July 13, 2011

There and Back Again: Stuck

Last night, I got stuck.

There were no mud puddles or snow drifts involved; I wasn't knee deep in quick sand or trapped between a rock and a hard place. I was just walking through the grocery store when my thoughts jammed tight and wouldn't let me go.

"I'm doomed," I thought from somewhere deep within me.

This is the irony of being a cancer survivor for me. I beat the odds and overcame what should have killed me, and yet half of my life now is spent worrying that the cancer is back. It's been three years now; my doctor has all but told me I'm cured. I'm doing really well.

Yet, every once in a while, I feel this pain in my abdomen or the burning sensation in my back. At first I don't think anything of it, but after a while, I begin to panic. I know the cancer is back; I imagine myself bald and shriveled again. I feel the nausea as if it's real.

And if that's not enough, there's this darkness that begins to cloud over my soul. Fear, doubt, dread. I believe God is near, but I wonder if my faith will endure through more suffering. And the knot grabs tighter at my throat and the tears pool shallow just beneath my lids. And an inch below that smile and laugh is a woman who thinks she might go crazy with the uncertainty.

Right there, just as the darkness and the fear and the tears fell heavy, I found myself stuck.

O Lord, take this away.

No, don't take it away this time unless you promise to take it away every time.

Jesus, please just stay here with me.


There's a blood test my doctor can order that will tell me whether the cancer is back. I've gotten these almost every three months since my diagnosis nearly four years ago. It's simple, inexpensive, and a great indicator. Because I'm doing so well, my doctor only asks that I have it done every six months. I've never gone more than three months though because I get stuck and I need reassurance. My doctor has told me a dozen times that he would rather just order the test than have me worry.

Somehow, though, I got it in my head that ordering the test is a sign of weak faith. So instead, I worry for three or four weeks every time before finally just calling the doctor.

Today, over lunch, I called again.

When I hung up the phone, I burst into tears.

"I want to believe you, Lord. I do. I don't want to be crazy," I told Him.

But as the afternoon wore on, I started asking myself what I am believing the Lord for. Has God promised me that I will not get cancer? Do I know that these physical symptoms are not signs of a recurrence? Slowly, as my thoughts began to come unstuck, I realized that I had connected two different issues in a way they were never mean to be connected.

One issue is that I may or may not have cancer again. Medically speaking, I probably do not. But since I am not a doctor and have only my experience with cancer to measure against, I do not think I am qualified to make that determination on my own.

The other issue is that I may or may not trust the Lord. I may or may not believe that He walks with me, that He paid a great price to set me free, that He goes before me to prepare a place with Him.

I can fall on either side of either issue. I can have cancer and not trust the Lord. I can not have cancer and not trust the Lord. I can have cancer and trust the Lord. I can not have cancer and trust the Lord.

What I cannot do is connect whether I have cancer or not to whether I trust the Lord or not. That's not how it works.

That's not how He works.


The haze of my craziness still hangs thick around me this evening as I write. Though I haven't written from within the haze before, it happens often.

I've been hiding it from you.

But even as I think about what will be involved in the next couple of days of getting stuck by needles and waiting by the phone for results, I drew courage from these words that I read by Jessica Mueller. Courage that made me think you might have your own seasons of being stuck when you feel like you are alone. And these words might bring comfort to you too.

Abiding in Jesus isn’t easy. It’s not a surefire way to have all you’ve ever wanted. But if you abide in Jesus, if you take this challenge to see life as beautiful–even the messed up, broken moments–you will have all you need.
You will fight your will. It will happen every single day. Without fail.
You will struggle to serve.
You will look to see the beauty in dense fog and be meet with thick, hazy nothingness.

Sometimes when we are stuck, we break free before we have any answers. Most likely I am being overly cautious and the blood work will come back fine. I'll probably be feeling better in a few days - in the past, these pains have been caused by scar tissue and adhesions from previous surgeries.

The point it, I don't know whether I have cancer or not.

But I do know that I still trust Jesus.

And tonight, that's enough to set me free.

Don't forget to join one of many online writing projects:

*Beginning Monday, July 18, theHighCalling.org will begin a new book club around Luci Shaw's Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith. Buy the book or pick it up at the library, read the first couple of chapters, and prepare to blog about your response.

*TS Poetry is working on writing sestinas in July. Sestinas are a type of form poetry with six stanzas of six lines and repeating end words. I started a sestina about vacations, but it was too much work! I think I will try again on a less relaxing topic. Sestinas are challenging, but worth the effort.

*Michelle Derusha's popular "Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday" weekly community writing project resumes Monday, July 18. Visit her site today to see how you can participate.

Go THERE, (Jessica's "A Beautiful Life Doesn't Mean an Easy Life") and then come back HERE again!

Join me for regular jaunts around The High Calling network, randomly visiting fellow bloggers, soaking up their words and ideas, and then coming back here to write about them from my perspective.

Each Thursday, consider going "There and Back Again" yourself. It's simple.

Photo by tgm86, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.


Llama Momma said...

Oh, dear Charity. You are one of the most faith-filled people I know.

Praying for you this morning.

Ann Kroeker said...

You write from the midst of your haze with great clarity, helping us understand how confusing and terrifying it can be. What I'm so pleased to read is how the Lord helped you divide up the two issues and address each one in its own appropriate way.

Your heart is bare in this, and Llama Momma and I, along with so many others who love you so dearly, will carefully wrap our prayers around it--around *you*--and wait with hope and bated breath for your blood test results.

Megan Willome said...

I love you, Charity. And I love this post.

David Rupert said...

That crazy world of teetering between faith and fear is a one that we've all abided in. Especially when the "C" word lurks. I think you should take the test the same way i get a yearly physical and have my blood pressure checked and my eyes and my teeth. It's just good maintenance. It's not a lack of faith. Blessings you!

Charity Singleton said...

LM - Thank you. I remember sitting with you three years ago wondering about the future. I'm so thankful for you.

Charity Singleton said...

Ann - Thank you for walking through this strange journey with me. It's weird to be so full of panic and also be doing so well at the same time. Makes me feel silly, sometimes. But knowing I am loved so well, makes me not worry so much about feeling silly. Thank you!

Charity Singleton said...

Megan - You are a blessing. I love you too, love that we share some of the same pains, and some of the same joys too.

Charity Singleton said...

David - Yes, you are right. The test is just a test. My faith exists somewhere apart from that. And I am so comforted to know that I am not the only one who walks around half out of my mind with worry sometimes. Although I hope this is an area I am growing in.

Simply Darlene said...

Miss Charity,
Although I have seen you THC and heard mention of you at Ann's and I just saw you in my neck of the woods today, I don't think I've ever been here, at your site. But, girl, I have been in that haze place. A lot it seems lately. And I hide it too.

For me, it's about panic attacks and agoraphobia and travel (even to the grocery store or library). For a girl that talks a big tough talk, sometimes I am a wimp. But God is there, when I am face down in the pasture bawling cause those dang horses won't let me catch 'em or dripping tears in the lonely driveway as my husband leaves each Sunday for the week... And as you know, He was there with ya in the grocery store & on the phone & off the phone.

I'll add you to my fridge-prayer list. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen so I figure that's the best place to do a lot of prayin' too.

Love and hugs to you.


shrinkingthecamel.com said...

Charity, this comes from such a deep and vulnerable place in you. I want to tell you I appreciate your sharing with us, especially being raw and real about it. I hope the sharing and writing somehow helps you too in dealing with the uncertainty.

My father has just finished stem cell transplant and got the word JUST yesterday that he was offically in remission, so we were jumping for joy. But my mother still doesn't quite believe it 100%. So I kind of see what you mean.

God bless you. You will be in our thoughts and prayers.

Jenny said...

Wow! I get it, I really do. I have never had cancer, but I have battled my mind in a similar manner. Anxious fear can make me feel like I'm losing my mind. And yet God is there. That's the kicker, we, you & I...we know that. I used to say, it's like when that obsessive fear comes over me, I forget everything I know.

Just said a prayer for your peace this morning.

Amber said...

After 5 1/2 years of marriage at the age of 24 I lost my first husband to cancer. In a strange way I have the same fear. I freak out everytime I go to the dermotologist that one of those pre-cancerous moles will have become Cancer. I'm waiting for my husband to get sick like Mark. I'm scared of things beyond my control and that is hard to reconcile with my faith.

I get it, I'm praying for you.

Sheila said...

I get it too, Charity.

Dreading and being grateful for the three-month blood tests. Then being elated and terrified when the doctor says every six months is often enough. And sometimes asking for a test in-between.

My health problem wasn't cancer, but it was something that's usually lethal. Thank you for articulating what I've stumbled around. I'm going to ask my husband to read this.

I'm sitting here in tears at your articulate presentation of the haze. And rejoicing with you that you've seen how your prior illness and your faith are separate.

I remember the day, while I was still sick, when I understood that however my illness played out, God was with me and I would be okay.

I've just never been able to put words to it as you did. I can't tell you how grateful I am.

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