“Write what you know,” I have often told my English composition students. What I know about healing began when my husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the summer of 2010 and continued through two rounds of increasingly toxic chemotherapy in 2014, a stem-cell transplant in 2015, and the slow process of recuperation that is ongoing. My education continues, of course, but I can speak with confidence about three things I have learned:
Healing is long and complicated, and setbacks are many.
Recovery from invasive cancer treatment is a long and sinuous road from debilitation to strength, from confusion to clarity, from fear to confidence. Being able to take long walks reveals excruciating neuropathy in the feet. Discovering anew the passion for learning makes apparent that “chemo brain” did not end with the infusion of nitrogen mustard through an intravenous drip. Nor do the annual CT scans read as cancer-free ever quite erase the momentary panic of the next check-up, the next pain, the next spot of blood. Not all wounds–notably, those hidden inside the heart–are so well documented in computerized images and pathology reports, but neither can their path of healing be charted with such precision on graphs revealing a steady upward progress. The important lesson to remember is that a dark night of the soul can be followed by an excruciatingly long dawn.
Healing must be shared.
Healing is possible, but we must accept it.
Stepping into the light of healing and wholeness takes courage and will, both for survivors and for their caregivers. Caring and being cared for can be seductive–a safe cocoon in which the only responsibility is to get better. Duties are clear: medicines must be taken, claves must be sterilized, appointments must be kept. Becoming whole presents a new set of challenges for those who had settled into their roles in the healing process.
Fortunately for those of us who have faith in a loving God, we know that we have a Comforter and Advocate to walk alongside us during the arduous process of healing. But when we are well, he is also there to tell us, “Go into all the world.” May this Advent season of prayer and contemplation enable us to rise to that commission.