“I need to share something and it’s not good news. In fact, it’s really bad. And there is no easy way to say this but I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and it is ……”
My mind tuned out as soon as our therapist Megan* shared her news. My heart dropped and I felt sick for this woman who has led me through troubled waters.
“It started in the colon and has gone to the liver and there are spots on the stomach lining…”
Ugh. I hate this. How could this even happen? My mind keeps wandering to the moments her wisdom carried us. This beautiful woman was an answer to prayers I offered as I navigated life with one of my children. Heaven brought her to me and I have learned so much sitting in her office. Feeling somewhat desperate and definitely frustrated/confused, I shared what was happening in our family and she immediately said, “Sounds like we need to build up some resilience.” In that moment, I felt hope because I suddenly had someone to help us in exactly the ways we needed right then.
“Fortunately, the baby was born healthy and I am going to do everything I can to fight it. I want to walk into remission and live a long life and be there for my kids…my 3 children but also my other kids…like you.”
Two weeks after delivering her newborn, Megan found out her body was covered in cancer. She presented our options and laid out what is going to happen as she fights for her life. She expressed her desire to keep working with us and that she planned to only keep four clients. She wanted to keep giving back to the world and not just be someone fighting cancer at home. Megan wanted to make a difference while she still could but also shared it may be hard to watch her health change as the chemo continues on.
My heart broke as I watched my child process this and as I considered everything this means for Megan and her family. Three little kids, one of which is only a couple months old. One brilliant woman, fighting for her life. One husband, trying to find a miracle in a sea of brutal facts.
“How can this even be?” I find myself silently asking. “Be strong. Stay present. It’s not about you,” I remind myself.
And then I watch my teenager totally show up strong and vulnerable. I see him show up in love, focus in on her pain, and respond with the very things she has taught him to do. Resilience, faith, emotion come out. “We will pray for you, every single day. We will never stop and you will get better.” The tears flow for all of us. Megan instructs us to go home and talk about it – she doesn’t want us to feel obligated to come back if it is not right for us. My son immediately says he isn’t ready to be done and will walk this path for a while and will speak up if it gets too hard. We review her chemo schedule and talk about what the process will be like and then she says, “I don’t want my cancer to get in the way of what you need.” And my son says, “I don’t want what I need to get in the way of your cancer healing.”
Sheryl Sandburg wrote, “We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events.” My heart swells with pride for both of them. They are both living and breathing resilience! How easy it would be for her to only focus on herself? And how easy it would be for my teenager to only think of his needs. In a time where so much selfishness exists in the world, we are practicing the skills of compassion, vulnerability, and resilience in this tiny office where healing takes place. This relationship has been miraculous. I could probably write a small book on what we have learned together sitting on her grey couch anchored on the floral rug that has never been centered quite right. Every single week I wanted to fix that rug and suddenly it doesn’t matter one bit.
We work through a couple of things and my son ends the session by saying, “I guess we will both be practicing resilience together this week.” To think that he is getting it! In the midst of his life lesson showing up in a way that breaks my heart, I feel so lucky and blessed and overwhelmed. This woman has helped my progress as a mother, provided key stability for our family, and I can hardly process that now her own mothering future is in question. Her kids deserve to know how amazing she is. They deserve to know how she just understands teens and unites families. They should learn every tool she has to combat depression, anxiety, false thinking, self-confidence and more. My kid would not be able to respond to her unimaginable challenge if she hadn’t given of herself and invested in him. This isn’t fair. I know this may seem dramatic, but we had an immediate connection and Megan impacted our lives forever.
I come home and just lay in my bed and cry tears for what might happen and what might not. I can’t imagine where we would be if our paths hadn’t crossed and I can’t help but think how I can help her right now. The tears come in waves and roll down my face. My sleeves aren’t enough to handle the accompanying snot and it doesn’t matter because sometimes ugly crying is part of real life. Justin comes in and starts the diffuser. He can’t make this hurt go away but he knows the oils will help me gather myself and bring some balance back in. I roll some Comforting Blend and Rose on my heart and wrists. These two essential oils have never smelled so good and within minutes I have stopped crying, feeling grateful in this moment for the simple way oils can help in these moments of grief and confusion. The hurt doesn’t go away but the hope has woken up to accompany me in this unexpected experience.
“Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning in to the suck. It comes from analyzing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more. I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.”Sheryl Sandberg, Option B
I start breathing again and realize that I am still here learning resilience while praying for a miracle. And while it hurts, and I wish I could make cancer go away, I can feel the gratitude and lean in, together, because that is what we have right now.