If you find yourself meeting with a counselor or therapist whose life seems perfect and problem-free, run away.
These past five months I have more often found myself on the other side of chair – as a client rather than the therapist. I like to say that our normal ability to cope with challenge and stress has just been decimated. Certainly there have been some major surprises and even realizing the word ‘cancer’ has become a normal part of our family’s conversation still floors me. But more challenging for me has been the constancy of the craziness; it just hasn’t let up. In March the kids wouldn’t sleep without several wake-ups per night, I had a a month-long bought with Vertigo. In April I developed a kidney stone that debilitated me over several days and made me more irritable than my family needed. Later in April, Christen found out about the nodes in her thyroid and then about the probable cancerous nature of them. After the first week in May and some second, third, and fourth doctor opinions, we decided to return back to MidWest USA for medical care.
We left a week and a half after deciding to make the return. The whirlwind of deciding, making the trip, and recovering from jet lag with two little ones was crazy-making. All along not knowing the extant of Christen’s cancer. In the first week of June we learned Christen had Medullary Thyroid Cancer, which changed the game for us, so to speak. She had surgery on the 24th of June, recovered, then I had a kidney stone removal surgery on July 10th followed by a week of painful recovery due to the 10in long stent left in my bladder and kidney. Now, a day after my foot surgery due to a broken off piece of my 5th metatarsal on my right foot, I am laid up in bed for a week followed by 5 weeks on crutches. Add in there children being ill off and on, the constant feeling of being way out of control and in the dark on what do and when, and my family joining in the fun by each having an unexpected surgery and illness of their own throughout all this.
At some point we felt like we had more than we could handle.
I have been meeting with a counselor since we returned to West Michigan and the sheer amount of things going on for our family was enough for him to respond with look resembling a deer caught in headlights. While I have not had any major epiphanies in those sessions, those times have added to more than a handful of experiences where being able to talk about my, our, story just allowed me to hear it with fresh ears and a new perspective. Putting words to my experience in front of people who care about me has helped me to see where I have really been getting stuck and got me thinking about what I can do differently and what I actually can control in the midst of it all.
Here is what I normally wish when I feel so overwhelmed by it all: “Please make it all go away, make everything go back to normal.” But when I can talk about it and people listen with love and challenging questions, then I have a new wish: “God, help me to be the man you have called me to be as I love and lead this family you gave me through it all.”
I like the second wish better.