I haven't cried uncontrollably like that since... I can't remember when. I took the bandages off of my nose today and didn't recognize myself. Now I know all the things you're told (and are true) by doctors and friends, etc about how "you have to wait", "it won't always look like that", "it's too swollen to tell right now", and so on. And I understand and believe all of that. But this isn't the first time in the last few years that I haven't recognized myself in the mirror or have had to get a grip on a new reality of how this human shell has changed. Natural aging I can get a grip on. It's NATURAL. But this cutting and rearranging...
I have had to stop myself in the last couple of weeks because for some reason I kept thinking about my surgeries since 2015 as if they were elective! It was as though I was chastising myself for making the decision to have surgery but then remembered, "No, those surgeries were because of cancer, Sarah. You would not have elected to have those things done to you!"
After crying for about 40 minutes straight (and it's all "ugly crying" at this point) I was finally calm enough to talk to my mom. I confided that it seems as though all of the cancer experiences I have had lately have hit at my most vulnerable or insecure places. As a woman (or maybe it's just me) body image is a thing. I don't want to say it's "a big thing" but it's a thing that is thought about and maybe sometimes too much thought goes into it... But, it's a real-deal thing that women, that I deal with. And breast cancer was the first hit to that thing. How much more directly could body image be impacted? How much more personal could cancer get? It has taken me those three years since September 14, 2015 to get a handle on what has happened to my body. And the reconstruction isn't finalized. There is scar revisions that have been proposed and I'm realizing that I had expectations that kind of snuck up on me as to how this would all end up.
Then came September 19, 2018. The diagnosis date of the skin cancer. Now, before I proceed please hear me when I say that, "I know there are people who have it worse". I can definitely admit and do understand that it could be worse for me. But, in the same respect, if I don't admit to my feelings as they are now and deal with them I'm leaving myself open for unresolved issues of grief and adjustment. So, the skin cancer diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma is/was a blessed thing. Melanoma would be the "worse" diagnosis to be sure. The fact that the spot had been growing into my nose since June 2017 wasn't a mark in my favor as surgery would prove.
My nose. I've always like my nose. I know I wrote back in 2015 after my breast cancer diagnosis that I was finally coming to a place of feeling comfortable in my own skin. Blessing my body for being the vessel to birth four healthy boys, respecting the stretch marks and extra skin, marveling at the way I had been able to feed each child for 10 months of their lives through this body. Then to have it cut up, treated and changed... it has been emotional and a lot to deal with sometimes. We all have that though, the things we have to adjust to, things not of our choosing or plan. We all have to grow into our aging bodies and minds; we have to mentally catch up to our circumstances sometimes. So, my nose. I've always thought it was cute. I didn't think I was priding over it but I have thought in my mind "pride goes before a fall, Sarah" about the fact that my nose was/is/has been operated on and changed now forever.
Sometimes there is good or positive change in our lives and even that change requires a bit of adjustment, doesn't it? So it's no wonder that this is an emotional thing. I shouldn't be surprised about that body image thing coming up for me again. It's not like this surgery is something I can hide. They use the term "it's plain as the nose on your face" for a reason! Ha! It's an adjustment, gang, and I'll get there. But right now I'm just sad as I consider...well, everything. And then I'm reminded that I don't walk this road alone. I've never been alone, not for a second. Yes, Pete has been with me, my parents, Cindy, our boys. Friends and family have been there with prayers, love and support. But, I mean something, someone even closer.
I've been reading the biography of Dallas Willard a great philosopher and spiritual-formation leader. He lived, breathed and wrote about a very-present, very-real and relatable Christ who walks with us and talks with us. In his book Renovation of the Heart he talks about the fully attainable "divine world" and "divine life", this walk with Christ, the kingdom of God here and now. Walking with God in his kingdom here on earth doesn't mean things will always go our way or go well for us. It doesn't mean we won't suffer, on the contrary we are told that we will "share in the sufferings of Christ and also share in his glory." (Romans 8:17 paraphrased). There are no illusions of a perfect life on earth. But what is beautiful about all of this is that we can be honest, be real, approach both hurt and healing with a confidence that good and glory will be seen in and through it all. Romans 8:28 says that "God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes."
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't believe God gave me cancer. But I do believe He has walked with me every step of the way through each cancer diagnosis, treatment, and surgery. I believe that He has orchestrated and created beautiful, meaningful things that have come from each experience. That's redemption. That's restoration. That's the kingdom of God.
1 Peter 5:10 says, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." I feel it. Being made strong. I want to live in the kingdom of God here and now no matter what.