Light in a dark desert

English: Leaving traces on soft sand dunes in ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am in a desert
thirsty with parched lips
hungry for something I can’t place
seeking answers and moreI am in a desert
looking for light amongst the reality of disease
searching for hope among doubt
reaching for faith among death

I am in a desert
surrounded by loving friends and family
but still alone
walking through doubt and fear alone

I am in a desert
I am not alone
I have hope
I have faith
I have love
I have Christ
 by Janet Caschetta

Last week a dark day hit me like a brick wall. I really had not experienced this yet through my five month ordeal. But there was a fellow survivor who lost her battle with breast cancer after two years and as I read her bio on the breastcancer.org website, I realized her diagnosis was almost identical to mine. She was Stage 3c, ER-, PR-, HER2+, mastectomy, chemo, radiation…fighting all the way. And it hit me hard.

I have been so optimistic. Have I been living with blinder covering my eyes? Can my fate be the same? I felt I have been very proactive in learning about my type of cancer and treatments. I am not afraid to ask questions and read solid medical information online. But this loss opened my eyes to the possibility of not being here to see my children find the person God has chosen for them, to see their weddings, to know my grandchildren, to continue to ministry to others, to share my faith, to survive. It was a dark desert journey.

I have not been able to write about this, because I was still working through those feelings. I wept most of that night with my husband, who so tenderly and patiently walked with me as tears flowed and comforted me through the night. I had my “Garden of Gethsemane” moment. I needed to be realistic; I needed to face the possibility. Then I needed to offer it to the Lord and trust His will to be done. My heart knew this, but my head needed reassurance.

As I drove to work the next morning, the Christian station was interviewing a man who survived so much more. His wife and he were in a horrific car accident with critical conditions for months and rehabilitation for years. Now I never put on the radio, but I had finished my Rosary and Divine Chaplet prayers and felt a pull to turn it on. God was speaking to me through the challenges others faced and I knew He was telling me I too will survive.

Then at Sunday Mass the sermon was on First Kings 19:4-8. Elijah cried out “This is enough O Lord” and the Lord sent food for Elijah’s journey and ordered him to “get up and eat, else the journey will be too long” Elijah was strengthen and continued to the mountain of God. I too was strengthened that the Lord was encouraging me to be strong in faith, that Elijah survived what God was asking him to journey through and I too will walk this journey with God. I knew that I was not alone.

Then at my chemo treatment last week, my oncologist stopped to visit and I asked the question both Kevin and I had not asked yet. “How will we measure if the cancer is gone or if it’s returned?” Her answer was immediate and confident. “The cancer is gone, we removed it all, got clear margins. But it was aggressive, so this 15 months is to make sure any tiny remnants do not have any chance to grow.” Her positive, confident, immediate answer was yet another sign, my worries were to be put aside.

Finally, on a staff retreat, we talked much about what Eucharist means to each of us. So many wonderful images and stories were shared on how Communion strengths us and nourishes us for our journey. As a reminded of Christ’s death and resurrection, I received inspiration and great hope of Christ’s presence in my life in so many ways.

Okay, okay Lord, I will share on graceembraced my deep struggle these past few weeks and my journey through that desert darkness.

Although I think I needed to finally face the possible reality of this disease, I was comforted over and over of the power of my faith.

The day after my surgery in May, Kevin stopped at Naturally Yours in Willowbrook for a camisole for me to wear home from the hospital. Yet the better gift was the beautiful matching beaded bracelet he bought for Jaclyn and I. It is a Psalm 23 bracelet with each bead representing a verse. Last night, relaxing in a bath, I focused on Verse 2  “He shall lead me”. That was the final reassurance I needed.

He will lead me. He is not walking next to me or behind me. He is leading me. He is in front of me, pushing all the brush and poison ivy out of my path. He is clearing the way to get through my journey of cancer. He is leading me to the beautiful meadow of amazing green pastures that await me. He is asking me to get up from the Garden and trust in His will. And I am happily, willingly following with a renewed outlook on the graces and blessings I am receiving along the way.

A dear friend Kathy took me to my last chemo treatment. She was the first friend to share this experience with me. I am so grateful for my daughter and son who took the first two months of treatments as well as my sisters Toni, Teri; my brother Don and niece Brook. The three to four hours of sitting in an uncomfortable chair as toxins drip through my body can’t be the first way anyone wants to spend a Thursday afternoon, but the blessing is all mine. I loved visiting and catching up with Kathy’s life and look forward to all the other friends that “signed up for the task”. Their patience and love is greatly appreciated. Three weekly Taxol/Herceptin treatments down – Nine to go…a light at the end of this tunnel! And then on to the next set of treatments.

Psalm 23 2: He leads me to quiet waters…

Grace embraced: Thank you Lord for all the reminders and messages you continue to send me through strangers, friends and family. I am truly blessed.

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10 thoughts on “Light in a dark desert

  1. I love you. So much. You are my inspiration in life. How is it possible that God has blessed us so abundantly with having each other to call mom/daughter? I can’t wait to hug you. xoxo

  2. Janet, My heart just aches for you….reading your beautiful poem and words makes me want to reach out and hug you….you are such an inspiration ….undergoing such immense struggles…..you bring to mind the hymn….”Be not afraid…I go before you always” Jesus will heal, Jesus will heal, Jesus does heal. You are not alone….you are surrounded with love. Aunt Evie

    • Aunt Ev, thank you so much for your prayers and love. I feel them daily and trust completely in the Lords will. I’m so sorry I missed lunch last week with the cousins. I hope it’s not another year before we have another opportunity to hug! Love to Uncle Jim and all the McKeowns!

  3. There is less buffer zone between the tears once you come to this place. Welcome, sister.

    You write so beautifully about the experience. To try and explain how easily the tears come I told people that when you have lung surgery the doctors move your bladder behind your eye balls. Most didn’t get it. My words failed, not their effort.

    Say a prayer for the Cardinal.

    • Dave, thank you for your constant support, understanding and guidance. Your daily living helps me to know there is “life after treatment”. I believe the sun always shines brightest after the storm. May I have less stormy days ahead! Peace

  4. I am glad you had and processed these feelings. They are real and important to embrace and deal with even when you don’t want to be in the Garden of Gethsemane. I am glad you had so much reassurance then. God’s grace comes in very unexpected places. I am now 3 months from last Chemo treatment and 3 weeks past radiation therapy. I feel better and better each day. It is a long process and some days, emotions get the best of me. But it is okay. I’ve realized it is part of this journey.
    You are helping others by sharing your feelings – thank you! You give me inspiration!

  5. Wow, so powerful; printed a copy of poem and your thoughts for inspiration. Sweet, sweet Cousin, you are the Best!!! Love, Marie.
    Ps, only 4 of us Saturday for cousins’ luncheon, just Evie and my 2 sisters;, busy year of conflicts for everyone, so didn’t miss anything this year; next year will be a celebration of your full health, and we’ll let everyone know to come and celebrate.

Your thoughts warm my heart and strengthen my path, thanks for commenting on my journey,

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