Butterfly Sparks Designs

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cancer, Pizza, and Butt Jokes.

You know how after a bad nightmare, sometimes you might wake up relieved that you were only dreaming? On most mornings, I wake up and my first semi-conscious waking emotion is relief, as I think “Oh, thank God, it was just a bad dream.” But then as I reach consciousness (and usually the first thing I do is reach down to touch the biopsy wound on my leg to see if it is still there), I realize it was real. It is real. And then, the sense of relief comes again, when I realize that just as much as it is real, so is He. And He’s bigger than cancer.

Yeah. I have cancer.

Late Stage 2 Melanoma.  The cells have multiplied and have moved from the tumor to the surrounding tissue. 

Words I would have been happy to go for a lifetime never having to write or speak. Suddenly a member of a club that I never asked or wanted to join. So many faces with well-meaning eyes gushing with love and true yearning to comfort me, who utter things like “You’re going to beat this” or “I survived cancer and so will you”.  Or the clich├ęs that I once rolled my eyes at, like “Cancer doesn’t define you” or the perhaps the cheesiest one of all, “Cancer isn’t a death sentence, it’s a ‘new life’ sentence.” It’s all very surreal, listening to these words spoken directly to me. Or seeing things posted by friends and family proclaiming “Melissa has cancer.” “Wait, that’s not me, you've made a mistake”, I want to yell out, but just as the words move to the tip of my tongue, I realize that indeed, this is my current reality.

It’s amazing what one just blurts out when given the diagnosis. When my doctor gave me the news, I just stared blankly and said “Nope, that doesn’t work, because I leave for vacation in 2 days”. I just can’t work cancer surgery, recovery, severe scarring, and chemo and radiation into my plans, Doc. Sorry ‘bout it.

In less than a week, a large section of my left leg (calf) will be removed, and a simultaneous surgery will be done on my abdomen to remove the main (sentinel) lymph node to send off for testing to see if the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes or organs.

When I got the news, I drove immediately to my parents’ home, in spite of the fact that all I wanted to do was to go home and be alone. But as a counselor, I have enough foresight to know clinically that being alone for the next few hours was the worst thing I could do.

Only my family – my loving, faithful, awesome, believing, hilarious family – could weave belly laughs, food, and inappropriate jokes into the darkest day of my life. There were rivers of tears shed (and consistently) by all of us, but mixed with bouts of roaring laughter. My sister and nieces showed up with pizza, which upon later reflection, we found hilarious. My sister Lorri said “I didn’t know what to do, so I just thought we needed pizza. I know it’s ridiculous to have a pizza party when your sister tells you she has cancer, but I didn’t know what else to do.” As we sat around eating, the conversation turned to my instructions to family about certain aspects of what this road may bring, one of which was a lighthearted discussion of how I am to be “styled” during my hospitalization and recovery. This led to a litany of jokes about…well…butts. My late grandma (I'm seriously missing her right now), had a series of inappropriate jokes that she loved to tell about “needing a new butt because mine has a crack in it.” The darkest day of my life was spent belly laughing so hard that it hurt, to my Mama’s old butt jokes. We’re nothing if not classy. (It’s important to note that in between the tears and pizza and inappropriate jokes, we prayed and read Scripture, so I guess that makes it OK.)

So here’s the thing. In the nearly 2 weeks that has passed, God has shown me much about Himself. Much about me and how I experience Him. And now I am about to say something else that I never thought I would say. I’m grateful for the cancer. Don’t get me wrong -- I believe and pray for complete healing. I pray that the cancer hasn't spread and that this surgery is the end of the process.  I hope the journey is short and that the scars on my leg and heart are small. I pray for my joy to remain consistent through every step. But I know…and I mean I KNOW … that my outlook on my life has been forever and radically changed. My experience of Him and surrender to Him has been forever and radically changed. And those are the things I will write about. So please keep checking in here.

And...please keep praying. I remain expectant that God will be glorified through this. That is truly my deepest desire.

He is good, and He is faithful. I believe that He alone is my Healer and my Provider of all things on this and every journey of my life.   And most of all,  regardless of my circumstances, I believe that He is God and He is ALWAYS good. 

If you agree with me, say so.  Would you join me on this journey? 


Anonymous said...

I'm with you and will pray without ceasing throughout this journey of life, love, and God's wondrous greatness!


Robin Porcelain

Melissa Alagon said...

Let me tell you, Melissa, God already has been glorified in this. Besides all the stuff about strengthening others around you, underneath the surface, info of which you may not be privy to, God is allowing your world to be rocked. I see it in statements like: "My experience of Him and surrender to Him has been forever and radically changed."--as you wrote, I realized that IS the beautiful stuff that gives God glory. That's why we can "count it all joy," it makes otherwise no sense that "for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross." Joy? beforehand? in the face of it? Yep, and God bless you Melissa for seeing it...that is beautiful. that is awesome. that is glorifying to God. Amen, sister!!!

And, don't worry about responding with laughter. "A merry heart does good like a medicine" is actually a Proverb...ain't nothing wrong with some good belly laughs and warm pizza over prayer.

Anonymous said...

I walk beside you Melissa in this journey. Praying without ceasing and believing God and His promises from yesterday, today and forever! He is God and He is ALWAYS Good! I agree and I am saying so!

Loving you and so proud of my precious daughter.
Mom and Dad