Why NOT Me?
This is an article my mom wrote for one of her writer’s groups about a year before she died. It gives a little insight into her journey with cancer and is nothing short of inspiring. Enjoy the read and please pass on to anyone you think might benefit!
Why NOT Me?
By Becky Smith (last edited May 2016)
The gun goes off. I burst out of the starting blocks and feel the adrenalin shoot through me. At 12, I feel a sense of strength in what my body is able to do. I set a school track record and win “best athlete” in 8th grade.
I birth four daughters in an hour or more of labor each, twins included.
I run a 10K when my first daughter is 2. After my twins, I was hiking to a waterfall the next week.
My body is resilient, strong and reliable. At 57 on Mother’s Day, my four daughters and I run a half marathon.
My body has never let me down.
Last fall, I glanced out at the mountains on our 20 acres in Montana as I hopped in the shower and continued my morning prayers, praying about my internal organs. ‘Strange,’ I thought. Was this a premonition or a preparation for something? Then on December 30, 2013, I was introduced to my softball size mass on my left ovary in an ultrasound.
I felt betrayed by my body. How could uninvited cells find a home in my body without my permission? Like an assassin, the multiplying cells didn’t give themselves away in swelling or pain and remained invisible until caught by technology.
The handsome Doctor at Mayo Clinic looked into my eyes and with the back of his hand, ran it down the side of my face almost as a romantic gesture. I felt terrified and comforted by his eyes that conveyed genuine care and concern. As our eyes engaged, I tried to understand his message. Was I going to die?
The battery of tests ruled out ovarian, uterine and other fatal cancers. The doctors were baffled, but the liver biopsy showed colon cancer cells. How could this be? My 2012 colonoscopy was negative. A repeat was ordered requiring the ingestion of a gallon of nasty liquid to empty my gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
I spent the night on the cold tile floor in our hotel room. Early the next morning, weakened and starving, I held my husband’s arm to meet with the GI oncologist. He confirmed colon cancer that had spread to my ovary, liver and peritoneum, in other words, Stage IV. We huddled together in a double bed in the 1921 Kahler Hotel at Mayo in an intimate embrace, but instead of intimacy it was a long, dark night of tears.
Heart palpitations, sweaty hands and feet, twisted knots in my stomach; light-headedness and distractedness ruled the first few months of chemo, delivered intravenously every two weeks. I became more introspective and able to face the mass of overwhelming emotions. One of the first ones to surface was anger and resentment. How could this happen to me, the one in my family of origin most committed to physical and emotional health? Hadn’t my daily prayer been for God to heal me from the inside out to create the healthiest relationships and life style as possible?
I argued with God and laid face down on the area rug of our funky guesthouse. Why me??!! I screamed. In a quiet voice, I heard, “Why NOT you?” Did I really just hear that? Really, God? I climbed into my comfortable meditation chair and got still. ‘God, am I to see this as a special opportunity? You can’t be serious.’ I heard the answer, “Yes” and “Don’t forget to trust.”
Who were these uninvited guests? I started by naming my mass Pearl as she had attracted the largest volume of cancer cells. It seemed symbolic that she grew dramatically over my left ovary, the source of my feminine power. I asked her to explain her presence.
She answered, “Becky, I protected you by collecting as many cells as I could so that the cancer would not spread to other organs. At first cell growth was slow, but then like the conveyor belt in Lucy Ricardo’s chocolate factory episode, the cells began to multiply faster and faster. I went into overdrive to intercept as many cells as I could. Speaking for your internal organs, we are relieved to be discovered.”
Pearl began to shrink due to the chemo blasts. I began “Holy Spirit Cleanses” in meditation from head to toe. This meant visualizing powerful Spiritual cleansing of my body, stopping longer on Pearl, my liver and colon.
Hero images began to appear as I soaked up Spiritual energy and prayers from people worldwide. It felt like I had a mysterious protector, king, and warrior looking out for me as a lover who would give his life in order to preserve mine. He wanted the best for me, healed my hurts, and protected me with strong arms, love, power and cunning. Was this hero God, my husband, my body, my doctor or Pearl? This protective love was God & all of the above fueled by prayer, overwhelming me with gratitude and a desire to love back.
My first opportunity was to listen to a young mom of a 3-month-old baby with breast cancer. Her beautiful blonde hair was gone the next time we met. On another infusion day, a striking young woman seated near me, told me about her aggressive, invasive breast cancer, which had spread to the chest wall. She wondered out loud whether she should cancel her upcoming wedding. I began to keep a prayer journal for all those placed in my path on this journey.
Our 48-year-old architect friend fought for his life and lost to lung cancer. His family bonded with my husband and me. His wife would send texts to my husband so we could pray more specifically. One day, he told me he wasn’t going to make it. We hugged and cried. He had the best last few months of his life with his family. A grandson would be named for him after his death.
In the 29 months of treatment, children, teens, and friends of all ages have graced my path and filled my prayer journal. Why me? Why us? The health teams share their lives and remember such detail about each of us as we come and go. They care. My oncologist and his internist brother play in a bluegrass band and invite us to the next jam…bringing us joy.
One of my regular doctors made me a soft, brightly colored blanket and left it in the cancer center for my first day. I learned about compassion of doctors and something new about the artistic talent of this female physician.
I received seven prayer shawls from friends and strangers – an 80 something retired nun in Arizona, a church on an island in Maine, and friends from New York, Michigan, Texas and Montana.
People tell me their cancer stories or stories of hope from relatives’ outcomes. Listening deeply bonds me to these people near or far. One of those survivors is 99!
Pearl has opened my eyes to a complex web of human connections in the world of cancer – and to incredible beauty, everyday miracles and joy. What comes to mind are: three puppies staring at me in early dawn waiting for my eyes to open; my grandkids (boy and girl), 7 and 3 making faces and dancing on Face Time; a two day newborn granddaughter in the Philippines and I am here; a note from my husband lingering as I dream of his touch; skiing on a beautiful day; walking along a rippling river; and calls from daughters or a package from a dear friend.
Images like good-news texts or cruciferous green contents of Nutribullet smoothies from nieces, the aroma of apple cinnamon potpourri, home made ice cream on my tongue, dancing to slow music next to a crackling fire, or crying at the end of a good book or movie are the treasures I now look for.
Pearl was described “cystic-like” by the last radiologist rather than “softball sized mass.” She’s the size of a dove egg and the cancer cells appear dead. I talked to her about the spots on my liver, much smaller too. I thank her and hope for a real pearl in her place.
Instead of ‘why not me?’ I have a new insight. God knows each of us and can use us in our weakness and strength. God has a daily purpose for us and in one of my meditations, I hear, ‘you can make a difference with My guidance and power.’ In life, we learn that we often have to get out of the way for the mysterious to happen, which is often beyond our comprehension. We are not privy to the role we play in the real life screenplay. Like the hologram, there are many angles inside and out that are perceived by each of us according to what we see. What we see visually or intuitively is a gift from God.
I don’t know why I settled on the name Pearl, but intuitively it made sense as pearls are formed due to an irritant. Twelve months later when I did some research on pearls, the significance gave me chills.
A pearl is a hard object produced in the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. They are formed as a defense mechanism against a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside a shell, or an attack from outside that injures the mantle tissue. It is strong, resilient and iridescent. They come in many colors. Scientists commonly view pearls as a by-product of an adaptive immune system-like function.
Letting go and letting God is an act of love and trust.
I’m a giver and not a great receiver – God is teaching me about receiving, humbling me. It’s not about achievement. Unconsciously, I still think I am earning God’s worthiness because of what I do – instead of sitting in His loving presence. My value that has been established through Jesus and spending time in prayer is more worthy than any endeavor.
Once the diagnosis was realized – I sensed that God wanted me to move on. Life is beautiful every day. If in pain, it’s hard to see, but do everything possible to enjoy the moments of peace. There are flowers, colors, babies, puppies, art, music, family, friends and romance. Stay connected with loving supporters and prayer warriors. Remember the “Golden Rule”…pray, write notes, text, call, laugh, cry, and ask for help.
One day, I was overwhelmed with to-do lists for work, travel, friends and chemo. The devotion that day was that ‘you have a tendency to make too many lists and keep adding, which never ends…focus on my My Face and you will know what to do.’
It’s easy to become self-absorbed or panicked about the future – focus on the face of God every minute and serve anywhere you can. Listen to others, play with a child, nap, read, breathe deeply, imagine being 100, color, hula hoop, try something new – I just took ground school to learn how to fly. Keep a journal and see every day with a new purpose.
My husband of 40 years, my four daughters and our families have taught me how to receive and to be vulnerable…they are my reason for joyful living, hope, faith, and love.
Our bodies are miraculous systems.
“Why NOT me?”