Cancer's Unlikely Gift
Hard times cause me to look for God's presence more than any other. Either out of need, genuine longing, or absolute desperation, I cry out to God most, when I'm all out of other options and distractions. Is it the same for you? Mikkee Hall has lived this experience and I'm honored to share her story with you today.
Thanks for reading,
Cancer is messy.
It strips you bare. It swoops in without warning and leaves you reeling, wondering what just happened. It steals the illusion you have control and forever to live. It makes you tired and sick, fighting to accomplish the simplest tasks in your day.
It came on slowly. I never guessed how sick I was. That I was sick at all. I just kept trying harder, willing myself to feel good. I was 25, I never dreamed cancer could touch me. I could explain away every symptom. My once shiny hair slowly dulled, showering around me in clumps whenever I brushed it. The nail polish peeled off with the rest of my fingernails, my body rejecting the nutrients it needed to keep up the basics.
I’d stare at myself in the mirror, hating what I saw. A girl with fried hair and blotchy skin and a man-like Adam’s apple, afraid to live.
I was tired all the time. Not your run of the mill, I stayed up too late tired. My body hungered for rest. Waking up each morning, I’d lie in bed, longing for bedtime again. I’d will my paralyzed body out of bed because life still had to move forward, and somehow I needed to pay the rent. Staying in bed was not an option. But sometimes my body couldn’t cope, one moment I would be standing upright, the next splayed out on the ground with concerned faces circling me, not quite sure how I ended up there.
My body needed respite.
When I wasn’t fighting my body, I warred with my mind. If I had an opinion different from a friend, anxiety threatened to engulf me. I called over and over, “I just want to apologize. I am sorry.” “No, really, I am sorry. I am sorry for calling again. What is wrong with me?” Tears streaming down my face.
When I didn’t know an outcome, I sunk into myself. Fear battling numbness. Life could never possibly change, I thought. I was obsessed with the unknown, and the deep desire to know instead of going about the business of living overtook me.
I was forfeiting life without realizing it.
It wasn’t until six months after my diagnosis and surgery, I realized just how sick I had been. Like twilight, darkness slowly engulfed me, and until I re-entered the light, I had no idea how dark it had become. I remember the day I woke up ready to face life without a 20-minute pep talk to get my body to do what it is supposed to do. I didn’t have to try so darned hard for everything I did. I actually had the energy to go to work and out to dinner with my friends in the same day! I began to train for a half marathon. I went for walks with a spring in my step. The world was alive and full of possibilities!
My hair regained its luster and my fingernails did what fingernails are supposed to do. My body ceased betraying me and ran like a well-oiled machine.
Cancer marked me – spiritually and physically.
Do you remember the iconic scene from Forrest Gump, when Forrest tells the woman on the bench next to him, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” At 25, I had my entire life planned out. Whom I would marry, how many children I would have, my career, the car I would drive, the places I would travel. It was glorious. I thought I would only pick the chocolates I liked.
Cancer upended it all. In the ugly packaging of cancer came my greatest joy. The one thing I could never plan – spiritual healing.
My community surrounded me and buoyed me up. Cards poured in from around the world. People dear to my heart, acquaintances and strangers wrote to say, “You are loved. We are praying.” Simple words. Friends sitting by my bed. Simple presence. People delivering food or giving me money. Simple acts.
I was showered upon without the ability to return anything but my meager thanks. No one who sent me a card or stopped by my sick bed or brought me a meal recognized they were doing anything extraordinary. But they did. They showed up. And in their presence, I glimpsed Jesus. I feasted on him in the food they delivered. I felt his presence as they sat next to my hospital bed. Jesus surrounded me that March in the beautiful faces of ordinary people.
I stopped wondering if I was enough. I knew I was enough because I was loved.
In the months following my surgery, I stared at the girl in mirror, learning to love her. The girl with the shiny hair and the vivid scar across her neck. A woman clumsily accepting love and living life deeply.
Cancer is messy. But worth every moment of the fight.
Mikkee is a freelance writer and editor living in Denver via Washington DC. She is a traveler at heart, looking for adventures that she can plan. You can follow along on her adventures at mikkeehall.com.
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