Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Joy Comes in the Morning

Last week was a bit of a challenging week for me. It began as every week since October 2nd has begun with me getting up at 5 AM Monday morning to get myself together to go to radiation. I’ve kind of gotten into the rhythm of things now. I get up at 5 so I have a chance to exercise, have my coffee, eat breakfast, and do a 10 minute Facebook Live video, chronicling my journey, before I leave for radiation.

Last Monday, although I had a wonderful weekend spending time with my family, physically I wasn’t feeling well and emotionally I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness that stayed with me most of the week. On Tuesday, after radiation, I went for a walk at the lake. As I walked I tried to figure out what was weighing on my heart so heavily. I knew it wasn’t the cancer stuff. This was a different feeling. Nothing surfaced in my mind, but still tears made their way from my heart to my eyes. So, I walked and I cried. When I finished my walk Jesus asked, “Why are you crying?” I replied, ‘I don’t know. Please restore my joy!’

To that He said softly, “Your joy is in tact. It is just hidden beneath the sadness you feel. You are sad because you are weary. You are weary because you have been striving to accomplish something that will never be. You will never be who you were before this day. You will never do math and manage money like you did before you had a stroke, but I will always help You manage everything I place in your hands. You will never be able to focus on more than one thing at a time like you did before you had a stroke, but I will always help you do all things with excellence. You will never communicate the way you did before you had a stroke, but I will always help you find the words to say what needs to be said. You will never be able to just keep going like you did before you had a stroke, but I will always be right here to remind you when it is time to rest. So, you can rest now, Lisa. There is nothing for you to do except rest in Me.”

I was totally unprepared for His response to my plea. At first I thought, ‘The stroke? Why are You talking to me about that? That was almost seven years ago. I’m used to who I am now.’ When I got home and began to process His words each time I heard in my mind “You will never be able to…” it was as if a knife was piercing my heart. It was then that I knew Jesus had pulled the band aid off of a wound that I didn’t even know was hidden in my heart. For the rest of the week I thought about what He said.

I thought about how upset I had gotten at the lake when I was walking and began to drag my right leg, because I was tired and it is still much weaker than my left. I thought about how I pushed myself all summer during chemo, doing as much as I could, pushing my body well beyond its limitations and as a result, out of total mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion waking up the morning of my eighth chemo asking God why He wouldn’t let me die. I thought about how I find myself apologizing or feeling as if I should apologize to those closest to me for not being able to do the things I can no longer do. The more I thought about Jesus’ words and what my life has been since the stroke in 2011, I discovered adapting and accepting are two very different things.

Over the weekend I was looking through my closet and saw where I had segregated it so on one side are the clothes I wore before the stroke and the clothes I’ve purchased since the stroke are on the other. When I looked at the “pre-stroke” side of my closet I thought, ‘I would NEVER wear any of this!’ All throughout my bedroom I systematically set aside things that I no longer like or have any use for just in case the person I was before February 2, 2011 suddenly reappeared.

So much has happened in my life in rapid succession over the last 6 1/2 years. I have had very little time to really process it all. I adapted to the stroke, but until Jesus said what He said to me last week I hadn’t really accepted it. With acceptance comes responsibility and accountability. I am responsible for this miraculous life Jesus gave me on the other side of the stroke. I am not going to be held accountable for all the things I can no longer do, but all the NEW things I can. He gifted me this resurrected life. The pathways in my brain that died in the stroke gave way to new ones that I haven’t even explored, because I have been stuck in the tomb of someone who is never coming back. Over the weekend I gave her a proper send off. I cried my final tears over losing her. I cleaned out my closet and got rid of all of her old clothes. I’m still working on cleaning my room and taking down my memorials of her.

For today, I can say I finally understand Psalm 30:5 that says, “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” My journey from the stroke to today has been a very long night. But, it’s morning now. And Jesus was right. My joy is still in tact!

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