Truth

I thought it would be so much harder than this. I imagined I would have a colossal melt down when I looked in the mirror. I was sure I would cry and grieve and be horrified. I didn’t.

There is still some measure of shock when I look in the mirror. Shock isn’t the right word. Surprise, maybe? While I have long been disappointed at what I see when I look at myself, my breasts are one thing about my body that I actually liked. I have carried more weight than I want to, and have strongly disapproved of, if not hated my own body. Don’t get me wrong–my body has functioned well and been healthy–I have always been grateful for that. But my appearance has been less than I want and expect of myself. I have been discontent. Dissatisfied.

Now the one part of my physical body that I appreciated is gone, quite literally. In its place is something foreign, something man-made, and honestly, something quite ugly. It’s my skin, but not my body.

So why am I not devastated? Firstly, I know it’s going to get better. As the wounds heal and the reconstruction process continues, things will take shape and assume a more natural appearance. Second, I know this flesh is just my temporary dwelling place–when I reach Heaven, I will have a perfect body and all of this will pass away. The biggest reason I am okay is this: my friends, my family, and my husband love me for ME, not for my body or my appearance. The people to whom I mattered before are still here with me, changed though I am.

My husband has assured me, time after time, that I shouldn’t worry about him or his feelings about my body. I know he means it when he says he just wants me alive and well; the rest is details. He loves me and is committed to me no matter what.

As he helped me out of the shower last night (a lengthy and involved ordeal) I asked him “Did you imagine this all those years ago when you said ‘I do?'” “Nope” he said. “And if you knew, would you still have done it?” He laughed. “Yeah, I would.” I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter declaration of love and devotion from this man-of-few-words.

As I back up and look at this whole situation, I realize that it hasn’t been about breasts at all. It hasn’t been about body image or self-confidence. It’s not about how I look in the mirror or in my favorite outfit. It has been about fear.

Fear always presents itself in worst case scenarios and gigantic what-ifs. It puts thoughts in my head that I will hate my body even more after this. It tells me that I will be less attractive now. Fear says that everyone who sees me will know that I am altered and damaged. It says that my husband will no longer find me attractive, especially undressed.

Guess what? Fear is a liar. It comes from the pit of hell and the one who would destroy all things lovely. Fear is big and scary and life-threatening.

You know what else fear is? It’s a big fat wimp. The very moment you look fear in the eye, it’s gone. It simply can’t live on the same porch as Truth, the really big dog.

The night before my surgery, God showed me the love that surrounds me. He showed me the truth of how very much I am loved, regardless of my physical appearance or condition. Truth came in and fear was gone. That’s what gave me the courage to look in the mirror–and not lose heart.

Outpouring

I love going to church. Worship music moves my heart like nothing else. Good preaching guides me and leads me in my daily walk. Poor preaching teaches me to be gracious and reminds me that I am prideful!

The thing I love most about church is The Church. I don’t mean the building, though ours is nice. I’m not referring to the order and style of our service, though I enjoy that, too. It’s the people. Oh, the people!

As the service let out and people meandered toward home yesterday, I found myself surrounded. I had ladies on all sides. All reminded me of their prayers. Most gave me a tight squeeze or a pat on the back. Meals were offered, and one dear soul pressed money into my hand. I felt so loved and cared for. I looked across at my husband and saw that he, too, was being shown love–in a more brotherly manner.

It is my privilege, my blessing, my honor to be treated this way. A line from one of my favorite songs comes to mind. “I’ll surrender to the power of being crushed by love.” Love isn’t always easy to accept. Sometimes people press into your private places and you feel pushed against a wall. But oh, the power of that love! When I surrender to the outpouring of love from my Sisters and Brothers in Christ, there is such joy–such relief. Burdens are shared. Sin is revealed–and forgiven!

Here’s the hardest part, at least for me: in order to experience this outpouring, I have to be in a position of need–and wiling to let people see it. Vulnerability is a valuable commodity; showing my weakness is costly to my pride and my sense of self-sufficiency (also pride!).

Since unknown need is difficult to meet, the amount of “coming-alongside” I receive is directly proportional to my willingness to be vulnerable. When I let down my guard and admit that I need others, it frees them to walk with me and minister to me in ways I deeply appreciate. It also frees them to be vulnerable in their need, and allows me to be the one helping and serving. It’s a duet.

You see, the beauty of the Body of Christ is that, even though we are all on different roads, we are traveling together. Sometimes the journey is a vacation filled with laughter, joy, and spectacular views. Other times, it is a sheer cliff, and one of us dangles while the others hold on for dear life.

I want to be the foot washer, not the one with dirty feet. I am finding there is so much blessing in both, and one can’t exist without the other. Learning lessons like this is part of the purpose in my current journey. Some things can’t be learned in the classroom–they have to be experienced in the field. God give me the grace to be a good student.

Blender

I’ve loved the same man for twenty-five years. We “met” in the nursery at the Sandstone Evangelical Free Church. Since he is two years older and went to a different school, we didn’t really interact much growing up. When I was 23, Larry and I met up at a party. We started seeing each other, and were married a year and a half later.

My husband is an honest, hard-working, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of man. He doesn’t put on airs, doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not, and you can count on him to help any time he can.

Even though Larry is all these wonderful things, I tend to get picky. In my selfishness, I overlook some of these solid qualities and get resentful that he isn’t this or that. For example, I am a person who thrives on encouragement and physical affection. I want him to come in from work, sweep me into his arms and proclaim that he’s missed me and been thinking of me all day. Y’all. He’s a dude. That alone should tell me that there’s a high probability that he’s not thinking on that wavelength in the middle of a busy day. More likely, he’s trying to grab a quick bite so that he can get back to whatever it was he was doing on the farm.

We have had conversations for years about love languages and speaking my language and things like that. In those conversations, I’m sure I’ve been more concerned about him learning to speak my language than about me learning to hear his.

Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I have seen him pay attention more obviously than ever before. He has been willing to go to appointments (he HATES leaving home, going to cities, and being in medical facilities of any sort) and yet, he’s there every time I need him. He has made sure not to worry me about the added financial burden my cancer brings, though I can see it weighs on him. He sees that I get rest and that I don’t feel like an inconvenience. But maybe the biggest indicator of his concern is the blender.

In our first oncology meeting, the nurse walked us through the chemo process and what to expect. She mentioned that eating would likely be an issue and, in passing, said that maybe protein shakes would be a good idea. We spent 3 hours in that appointment learning more than we ever wanted to know. It pretty much fried our brains, so we went to lunch at a place of my choosing. Just the fact that he was willing to try a Japanese restaurant was amazing in itself, and a sacrifice. Larry is a buffet man, through and through.

Walmart came next, to grab a few things before heading home. Larry headed for the kitchenware section and straight to the blenders. Odd. He started comparing smoothie blenders and when I asked him why, he said “Well, that nurse said protein shakes would be a good idea, so I figured we better get a blender. Which one do you think would be best?”

Now, my husband is not one to spend money on such things. The fact that he spent $90 on a blender that I might need screamed loudly to me of his love and devotion. I saw then that he wanted to help–wanted to fix anything he could–even at personal cost. It humbled me. Like so many other aspects of this journey, it reminded me that things are not always what they seem or what I expect.

I am now the owner of an awesome Ninja blender with several different settings and some technology that is probably smarter than I am. I use it frequently and enjoy it. My favorite function, though, is that it shows me loudly and clearly that I am cherished by the one that I love most.