Cancer Journey: Journal Entry One
Updated: Jan 23
It was a beautiful winter that year. We had a lot of snow with above average temps. Jocelynn, Sophia, and Jason had been sledding and snowmobiling almost every day. Winter was their favorite season. The girl's always wanted to be outside. That is one thing we would never deprive the girl's from.. being outside and getting fresh air. I was four months pregnant with our third child, and this pregnancy had already gotten off to a rocky start. I had the norovirus in November, and had vomitted so much, that it tore my placenta. I had experienced a lot of bleeding and abdominal pain. The ultra sound showed that there was an area that the placenta detached from the uterine wall, so, we knew that this pregnancy could turn into a high risk pregnancy, and possibly a premature birth.
I was still working at the hospital and for this particular week, I was scheduled to work my three shifts on, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. It was a Tuesday, and Jocelynn woke me up in the middle of the night crying, stating that she had left hip and abdominal pain. After I assessed her, Jason and I thought that maybe she was just sore from all the activities from being outside these past few weeks, or, it could have been growing pains. I gave her some Motrin and she fell asleep.
Little did I know, that the next few days were going to be some of the most horrific, heart breaking, earth shattering days I would have ever experienced as a mom. I did not know that the road I was going to be walking down was soon going to be the test of my faith, my motherhood, my marriage and my career as a nurse. My world would soon be broken to the core, and would soon be shifting in a whole different direction. We will be entering into the cancer world, a whole new lifestyle, a new way of living, thinking, planning, and surviving. The hours, days, weeks and months, just began to go by so fast, almost at times spinning out of control. Decisions to be made, medical bills to organize, phone calls to be dealt with, numerous appointments, side effects of chemo, managing nutrition, etc. But, back to this night, I had a strange feeling in my stomach, that something could possibly be wrong with her, but being a nurse, we tend to always think the worse, so I prayed and asked the Lord to give her rest and healing, and for me, peace of mind.
I didn't sleep at all that night. I tossed and turned, and questioned my assessment of Jocelynn. Did I miss anything? She's not a crier, so should I have read into this particular cry differently? What if she is really sick and I didn't see it? With being pregnant, being fatigued, and having a potentially sick child, my defenses were down and my thoughts were all over the place, and I was allowing the enemy to tear me down. Why would that be happening at a time like this? Then like a freight train, it came, the fear of the unknown. Fear of suffering, pain, separation, failure, abandonment, and fear of change. It goes back into my childhood, that root of fear, that raised it's ugly head when I became a nurse. Why? Because as a nurse, we see the suffering, pain, and heartache. Sometimes you do see the joy, remission, triumphs and healing. I hate fear... it has always been a thorn in my side. It's like I can't ever get rid of it. I take it to the Lord in prayer all the time. I give it to Him. But, for some reason, it's always there, in the background, waiting to rear it's ugly head. It's the cross I have been given to bear. I know fear is not of God, as it is actually doubting God. Fear is not the same for every person, but the Lord makes it perfectly clear how we are to deal with it. It has shown me that, when I am fearful, it always brings me back to the Lord. I need Him. It keeps me on my knees, needing my Savior. So if fear brings me back to the Lord, then I will pick up that cross every day. "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10). Each day I see progress in conquering my fear. As I mature with age, knowledge, wisdom, and discernment, I am feeling more at peace with today, tomorrow, and the future.
I have learned that there are circumstances and events in our lives that are out of our hands. Period. I've always known that, but for some reason, when you are in denial, clarity of thoughts tend to go out the door.
I learned this in school that the five steps of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Grief is intense sorrow/distress over affliction/loss. I had no idea how true this was, until I experienced it myself. Let me tell you, I went through each step, and once in a while, I go through it again. It's hard to explain. Having a child whom is a cancer survivor, is almost like experiencing a death. I don't want to offend anyone reading this, but it's the truth. Because, a part of your child is lost, a part of you and the family is lost. By lost, I mean, sickness changes things. It changes the way you were living before. There is an innocence taken. You still have to talk about death, surgery, chemo side effects, neutropenia, being around other people, the loss of her hair, her kidney, the loss of her friends and her childhood. That's what I grieve. I mean, deeply, deeply grieve. It could paralyze me if I let it. But I won't, because it would paralyze her. I can joyfully say now, after all these years, through much prayer, and counsel, I'm finally at peace.
Then I went into denial. Not a good place to be... not at all. Time to wake up Michelle, snap out of it, she needs you, your husband and other children need you. You can't deny that she has cancer. It's not going to go away. Denial doesn't last long. I knew the reality of all that was happening was not going to go away. Time to press forward with the task that we have been given.
As for anger, well, that has been a struggle for me. That has been an issue throughout this journey. Anger was being mad at God and asking Him why He allowed this to happen. It wasn't until four years later, that I was completely healed from this anger.
Bargaining was not an issue for me. Did I entertain the thought a time or two? Yes, yes I did. I wanted a different life. I would ask God to take it all away if I did this or that. If I did this for you Lord, would you heal her? God cannot be bargained with.
Now, here is the kicker: the last two steps of grief. I know that these steps of grief can be experienced in cycles, in ebbs and flows, but the goal is to conquer it in time. Time heals all wounds, so they say. As for my experience with it, I don't hold a candle to time. I don't agree with that statement. Because what is time? We really can't put a measure on it. Events happen that trigger a memory and we can slip back. Someone can say a hurtful or critical remark, and you might experience a step, and it might take a while to get through it. A memory, a photo, a particular smell, or sound, a certain song, or just seeing a child with a bald head could trigger a step, and then you have to "spend time" working through it. You just can't put time on the healing process. Everyone heals differently. Depression and acceptance, these two steps I would soon entered into, and these two rocked my faith. I learned a lot about myself through these steps. I learned a lot about who God really is. Even though I have been a Christian since I was fourteen, I felt like I became different woman of God when Jocie was diagnosed. A more mature, steadfast, and wiser woman. A woman that will end up knowing her true purpose here on earth.
To love the Lord and be His servant is our purpose here on earth. To be good stewards of what He has given us, and to take care of the things He has entrusted to us. To be His servant. No longer will I be a servant in the hospital, but a servant to my child. A caregiver. I will now not only be a wife and mommy, but an actual caregiver, in my own home. There is a huge difference between being a caregiver versus being a mom. Do we take care of our children? Yes. We nurture them, love them, provide for them, guide, support, encourage and educate them. But to be their caregiver, well, that has an entirely different role and meaning. I really can't explain it, because until you've experienced it in your own home, words are just words, and can be taken wrong. We each see things differently and every situation is unique in it's own way. So when you have a sick child, not only are you a mommy and have to fill that need, but you become a caregiver, a need that is entirely different. A personal caregiver can be short term, long term, or life time. Same as motherhood. But, there is a different kind of connection. Being a nurse, we know what that caregiver role means. But being mommy, well, that is an intimate role. You are mom. Someone your child looks up to for strength, security, protection, comfort, stability, guidance, safety, nurturing and love. Deeper than a caregiver role. Combine the two, for long periods of time, and I found that sometimes, it's hard to not be the caregiver, and just be "mom". I would soon learn, that forcing myself to separate the two in the next several years, will be extremely hard.
No one told me how hard it would be letting her go. Letting her go and live her life, and experience it, to spread her wings and fly. I want to protect her, I don't want harm to come to her. This will be another chapter, through the grieving process. Acceptance. How to let her go. How to let her go into the big world. She's fragile. I don't want anyone or anything to hurt her. Getting through the chemo and radiation was extremely hard, but letting her go back into the world again, well, that will be another fear factor to conquer. Which, after all of these years, is still an ongoing issue in my heart and in my head.
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