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.

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.

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.”

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.

When Bravery Looks Like Healing

I haven’t felt fully myself for several months now.  I’m still me, just a slightly off-key version of me.

This summer, I experienced some trauma.  The physical recovery was grueling, and is still ongoing, but it’s clear that the emotional recovery is the harder of the two recoveries.  Since July, I’ve struggled with periods of debilitating anxiety and moments of sheer panic.  What used to be routine outings have become special ops missions: I have to emotionally prepare to go to friends’ homes, I have to read my courage-meter when committing to any outdoor events, and I have to be on high alert when I go for hikes or walks.

There are days when I feel brave and grounded, and others when I feel absolutely weak-kneed and cowardly.  A certain noise, an instagram, or a scene in a movie can either leave me feeling confident I’m healing or completely panicked.  There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or rhythm as to what can trigger the panic or lack of panic.

Maybe that’s what makes healing so hard.  It’s unpredictable.  And unrelenting.  And sometimes seemingly endless.

I’ve struggled to give myself permission to heal.  I’m typically more of a “suck it up” kind of girl, especially when it comes to personal standards. Some days I feel totally silly and weak and I want to tell myself to “just get over it”.  But thus far, that hasn’t been possible for me.

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself feeling more defeated than determined.  I’m quicker to give up or not even try things at all.  And that’s not me.  At least that’s not the old me.  And I hope it’s not the future me.

Over the last few months I’ve also felt more attuned to my own pain and issues than the greater pain and issues in my community and the world.  I’m not indifferent, I’m just tired from fighting my own battles that I don’t have as much energy for others’ battles. And that’s not me.  At least it’s not the old me.  And I hope it’s not the future me.

Because I haven’t felt completely myself lately, I haven’t had a lot of my own words to share, so I’ve been taking in others’ words.  Reading has been a nice reprieve from my inner dialogue.

I just finished the Divergent trilogy and one of the last paragraphs in the final book left me sobbing; not necessarily for the plot line, but for the truth that was contained in the words for me for this season:

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else.  Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known , or everyone you have ever loved for the sake of something greater.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”

Bravery looks different for me this year than it has in years past.  And I have hope that bravery will look different for me in future years than it does now.

For now, bravery looks like admitting weakness and fear.  For now, it looks like knowing when to face fears and when to take breaks from fear-facing.  For now, bravery looks like not worrying about what others’ will think about my courage or lack thereof.  For now, it looks like being ok with not being ok.

For now, bravery looks like healing .

To those who have experienced great trauma and repeated trauma, this post by no means compares my experience to yours.  I am so very sorry that you have experienced horror, fear, and injustice.  I hate that there are triggers that re-traumatize you.  My struggles to cope with my own experience cause me greater compassion for those who have experienced greater trauma. I cannot imagine the bravery it takes for you to face each day. I applaud you.

Zumba Rhythm

Have you ever gone to a zumba class?

They are pretty fun.  There’s zazzy music, a little sweat, and a whole lot of people watching.

I’ve gone to a few zumba classes in the last few years, and here’s what I’ve learned:

There are front-row-zumba-ladies (and the occasional dancy gentleman), and there are back-row-zumba-ladies (and ne’er the occasional man – if you’re a zumba-man you’re up front – that’s all there is to it).

The front-row-zumba-ladies and gentleman know all the moves.  They have clearly been to a few a million classes before and when they shake it, they shake it fast because, they have the routine down.  Or perhaps they are just naturally good at picking up new rhythms (cue envy).

The back-row-zumba-ladies, are a little awkward, a little off beat, and definitely not sure of the routine.  These are the ladies that don’t naturally pick up new rhythms and who look more confused than sweaty when they leave the class.

I’m sad to report that I’m a back-row-zumba-lady.  New rhythms aren’t easy for me.  I’m not one of these, I’ll just make up my own moves and have fun in the process, free and easy types.  Nope. I have to get a feel for the routine before I can launch in.  I have to know how to move within the rhythm before I can feel good about the routine.

I know that if I go to the same zumba class for several weeks in a row, I’ll hear the same songs and dance out the same routines, and that soon, I’ll edge closer to the middle of the room because I’ll feel more confident with the routine.  (For the record, I’ll never be a front row zumba-lady, because I don’t have moves like Jagger).

I handle new life routines like I do zumba routines.

For the last month, I feel like I’ve been in the back row, wide-eyed and trying to figure out how to move in a new life rhythm.  I’ve felt a little unsure and a little off beat.

In January, my job responsibilities ramped up to warp speed.  I chose to take on some new and exciting responsibilities at work, and it’s been awesome.  I have loved my job since I started there a little over two years ago and I continue to love my job.  In fact, though things are busy, I’m loving it more than ever.  And in the midst of loving it, it’s been an adjustment to a new schedule.

Also in January, Adam started a new job at a church.  It’s an unexpected gift and a total blessing.  We’re both oozing with joy about how the whole deal went down.  I’ll have to tell you more about it soon.  There has been an air of nearly electric excitement around our house. And in the midst of the joy, it’s been an adjustment to a new schedule.

The good news, is that we’re about a month and a half into all the newness, and I’m starting to get the hang if this new life routine.  I’m still a little awkward about it all, but I’m feeling less off and more on.  I think I just needed a little time.

How do you respond to new rhythms and routines in life?

 Are you good at rolling with a new beat or do you, like me, need time to observe, learn, and practice?

2014: A Year Of…

Happy New Year, friends!

Hope your new year is off to a brilliant start!  I’m still sitting in my pajamas drinking a delicious mug of coffee so I’d say 2014 is looking up!

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?  If not, my husband has made some for all of us so feel free to read what he’s resolved for the masses.  I’m all for resolutions.  I know that’s not a popular opinion, but I hold to it.  Resolutions can be a good thing.

Last year, I decided to take a new approach to the New Year Resolution and jump on the One Word 365 train.  If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a movement to choose one word that will define your year.  This word guides growth, reading, learning, and thinking.  2013’s word for me was generosity, and it was an awesome year of growth in gratitude and sharing.

Throughout last year, I thought a lot about generosity.  I prayed a lot about the selfish areas of my life.  I was intentional about giving.  I read about generosity.  It was a focused year.

I liked this concept of picking one word so much, that I’m doing it again.  I’m picking one word that will shape and grow me throughout the year.

2014 will be a year of REST.

As I type this, I am fighting every urge to delete that word and fill it with something more awesome, more adventurous, or more productive.  I am an achiever and a do-er.  I am not a rester.  I love being busy.  And the longer I stare at my cursor dancing over that little 4-letter word, the more panicky I become.

I often fight rest.

Instead of rest, I pick checking off one more thing on my to-do list.  Instead of rest, I pack in one more coffee date with someone.  Instead of rest, I multi-task while watching movies.

For a long time, I have felt guilty about ignoring the Sabbath and making it rather unholy with all of the ways that I make it just another day to accomplish.  I know that I need rest, I just fight it.  I know I need Sabbath.  I get stressed out too much.  I get sick too much.  I crash too often.

So enough is enough.  This year, I want to learn how to create rhythms of rest that are lasting.  This year, I want to become a student of the Sabbath.  This year, I want to become healthier spiritually, emotionally, and physically because I am resting regularly.

So as I push publish, know that I am taking a huge gulp, because this means I’m letting you in on this… Which means you get to hold me accountable… Which means this is really happening.

What about you?  

Are you going to pick one word for the year?  

Do you have any resolutions?