Giving Thanks for Trials
by Christie Perkins
One year ago today I finished my last round of chemo. I don’t miss it at all.
Hibernating taste buds, fiery hands and feet, stolen feminine identity card, constant flu-like symptoms, and commando hairstyle hardly merits any type of thank you card but the perspective I gained from cancer does.
In May of 2013 I was diagnosed with invasive ductile breast cancer with lobular features. In a nutshell, I had two types of cancer where surgery left me with a cancer finger and a fear of return. My lymph nodes also joined the cancer party. Every party has a pooper, right? Chemo and radiation were my attack dogs. I was a 34 year old mother with four boys ranging from the ages of 2-11.
Giving Up My Old Life and Gaining Perspective
It’s true, I hated trading my old life for a new life. Just after my first chemo treatment I went for a walk around the block with my mom. I only got halfway down the road before I had to turn around. I was exhausted. What?! I went from shooting hoops to some sort of shuffle scoot. Thank you chemo. I hoped that my basketball workouts could remain a part of my life. But, I knew right then and there that I’d have to hang up my neon laced basketball shoes for a while.
And with it, a little piece of my spunk fizzled out.
There were other things I had to tuck away: my apron, my mommy gloves, and my cape. They sat in a box labeled boldly with one word: GUILT. This haunting word became the shadow in my smile. No matter how many times people tried to comfort me it didn’t take away my need to be needed.
I quickly saw my role dissipate. My 2 year old was getting me blankies and snuggling up to make me “feel better.” The older boys were helping with homework and diapers. Grandma and the neighbors were wearing my apron, and my husband was getting the scout pins.
Treasured moments slipped away while I slept, trying to recover. Most of the time I could be found lumped on the couch absorbing in whatever family chatter I could.
I never realized how much I cherished chats before bedtime, evening bike rides with the kids, ice cream runs, mandatory meetings, and casual greetings. I cherished the things I hated beforehand- like helping the kids with their homework, scrubbing the tub, and the dreaded bi-monthly grocery run.
Though it was easy to see the things cancer robbed me of, my vision sharpened when I realized what cancer had given me. Learning to see the good was my greatest survival tactic.
Gifts of Cancer
There were other gifts that cancer gave me. A messy house for one. But it was juxtaposed with an entire day cuddling with my 2 year old on the couch. I never would have taken the time for that in my other busy and healthy world.
Relationships became more meaningful. I listened more. I changed the way I thought about my typical mundane mommy days. Every day was extraordinary and a gift, no matter how difficult. I gained compassion for those who suffer- and everyone suffers in some way.
Cancer may have taken away my cape for a while but it gave me super powers I couldn’t have gained with it still tied firmly around my neck. A brief realization of my death gave me more purposeful living. I’ll always feel indebted to cancer for the things I discovered. I’m a better person because of it… and I’m glad.
And the greatest thing I learned was that Heavenly Father is very near watching over us in our most difficult moments. And if we are paying close attention we will see His hand in our lives. He will buoy us up by the hands of others and by simple confirmations that He is near. He loves us very much.
Take a moment and evaluate your trials: current or past. What have you learned? What good came from it? How are you a better person because of it? Take a minute and be thankful for the awesome things that come from your trials. Write about it in your journal. You just don’t know, maybe it’ll put a little perk back into your life.