nothing profound

alternately titled: the only thing i’ve written in 3 weeks that i haven’t deleted.

that is not a joke.  EVERYTHING i’ve written in the last two weeks is purely awful. here’s how it goes: i write a few hundred words, then go back to look over them.  and then i gag. and delete.  and repeat.  basic human courtesy demands that i not publish these sappy little essays, though i could argue that i have shared some pretty bad things over the years, and even this particular post isn’t stellar. but the sentimental drivel of july 2015 will not see the light of blog. you’re welcome.

if you have seen my Instagram the past few weeks, you’ve seen #julyisforcelebrating, a mantra for my 23 day escape from all things cancer, doctor, needles, and treatments.  let’s overlook the fact that i’m probably not cool enough to declare my own hashtag… i did, it’s done, we’ll all just have to accept my inappropriate behavior and move on.

y’all, we celebrated the crap out of those 23 days. 23 days of no doctors, no needles, no treatment. 23 days of no paper robes and ice-cold, half-naked exams.  23 days of ignoring cancer all together.

it was magical.

even though i did not miss them for 23 days, my doctors are pretty great. we met some absolute turkeys when Matt was sick, so i consider it no small thing that we actually like all 5 of the doctors i see regularly. we’ve remarked more than once that, given different circumstances, we might have been friends with any of them.  all the breast exams, needles, & awkward photography (oh yes- that’s a thing) makes that highly unlikely now, but still- good people. smart, interesting, kind, humorous (some more than others), and above average listeners… we are thankful for them.

on that note: no. i’m not done with treatment. i have 2 more infusions of Herceptin, 28 days of radiation, and possibly another surgery (oh and 10 years of hormone therapy). i haven’t talked about these a ton… because really? how often should one discuss one’s boobs? right: not often.

some of you kind people have asked how i’m doing emotionally, especially given the darkness and the crying i wrote about a few months ago. i’m coming into a new normal- peeking out from under the crazy hormone storm that covered everything the last few months. i’m not ‘back to myself,’ but i don’t know that i will be. and maybe that’s okay. thanks for asking- thanks for caring, risking the deeper question, and listening.

i already miss july.  i keep trying to write about how it felt to go home.  i try to describe how so many places are home, and how we have people that are home for us even in new places. and then the sappy garbage writing appears again, and i’m not in the mood for that.  gross.

i will say this: going home means doing everyday things with people you love- jumping right back in as though you never left.  i have 20 examples from our St. Louis visit, but this is one of my favorites: standing in Tim & Bailey’s kitchen, mason jar of sangria in hand, talking to at least 30 of my favorite people. it was a gorgeous party- amazing food, twinkly lights, pinterest-y flowers, and a fabulous backyard water feature. but it was also 100 degrees in the shade, and we gathered where we always do- in the heart of the home, close by the food and the friends we’ve loved for so long. it was such an ordinary moment, and one i will treasure.

thanks for celebrating july with us, friends- you made it magical.


middle places

here’s the thing about not having cancer anymore:  i’m not sick, but i’m not well yet, either.

beyond the continued treatments, surgeries, therapies and side effects to my body, the reality of how i am not going to be done with this, not going to just ‘put it behind me’ has settled over me like late-summer Texas heat- blistering and prickly, humidity choking all the oxygen from the air.  inescapable.

there’s this rush of gratefulness and light- a renewed energy that comes when the weight of diagnosis is lifted. and then… heaviness. dark, shadowy fears that cry out of your loss, your family’s hurt, your life forever scarred.

where does that come from?

there’s some question about how my long term medications interacted with those i took only briefly, jarring my brain as it struggles to keep up with all the new formulas-  possibly the fluctuation of hormones as i shift from one drug to another.

it is likely that this- the unexpected hard of post-cancer- is also the backlash of the last 9 months.  the feelings i pressed back and back and back because i had a job to do, now all crash forward at once- like water sloshing in an overfull bathtub. a warm wave of questions and fears and anger, spilling over the edges and spreading across the floor, messy and uncontainable.

or maybe i’m just tired. the body i am left with after gallons of chemicals and counter-chemicals and now cutting and rebuilding is tired. the mind i am left with after focusing on getting well, maintaining some energy for my family, and clutching small shreds of southern christian girl politeness towards those who ask ridiculous questions is tired.

yes, i think all of those are true.

i meant all the words i wrote during and just after… they are not false just because i am tired now. but i don’t really want to hide this part from you, friends.  this may be the more real part of being a ‘survivor.’ (side note: i don’t want to be called a survivor, warrior, or fighter. those are great titles from some, but i just don’t resonate with them. you can call me rachel.)

i have met lots of women who are going through cancer treatment, and i have seen this in some of them as well:  when there is a job to do, we do it- take the meds, deal with the sickness, maintain our lives and our families and our sanity, do the work to get well again. we are positive- strong- hopeful- focused. inspiring, even. but not much can prepare you for the post-cancer tidal wave. when you are alone with your thoughts again after months of chemo-brain and ‘just don’t puke in front of the kids,’ the darkness is a little surprising- a little overwhelming. the guilt of ‘shouldn’t i feel amazing and go save the world?’ instead of ‘i think i’ll just drop everything to sit alone in the sunshine for a while.’

some people ‘bounce back’ more quickly than others, which is wonderful. but some of us aren’t bouncy anymore. some of us reach the end of our resilience. maybe there’s only so many times our bodies and minds can be stretched to the limit before we stop returning to our original shape… not destroyed, but irreparably distorted.

you know what i WANT to do?  write cutting, sarcastic words that feel good going out, but horrible when they land. i want to slip in passive aggressive digs at all the well-meaning hurtful things people say when you have cancer (i’ve gotten some doozies).  but spewing every dark and crazy and desperate thought i’ve had, pouring out my emotions like sludgy, rancid water on you- my friends, family, and online acquaintances who have cared for me so well- that’s not good for anyone.

and that’s why i haven’t been writing (or just not publishing what i’m writing).  not because i don’t have anything to say, but because i’m still in the middle of it. there’s this human tendency to want to learn the lesson, see the growth, understand the process, wrap it all up in 1000 words or less. but in the middle, it’s dark and twisty and unmanageable.  even now, i’m tempted to put a big, fat, happy-clappy ‘yay Jesus’ bow on this… and i just don’t think that i should.  you don’t need that- my false front, my pretty picture. you can handle a little darkness from me, right?

so… i’m just going to leave this here and hope you don’t feel like you don’t have to say something helpful, be deeply insightful, or ‘fix me.’  i am broken, sure. but so are you… and it’s enough, even good sometimes, just to be broken together.



i walked out the door late this morning- sun mixed with clouds, steady gusts of crisp wind across the patchy brown snow.

i walked out onto the grassy trails of the wooded, brook-bound acres owned by our church, my home.

i took my jacket off, rounded the corner to face the chilly breeze, and put it right back on.

i wasn’t cold, exactly.  but the wind made the tears on my face feel like ice as they dripped down my collarbone.


photo by Sara Alaica

the snowmelt reveals what has been hidden for so long, and i want it to be beautiful. i want the unveiling of Spring to be glorious in warmth and color- the whole cliche of new life for the whole earth and all that.

but i see layer upon layer of dead branches and leaves. melting dog poop. the toys we left out to freeze and disappear for months.  my fallen window boxes. my porch covered in the evidence of my long neglect.

the trails are mud here, ice there- the brown grass barely holding the earth in place. bare trees against blue sky- if the buds are there, i can’t see them.

this is the raw of Spring, and it isn’t what i want.

i want Spring to hold Promise and Hope, not the damage and runoff of Winter. i’m aching for warm earth, soft green buds, hints of the newness, the revival of life.

and i hate how desperately i want Spring to be the perfect metaphor for my heart.  but i do- i want the cheesy, overplayed platitude to ring true: when the harsh winter is over and the snow melts away, there will be treasure beneath, right?!  i get to shed this cold and aching season and see what i’ve become… i was placing a lot of hope on that being true.

but i’m still in the raw. skin raw from scraping away disease and newly stretched to cover what has been removed. body raw from months of poison-attack, my cells still pushing out the intruder and re-learning their roles.

my heart and mind are raw, tenderly feeling everything- EVERYTHING.

this is the place God enters- this fresh pain and bruised soul.  His movement hurts. i just want to lay still until it feels better, and He won’t stop pressing, touching, moving through my pain. and if this is peace and goodness and grace and healing, then i want it, though i’m afraid i might break into pieces.

so while i’m letting Him move and watching -quietly, painfully-  waiting for the healing, i may be silent here.

i’ll keep writing, and i’ll return. but i can’t answer your question yet: what has God been teaching you?  now that you’re ‘on the mend,’ do you have a new sense of purpose?  i know you ask in love, and i want to be ready.  but today showed me that i’m not.

what God is doing is in the dark inside me- i can’t see it, and i can’t name it for you. sharing a story before we see God’s presence and purpose in it is often unkind. unsafe, even. i believe in the strength of our stories- we lift them up as lanterns and light the way for each other. this one is not ready to be held high just yet.

thank you for your grace. i’ll see you when the raw has passed and the treasure of Spring is revealed.


photo by liz west