29 June 2010
Living with cancer is a test in mental management. Tonight I came home in search of an old storybook I often read to my girls – a book that seemed quite appropriate for my mind on this particular day.
In 1987, the year Allyson was born, children’s author Kevin Henkes published the book Sheila Rae, The Brave. Both of my girls loved this story, and so many mothers pull it out for a good read when their children have an encounter with fear or uncertainty.
In the story, Sheila is a very brave mouse, not afraid of anything. She walks backwards with her eyes closed, steps on every crack on the sidewalk, and even rides her bike with her eyes closed and without hands. She growls at stray dogs, bares her teeth at stray cats, and even ties up her classmate Wendell on the playground when he steals her jump rope. “I am very brave,” said Sheila Rae, patting herself on the back.
Until the day she wanders off into a neighborhood she is very unfamiliar with. Sheila is very frightened in this strange place, not sure where to go, hears scary noises that sound like thunder and finally sits on a rock and cries for help. Louise, her little sister who Sheila has always called a scaredy-cat, helps her find the way home.
When they reached their own yard and the gate was closed behind them, Sheila Rae said, “Louise, you are brave. You are fearless.”
“We both are,” said Louise. And they walked backwards into the house with their eyes closed.
In the end, it was Sheila’s younger sister who taught her about bravery, and Sheila learns that it’s okay to be brave sometimes and less brave other times, especially when you find yourself in a place you’ve never been before.
It has been four and one-half months since my cancer diagnosis. During this time, I’ve had a battery of scans and imaging, a port surgically implanted into a vein in my chest, finished four chemotherapy treatments of Adriamycin, four treatments of Taxol, consumed an unknown number of steroids and antibiotics, taken 8 Neulesta injections in my stomach, and spent three days in the hospital fighting a fungus that took over my body. All of this has resulted in lost hair, unbearable leg pains, neuropathy in my hands and feet, unfamiliar fatigue, mouth sores, battles with white blood cell counts and more.
Without a doubt, all of this has been unfamiliar territory for me - a place that has been a bit scary at times. Some days I even sat on my rock and cried for help. But Sheila Rae, Dr. Sherman and others have taught me that it’s okay to admit the presence of fear and learn how to confront and wrestle it.
I’ve also have been incredibly fortunate to have a long line of Louises by my side to lead me back home safely – family and friend who have wrapped me in love, a brilliant medical team who has cared for my body and soul, courageous survivors who have shared their journey, and my God who has given me the strength to accept whatever comes my way.
Tomorrow is a big day with new scans and imaging to determine how well the chemotherapy has worked. In my opinion, there is every reason to believe that the report will be good. But no matter what I find out, I feel brave. I’m ready to growl at stray dogs, step on all the sidewalk cracks and tie up anyone who dares to steal my jump rope. And when I come home, I’ll walk backwards into my house with my eyes closed. And hopefully there will be a reason to also have a big smile on my face.
“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Posted by Stacy Sells at 9:14 PM