four years in a construction zone

This month Zoe turns eight. Her birthday will also mark the fourth anniversary of living with metastatic breast cancer for me.

Shortly after the diagnosis came, Mark and I met with Dr. Campbell who told us unequivocally, “We’re not going for five years, we’re going for fifty.”

For some reason, we still thought it wise to get a second opinion. In search of such, we went to Wisconsin and met with a well-regarded oncologist there. In our short visit with him, he managed to encourage me to make a living will and advanced directive. He advised me to begin scrap-booking with my daughter since she would likely not remember me. While confirming that our first line of treatment is what he would do too, he added “that might work for a few months.” (it worked for almost 2 years) He then gave us what he deemed an encouraging anecdote about a patient who had beaten the odds and celebrated 4 years of survival with metastatic disease. Four years?!

I shudder to think of what Mark and I looked like walking out of that office.

We left for home shortly thereafter. Our return trip took us through Chicago where we managed to get in the exact wrong lane of traffic in a construction zone. While we were at a standstill, traffic zoomed by on the other side of the pylons. During the hours we withstood of this, I remember Mark turning to me at one point and saying, “How can this not feel like a metaphor for our lives?”

There have been points over the last four years when this has indeed felt like a metaphor for our lives. All the things I wish I could do, the normal life stuff, the volunteering at my kid’s school, the church committees, the community college art classes, etc. etc. fly by my proverbial van window at breakneck speed while I convalesce in bed.

But far more often than not, I feel as though I’ve been able to join that speeding traffic. The important stuff, the parent-teacher conferences, the dinners with friends, the hugs from my nieces and nephews, the weddings, the Children in Worship with Zoe, the family vacations, etc, etc. All these things have slowed enough for me to jump on and join in. These four years have both dragged and sped in the irony of longing for the years to pass and for time with my girl while she’s a girl.

Four years. Four years. Four years. No living will. No advanced directive. No scrapbook.

Just days gathered up like daisies. And me with an overwhelming bouquet.

16 replies on “four years in a construction zone”

I just heard about your Blog and love your writing. You tell about your struggles in a way that invites us to join you. Shall we note the Blog in PEPP or would you rather not? Eastern Ave. has a number of people living with cancer. If you care to write something for the church, please do. We are with your family all the way!
Carol Rottman

“Four years in a construction zone” with Jesus, the Carpenter, who continues to shore up and re-build… Much love!

Much, much love, my dear. I am always uplifted by your perspectives….from this “bouquet” reference to your “diamond” summers…
Happy Birthday, Z.

Each March is a celebration for you both. 4 down, 46 to go. Thank you for sharing this Tash.

I’m a little late to the game here, but wanted to weigh in and say how grateful I am for you. And yes, 50 years sounds about right. Let’s go!

I’m a little late also, having just gotten on your blog. We too are thankful, with you, that the doctor found this one bit of new cancer, that the new radio-ablation procedure is available, and that God has been so powerfully with you in “the construction zone” these four years!
We continue to pray daily for you, and for Mark and Zoe also.
What a good writer you are, Natasha!

I spent a little time on your blog, Natasha. This latest blog post really moved me. I am buoyed by your strength! Many blessings from an old Calvin friend.

Natasha- I’ve only met you twice, but I’ve been diligently reading your blog, which continues to awe and inspire me. Your honest and insightful perspective has helped me to deal with my own health issues (Crohn’s disease). Thank you for that, and God bless you. You and your family are in my prayers. P.S. Tell Mark to get on Facebook already. :)

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