Wednesday, May 27, 2015
“Your daughter has cancer.”
What happened next I do not know.
My world stopped.
My heart shattered into a million pieces…
and the hollow crept in.
Five years ago today, my life came to a screeching halt as cancer came crashing in. In the early morning hours after Marjorie’s cancer diagnosis, I awoke on the hospital’s stiff pleather couch, tears rolling down my face.
I vividly dreamt the day before was just a nightmare that I would soon wake up from. In my half-slumber state, before I opened my eyes, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was all a bad dream, I thought. And then my world shattered all over again as I opened my eyes to the nightmare reality of it all. I was still on the stiff couch on the pediatric oncology floor of Wolfson’s Hospital. My precious baby girl still hooked up to wires, in a crib next to me. There was no waking up. This was my new reality.
Five years later, Marjorie’s cancer journey is a memory that clings to the front of my mind like it was yesterday. I often stare at my daughter and think, “How did we make it through?” And truthfully, I don’t really know how we did.
Once you’ve been hit with cancer, there is a hollow that never completely goes away, an indescribable sensation that overtakes your body and leaves you paralyzed with the fear of the unknown. The hollow creeps back in, especially when life feels uncertain. Lately, the hollow has been more present than ever.
Last week I woke up with tears streaming down my face. My chest engulfed in the hollow. I woke up and realized I had the exact same dream I had five years ago.
I dreamt that life’s crappy cancer card happened in my dreamstate. My body and mind floated in this place where the reality of cancer happened in my dream and that I would open my eyes to know we were all okay. As I drifted from dream to awake, I had one precious minute where I smiled and exhaled, fully believing it was all a bad dream.
The moment quickly passed and I opened my eyes to the knowing of life’s current reality. I was still in cancer’s world scared to death for what was to come. My body frozen with fear and aching with hollowness.
I brought up my recent hollow dreams to my therapist as we talked about crappy cancer/life cards. She looked at me puzzled as I talked about ‘the hollow’. In true therapist form, she replied, ‘say more about hollow’. I never gave my hollow much thought until provoked to dive deeper into the feeling.
I took a second and began, “Hollow because I feel empty and uncertain. My world has been turned upside down and I cannot tell the future. Five years ago, I did not have a crystal ball to let me know that we would be okay. When I woke up recently feeling hollow, I felt the same way. Life feels very uncertain right now.”
There’s no doubt cancer left a dent in my soul, but cancer also left me with a deeper knowing. No matter how scary and uncertain life is, there is comfort in forging a path into the new normal. Whether it is a new normal in the cancer world or a new normal in COVID times.
My family’s normal has changed again in these past few months and we are slowing moving into the beginnings of a new normal. Finding new rhythms in routine help fill the hollow and find peace in uncertainty.
In times like these, so much is out of our control, which really sucks for control
freaks people like me. Thankfully, I have had a few shitty cards (looking at you – eating disorder and cancer) that have filled my life tool box with ways to adapt when life doesn’t go as planned.
And of course it helps to have a tiny miracle dancing and singing 24/7 around the house. Jordan and I often stop and look at both Manning and Marjorie in disbelief. We hit the children lottery…albeit a very HIGH ENERGY lottery with our two!
When Marjorie gets out of the bath, I wrap her up in a towel and can’t help but kiss the scar on her belly. Her scar that represents how EXTRAORDINARY the human spirit is and reminds me that no matter how hollow life might feel, there will always be light on the other side.
After the hollow, light might come into our lives a little different than before, but there will be light. I rest my tired, home school teacher head on that at night. I will never know ‘why’ we got dealt the cancer card or ‘why’ the hollow still haunts me. But I do know this to be true:
No matter what life tosses at us (looking at you COVID-19) – we will always find our new stride just as we did five years go. We may not want to find the new stride. There have been plenty of times in these last few months where I have stomped my feet and said, “I quit. I can’t do this.” I give way to the fear and anger, take a deep breath and motor onward.
We can and will do hard things. We can and will continue to put one foot in front of the other, whether it is from a hospital room or getting our child to finish their damn school work. There will be light. There is always light, even in the hollow. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder than other.
Thankfully, I don’t have to look very far to find this little light of mine…