White Orchid

(originally posted on my CaringBridge site on 2/22/13 )

Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like its heaven on earth.

– Mark Twain

Orchids.  There’s nothing quite like the rich elegance each orchid blossom exudes.  Early on in my relationship with John (that beautiful, “pre”-honeymoon phase), he would always have exotic flowers delivered to me at my office in Boston.  It was during that time, that I developed a deep adoration for the exotic—particularly rare, stunning orchids.

Carrying a plethora of meanings and symbolic references around the world, orchids are universally regarded as a symbol of love, wisdom, beauty, and innocence in most cultures.  While their blooms are distinct and stunningly beautiful—sadly, unless conditions are exactly right, their limited life span may be cut shorter.  If you keep them in direct sunlight, for instance, their blossoms may scorch.  Though I always knew that many flowers live in symbiosis with fungi . . . what amazes me most about orchids in particular, is that they are ultra-unique—because without their strong relationship with fungi, their seeds are unable to germinate.  So basically, this cooperative relationship is what ultimately gives us the beautiful, delicate, deliciously-aromatic “fever” for the orchid blooms.

Fungus.  What do you think of?  All I can think of is:  nasty.  Athlete’s foot, mold and yeast . . . to name a few.  Though not a fungus, I’ll even throw cancer into my nasty image of fungal disease.  How can something as beautiful as an orchid thrive on a relationship with a loathsome, utterly nasty organism?

Yesterday marked week 7 of chemo.  Almost half way there!  Though it was my long day in town, I had an extra special treat of having my boys with me.  Additionally, it was John’s birthday!  I called it the Dana-Farber “birthday-field trip” day.  They were actually looking forward to the outing.  Nothing like a school vacation week filled with pajama days, cousin sleepovers, rollerblading, Cape Cod . . .  and Dana-Farber.  Yay.

It was actually a wonderful day.  I needed the boys to see where I spend my Thursdays—what happens to me while I’m there, while ultimately showing them that this place where I receive medicine that makes me feel yucky some days— is really not a depressingly bad place, but rather a place filled with hope, love and healing.   The staff were amazingly creative and generous in giving them a field trip-esque adventure.  Beginning with the lab, several nurses gathered, having the boys pick out colorful wraps for my IV site, explaining how the needle goes in, leaving a little tube behind that the medicine goes through.  Next, they allowed them to put my blood in the Pneumatic tube and walked them through the process of the tube getting across the street to be tested.  It was genius.

When it came time for my EKG and oncologist visit, I had them sit with John in the waiting room.  There were many questions I needed to ask, some of which might be a bit overwhelming and potentially scary.  I was happy to hear my EKG was normal.  The oncology team noted that the lymph node on the base of my skull had reduced in size, along with the main breast tumor and axillary nodes.  All good stuff!  Still, though, I carried with me the many looming questions I had regarding staging, etc. etc. etc.  Y’know, all those questions that enter my mind at 3 AM and keep me up, as I desperately try hard not to research online.  In my heart of hearts, I hoped that perhaps through the great shrinking progress that was being made, maybe my ultimate cancer staging would change.  Unfortunately, that’s not how this adventure works.  Your stage is your stage form inception.  Therefore, based on my diagnosis, I am officially a Stage III breast cancer—all based on tumor size, node involvement and metastases—currently looking like no distant metastases to bone or organs.  As for the occipital node issue, sadly, there are no real answers to possible connection with infiltration of the lymphatic system.  We just have to “hurry up and — wait.”

I know God has plans for my life, regardless of the outcome of this cancer encounter.  Without a shadow of a doubt, I know that He is not only busy working out my details, but also busy working out the details of the lives of my precious family and friends.  He’s most definitely in the business of using every opportunity for His glory.

I love how orchids share multiple flowers on a single stem.  My desperate prayer is that through my “fungal” encounter with this thing called breast cancer, I will not only bloom in the cooperative relationship with the fungus of this trial, but through it, each of you will bloom. I want every life I touch to have hope and courage to get through any and all of the trials and tribulations that come your way—those fungi moments that would love to bring us down—replaced instead with the exquisite, exotic, beautiful blooms of beauty.  Our orchid moments.   We must remember, every test is a testimony waiting to be shared.

Isaiah 48:10 tells us perfectly:  “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”