I had a little surgery last Friday — well, I guess because it lasted over 7 hours it was a little more than “little”, but compared to my previous really big surgeries, it could be considered comparatively little. It was also the last in my post-cancer surgeries — ooooh, nice word: “LAST”. Last — final — end — completion — I’m done with surgeries. Hallelujah!
This last surgery was to do a number of things. My surgeon removed my portacath which was used extensively during my chemotherapy and had been inside my chest for more than two and a half years — that’s a long time. She also removed some necrosis (dead tissue) from my last reconstruction and moved some fat from other parts of my upper body so my two reconstructed breast “mounds” could be of similar size and shape. Finally, she made me some new nipples! Yep, you heard me right — for the first time since January of 2011, I’ve got a set of nipples! For those of us whose mastectomies required the removal of our nipples, we have the option of utilizing other tissue to recreate what can look like real nipples. Now they don’t have the feeling or function of real nipples, but they can look like nipples. Some women choose not to have this done – they don’t have any need for this type of reconstruction. I admit that I didn’t at first, but over time, I decided that this was a good “finish” for all my reconstruction surgeries. So I opted for it and in this last surgery, along with the myriad of other procedures done by my surgeon, she did a successful nipple reconstruction.
So I’m home recovering from this LAST surgery and although I look a little like a prize-fighter with bruising and cuts all over my torso, I am not feeling all that bad. I’m reminded that this last surgery is just the “clean up” following my cancer storm. I’ve already faced the hard stuff.
Facing hard stuff.
As I’ve reflected on the relative ease of this last surgery and the realization that I’ve already faced the hard stuff of my cancer storm, I’ve also been very aware of the people around me who are facing their own hard stuff.
- My friend David who I wrote about in my last blog post “Factor of Two” on August 10 faced really hard stuff this last week. As cancer moved through his body, claiming each of his organs one by one, David faced the hard stuff of dying. Oh, he was ready to meet Jesus — that was the easy part. But this former Navy officer, this tall, tough man who lived through the heat of many battles, told me that the work of dying was the toughest battle he’d ever fought. I am so glad David had Jesus who was with him every moment. David’s battle was won in the early morning hours on Monday. He is now home with the Lord.
- I’m thinking about my friend Joanna who is struggling with cancer and is sicker than she’s ever been before. She’s facing really hard stuff and her family is alongside her, facing the hard stuff of watching her struggle. Should they find another doctor, seek another care facility, explore another type of treatment? Hard questions in a really hard situation. I’m honored to pray with Joanna and the family as they receive assurances of God’s love like hungry people receive fresh bread.
- And there’s Michaela who lives daily under the shadow of depression and its sometimes unyielding grip on her mind as it seeks to convince her that taking her own life would be the best way for her to face her hard stuff. The lure of that lie — the one that tempts her to commit suicide — is so strong. She tells me that sometimes it feels as if every cell of her being wants to say “yes” to this temptation. In those hard, awful moments, it is only Jesus who stands in the way of her yielding to that temptation. It is only Jesus who reminds her that He gave her life and that His love is enough to sustain her until He decides to take her from this earthly home to her heavenly one. But every day Michaela faces really hard stuff.
I wish Robin Williams had known Jesus. Oh, I know it’s possible that he did, but I’ve watched too many of his interviews when he spoke about heaven and life after death to believe that he really did know Jesus in a real and personal way. I wish he’d known Jesus because it’s obvious that like many of us, Robin Williams was facing really hard stuff. I am deeply saddened by the thought that as he faced his really hard stuff, he was facing it alone — with his own strength, his own thinking, his own ability to make sense of things and to survive his pain.
Maybe it wouldn’t have made all the difference. Maybe the temptation to take his own life would still have won out, as it did with Rick and Kay Warren’s son Matthew. Sometimes the hard stuff seems to win.
But there would have been a difference that it would have made — and it’s the difference that makes all the difference when we are facing the really hard stuff. When we know Jesus — like Matthew Warren did and my friends David, Joanna, and Michaela do — we don’t face the really hard stuff alone. There in the midst of our hard stuff is Jesus Christ — the Person Jesus Christ. He stands shining with warm light all around Him. Warm light which draws us in and pulls us close to Him, our Kind Savior. There in our worst moments, our ugly, messy, dirty, dark moments — He is there, radiating light and wholeness and hope. Ah yes, hope.
I wish Robin Williams had known that Hope. I wish he’d known Jesus.
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.