Kara’s Collection: The Hard Journey of Chemo by Jill Buteyn

from an article originally posted November 19, 2014…

Yesterday was my first day going to chemo with Kara. The day started out rough—the trouble sliding over from the day before. Kara posted this update on her personal Facebook page: Life is hard.

She deserves to post that update a million times a day.

But I can admit it’s hard to hear. I know that truth for her, but I don’t want to know that truth for her. Our Kara works hard to protect us. I don’t want her to. I want her to be able to say the truth. I just wish I had a better answer for that. Because there isn’t really an answer. That status stands alone as a truth.

Kara was dreading chemo, and cancer is a raging beast, and I didn’t know what to do with that hard. I began to pray... God, will you have grace show up today? We need grace. We need you. Please show up.

After I found the right building and pushed the elevator button, I found myself riding up with a sweet, older couple. When I said what floor I needed, she looked at me, because she knew what that floor meant. “I hope you’re not here for treatment.”

“No, I’m not. But my friend is.”

Her face fell. Too young. I could hear the thought, though she didn’t say it. And it’s another truth that stands alone. Kara is too young. Although, is any age right for cancer to come in and steal the moments? Of course not. My elevator-mate continued. “I’ve fought two different cancers and I’m doing well. I’m not here for treatment today.”

We’ll take some of that, I thought. I hear all of these stories of miracles and people overcoming odds, and my soul whisper is always the same. We’ll take some of that.

I must have looked wide-eyed, walking into that chemotherapy room. I’d never seen anything like it.

An ocean of recliner chairs organized into rows and small spaces. Each chair had its own medical equipment, I.V.’s hooked up, dripping into veins and ports and bloodstreams.

And everywhere, the nurses were buzzing about the business of cancer.

I can admit my stomach turned when I walked into the space and met the sea of fighting people.

This is not okay, I thought. This is yucky. And even though Kara calls it the healing poison, I didn’t want to be anywhere near it.

I didn’t want her anywhere near it.

And then the swing of treatment began. Shellie, Kara, and I giggled over something, I can’t remember what, and I saw the woman in the next chair laughing and smiling with us. She had such a light about her. Kara immediately started talking to her. I don’t know if it was a survival tactic, because it was as the nurse was beginning to mess with Kara’s port. The flushing of the port makes her sick, and Kara turned and started speaking to the woman next to us. Kate was her name. Or Cate. I’m not sure which it is. Hopefully it’s okay I’m using her real name.

We found out we have all kinds of people in common with Kate. And that she’s a Christian. And that her children went to the school our children currently attend.

She told us her hard story, but she was beaming the whole time. She was a good recliner-mate.

Cancer people have a culture. “What are you in for?” The question was asked and laughed over, as if the two of them were in a prison of sorts.

Everyone has a story, and everyone matters.

And Kara, seeing her there... she takes the big love theory with her wherever she goes. Even into a chemo room where she doesn’t want to go. She loved on the people around her. Gave away a book.

Add in a few naps, some conversation, a visit from Kara’s Carl, and then it was over and Kara went home to rest.

I hugged a crying Shellie, this dear friend of Kara’s, who is so strong. But she’s not okay with the cancer stealing and torturing her friend. None of us are okay.

I get into my car and the words because I’m happy burst from my radio. I leave it on, not because it fits, but because of the irony.

Did God show up? I think later, as my eyes are filling and my heart’s going about the business of dealing, really dealing with this beastly cancer and what it’s doing to our friend.

I think through the day.

I saw an old friend of the family whom I haven’t seen in years and years, and we were able to catch up. Kara gave away love.

We met a lovely couple.

Was there anything huge, though? Where was the big sign? The thing to knock us over and show us He was there with us. Where was the grace?

And then He just whispers to me: I was there. He was there in every moment. Some days, there’s not a huge sign. There are a few small things, like sprinkles of salt that add just enough flavor, and those things add up to a meal. Those things add up to grace.

And even when I can’t see it as blatantly as I’d like to—even when God refrains from knocking me off a sidewalk and hiring a band to march in my path, there’s a small sprout of faith growing in me. A faith that says suffering is not the absence of goodness, and that He is with us.


How is God with you in the small ways today?

Today’s post was written by my dear friend and author Jill Buteyn. My (Kara) response to my dear Jill—I saw Jesus there very clearly. I saw him there when I met your smile as I came off the elevator. I saw Jesus when I woke from the nap chemo brings and saw you and Shellie right by my side in a place neither of you really wants to be, but chose to be. I saw him there when you both rubbed my feet and met my chemo neighbor who was sitting alone, and helped her feel less alone. Oh friend, I saw Him—he was beaming through you dear heart. I knew He would be, but I also knew it wasn’t easy for Him or you to watch, but you SHOWED UP—the both of you and it was stunning.