so calming and peaceful about silence in the midst of the swirling diagnosis that’s been screaming for so much of my energy.

I worried for a bit that I wasn’t praying enough.  I worried that God might not heal Adam if I weren’t asking for it often enough. Cancer tests all the differing theology you’ve been taught over the years.

But then I was reminded that Adam and I not alone in this.  We have hundreds of people praying around the world for Adam; praying the words we’ve lost. I was reminded that God doesn’t need my words to be who He is. I was reminded that the Holy Spirit is interceding for Adam. I was reminded that silence is sacred.

And so I sit in guiltless silence often now. And in that silence, I know God’s goodness and I feel His sweetness. And I gain strength.

My friend sent me this poem by one of my favorites, Amy Carmichael, and I wept.  This is what I wish I could write:

Wordless Prayer – by Amy Carmichael

O Lord, my heart is all a prayer, 

But it is silent unto Thee;

I am too tired to look for words,

I rest upon Thy sympathy

To understand when I am dumb;

And well I know Thou hearest me.

I know Thou hearest me because

A quiet peace comes down to me,

And fills the places where before

Weak thoughts were wandering wearily;

And deep within me it is calm,

Though waves are tossing outwardly.

Posted in Life, Various and Sundry, Walking with God | 13 Comments

What Kind of Cancer Is It?

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected in some way by cancer. It’s an awful disease that changes lives and takes lives. And because we all have a connection to cancer, talking about cancer is tricky. It’s more than tricky, it’s a trigger. The word ‘cancer’ triggers pain, fear, anger, and memories. It’s hard to separate our own cancer triggers from another’s cancer story.

We started understanding this when we began sharing that Adam had cancer.

“Adam has cancer” was met with:

“I lost my (insert varied family members) to cancer ____ years ago.”

“What kind of cancer is it?  I know someone who had that kind of cancer.”

“Chemo is hard. You have a long journey ahead.”

“I read on the internet that with that kind of cancer, _______…”

(you get the picture)

We noticed quickly that the more details we told about Adam’s diagnosis and course of treatment, the more tricky and triggered responses we got. And right now, tricky and triggered responses aren’t really helpful to us because we’re still really raw and fragile from a new, scary diagnosis.

Comparing Adam’s cancer to someone else’s cancer isn’t very helpful to us.  There’s not really a correlation from one cancer story to another.  Just because someone died or survived from a similar type of cancer doesn’t mean that Adam will have the same outcome.

As I process through all of this, I realize how many times I’ve investigated rather than said, “I’m sorry, this is awful” when friends have shared hard news.  I recognize that I can go into case manager mode rather than sit in the mess mode. I’ve been reflecting on how often I compare sad stories so I can wrap my head around just how sad things are, or how ok things will turn out.

Comparison stories rarely help any of us, especially when we are fumbling through the darkness. What we need, instead, are people to be present, to shine light in our darkness, or at least to be present with us, so the dark isn’t so scary.

A lot of people have cancer.

A lot of people have different types of cancer.

A lot of people have different stages of different types of cancer.

A lot of people have variable health conditions (gender, age, and other life situations) that make their stages of different types of cancer…  well, different.

Every cancer story is unique.

Ours will be no different.

So, we’ve decided not to share many details about Adam’s cancer. There’s no sense triggering your memories, and there’s no amount of information that will help you wrap your head around it.  Trust me on that.  We know the full diagnosis and we’re still in shock.

I think sometimes we forget that understanding more information doesn’t make us more understanding.

So what kind of cancer is it?

It’s cancer.  And it sucks. And the doctors think it’s treatable. And we believe Adam is going to beat this.

Posted in Life, Various and Sundry | 20 Comments

For Those Who Have Asked “How Can I Help?”

The past two weeks have been a blur of emotions, appointments, medication management, and side effects. Everything has felt very new and very hard, and our normal has been incredibly interrupted.

Had it not been for other people holding us, I think we might have just fallen apart.

So many people have asked, “What can I do to help?” and have genuinely meant it – which is so humbling and appreciated. It has taken us a few days to begin to figure out what we need. We still don’t completely know, but we’re beginning to get a sense of that now that we are learning our temporary new normal.

A dear friend set up a website that will allow us to share how we need help. This site will be a way for us to update our people about prayer needs, praises, and practical needs. Feel free to check it out once in awhile or subscribe for updates. Some wonderful friends have taken the lead in coordinating our care: Meals, House/Yard management, and Fun. Feel free to look around the site and contact them if you want to sign on.

I don’t know about your dreams, but in my nightmares, nothing is good. The only reason the last two weeks haven’t been a full-blown nightmare is because of people loving us, caring for us, and checking on us. Our sweet people have brought glimmers of light into the darkest days and nights we have known.

Thank you for the emails, facebook comments & messages, cards, texts, gluten-free cupcake deliveries, videos of your kiddos cheering Adam on, yard-mowing, lunch deliveries, messages, Scriptures, puns, house cleaning, weird gifs, care packages, handmade love, Gatorade, chocolate, and sour patch kids. (Adam’s glucose test came back a little high today, I wonder why?)

Your love is a tangible reminder of God’s love for us. And as the days get harder, we will continue to appreciate you, our sweet people. We’ve started a Grace Journal to document all the ways we have been shown grace in these days. It is such an encouragement to us.

There are few things more intimidating than this diagnosis, but making sure that we are not having to walk this alone means the world to us. If you want to check out the site, go here. We love you. Thanks for continuing to hold us together.

Posted in Community, Life, Various and Sundry | 4 Comments

Day 1 Is In the Books

Yesterday was surreal.

We arrived at the hospital at 7:45am for Chemo Orientation where we spent an hour trying to hear and process the risks, side effects, and hopes about the chemicals that were about to be administered to my husband’s body.  With questions still swirling and anxiety building, we walked into the chemo room (cue visions of season 4 of Parenthood)

The chemo room is a large room with 30 hospital versions of La-Z Boys (envision a dentist chair that reclines and retracts) each with their own IV machine and a visitor chair.  Studies have shown that folks heal better in community, so the room is open.  Everyone can see each other.

I’m sure I stared. I stared at the man to my left who was thin as a rail and aged by pain. I stared at the woman to my right whose skin was a hue that no human skin should be. But I wasn’t the only one staring. They stared at us, too. They stared at Adam’s full head of hair and lumberjack beard, they stared at how young we are, they stared as we cried when they administered the first bag of chemo.  We all stared at each other. We talked a little, but it’s hard to make small talk when you know already the hardest thing about someone’s life just because you’re all in the same room together.

We spent the next 8 hours watching bags of clear liquids drip into Adam’s body slowly, methodically, almost rhythmically. His IV machine makes a whirring, ticking noise that almost lulled me to calm, until I remembered that very machine was administering poison into my husband’s body.

I spent the day staring at the poison they were infusing into his body with equal parts hatred and gratitude.  

chemo

Day 1 was long, scary, and perhaps not quite as terrible as I envisioned it might be. Day 1 is in the books, we have started the journey.

For those who want to envision the journey:

Adam’s chemo will be administered in 3 week cycles.

Week 1: 40 hours a week of chemo (8 hours a day for 5 days)

Week 2: 1 morning a week of chemo

Week 3: 1 morning a week of chemo

Repeat 4 times.

We thought we might feel better after day 1 after knowing what to expect. But to be honest, we still don’t know what to expect. We don’t know how Adam will feel today or tomorrow or next week or the following week. We don’t know how his body will respond to chemo, and we don’t know how the cancer will respond to chemo.

And so we continue to wait.

And as we wait, we wait on the LORD, we continue to trust Him, we continue to believe that He can heal.  I’ve been reflecting on this verse this morning, and praying it for Adam.

Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

Posted in Life, Various and Sundry | 26 Comments

A New Buzard Adventure

holding hands

We often get to choose our life adventures; but there are some life adventures that choose us. This week, we’ve embarked on an adventure that chose us. It’s the sort of adventure that no one wants to journey.

This week, Adam was diagnosed with cancer.

It’s been an incredibly scary month of tests, biopsies, ultrasounds, CT scans, and surgery. It’s been a month of so much waiting. It’s been a month of me dreaming up the worst-case scenarios and of Adam avoiding all of the scary possibilities. If I weren’t in the thick of this I would find our reactions to this month an interesting case study on relationship dynamics. But here I am, smack dab in the middle, and I don’t find any of this very interesting at all.

I’m still in shock. Cancer? Really? Every morning since the diagnosis, I wake up hoping that I’ve had a terrible dream. But then I get that pit in my stomach and realize the weight on my chest and remember this is very, very real. The thought of the person I love most in the world having this makes me sick and sobby and pissed.

Like any good helping professional, I’ve been diagnosing my own stages of grief over the diagnosis. For me, the stages cycle pretty rapidly. One minute I’m in denial, the next I’m bargaining, and moments later, I’m furious. I wish I were sleeping better these nights because then I wouldn’t have as many hours to think about all of the possibilities. At this point, many of my possibilities are dark; anxiety is a real jerk that way.

I want to be a rock through all this but being the steady one is usually Adam’s role. I have a lot to learn about being a rock. For example: How am I not supposed to cry every time I look at Adam? How am I not supposed to think scary thoughts every minute of the day? How do I laugh and create fun memories for us in the midst of this season?

The good news is that I don’t really have to be a rock (that’s really good news, I’ll never be good at that). I’ve been reading and re-reading the Psalms and am reminding my soul to trust in God, to rest in God, and to find refuge in God “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in who I trust (Psalm 91).” “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18)

I’m also incredibly thankful that we have dear friends, who are way more rock-like than Adam and me are these days. We have the kind of friends that drop everything and find sitters so they can sit with us when we’re freaking out. We have the kind of friends that know when we need a night of delving into the dark places and when we need a night of games and laughter. We have the kind of friends who surprise us and show up to sit with us during endless waiting in the hospital. We have the kind of friends who text funny puns, drop wine off at our doorstep, who offer to clean the house before chemo, and who have signed up to mow the yard. We are incredibly grateful for God using people as our refuge.

TV shows have sorely misrepresented the way cancer gets diagnosed. Adam’s diagnosis has been more of a process than a proclamation. We still have a lot of questions (I’m sure you do, too). What we do know is that the doctors feel hopeful about treatment, and that treatment will mean chemo. He starts really aggressive chemo on Monday that will span several months. We’re grateful the long term prognosis looks good, but we’re pretty scared about the now.

We’ve both blown the dust off of our blogs and will surely keep you updated as we can. I can only assume Adam and I will write about very different things, so if anyone is interested in doing a case study on how couples process life differently, feel free to subscribe to both of our blogs. I imagine we’ll share less about the procedures and more about the feels and needs and thoughts. But I don’t know, because this is really uncharted territory for us.

The question we’ve been getting over and over as we’ve started to share this news
is “What can we do?” which is so sweet and helpful and appropriate. And because everything is swirling, it’s really hard to know. Mostly we covet your prayers. Please pray for Adam, we know that God can heal. Please pray for the doctors to have wisdom, and for treatment to be effective. And please pray for our hearts in this season. Also, feel free to send encouragement our way in the form of scriptures, songs, funny videos, or good stories.

Some of our friends decided they wanted to do something more in the practical realm – they’re the kind of friends who show love by doing. So they sat us down and asked us to make a few lists: Practical things that would be helpful in this season, an amazon wish list for the hard days, and a fun list so that we can keep enjoying life in the midst of hard. There is zero pressure, but if you want to get your hands on one of those lists, let us know.

We believe that healing happens best in community; we’re so grateful for people who will walk this journey with us.

We cherish texts, emails, and phone calls. Please have grace and patience with us if we don’t reply right away. This is new and big and we’re taking one moment and one day at a time.

Posted in Life, Various and Sundry | 15 Comments