Fear Not

I can’t say that I’ve had a lot of fear along this journey. I have certainly had my dark moments, and some anxiety about things unknown. These could be measured as degrees or shades of fear, I suppose. With cancer, the obvious fear is death, but I haven’t really spent much time thinking about that.

The only thing that I can say was an honest-to-goodness fear is how my hair would grow back. Clearly, this is vanity at its finest, because a person’s hair doesn’t matter. Or shouldn’t. But it does, really. Aside from the sentimental idea of not getting Shane’s curls back was the fear of my hair coming in gray.

You may have noticed I said “was.” That’s because I have a bunch of thin, fuzzy hair coming in–gray. It’s too soon to know about the curl situation, but this first development is a little off-putting. My lifelong best friend was gray at 18, so I’ve made it a fair bit farther than she did. However, being gray before 50 was not ever my best case scenario.

As I see this hair coming in, I realize the fear was so much bigger than the actual thing. Isn’t that always the way? Yes, I see what’s happening, and I do have the hope that color will return after chemo. I am told that can happen. But really, when I think about it, I know a few pretty gorgeous women with gray hair, and I think this is something I can survive. I feel like I’m kind of rocking the bald, maybe I’ll look great gray. If I don’t like it, I’ve heard there are places I can go to get my hair color changed.

I’m in a pretty cool place right now in life. I’ve had some really scary things happen over the last several months and have been forced to face them. Fear has been a definite choice in each case, and God has been helping me step-by-step to choose otherwise. With slippery slopes all around me, not once have I fallen into a place where He could not catch my hand and bring me back to dry ground.

The fear of something is always greater than the thing itself. Though I didn’t realize it, cancer was one of my biggest fears. Now that I’ve faced it, I see it wasn’t as bad as fear had me believe. Though my prognosis is excellent, I am not out of the woods yet and I will never feel completely safe from cancer’s recurrence (Ha. I just googled the spelling of that word and the example given was “a drug used to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer).

If cancer hits me or those close to me again, grief will most definitely be a huge factor, but I think I will approach the situation with predominant emotions other than fear. Cancer is a big deal, and a difficult one. It often ends tragically. Walking with the Lord has made all the difference. Allowing Him to carry me is what has changed this journey and made it bearable.

What are you afraid of? What haunts you? Give it to God. In the first place, if you fear something, that means it hasn’t happened yet. It may never happen. Why waste precious time and energy on something that may not ever come to be? Secondly, if what you fear does happen, you will find that there is a way to walk through it. This is where the hope of our salvation in Jesus Christ comes into play. No matter what happens to us, with our hands in His there is always a way. It’s a promise. A confidence. A sure thing.

My worst case scenario on this journey is death, obviously. I don’t want to die yet. I have things I want to do, dreams I want to pursue, grand babies I want to hold. I want to watch my children grow and learn and get married and find their ways in life. Far more than that, though, I don’t want my family to face the grief and loss of my death. Not that I’m something great, but it’s always a big deal to lose a wife, mother, daughter or sister. That’s not an obstacle I want them to have to handle.

But God, in all His infinite wisdom and mercy, knows what is best. If he chooses to take me Home, He will walk my family through the grief. He will use it to make them better and stronger people, and will help them to find fulfillment and joy and healing. I KNOW that this is true. And, if He takes me Home, I get to live out eternity in His presence, never again fearing or grieving or in pain. I kind of think that beats what I have planned for the rest of my little life here on earth.

Suffice to say I can trust in Him, wholly and completely, whether it concerns gray hair, grand babies, or my very life. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 ESV

Shaney’s Curls

Fifteen years and three months ago today, I brought my one, sweet son into the world. After 4 girls, this was quite the event, and quite the hormone shift for my body.

My hair was very long, and about a week after his birth, I went to a salon and had it cut. I was surprised to hear the stylist comment on my “lovely natural curl,” since my hair had been stick-straight since the day it started growing. She went on to explain that sometimes this happens with giving birth, especially when there is a big hormone change like I had experienced. I was elated at my new hair, though I was sure it was too good to be true and wouldn’t last.

The natural curl did last, and for 15 years, I have had body and fullness to my hair that I had only dreamed about in my first 34 years. Shane knows the story, and it is not uncommon for him to remind me he gave me those curls. They have always been “Shaney’s curls.”

When cancer came along and I knew I’d lose my hair, my son would good-naturedly tease me. “Mom! I gave you those curls! You can’t shave them off!” It’s been a bit of lightheartedness in an otherwise dark time.

Tuesday, I shaved off Shaney’s curls. The hair that comes back will not be the same; it’s the end of an era. I think this is part of what has been so difficult for me in my hair loss. The curls have been a place of tenderness and connectedness for my son and I over all these years.

It seems silly to be upset by such a trivial thing, especially knowing neither he nor I had any say in the giving or taking of these curls. But, when you step back and look at life, it is comprised so much less of momentous occasions and far more of the stringing together of small memories and moments. Some of these small moments are more poignant and cherished than the big events.

Hair grows back, and I imagine Shaney and I will remain connected through him reminding me that I had a good thing going with his curls and I went and shaved them off. He and I have a far deeper connection than that, and I am grateful that we will be able to continue teasing one another.

At the moment God gave me Shaney’s curls, He knew exactly how long I’d have them, and what would be the cause of their loss. He knew that both Shane and I needed this little connection, and that we both–somehow–need this cancer journey in order to become the people He wants us to be. There is purpose here. God does all things well, and breast cancer is one of the tools He has chosen to perfect our faith.

Someday, Shane and I will look back and have a conversation about what God did in and through us because of my illness. We will see how it couldn’t have been done any other way, and how gracious God was to allow and to walk with us through this trial, in order that we may grow, thrive, and glorify Him.

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:7a