The other day Ashley asked me, "Is this how life is?" referring to the overload of stressful events that we have experienced since May 2009. After careful thought, I replied, "Well, all of these things are part of life, but they don't always all happen so close together."
That conversation made me think about all the high-stress events that have happened in a few short months in our family:
I am diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer
Ashley graduates from high school
My mother falls and breaks her arm
All my life and work plans are put on hold
I begin radiation and oral chemotherapy
Ashley moves away to college out of state
I have major abdominal surgery
I learn to live with an ileostomy
My grandmother passes away
I begin IV chemotherapy
Sarah graduates from college
I bury 8 friends who die from cancer
I have major abdominal surgery again
We lose two great friends who worked with us
We move Ashley from Norman to Austin
We move Sarah from Norman to Tulsa
Mark's mother is diagnosed with cancer
Mark's mother has surgery
Mark's mother has a stroke and spends 2 weeks in ICU
Mark's dad spends 24 hours in the hospital
Mark spends 24 hours in the hospital
We move Ashley back to Norman
Our dog, Biscuit, passes away
Everyone I know is diagnosed with cancer, or at least it seems that way!
All of that on top of the ordinary stresses of life and ministry... No wonder I am feeling a little out of sorts!
At my last appointment with the oncologist, he asked how I was feeling. I told him that physically, I feel great; but emotionally, I am struggling. He assured me that this is normal. He said that this is the time frame when many cancer survivors experience a lot of tears. He said that I am suffering from "post traumatic stress." No surprise there! He also told me that it's OK not to be OK right now. Somehow those words bring relief to me - I'm right where I am expected to be.
Post Traumatic Stress: "A common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened."
I have read that because we have better treatments for many cancers now, more patients go on to live many years post treatment. While this is good news, it has also led to an increase in the number of cancer survivors experiencing post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders. It has been reported that up to 32% of people will develop post-traumatic stress as a result of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
For me, it has led to moments of high anxiety where my body is physically shaking, days when I am very easily overwhelmed by life, feelings of anger that appear out of nowhere, and a heaviness that weighs on my heart from time to time.
I read these words this week:
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8
I am reminded to reach deep, to soak in Him, to let his living water refresh me. I can never be overwhelmed - He is with me. He can't be overwhelmed.
Once again, His peace fills my soul, and I keep moving forward.