Facing a forbidding possibility in my life…
I hear people say something a lot, which, I admit, rather bugs me: “It is what it is,” they will say when something difficult or unwanted arises. “Well, yeah,” I think to myself, “That’s a perfectly obvious grammatical non-statement. What is is? Wow.”
I might be a bit of a word snob.
Many years after first hearing this saying, I do appreciate what is meant to be conveyed. There are some things in life that we just can’t change. But, really, did we need a trendy saying in order to know that? Haven’t I known that my entire life? Are the “enlightened” people of today just finally catching up?
Anyhow, I certainly did not mean for this reflection to be so rant sounding. Although I have seriously disliked the saying, it has wormed itself into my brain and I now find myself using it – but not out loud or on paper. Just to kind of shut my overactive mind up.
I have cause to do that at present… And this brings me to what my reflection is about. Currently, my physical situation is far less than desired. Never mind the motorneuron disease stuff, the not being able to walk or move my arms or take care of myself, blah, blah, blah. And forget the last six months that started with pneumonia, then bronchitis, then menstrual flow for three weeks, then mild Crohn’s disease flareup. That’s old news and behind me. There’s something more pointed and palpably serious going on now.
I have had uterine fibroids for, well, probably over a decade. Not a big deal. I think about 50% of women have them, although most of them don’t even know it. Those that do have symptoms usually find them, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, a cause of severe anemia or an impediment to fertility. I have been able to keep the anemia under control with effort and I don’t have to worry about fertility, but… I’m little. And these fibroids aren’t. One of them is now the size of a tennis ball.
I’m beginning to realize that part of my being a bit short of breath while sitting during the last six months have been caused by the fibroids on the outer wall of my uterus. They have been growing faster, probably over the last year or year and a half. But, now, my gynecologist tells me, they picked up their pace of growth even more. A bit too much. Too much for comfort, certainly, and, maybe… Well, just too much. When there is rapid growth of these things, one starts to think of that very scary subject: cancer.
At my appointment with my gynecologist last week, I did not shy away from that word. It’s just a word. Words have power – but over people, not things like fibroids. (Saying it out loud will make it come true is a silly superstition.) And that particular word doesn’t have quite the same power over me as it might have over some people – but only because I have been facing my own mortality, in one way or another, since I was a child.
Never have I thought or believed that I would live to a ripe old age. (Though, perhaps, still a ripe age, for maybe we humans ripen at different times.) Dying young is part of never getting married, never having children, never living on my own…. My life is different. And this body is not made for the long haul. SMA, or complications directly related to SMA, like pneumonia, are always going to be the likely cause of my body’s demise. In fact, when I was younger, I thought that it was the guaranteed cause. And then, a boy with whom I was acquainted, who had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
That was an eye-opener.
I realized then that I could die from anything – just like anybody else. And even though I well surpassed my original prognosis of a 13 year lifespan, I still know that time is precious, that any year could be my last.
And, now, there’s this word. This possibility of cancer in my own body.
“Is this it?” I wonder.
I am not alone in this wonder. Thousands of people – hundreds of thousands, I don’t know, millions of people – every day face this question. In the past, I have wondered what it would be like to know that you have cancer. I wrote about my aunt’s experience and called it Perspective. Does your whole perspective on life change? Right now, just wondering if I have cancer or not is a bit life altering. At least, it certainly feels like it should be.
At first, given specific things going on within me, I thought that the outer fibroids most probably are malignant. And I thought that perhaps this is the best way to go. Perhaps this is God’s plan to help me leave, to leave this earthly body, this beautiful earthly life. The lack of fear was rather amazing. But, then…
I’m still not afraid, but I am anxious. Sometimes very. Whether benign or malignant, I know the fibroids must be reduced in size, at the very least, because they are simply too large for me. And, I really, really hope that they are benign. I don’t want cancer. Who in their right mind wants cancer? The way things look, I believe that, if they are benign, then it’s truly a miracle.
I have been told not to dwell on the cancer question until I know for sure. That’s sound advice. Yes, okay, “It is what it is.” But… the not knowing, as anyone who’s gone through this knows, is very difficult. However, I’m quite sure that it would be extremely more difficult to know that it is cancer. For all of you out there who are suffering with cancer, my heart goes out to you. And for all of us who are wondering… let’s take this moment of our lives and dig up something deep and powerful and beautiful from it.
Hopefully, the moment will pass with a huge sigh of relief. Before that happens, God willing (please God, may that moment of relief happen) let us discover the roots that connect us most deeply to our family members and friends, perhaps, even becoming surprised through whom the blossoms of love and goodness bloom most easily and freely; let us nurture our better angels, allowing forgiveness, gentleness, and kindliness to take hold and grow within us at a rapid pace; let us surrender to the unknown and the uncontrollable, letting go of the petty and trivial things that have usually plagued us and letting in the love that often manifests in suffering and sacrifice, but which is nonetheless profoundly beautiful, remembering that this earthly life in this earthly body was never meant to last forever – but the soul of who we are, in goodness and truth, will.
Then, no matter what will happen, we will have peace in knowing that we live well. Even if we don’t feel well.
I’m still not particularly fond of “It is what it is.” There is a nonpersonal, non-purposeful nothingness to it that gives the thing itself, the “it”, a kind of power that it doesn’t possess. I say, “It is what God wills it to be in the unfathomable Mystery of the Divine that is too far too vast for my little mind in this bright little speck of the Masterpiece.” And I pray the well-known prayer,
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
to change the things I can,
and the wisdom
to know the difference.”
Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, in whose Sacred Heart I pray. Amen.
I see a specialist at Mass General in the coming week. Don’t worry, I’m staying positive. I’ll keep you updated. Until then, you may see some random posts from this strange moment of life. Pax Christi
© 2017 Christina Chase
photo credit: Jesse Orrico, used for free with no restrictions through Unsplash.com
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.