starfish

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

—Epicurus

The distinct smell of newly fresh cut grass is exquisite to me and triggers an early childhood memory – something so nostalgic it gives me goose bumps.  Turkey dinner with all the “fixings” or even homemade mac & cheese (especially my Grammie’s) are favorite comfort foods for me.  Even hearing old “Journey” songs brings peace and comfort—Steve Perry’s voice soothing to the soul (don’t judge me).  Gulls . . . as annoying as they may be . . . the screeching sound of them soaring high above the sea, coupled with the smell of the ocean, gives me an amazing, amazing high.

I honestly believe I’m not alone.  Each of us has a bit of Epicurean in us . . . the Greek philosopher’s devoted pursuit of sensual pleasure, things that bring comfort to the senses.   Though perhaps different in nature, we each carry with us distinct lists of gratifying moments, those unique memories that arouse the senses and bring comfort to our souls—all the “go-to” things that help ease anxiety and stress.

Thursday was a LONG day and physically speaking . . .”fairly” comfortable.  The drains were finally removed at the plastic surgeon’s office.  Yes, a combined 3 feet of tubing was removed from my body . . . seriously–3 ft.  It was like exhaling a giant EWWW and WOW all at once.  It was indeed a very odd sensation, but nonetheless I felt a bit of relief having them removed.

Results.  The oncology team met me to go over the pathology results, the very thing I’ve been all-consumed by since rolling into the OR on the 14th . . . or honestly actually since beginning chemo in January.   I guess I felt since I’ve been on a fast track doing what I need to do, as aggressively as possible—those results will be the very comfort I’ve been seeking for the last 6 months.  They sat and explained that typically neoadjuvant chemo does one of two things when it works:   melts tumors like ice cream in the hot sun, or explodes tumors like atoms.  My treatment did the latter and exploded most of the tumor beds into fragments.  Of the many fragments left they found a small amount of invasive carcinoma left.  After removing everything, they are confident they got clear margins, no chest wall or intravascular invasion revealed.  They also removed 13 lymph nodes.  They considered the lymph nodes a macrometastases.  One particular node that clearly showed the goopy evidence of chemo at work, though cancer was still present—was most prominent.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to determine how many of the 13 nodes were positive for cancer pre-chemo . . . but for now we know for certain chemo did a pretty good job and my prayer is that my radical surgery helped a bit too.

So all in all the results were “good” . . . not crystal-ball, magical moment of “You’re cured for good, no further treatment necessary, all cancer forever gone”  good . . . but good.   Isn’t if funny that even with cancer we seek the best answer that will bring “comfort” to our minds.

My next stop on this exhausting journey is 7 straight weeks of radiation, 35 sessions.  That should start in a few weeks and based on my age and the aggressiveness of the cancer, my oncologist plans to then start me on daily Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen therapy for 10 years—God willing He’s got at least another 10 year plan for me here.

I love to preface everything with the cliché “in a nutshell”, but you all know that my mind (even in chemo-crisis fog mode) is constantly moving and active and it’s rarely possible to find a nutshell big enough to wrap up my thoughts.

Comfort and contentment always come with uncertainties and all too often bring results we can’t predict.  All our feel-good moments are simply sought and fed by the desire to momentarily free oneself from pain, constraint or even fear.

I can’t help but think of my Grammie’s house.  Her tiny house in Maine has always been a source of mostly fond memories during childhood.  I always remember playing in the backyard, my secret little special “fort” far in the wooded area of the yard.  I laugh hysterically now, because honestly the memories of the yard when I was young were memories of this HUGE piece of land.  Now,  I don’t exactly recall the age when I visited the house after being away for a while, but I’ll never forget getting that nostalgic feeling pulling up to the house, eagerly running out into the backyard, my “comfort zone” of childhood.  There I stood—my heart sank.   Where was it?  It was unfathomable that this postage stamp of land was actually the same enchanting romping ground I enjoyed playing as a child.  For a quick moment … that nostalgic “comforting” memory shattered before me.  One would call it:  the Epic letdown moment.

Can it be that those “comfort” memories of the senses, can often disappear by our own shallow expectations of what we remember and how we wish to freeze such memories to permanently make us feel good.  I had the pleasure of talking to my dear friend, Jean this afternoon, and she said it perfectly:  “We need to find our contentment on the inside and not worry about the temporary comfort measures that come from our senses.”

While Epicurus did believe that pleasure alone should be humankind’s pursuit, in actuality, Jesus is the only true source of comfort, when He sent us the Holy Spirit.  Though I learned perhaps later in life than some, I now know that the same God that gave us our intellect and senses is also the only true source of comfort.  He is our ever-present help in need, the only guarantee that never shrinks like Grammie’s yard in my mind.

Though I know this truth in my heart . . . I realize how often I’m still so self-reliant on my own sources of comfort to bring me through this rocky journey.  I pray for strength and courage to continue to press me into the only source of comfort that will keep me going . . . and ultimately keep me sane.

Please continue to hold me up in your prayers.

I love you all so much!

Nicole

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.   

2 Corinthians 1:5-7