I've weathered my most recent storm, though I still have waves of emotion that hit at unexpected times. On May 1, I started my Tamoxifen. It wasn't without a few tears though. Many of you sent me beautiful notes and kind thoughts that really helped me get through - experiences of others, words of love, encouraging stories about all different kinds of families. I don't know what my family will look like, but I do know that I took my first dose of Tamoxifen and Brian sat on our bed with me and let me cry. Then he rubbed my feet. It didn't take away the sting of medicine, but it made it a little easier to swallow (pun intended :))
It's times like these that I look deep inside myself and at my faith. While I want to say, "My faith is strong and will see me through" it's hard to always be optimistic and encouraging.
I was raised in the Catholic Church. I made my First Communion, Confirmation, and attended church on Sundays. My mom sent me to Vacation Bible School and I was Meghan and Bryan's sponsor as they made their confirmations. I had a rosary and said prayers to help me fall asleep at night. When I was in high school in Canada, my favorite class was Religion. I loved learning about the history, the lessons and the background that made me who I was. I remember the first story that moved me to tears at church - the prodigal son - and I was only in elementary school.
But then, I went away to college and I stopped going to church on Sunday. I occasionally would go for significant events or Reconciliation but overall, it wasn't on my list of things to do. It was during this same period of time that the child-abuse sex-scandals in the Catholic church came to fruition. I followed the news stories and was horrified at the cover up, the extent and the ignorance that took place. I started questioning my faith and all that I believed in. This, combined with my laisezz-faire college attitude, was the perfect combination for letting my obligations go.
It's been a long road since then and I still haven't quite found my way. When I was diagnosed, I immediately started going back to church. Not because I was praying for a miracle, but because I felt lost and truly wanted some guidance. But then I had Evan and felt so sick and it was just one more thing that was easy to get away from. I haven't questioned why this is happening to me but it is easy to question "how" it happened to me. It is easy to question what is the purpose of this happening. It makes me question what the role of "faith" is in seeing me through this journey.
I find it challenging to incorporate the science of medicine and the healing powers of faith at the same time. I know they exist but haven't made sense of how they exist together. I have faith that I have the strength to get through this. I have faith that my family will be okay. But I don't understand how side effects of chemotherapy or the loss of my hair or a withering ejection fraction interject with my faith.
Evan was baptized last August, when he was three months old. This was a very important milestone for us to make together - I wanted him to be a part of the same Catholic community that I was a part of growing up, but that I find myself struggling to integrate with as an adult. I have attended different churches trying to find where I can fit in but feel the same sense of overwhelming displacement that I feel when I am at the Cancer Center. Where are the people like me? Who else is struggling with this aspect of their life? Who can I relate to?
Certainly, I do believe that relationships take nurturing and work. Brian and I see, everyday, how important is it to spend time working on our relationship, even when the days go fast and get away from us. Yet, my relationship with God, and the strengthening of my faith seem to be the relationship that I let go by the wayside. It makes me feel guilty and it makes me feel badly for not putting in the same quality and effort that I do to other things. Yet, I find myself unable to do this because I don't truly understand it. I don't blame God for my trials and challenges. We all have them and we all find different ways to cope. But how do some people know to thank, cry and pray to God for strength and salvation, when others like me, question how this plays a role in the everyday practicality I live in?
It continues to be a balancing act and something I will continue working towards. I want to teach Evan to have faith, believe in God and know there is something bigger and more powerful than ourselves to help in all times - good and bad. And I also want to explain how tough things happen and how our faith can help us through. Tonight, when I say my prayers, I am going to try to stop asking for understanding of my role of faith in my life and instead, start asking to strengthen this role in my life. Someone said to me, "I'm not sure how [cancer patients] cope without faith". Maybe my journey would make a little more sense if I strengthened this relationship the way I do others.