At times life can be overwhelming. One week can feel like a month. Life changes without notice and drags us through the season of its choosing–often without our input. There aren’t any signs warning us of what’s ahead; or if there are, we’re too occupied with keeping our feet on the path to see them.
You notice too late to change course that the scenery surrounding the trail is no longer recognizable. You had finally found your footing on the last one and it became familiar–almost comfortable–with its quirks and perks. But now, you’re stumbling helplessly in a strange place, keenly aware of the struggles found in this new environment.
That, my friend, is life and its winding and ever-changing paths.
I often avoid difficult feelings but the angst kindled by an abrupt turn is inescapable. This isn’t limited to health–like my family’s current path. The seasons change in all areas of our life bringing new joys and trials. It’s not always bad, these changes can also be good: parents of a new baby, students in college, starting a new job, and on and on.
Good or bad, changing paths can feel overwhelming–especially when you don’t see it coming.
There weren’t any signs before we unknowingly turned from Quiet Life Avenue onto Cancer Lane. We found ourselves on a terrifying road not knowing where it led. Today, we’re undoubtedly optimistic but initially, we were drowning in the deluge of emotions.
It’s no coincidence that in the weeks before, I was listening to a podcast titled The Next Right Thing, inspired by the book of the same name (I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my list). The premise is to clear the chaos and create space for your soul. It’s aimed at simplifying decision-making but it’s also the perfect approach to an overwhelming life.
We simplified the complex cancer path by splitting our life into weeks.
Our feelings were only part of the puzzle; there are decisions and plans to make, people (and their feelings) to care for, treatments, and of course, all the what-ifs. But we couldn’t see around the next turn and trying to think too far ahead only added to the stress.
With so many unknowns in our life we chose to do the next right thing, one week at a time.
If you’re curious about our weeks, here’s a snippet:
Week 1: The worst. Biopsies confirmed our fear, breast cancer. We didn’t know type or stage, just that the cells tested positive. Naturally, we thought worst-case scenario and had “the talk”.
Week 2: Wait. Exhausted from the emotions of the previous week and still without answers, we still had 10 long days to wait for a follow-up appointment. The anxiety was too much so we cut this to a few days.
Week 3: Retreat. On short notice, we escaped on a family vacation. It was the best week of this journey! We were finally able to relax, breathe and recharge for the steps ahead.
Week 4: Results. Finally. The news is the best we could’ve asked for at that point. It was a non-aggressive cancer with a good prognosis. Surgery was necessary but chemo and radiation may not be needed.
Week 5: Plan. For the first time in a while, I’m in a comfortable place dealing with logistics. Sorting through messages and connecting with our support network, we planned meals, childcare, work leaves and the daily to-do’s.
Week 6: Prepare. With the calendar mapping the knowns of the next couple weeks, it freed our hearts and minds to prepare emotionally. We also needed to tell our daughters, who up to this point didn’t need to know the details.
Week 7: Surgery. For something that terrifies most, we had a deep sense of peace. With so many praying for our family we truly felt the peace that “transcends all understanding” to “guard [our] hearts and minds”. Thank you everyone!
Weeks 8-10: Recovery. At the time of writing, we’re halfway through this stage. It’s been much smoother than expected (or feared). My wife is the toughest person I know, seriously. And visiting with friends and family during these weeks has been a wonderful gift.
Week 11: Next steps. This is when we’ll have the follow-up appointment with the surgeon and get pathology results, which will inform the treatment plan. We’re praying hard we’ll avoid chemo and radiation–please join us in praying that Bre is cancer-free!
Week 12: Celebrate! I feel it coming…stay tuned.