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A Cancer Story: The Emotional Maelstrom

Part of cancer’s charm is the roller coaster of emotions brought on by both the disease and the treatment for the disease.

Cancer’s part is mostly psychological, the constant reminder that life is tenuous, frail, here today, gone tomorrow. The disease is a bully, puffing out its chest and reminding you at every turn that it has killed, will kill, and won’t hesitate to add you to its long list of victories. It is ruthless and respects no one. And no matter how many surgeries you have or what kind of treatment is administered the thought is always there: what if it doesn’t work?

And the chemo is no walk in the park physically. It’s poison–given at doses strong enough to kill the rogue cells but not quite potent enough to kill the host (you)–has side effects that are relentless and come in waves, strongest the first few days after each treatment, then subsiding gradually until it’s time to get juiced again. The constant nausea, the parasthesias, the cold sensitivity, the restlessness, sleeplessness . . . it all wears on you like the steady drip of water boring a hole in rock.

Up and down the emotions go (mostly down): the depression, the anxiety, the moodiness. Ebbing and flowing like some dark, mysterious psychological sea.

I’d go from feeling light and optimistic to bawling my eyes out while watching the kids play in the backyard. I spent a lot of time sitting in my recliner, staring. Just staring. Jen called it “the chemo stare.” Any confrontation at all, whether with Jen or the girls, would send me into an emotional tailspin.

But through the maelstrom of emotions there were always the blessings to keep me tethered to hope. The folks who brought us meals, mowed our grass, ironed our clothes, paid our bills, watched the kids, and numerous other things served as beacons in the night, guiding me back to God by showing us His love, His care, His concern. They were His hands and feet, His voice, His touch, His heart; they showed us in a very practical way that no matter how bad things got, how dark the nights were, or how deserted the wilderness became, we were not alone.

What was it that sent you on an emotional roller coaster? And who did God bring into your life to keep you tethered to hope?

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