Kara’s Collection: Scary Snort Struggles

from an article originally posted June 18, 2014...

I ran away for a minute with my boyfriend. We met friends, we attended meetings, we dinnered, lunched, breakfasted, and just enjoyed people. I struggled with energy, but I often pushed past my limits for the joy of the moment and being with friends that we rarely get to see. I cried in laughter, cried in heartbreak, and sat in silence hearing from the heart of those I love, those that are hurting themselves. A silence that is feasting on hearing from the heart of another—hearing the real story. Oh those honest moments are filled with such grace. So many of us often meet with children rumbling around. These were sacred adult moments of honesty without need to veil any words in any way to protect the young. No, these were honest, safe moments. Beautiful, beautiful moments. My heart left Houston tired, but also loved and encouraged. I met new friends and connected with old friends. People—they are just amazing. Simply amazing. People struggling in faith, people struggling in life, people simply moving through each moment dependent on Jesus for all of it; it’s breathtaking to behold. People optimistic, hardworking, cynical, crass, gentle, polite, rude—all of them, AMAZING. I simply will never come to the end of love, I cannot find it, but I intend to die trying. Love just grows and grows. I will never reach the limit of people to love. Jesus is amazing in the generosity he gives us to love and keep on loving. It’s simply wonderful.

There was one moment I had secretly looked forward to for months. You see, General Assembly is a meeting of our men. It is a time for our pastors and elders to join together in worship and humble decision making. I could not wait to be in a worship service where the voices of men are united and singing. Several women are in attendance, certainly, but it is predominately men in the room. The final song before the preaching came and the voices of the men joined together. I simply closed my eyes and listened to the thunderous singing of faith, the begging for goodness and grace in song. We were sitting with our friends and missionaries Chuck and Jimmy Lynn Linkston, and oh my soul, Chuck has the most beautiful voice. I did not want the song to end. It filled my heart; how it filled my heart with such joy.

Then we sat and the speaker Ray Cortese stood to preach to the men—a room filled with men and women of faith that lead people to the goodness of grace found in Jesus each day. His words came to the large crowd gentle and sure. He was funny, but not afraid to take on hard subjects. Then he started to speak of grace. All at once I heard him speak of this place, Mundane Faithfulness, then he said my name, and referenced my story. I believe I turned a new shade of red. I wanted to both jump on the chair and thank him for his generous words, and also hide under the chair in fear. Fear that I could never live up to the beauty of grace he was describing. I can simply seek and hunt for it, and write of that hunt for grace in this place. I was so honored and humbled by his words.

The service ended, and Jason and I made our way to his side. He didn’t know I was in the audience. He grabbed my face and kissed my cheek and I just cried. Cried in such gratitude that this broken mess—me—could encourage such a man of faith. I was almost speechless, which is a rarity. I simply thanked him and met his wife and his beautiful daughter—the legacy of faith that God has granted him to see in his daughter, who is pregnant with a grand baby, was simply amazing. To find myself connected with such a family in a small way grace. Such grace.

Every evening I limped to bed full from friendship, from worship, from joy. I would take hours for the going to stop hurting my body and finally sleep would find me. The pain is the worst when I stop. It’s as though my stopping causes it to start. But isn’t that a grace. I could go, and go, and go in a way my heart loves to go without too much pain. Jason would give me his look all through a long evening; I would return his glance with, I’m fine, I’m good. These people and relationships are like a feast. Please don’t make me go to bed yet. And Jason graciously let me spend it all each night. Spend every bit of what was given away. He gladly captured me and gave me the proper pills to help me find my way away from the pain that would grab me when we would finally stop. The ugly of this disease that only Jason knows.

I flew home to my littles today. They were well loved and cared for by our dear Ruth. She is a gift of extending love in the lives of all my children. She meets them each uniquely in love and draws the best of each of them out in life. It’s so beautiful. The kids did not pine for us as they were so deeply loved and cared for each moment. Jason has remained to continue in the beautiful business of our denomination.

As I was there in Houston, the call came that my next meeting with the scary snort was approved. The insurance had denied it, but my MRI had indicated that the cancer has grown and is pressing upon my spine. I understand some of you are new readers in this place. I call all scanning machines (MRI, pet scans, cat scans) snorts from the P.D. Eastman book Are You My Mother? The place where the bird confronts the front loader and says, You are not my mother to the scary snort.

From my latest test, we know a few things: my cancer has grown but it is not in my spine. My kind-faced oncologist and I need these results to figure out my next step. My current chemo is not working. My pain is growing daily, and my cancer is marching on and growing within me. Our hope is that its growth is confined to my 5 lymph nodes. The goal with metastatic cancer is to slow the beast. We have yet to find the answer to slow my cancer. Tomorrow I will be injected with radioactive sugar to see where the sugar runs. The stuff is so dangerous and toxic it is stored in lead containers until it is put into my arm. It’s fierce business to see it coming at you as you wait in a chair to get the toxic stuff. To see what lights up from the injection then tells us where my cancer has traveled. The old places will be measured and compared and new places will hopefully not light up. That is my prayer. But no matter the answer, grace will meet us.

So tomorrow I face the lonely snort of a PET scan without my boyfriend in the waiting room, but I feel peaceful. I really do. I just had three amazing days at his side without interruption; one test will be okay. I love and hate these snorts. They tell us what we need to know, and what we wish we never had to know. But at that edge of life—that painful lonely place—Jesus will meet me. I will not be alone. I will be met. As the radiologist looks at my scans, he or she will be looking for the corners that cancer has tried to invade. Won’t you pray there is no new cancer with us? Here is what a cancerous lymph node looks like in a pet scan.

Oh friends, there are hard days, but there are also great good days. I have known them both. I have been met in each high and low. Pray tomorrow would meet me with peace, and that as I exit this test I will be ready to join my kids and find the very best in the day. The waiting for results has always been very hard for us—unbelievably hard really. But these quarterly scans are my reality. I must learn to capture life in the midst of them. I hate how much life is stolen in the stress of the waiting. Hate it.

Where are you? Embracing the best of life or slugging through the most painful of it? Or simply somewhere in between? Do you see the grace? Are you looking?