Good News, Bad News, and a Letter to Cancer
"Nothing can dim the light which is within.” - Maya Angelou
Ring Ring Ring
My husband and I left the neighborhood coffee shop with our delicious cold brew coffee to answer this call. My hand drifted to my neck to once again feel the lump. It was still there. I checked nearly every hour, convinced it would shrink on its own. It never did.
Ring Ring Ring
We’d been waiting for this call all week. I’d been thinking about a horrible word so many people get diagnosed with for a few weeks now. Ready to hear that word, I answered on speaker phone.
Hello, this is Whitney.
—Hey Whitney, this is Doctor So-and-So. Good news, bad news. The good news is the lump in your neck will not have to be surgically removed. But the bad news is that the results came back from your biopsy, and it tested positive for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer.
What?! Good news, bad news? Nope, I'm pretty sure that’s just bad, bad, very bad news. I’m sure he said something else, but I only heard that word: cancer. After I hung up the phone, tears flowed from our eyes. I’m only 23, for God’s sake! I eat healthy. We just moved to a new place to begin an exciting adventure, now to hear that devastating word.
The following 48 hours were a whirlwind. My husband and I decided to move back from Tennessee to North Carolina to begin treatment. Just weeks after buying our fixer gutter-upper home in Nashville and finding jobs. We threw what we would need into bags, and drove back to our old home. We left it all behind for a while. Our circumstance compelled us to be braver and stronger than ever before.
In the midst of it, I knew that everything would be okay. I was at peace when I heard treatment would be six months, that I would lose my hair, that I would have a port put in my chest to receive chemo, that it would leave a scar, and that this season would be really hard. I was okay because I wholeheartedly believe in a God that never leaves me.
After the diagnosis, procedures, hospital stays, and complications just 6 weeks in, I see that suffering has so many secrets to share. Secrets that are sought after by most of humanity. There are no shortcuts to these secrets. They are whispered in your ear and if you’re listening, they stick to your heart and mind for good.
God wants to share His best-kept secrets. He isn’t so concerned with shielding me from pain, but rather He is more interested in healing me through it. He didn’t take away my cancer, and He hasn’t made this easier. He’s just been here. That’s really all I’ve needed from friends, family, and Him. Their presence to help carry me through.
There’s no amount of suffering that can strip me of the light that’s within. So here I am, in this powerless state, knocked to my knees, and stripped bare, getting back up with a smile on my face. I’ve had so many tell me my attitude is very encouraging. The truth is that my good attitude feels more like a requirement than an option. Joy has become a necessity. This cancer is a part of my life now, but it doesn’t get to shape my reality.
Bad news and good news. The bad news is that life happens. Don't be fooled. We don’t have control and we never will. The good news is that we have a choice. The pain and the suffering can make us better. It can make us braver and stronger. We all get the choice to not waste the bad news in life. I’m really looking forward to being done with treatment, but for now, I’m listening for the secrets within the suffering.
I never thought you’d pick me. You were so sneaky. Up until the diagnosis, I convinced myself I was invincible. I was very wrong. You messed everything up. You threatened my life.
So, here we are together. One of us has to go and it isn’t going to be me. I don’t have to fight you and I don’t plan to. I only need to outlive you and I will. Right now, I’m giving up my time, my energy, and even my long hair, knowing that it won’t be long before there’s nothing left of you. That day will be a good day.
Make no mistake though, you have already left your mark on me. Because of you, I’m better. My heart has expanded and it aches for those that won’t outlive you. I feel strong, and brave, and full of compassion. I know that wasn’t your original intention. I know you would have killed me. Thankfully, you won’t get the chance.
Here’s to the future you almost stole from me,
P.S. Don’t ever mess with me again. Ever.
A video posted by Whitney Vesterfelt (@whitneyvesterfelt) on Sep 24, 2015 at 1:20pm PDT
P.S Be sure to check out Whitney's album "Light Up" on iTunes