In which our Lady endures.
Late Tuesday night I made a grave mistake. I popped in the CD containing my MRI images. I was curious to see the latest news. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to decipher the scans. I was hoping to see a nice big black hole where my tumor had been and nothing more. Much to my despair, I instead found cloudy white stuff all over the area. Here are the images from my last two MRI’s: The first shows how ravaged my skull and how swollen my brain were right after the surgery, the second show Tuesday’s results:
In my small experience, the lighter stuff usually either indicates bones or cancer, while the grey is my normal beautiful brain. I know nothing for certain, but I have a lot of anxiety. I hope it is useless anxiety, but I won’t be sure for another week. Unfortunately, I have been experiencing a feeling of increased pressure and the occasional headache more often the past few weeks. Is this from stress, or from cancer? Whatever the case, it is easy to believe the worst. With all of this uncertainty I find that all I can do is hope and then put into practice a particular kind of endurance.
I begin to hate the phrase enduring to the end. In LDS church and culture, it is used all the time. It is this notion of fighting the ‘good fight’ until its all completely over and you’ve gained your heavenly reward. It has a sense of heroism and nobility about it, though it is often used casually. While growing up, I would envision the Mormon pioneers slowing making their way west in wagon trains, enduring as they walked and walked and walked all the way to the Great Salt Lake. Of course, back then I idealistically believed that when they reached Utah the endurance was over and they found good times all around. Never mind the years of hunger and toil that awaited them there.
So here’s my thing. This last week I’ve thought a lot about my current struggles—and they are just that—current. I’m so tired of it NOT ending. I never was one for distance running. I much prefer dashing through the race in 100 meters. Even before the MRI on Tuesday, I have had this sinking feeling that I’m not quite done yet with this cancer thing. In fact, I look back on earlier blog posts and on the improbable optimism of the last few months and the terminology that comes to mind is “naively jubilant.” It all started with the revelation through my patriarchal blessing that I would “live a long and prosperous life.” I do not doubt that this will be true. But the naivety with which I assumed easier, even golden, times ahead (and ones that would soon cease) makes me cringe. That is not what was promised in those few words.
I face a new ME right now—one who is being changed, probably for the better, but not with my own volition. I am losing aspects of myself that I prize due to the cancer and the surgery: my excellent short term memory, my quickness in conversation, my ability to throw things together successfully via energy, charisma, vitality, and a certain bit of good fortune. In place I am getting other things, and they are good—but sometimes surprising. For instance, some of these aspects may be increased spirituality, wisdom, or the dreaded ability to endure to the end. Don’t get me wrong—these are good gifts. I just didn’t understand that I would have to trade in some of the other good things to get the better. I loved my ability to learn easily and quickly—it made things very easy for me. To lose this gift of knowledge in order to gain the gift of wisdom is hard.
And it is very clear to me that I do have some things to learn that will (hopefully) teach me wisdom. For three days straight I thought non-stop about the concept of Good, Better, Best. Basically, that there are a lot of things to do with your time, but some are better than others, and others are the Best. These I should choose to do first every day, every time, if possible. One of the things I need to work on is reading my Book of Mormon a lot more. In fact, I had the strongest impression one day that although all of the organic research and eating was a very good thing to do, it would not lead me out of this illness. Rather, it is reading the scriptures and attending the temple that will do so. These are the things that are BEST.
I’m learning that enduring to the end means not just getting to the end of an event, or even just lasting through it well. It also means that I’ll have to change throughout the process. It’s not where you end up, but who you are when you get there.