Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sharing My Body with an Unwelcomed Guest

I've you've never had cancer before... you can still relate. Ever had an uninvited house guest that you really didn't want to have invading your personal space, yet they seemed to invite themselves and stay beyond what you were comfortable with? You found yourself sharing your home with an intruder... only with cancer, the intruder isn't only unwelcome and uninvited, it has an irritating personality quirk. It wants to kill you. Talk about unwelcome.

Evicting the uninvited guest takes more work than you realized. 

I've watched enough sci-fi horror films to know that just like an angry alien from a distant planet, cancer has no desire to be nice to my body during its stay. It wants to maim, ravage and spoil, leaving scars and wreaking havoc. Oh well. "Chicks dig scars", right? Probably not. That's why Adobe invented Photoshop and it is only the surface.

I am in the "eye of the storm" phase at the moment. Having weathered the physical and emotional pounding of my three cancer surgeries in a period of 29-days (four if you count the nifty installation of my stomach feeding tube), now comes the wait until November 4th when chemo and radiation begin. At least I've got a cool mask to hold me down.

I think the most difficult thing I've had to deal with in the past couple of weeks is realizing the effects of the cancer on my taste and jaw. Apparently, the cancer was wrapped around a nerve in my lower left mandible. When the cancer was cut out, the nerve was damaged in the process. Now, every time I take a bite of food after not eating for a couple of hours, I get a pain that is indescribable. It doesn't matter if it is sweet, sour, salty... just flavor of nearly any kind. When the food touches my lower left teeth, pain shoots like a lightening bolt, nearly knocking me to my knees. You know that "one to ten scale" we use to designate how painful something is? This pain is a solid nine. We never say "ten" because nobody would believe us. That said, it is really a 9-1/2. I've never cried as an adult from pain. Not until now.

Today, my parents picked me up to get me out of the house and drove me to Panda Express for lunch. All I could eat was the fried rice because it didn't take much work eat. I took the first bite and there it was, the bold of lightening, screaming through my jaw. All I could do was put my hand to my face as the tears rolled. I can take a lot of pain. I always have, but this is the worst I have ever experienced. Even starting to cry causes it to fire. Will I stop eating? Hope not. Stop crying? Unlikely. I'm really praying this settles down though. It did get me thinking though.

Our nerves are interesting things. The receptors of information in my body have been damaged. Other than that, nothing has really changed. Salt is still salt, but how my body perceives that salt has changed. Same salt. Different perception. Flavors that once brought me joy now drop me to my knees in agony.

Life is kind of like that. We often blame the world around us for what happens, but in reality, it is our hearts, our "mental taste buds" that are reacting differently because we are perceiving differently. Our "nerves" have been damaged.  Irritating people have always been irritating. Mean people have always been mean. Life happens. How we react to that is where your "mental nerve health" comes into play.

Cancer has damaged my nerves, changing the nerve's perception of what it encounters. Do I need to change the world or be angry at salt? No.  I need to heal, let my heart heal... my mind, my spirit. Let the world fade away as I set my eyes on what is important.

I don't know about you, but I choose to give my nerves to Christ. Not because I need a crutch, but because He can heal them. Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest."

When I let go, my heart will change, my mind will be made new, my spirit refreshed.

I do not need to hope for a good day ahead... I need to hope for my whole and healed body to interpret what I encounter differently.

Don't blame the salt.

I love you, my friends. I hope you can sit back and take in the many blessings that are all around you. From the smallest of things to the big and obvious. Slow your breathing and close your eyes. Take a few moments and think. Despite what is going wrong, what is going right? Despite what you don't have, what do you have? Again, it can be the smallest of things... like, why is Cap'n Crunch still legal?? It's too good to be legal! A blessing? Yes! Sorry, I digress... please don't tell my family doctor. If you feel pain, be thankful that it means you are still alive to feel it.  Look closely... the blessings are there, all around you.

~Robert Haase,
A Blessed Man

PS: Font size changed at the request of a few of my "slightly older" friends. ;-)

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  1. My daddy says fish and company stink after 3 days. God bless you for putting up with what you are dealing with. Praying the pain will go away. Hugs and kisses.

  2. I started reading your blog thanks to Shari, your authenticity and faith is inspiring to me. My husband is dealing with some serious medical issues right now as well. He can very much relate to the pain you are dealing with with those nerves. It is called Neuralgia and he FINALLY found some relief through a medication called Tegretal. This is often used to treat seizures, but can also be used to treat Neuralgia...might want to look into it. Nerve damage like yours will often cause pain like this in the face or neck......and after time it will go away and you can go off the medication. It is one that you have to slowly increase because the side effects are bad, but having relief from these attacks of pain has been worth it for my husband.
    God Bless you, and again thank you for sharing your story, it is a blessing to me