I can't believe this is happening... I mean, I knew it could happen. I'm not so naive to think that I am immune or invincible. I just never dreamed it would happen to me.
It feels like I was blindsided... Like I was sucker-punched! Like I was floating along in life, just doing my thing... Then, BAM!
What do I do now? I don't even know where to begin. How am I supposed to heal? I don't know the terminology. I don't understand the process. Everyone is giving me advice. Everyone keeps saying they are so sorry. They want to help. I just long for yesterday, before this happened.
What do my children think? Do they understand what is happening? I just want to protect them. God, just let my babies be ok.
Ok, I need to get it together. Why am I so worked up? I'm lucky to be alive. It could have been SO much worse. Now, I feel so guilty about feeling so sad. If I am a woman of faith, a believer, why do I feel so damn scared right now?
I know you are there, God. I know you are with me. You have ALWYS been here. There is nothing in this world that we cannot handle together. Let me find the good in this, Lord. Thank you, God. Always. Thank you.
A year ago, today, I was thinking these very thoughts. I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. And, I was terrified.
Shortly after being diagnosed, I received an email from a breast cancer survivor that said, "I am two years out from the original diagnosis and it almost feels like it didn't happen...except I know it did."
This was one of the most hopeful, beautiful things that anyone could say to me. I was elated at the thought that one day, life just might return to its blissfully uneventful state. I took this idea and painted a picture in my mind. I could see myself with a head full of short messy hair, playing with my girls, smiling at my husband. I played it over and over in my mind. And, I held it near my heart.
I would whisper to myself: One day, I will wake up and ask, "did that just happen?"
See, when you hear the words YOU HAVE CANCER, all the little things that seemed so important fly out the window. For months, I couldn't look at my children without feeling sick and nervous, wondering if they would grow up without their mother. Many times, I would look in the mirror and feel angry. I longed for my hair and my breasts and my innocence. (I have hair now. And, I have temporary breast-like
thingies in my chest. But, the innocence is gone forever, I'm afraid.)
As I write this, I'm sitting outside. The sun is peaking through a blanket of thin white clouds. It is hot. It is muggy. But, it is glorious. It is glorious because it isn't
raining. Baton Rouge and the surrounding communities are in a state of emergency due to extensive flooding. Thousands of families are displaced. So far, thirteen are dead.
My head is achy from watching the news. My mind is spinning from the constant bing on my phone. Another text from about another friend who had to evacuate her home. My heart aches for this community--the very
group who stood beside me, who loved me, embracing my family with prayer and time and resources when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, many mourn the loss of their homes; they mourn the loss of their normal. In a way, I know the feeling. I was just there.
A few days ago, I helped a friend clean her flood-damaged home. I could see the pain in her eyes as she sifted through memory after saturated memory, tossing them into large, black, industrial garbage bags. The putrid smell of flood water lingered, just to add insult to injury.
I know that cancer and flood-damage are different. But, I recognize the emotions that I see all around me. They are all too familiar. Why is this happening? I don't know what to do. I just want everything to go back to how it was.
I get it.
And, I'm here to say the very words that gave me so much hope.
Here I am, one year out. It's almost like it didn't happen. Except, I know that it did.
Listen, life doesn't look exactly like it did before. My hair looks like Screech from Saved By the Bell. I'm not quite as strong as I used to be. And, I think about my own mortality WAY more than I used to. But, one year later, I am still here
. My family’s normal looks different. And to be honest, I like the post-cancer me better
than the old me. This Veronica loves harder, is closer to God, and wastes less time on the things that just don't flipping matter.
Three days after being cooped up inside of our home because of torrential rain, the skies finally cleared. The grocery stores were cleaned out, restaurants were closed, and the streets underwater. That evening, I was feeding my four year old a delicious, nutritious dinner of Goldfish crackers and scrambled eggs, when my phone rang.
It was my mom. "Go outside NOW. Look at the sky. Just do it and call me back."
I scooped up Nani and we walked outside. There, right above us, was the most brilliant, perfect rainbow. It spanned across the sky like a vibrant love letter from God himself. My babe and I sat down on the damp driveway. (We were fortunate enough to not have flooding at our home.) I held her tightly in my lap and explained that a rainbow is a sign of hope...that God is here--even after the most terrible, tragic storms.
That night, as W and I said our family family prayers, Nani chimed in, "and thank you, God, for ALL the rainbows.. they remind us that YOU are here and it's all going to be alright."
ALL. THE. RAINBOWS.
She made me realize, in that moment, that there can be different kinds of rainbows. There are the prisms of color, visible in the sky after a rainstorm. But, in my opinion, a rainbow can also be the coworker that swings by with Chinese takeout on the day you had chemotherapy. A rainbow can be those friends who show up with cleaning supplies and empty bins, ready to get your back on your feet. A rainbow can be a hug and prayer from the stranger who sees you are hurting.
I have seen and felt God's presence so much in my life--especially in the past 365 days. I realize, now, that God has always
been there. I just needed to open my heart and eyes to see the rainbows.
God's promises, God's hope, God's rainbows are everywhere. And, sometimes, they are easiest to see right after the storm.
To my beautiful Louisiana, thank you for being so full of love. Thank you for being the face and the hands of God during these trying times. I have seen so many of you give tirelessly and selflessly to people you don't know. You are beautiful. And, I am so honored to be a part of your spirit.
To my great native state of Texas and dear friends outside of Louisiana, I humbly ask that you consider donating time, resources, or funds to help this state heal. Anything helps. This will be a long road. But, we will survive.
Here is a link to my family's home church, First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge
. 100% of proceeds and goods go directly to families in need. My family and I have been volunteering with teams from FUMC this week. They are legit and efficient and ready to rebuild. There is an updated list of specific needs on the website.
Also, here is a link to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Hospital
. This is where I received six months of chemotherapy. More than 25% of Mary Bird's current cancer patients experienced total or partial loss. Cancer and flooding? My heart breaks...
Thanks for reading. Be a rainbow today. God bless you, V