Be Not Afraid

I Am Set Free

If you’re really lucky, you have a mother who loves you. If you’re truly blessed, you have a mother like mine, who not only loves me, but loves me unconditionally, with a love so blinding (or illuminating, perhaps) that she’s able to willingly pull out the nasty pain catheter sticking out from your side. She sweetly remembers this love even as you’re trying not to swear as she pulls and pulls, and the “black tip” that’s supposed to signify the end of the catheter has been passed four times. She kindly remembers this love (and thankfully has a strong stomach) as you glance at her, your confusion and nausea clearly written on your face. This is the kind of mother that is a blessing, this same mother who once again has uprooted her life to come live with me, caring for John Paul and me as I recover from surgery. Oh, how I am grateful for her presence!

My pain catheter wasn’t supposed to come out until it had been emptied of all medication, and it looked like it had another two days in there this morning, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m still in pain, and I am a little worried I’ll regret my decision when I’m trying to sleep tonight and my left side is no longer numb, but I couldn’t take one more day of being connected. It seems I’ve spent so much of this past year connected to artificial (if not life-saving) things, whether it be IV bags of medicine, fluids, or blood, or super stylish fanny packs full of pain meds or chemotherapy. Besides the obvious discomfort and extreme difficulty showering, dressing, holding John Paul, etc., I know why these cumbersome medical creations bother me so much: they make me feel enslaved.

And isn’t one of our greatest desires, if not our greatest, for freedom? Freedom to live, to love, to just have the chance to become who we are meant to be? Freedom from pain, from fear, and most of all, freedom from death? Even though my eyes have been opened and I believe the truth has been revealed to me, the truth that Christ has overcome all things-even death-and that in His willing suffering and dying and rising again we have been set free from all evil, all sadness, and all suffering, I still struggle. And how much more I struggle when my faith falters and my mind begins to question all that my heart believes. How I struggle to acknowledge my smallness and the reality that ultimately, I, nor my doctors, have control over what my body does-whether it responds to more treatment if I need it or not, whether the cancer that we thought was gone has come back, and whether I heal quickly or slowly from surgery. Never has this been made more clear than this week.

Things didn’t go as hoped from the beginning last Thursday. To begin with, as usual, my nurse struggled to find a vein to place an IV in my arm. Though she was confident she’d get it right away, she didn’t. Then, my surgery that was originally scheduled for one hour, turned into three. The tissue my doctor kept removing was dead. But since he knew live tissue was in there somewhere, he had to keep digging, and digging, and digging. When he finally was confident that he’d found enough live tissue to biopsy, he had removed almost sixty percent of my tumor (removing so much of a primary mediastinal mass is highly unusual for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma-especially when the tumor is in your chest. For one thing, removing it won’t improve chances of a cure-since Lymphoma is a blood cancer the cancer will just come back. For another, it is dangerous to remove a tumor that is so closely located to your heart and lung.) Because the surgery had taken so long and so much mass had been removed, I need much more anesthesia and pain medication than expected, which has taken its toll on me the past few days. And because I was on so much anesthesia, I had to recover in the more serious post-op wing, which meant I couldn’t see my family for almost four hours after my surgery ended, leaving me and them nervous and upset. To put it in perspective, I could have developed a nasty infection from my lung being deflated or even died (as you always can during surgery-especially of the chest), so all in all, things went fine.

Yet, even though I am here, well enough to take a walk today and share my experience with you, I confronted my lack of control over my body, and life in general, face to face this past week. I wish it left me with some incredibly wise words to share with you, but I think all it left me with was a greater sense of thanksgiving for the things I do have control over (you can bet I’m getting a hair cut this week! I can and will control whether or not I have a mullet that rivals my sons!), and a greater hunger for a God who I know, who I know, deep in my heart, even if my head says something different, has overcome all things, even sickness, even suffering, and even death. And friends, how I pray for you to know the same truth that I do; how fervently I pray that you find the same peace.

I am Set Free, All Sons & Daughters

You broke my chains of sin and shame and you covered me with grace.
You mend my life with your holy fire,
You cover me with grace.

You are the hand that reaches out to save.

I am set free.
It is for freedom that I am set free.

You broke my chains of sin and shame and you covered me with grace.
You mend my life with your holy fire,
You cover me with grace.

You are the hand that reaches out to save.

I am set free.
It is for freedom that I am set free.

And yes, Lord, we are grateful for Your Grace and for Your Love.
You are the hand that reaches out to save.

I am set free.
It is for freedom that I am set free.

Please know this: I am always praying for your well-being and happiness, and in thanksgiving for your love and friendship. And I will never stop.

If you would keep me in your prayers as I heal and wait for biopsy results this week I would be most grateful. (I should hear something Thursday or Friday.)

Love, Allison

As always, to support the incredible All Sons & Daughters, click here to buy their music.

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9 comments

  1. jonniebug

    Thanks Allison, You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Can I ask what sub-type of NHL do you have…I think I missed it. I am fighting peripheral t-cell, NOS 4B. I am doing a trial study and we are on the third cycle of it. It has caused me a lot of side-issues. My sister has put her house on the market here in Indiana and we are moving down to the Houston Bay Area in Texas. I am going seeking treatment at MD Anderson. I was accepted a couple of weeks ago, but I can’t go right away so I started this trial drug back up. I tell you this because I too have been stressing out over the things that I have no control over. I needed to hear your words tonight to remind me that God is the Puppeteer and that I am his abstract puppet – there is a purpose for His path for me. I’m dizzy like walking on the ocean. I have went from about 200lbs to 111lbs in a very short time and I am afraid.

    Bless you,
    Jonnie .

  2. jonniebug

    One more thing for you Allison one of the things that I used to tell new people in my support group when they had the, “Do I try treatment, they gave me no hope?” – if you try nothing, you will get nothing. If you try something, you may still get nothing, but with something there is hope.

    One of my poems –

    BETWEEN

    IT’S 3 AM
    MY MONSTER AWAKENS ME
    STUCK IN THE PLACE BETWEEN
    AWAKE AND ASLEEP

    DAWN WILL BREAK SOON
    I TURN ON THE LIGHT
    I AM DIZZY, DISORIENTED, DRAINED
    THE PAIN UNDER MY RIBS
    A THOUSAND SWORDS PIERCING MY SKIN
    AND MY SOUL
    I CAN’T REACH MY PILLS

    I CAN’T BREATHE
    EVERY INSPIRATION
    EVERY EXPIRATION
    WASTED EXERTION

    MY MONSTER TAKES AWAY
    ALL THAT I HAVE
    AND ALL THAT I AM
    I’M CHOKING

    HOW MUCH MORE
    IN A PLACE WHERE I AM
    CURSING GOD FOR MY PAIN
    AND PRAISING GOD FOR MY PAIN

    I AM FOREVER STUCK IN-BETWEEN…
    EVERYTHING

    I TRY TO HOLD PERFECTLY STILL
    IT NEVER STOPS
    BE SILENT
    BE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD
    I THOUGHT I WAS…
    I WAS SCREAMING

    THE DEMANDS OF UNDERSTANDING
    APPRECIATION FOR LIFE
    STUCK BETWEEN
    WHAT WAS – WHAT IS – WHAT WILL BE

    I REACH FOR MY PILLS AGAIN
    IT IS REALLY NOT AN EASY TASK
    I AM ONCE MORE BETWEEN WANTING TO STAY ALERT
    AND WANTING TO BE …
    AWAY

    WE ARE ALL STUCK BETWEEN
    BIRTH AND DEATH
    RIGHT AND WRONG
    DAY AND NIGHT
    EVIL AND GOODNESS

    WE ARE FOREVER TORN BETWEEN
    LOVE AND HATE
    THE PAST AND TOMORROW
    THE BEFORE AND AFTER
    THE BEGINNING AND END
    THE BLACK AND THE WHITE

    I SWALLOW THE PILLS WITH MY COFFEE
    COFFEE THAT IS COLD AND COPPERY TASTING
    MY MONSTER LOVES IT WHEN MY PILLS WON’T GO DOWN
    AND NOW HE HAS TAKEN AWAY THE TASTE OF COFFEE

    I AM LEFT WITH…
    BITTERNESS
    jonniebug (June 2010

  3. Amy

    I am blessed with a loving and giving mother also. When I lost my hair, she told me how beautiful the shape of my head was. I think only a mom would say that, but it made me feel better. Know that all of the emotions you feel are normal. God bless you! You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. Kristin

    Hang in there Ali!!!! God has you in the palm of his hands and will not let go. You are beautiful!! And right where he wants you, trusting in Him. I am so sorry for your ordeal; your strength in the Lord is very encouraging to me. Thank you for sharing your faith and human weakness as well:) God bless you and your family.

  5. To My Dear Sweet & Courageous Allison: Please know that every time I think of you (which is many times during a day) I Hug You In My Heart and Pray for your speedy recovery!! You are always in my heart and prayers daily. You are such an inspiration to me and many, many other people – your faithful writings are such wonderful and calming reminders to me that we need to trust in our God to get us through whatever journey he choses to send us on! Know that I love you like a daughter and pray for you and your family! Please give my love and well wishes to your parents, Clete & Sherry! Your mother is truly a gift and treasure not only for you, but for all of us who know and love her! Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Love, Kathy Wilcox

  6. What a beautiful post. You made me want to call my mom (and then I did). Alli, I’m so thankful that you’re done with the surgery, and that you’re you – an amazing friend, wife, mom, and artist. And I hope you have a great haircut, too! 😉

  7. Karen Caviale

    Loved this post, Allison. You are so lucky to have a wonderful Mom like Sherry. I am so blessed too! I remember my Mom pressing down on my belly to get all the liquid out of my tubes after my appendectomy and burst appendix!! I also just hear some EXTRAORDINARILY WONDERFUL NEWS!! The biposy was negative!!! That is sweet music (like your voice) to our ears! Congratulations on your remission and on having a great doctor excercising great care and caution. Love to you!!

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