From an article originally posted October 5, 2013…
Last week was an odd blur of anxiety, surgery, medication, and sorrow. It was the perfect combination to send a person into a stupor of a different dimension. I don’t know what to call the world I lived in last week, but I know people who have traveled a similar path will understand.
I remember the moment before surgery, alone, and I remember when Jason and his sister Angela were brought back to see me. They had moved up my surgery, there was a rush, and there was only time for a quick parting love. I could see the fear and sadness in the face of my guy. I remember waking, asking, wanting to know, but unable to keep my eyes open. The person next to me in recovery that talked endlessly. It was a relief when she left, hoping someone would finally answer my questions. They didn’t. I remember Jason’s sad face that was trying to look hopeful when he told me the news of my breast cancer.
There were endless moments of waking and sleeping and waking in the same small room filled with different faces. I remember waking to the faces of Jason and Mark Bates. Mark rested his face on the side of my bed and looked at me with such compassion. I remember thinking I was so thankful he was there for Jason. I knew he would tell us the truth and remind us of God’s good sovereignty, but mostly, I knew he would love Jason well. I looked from one kind man to the next and fell asleep. I don’t remember his words, but both of their faces spoke care and love.
Angela was always there. She confidently knew what to do, and when my care was less than excellent, I never worried because I had Angela. We spent our days searching for the caring nurses, so she could leave me knowing I was in good hands. I remember her taking me to a weird closet of a bathroom and helping navigate a shower with my wounded tummy. She helped me determine what to wear and how to carefully dress. She loved me with such tender, gentle care I always felt safe even with the worst of news to try and swallow. She quietly sat with the news next to me for days. Each of us in our own grief. She in her medically knowledgeable knowing, me in my heart knowing, but the news left us both quiet on the subject.
The first time I tried to pee was unbelievably painful. Angela told me my bladder was being lazy because of my catheter; I thought it was angry because it lost its neighbor, my uterus. She set smell boundaries in our small room and told me which lotions worked best in our small space. We laughed; I’m not sure how, but we did. She helped me as I could not stop vomiting, and the vomiting hurt my surgery site so badly. She was not afraid to enter my depleted weakness and help me find my way back to health.
I remember her leaving. I remember Jason returning broken from dropping her off. We made room in my small bed and cried. I cried for Jason, but I could not/cannot really cry for myself. The pill of the news is too big to swallow, and I still feel so much here, so much alive....
I remember Carl coming, taking my hand, talking to Jesus and promising to return, which he always did. There was a moment I was left with my father in law. I told him I was not afraid to die, and this news was not devastating to me. I had peace with the plan. He was undone. He did not want me to concede the fight. I was full of hope and he was left without it. I hurt that I upset him.
The hospital food was horrible. Terrible. I remember when the doctor said I could have coffee. I think I immediately made the call to Jason to make a delivery, pronto. I remember trying to text without success. Words would not form, my fingers could not form words, and I would fall asleep mid attempt. Angela eventually took over. I kept calling Jonna and falling asleep in the midst of a conversation. Jonna had so indoctrinated me on my responsibility to call her, I think I kept calling just to sleep on the phone to her. I remember waking to a room of girlfriends and thinking, I have been sleeping here with my mouth open, and inwardly thinking, They still love me in all my unlovely. There was a night Anna and Andrew came to visit. Anna rubbed my hands and Andrew rubbed my feet. There was a comfortable quiet between us that made me feel so thankful.
There was a time all the pieces came together and made sense. Jason had told me my tumor was breast cancer, and as I was reading an email from Mark to the elders, all the bits came together. I had been told all the details, but the haze of narcotics kept it from sinking in. Tricia was quietly sitting next to my bed when the revelation came. I think I said out loud, I have stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. The room was hushed, but I knew the puzzle had come together. Tricia in her care was concerned I was upset. I was not. I could not be, as I could not/cannot take it in.
The last night in the hospital my dear Shellie packed for an uncomfortable sleepover with me. I would wake and see her next to me as I moved to push my button for more pain medicine. The memory of these moments, seeing Shellie and all the other beautiful faces, left feeling so incredibly loved and safe. How could I fear when I had such love always surrounding me showing me the love of Jesus?
This morning the fog began to lift. I was able to share part of my story with you all. So much love was returned to me. So many of you shared my story, told me they thought I was strong, brave, etc. I feel very much the opposite. I feel fragile and timid, but the love supporting me is giving me strength, unbelievable strength. These snapshots of my week keep flooding my mind, I know more will come, with more memories of incredible care and love, but in the midst of my devastating bottom, I was so well loved, I found safe rest and freedom from the fear of my future.
My dear former pastor shared my story today. He filled his comment with encouragement and love, but there was one sentence that stuck out. He said, Kara is dying. It stopped me. It caught me off guard. I was sitting next to a fire with Jason and I read it to him. Jason said, Well, so is Jeff. We had a good giggle. But here was my first response, and I think this is a picture into how I see my now. I simply thought, No I’m not, I’m drinking coffee next to a beautiful fire with my boyfriend; I’m very much the opposite of dying.
So, am I dying? I guess. Have I given up on treatment? Nope. Would I rather be seen as alive! Absolutely. But the truth of what Jeff said about me today is true about us all. We are all dying; the real question should be, how are we living?
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). How about you?