What you are about to read is not a complaint about my recent good news!
On Friday night some friends joined us for "family friendly" karaoke night at a local restaurant. It was so nice to spend some time at the microphone, singing love songs despite having a big hole in my right brain (where music is generally processed). I reflected back on my three Messiah performances since my head was carved (and a fourth performance is planned for December 16), and felt very blessed.
I also found myself marveling on Saturday morning as I participated in a two-hour special karate lesson taught by Master Black, a seventh-degree black belt who was in town to celebrate our dojo's 25th birthday. I learned to fend off grappling, knife attacks, and all kinds of punches and kicks, and couldn't help but consider it symbolic of the way my brain and body have withstood the onslaughts of cancer and cancer treatments (so far, at least). I realized that I was literally "alive and kicking", and it was miraculous.
On Saturday evening my husband and I caught a few minutes of the "edited-for-television" broadcast of the movie, Saving Private Ryan. We hadn't seen it before, but my grandmother told me that my grandfather served in that same company portrayed in the movie, so I was happy to find a non-R-rated version. Even so, it was still intense and violent and frightening during the few moments that we saw, and I couldn't help but try to imagine how anyone (and thankfully how my grandfather) managed to survive such a nightmarish experience, storming the beaches on D-day. This is the same grandfather who later died of cancer, but he lived seven years after being given a six-month prognosis. More than once, he had to survive against the odds, and I guess I've been lucky to follow suit (so far).
It's been a good week. However, I also noticed this week that I face a new danger: the danger of good news.
I should repeat that this is not a complaint. I really like having good news! I feel like Ralphie in the movie, A Christmas Story, when his mom covers for him so that his dad won't punish him, and he says, "I slowly realized that I was not about to be destroyed!" That quote keeps going through what's left of my mind ever since the MRI results came out good.
I know that the battle isn't over (I still need the prayers, thank you thank you thank you!!!). And I know that there are no guarantees for anyone's longevity. But the "death may be imminent" pressure has subsided a little bit -- kind of like the piano hanging over my head getting a nice, new cable reinforcement. It's good in a lot of ways, but I realized that I need to be careful about this new danger.
When adversity strikes, it comes rich with opportunity. There is greater clarity in a once-complicated life, and there is greater appreciation for things that were taken for granted. Faith grows stronger, love grows deeper, and blessings are easier to find. Of course, we'd be much better off if we could seize these opportunities without waiting for adversity to leave them at our feet. And when we get a season of joy and relief, we'd be much better off if we could retain the valuable perspectives from times of hardship. Otherwise we drift into the danger zone, where we lose what we learned.
Just a few days ago I caught myself getting impatient over things that were very trivial and stupid--things that wouldn't be worthy of my notice even a week ago. I realized how easy it is to let the good times roll...into the danger zone.
Added to Ralphie's "not about to be destroyed" voice in my head is the voice of the prophet Alma: "Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed--yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble..." (Alma 32:15)
I'd rather not "be compelled". I'd rather figure out how to keep all the benefits of my cancer journey without having to forfeit this season of joy. I've had the chance to learn much about enduring difficult times; now my challenge is learning how to endure good times without becoming complacent.
(Hopefully I'll just have to keep getting good news, so that I can practice!)