Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bare

My calendar last week greeted me with 4 days of doctors appointments. What I had pictured as "time off", from chemo to radiation, was beginning to look quite different. Walking through cancer, there really is no "time off." It is always there. The reality. The possibilities. The doctors. There was no letting down this month between me and the medical community. Instead, we have broadened our relationships to now include a staff of radiation specialists....doctors, nurses, technicians and receptionists included.

More people on my path who I have the privilege of meeting. Lives intersecting through cancer. Relationships that might never have been built outside of this disease and my treatment.

Last Tuesday began with my Radiation Simulation appointment. The pre-radiation appointment, if you will, where images are made of my chest so that the radiation can be targeted to the desired location.

When I arrived, a nurse quickly greeted me in the waiting room. She lead me through the next door and guided me past the lockers that would hold my belongings each day as my treatment was underway, to the cabinet that held the hospital gowns, to the changing room and finally to the chairs that would hold me as I waited for my name to be called. This path would mark my footsteps for 28 consecutive days beginning in January.  It will be a path that I will come to know well.

I completed the steps and sat in the small, back waiting room, dressed in the gown, bare underneath from the waist up....waiting. My nurse reappeared and walked me down the wide corridor to the imaging room.

The room was warm, but somehow a chill still ran through my body. I didn't want to be here. I sat quietly, somewhat nervously as she began her job. She was all all business. She had a job to do. My eyes gazed around the room as she prepared. Before me was the cat scan machine and a long, narrow bed attached to the machine. There was a closed door connecting to another room and a window along the same wall covered in metal blinds. Beyond that room were the technicians, I presumed, waiting with their imaging computers for my body to come up on their screens. The room was quiet.

She said she was ready and positioned me on the table. Underneath me laid a trash bag filled with the magic potion that would make the mold of my body. A mold that would hold me each day of treatment as the radiation did its job, hopefully killing any lingering cancer cells near my chest wall. A mold positioning me just right, made to fit my body exactly, cradling me, holding me.

My arms were raised overhead, hands loosely clasped, face turned to the side. Body exposed with nothing more than a thin sheet covering my chest, of which she had to take off marking my sides with a marker.

Bare.

It is a word that seems to define my exterior a lot these days. A bare head. Bare eyes with just traces of eyelashes left, bare eyebrows, the hair that is suppose to layer my exterior is gone.

And yet God reminds me that I am clothed in His mighty robes of righteousness and beauty. Robes that are lavish and deeply colored. Robes of royalty and an inheritance of glory that is waiting for me one day. A robe that is crisp and clean from the forgiveness that He freely extends each day. And I have to constantly bring this reality to the forefront of my mind and heart....meditating on Him alone or the bareness of my physical body will overtake me with grief. All that has been shed.

My mind goes to my Jesus who laid bare in the manger as He made His entrance into this world. As the animals in the stable carried on around Him. As the Wise Men came peering in on Jesus with awe and wonderment, probably never realizing the true beauty that laid before them. Beauty that was just in this baby, but what He had come to do. A purpose to fulfill. And then 33 years later, Bare...He would hang on a cross. Naked, beaten, bruised, hurting in pain unimaginable.....for you and for me. As onlookers mocked him, ridiculed him and gazed at his naked frame. Unknowing that He was the King of all Kings.  Their redeemer. And that while His outward man was perishing, His inward soul was being renewed by the hand of His Father. There He hung, fully God and fully man.....something my mind has a hard time wrapping itself around.

He was willing to be bare.

It wasn't the outside that mattered so much as the inside. What laid beneath the surface. That was the business He was after.

"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary,
 but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Temporary versus eternal.

What we think is important in our eyes, compared to what is important in God's eyes.

And He is getting to the heart of my interior. The stripping away that began the moment I sat in the hair dressers chair months ago. I knew it in my heart. That this was just the beginning. As the hair fell softly to the floor that day. That God was doing a new work in my heart. But for that work to be accomplished, the old would have to go. Old patterns of thinking. Old habits. Old paradigms.

The stripping continues.

I don't lose heart. There are days I am tired and feel like this journey may go on forever. But I know He is doing a work deep within. Cleaning the lens and showing me what is of greater value.

The exterior is temporary. Let's face it. It grows old. It sags. It lets us down. We can spend oodles of money trying to make it better, but at the end of the day....it will die. We all will, someday.

But the soul, the interior.....as the body grows weak, the interior....through Christ.....can grow strong. It can blossom and grow. It can be renewed. And often, that renewing comes through the road of affliction.

I will be laid bare for that work to be accomplished in me. It is worth it. He is worth it. The eternal weight of glory is worth it.

And so I press on, trying not to look at what my eyes want to behold in the mirror, but what the mirror of God's Word beholds in me. That as God speaks to my heart about matters of my soul, I will respond in obedience and willingness.

She worked quickly pushing the sides of the trash bag against my body, holding it there as the liquid inside settled into place, hardening into a cast. I had my ipod in hand. I knew I needed to go to the place that truly brought me peace and rest. My body laid upon the narrow table, the catscan machine waiting just beyond my head....ready.

She made small talk as she worked. But I really didn't want to talk. I wanted to just be still. Once again, I choked back the tears that seem to sting my eyes so easily these days. They come from nowhere and freely flow down my cheeks when I least expect it. It is as if they sit, waiting. I closed my eyes, releasing the tension that stiffened my body. And then she left. It was just me and the machine.....and God, who never leaves or forsakes us. He is there, always.

Worship music began flooding my ears as I praised Him in the quietness and warmth of the room. The table slid into the machine, the whirl began as the machine took its pictures and the imaging began. I was transported to the throne of the Almighty. Peace flooded my heart. The bareness was replaced with the shelter of God Himself. He is my covering. As He whispered His love to my heart and my heart in return cried to Him. And we met again in the cat scan tunnel.

Time moved quickly as the table ushered me back into the room. My arms were numb and heavy from being stationary over my head for so long. The nurse returned and told me I could rest my arms. As I tried to move them they banged against my body with an uncontrolled heaviness. Blood began returning to my fingertips, as the nurse prepared my body for the radiation tatoos....4 of them....marking my body permanently. Pricks of a needle, forever marked by radiation. Forever marked by this breast cancer road, once again.

As the imaging appointment finished, I retraced my previous steps and walked out into the brisk air. Later that day, my oncologist called to tell me that there was a problem with my imaging. As it turns out, my left breast was a bit too large, thus inhibiting the radiation ray to my chest wall. She informed me that she had called my plastic surgeon, relaying this information and that my left side needed to be somewhat deflated.

Last Friday, I went to my plastic surgeon. He took the stitches out from my mole removal procedure the week before, He happily informed me that my moles all came back completely clear...no abnormal cells at all....Praise God! And then he took 125ML of saline out of my left breast leaving me, shall we say....a little bit lopsided.

And this too is temporary....following radiation....he will reinflate me for two months leading up to my final reconstruction surgery in late April.

So this morning, I was back to the radiation department, walking back through the paths leading to the cat scan imaging room....for imaging number 2. Same nurse, same room, same procedure. As she rolled me into the machine, Ipod once again playing and earphones snuggly in my ears.....a light shone through my closed eyes as worship music flooded my ears......with the words.....broken into beautiful.

That is our God.....He takes the broken, the bare....and makes us beautiful as we submit to His loving and gracious hand. He has heart work that He is after.

May we not lose heart.....

Much love today,
Stacy

15 comments:

Melissa said...

Stacy,

I have no words as I take in all that you have so beautifully said. My heart aches for you and I am drawn to a place of prayer for you. Your faith and trust in God is beyond incredible! You reflect Christ so beautifully. Thank you for sharing your story and leading us all into His presence.


Much Love in Christ,

Melissa

babyrndeb said...

Thank you for reminding me that behind every patient that I get is a real person, with real feelings, hopes, fears and desires...
May I never get to the point that I just do my tasks. I don't ever want my job to just be 'routine'. I would hope to always be able to take the time to calm a patient and really care for them.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas!
Debbie

A multi-dimensional life said...

Oh Stacy, my eyes are cloudy from the tears! Your words flow seamlessly as you describe your experience...it is as if God is speaking directly to us...your words come from Him. Every aspect of your description is so clear, as if I was there with you. God met you in that "tunnel"! Oh beauty...true, bare, pure beauty! That's you! God has given you an unshakable faith! Thank you for always bringing me to my knees!

Love and prayers,
Lorraine

Mom to 9 Blessings! said...

Stacy, I don't really have the words to say after reading this post, except for - BUT GOD!

His goodness, faithfulness, peace, joy and love are ours no matter where we go! Praising Him for all that He has done in you and through you during this journey of doors waiting for you to walk through them.

Merry Christmas sweet friend!

Much love in Christ alone!
Jill

Trisha said...

How sufficient God's grace is, Stacy, as you've expressed so well here. Continuing to pray for you. Merry Christmas!

Jenny said...

Your words are amazing and so powerful. It's like I was there in that room with you as you walked this piece of your journey! I praise the Lord for meeting you there. He is so good! Praying for you and your sweet family. I pray this Christmas season is full of unexpected JOY, His overwhelming PEACE, and rest!! Hugs and Blessings!

LisaShaw said...

Oh Stacy, this is so FULL...I cried, nodded my head in agreement and said a few Amen's! GOD has His Hand on you my friend. You are covered in Him.

My love and prayers remain with you.

You have been such an incredible gift of encouragement to my life Stacy. While you are walking your journey you are giving encouragement. You never make it about "stacy" but rather about JESUS and I love that about you!

Your lessons being learned and the strength in GOD you are gleaning as you walk this difficult journey, you are pouring out to all of us and I'm so thankful. Know that JESUS has your hand and you are not on this journey alone.

I pray a beautiful Christmas for you and your family. May the JOY OF JESUS fill your hearts and home!

Love you!

Diana said...

I am speechless. You are so incredible, and I stand amazed at how God gives you strength to share your journey with us!!

I pray for you. Hugs coming your way.......

Debbie said...

Oh Stacy my heart just hurts for all you continue to go through, and yet my spirit is lifted and encouraged by the obvious presence of Him through it all. You manage to somehow encourage us all through your trials. Just want you to know what a blessing you have been to me these last few months. I will continue to pray for you every day and consider it such a privilege to do so.

Have a blessed Christmas with your precious family, and may our Lord richly bless you all...

Hugs, Debbie

Sara said...

Wow Stacy... so much to go through and process... I am praying for you friend... your reliance on God for each little step is so refreshing... I can learn from you as each I place this little ones life in God's hands! It is struggle for me... but God is faithful through it all, regardless of the outcome! Praying for you this Christmas!
SAra

lisasmith said...

Stacy,
Your words bring such a flood of memories and emotions for me. I wrote this post http://lifeoflisasmith.blogspot.com/2010/05/exposed.html
after my simulation... felt lots of your same feelings too.

Even after treatment, it seems there is no end to cancer. It lingers. Reminders of it everywhere. One day I sigh with relief. The next a chest cold or pain in my arm allows anxiety to try to creep back in. The biggest lesson is that we all must lean on His strong arms each day, safe in their protection.

Enjoy Christmas and celebrate the "days off" I think Memorial Day was one of my favorite holidays this year because I got a long weekend break from rads!!

xoxo

Crown of Beauty said...

Suffering shapes us, and molds us, though not in the way we want to, certainly not in the way we imagined our life would turn out.

God knew ahead of time.

My tears fall as I read your words.

I can only say thank you...for going down this road not known to many of us...and sharing what you are learning, in a way that makes it all so real.

I am adding your blog to the ones I have on my blog sidebar labelled, "Keeping You Close."

Rejoicing with you that your moles came back clear.

It is a new journey...and God is giving you songs to sing along the lonely road.

Yet you are right, you are never alone.

Keeping you close,
Lidj

Darlene said...

one of your most beautiful posts.
Oh, how you Love Him.
THAT is what is Bare to my eyes.

"The bareness was replaced with the shelter of God Himself. He is my covering. "

I can say nothing, but cry. and continue to pray for you every day.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

A long and winding road we travel... and lots of bumps along the way to make sure we haven't forgotten. Mercy, friend, I admire your courage, and I understand your tears.

And I adore your family and friends for being the support they are to you.

Blessings to you this week as you press forward to know your healing. It will come.

peace~elaine

Denise said...

In prayer for you dear one.