Things Left Unsaid: 01 / by Kate Brightbill

Photo by  Pictilio

Photo by Pictilio

Sometimes there are things happening in life that I don't share, and I don't want to share in the moment, but later- I like the idea of sharing them, and kind of regret not saying anything about it. So begins the new chapter / series of the blog: things left unsaid. 

When I am in the midst of heartache or challenges in my life, I tend to turn my mind away from thinking of them. I definitely can't bring myself to write about them. I stay generally upbeat and adequately distracted during the day, and then in the dark of night, I face fears and pray a million little prayers and try not to think the worst. 

Earlier this year, Maggie girl got swollen lymph nodes on her neck. I'm not talking tiny nodes that come when you get a cold and go away a week later. I'm talking larger lymph nodes, clustered around her neck. Naturally, I set a doctor's appointment RIGHT when I felt them for the first time. My brother's history with cancer caused my mind to think the worst. Her doctor was encouraging, but wanted us to come again every couple weeks for a bit to monitor things. After three months or so, we were referred to an ENT doctor and to get blood work done, etc. All clear, but the nodes persisted. It took six months, excessive doctor visits, and an exam on an ultrasound before the nodes subsided and I started sleeping well again. We got the all-clear in June or July. 

During those days, it was always on my mind. I would put my darling to bed, and sit there kissing her little cheeks, smothering her with affection, and secretly letting some tears fall out of my anxiety about the whole thing. When she would sleep, I would come in and pray for her and her health in a desperate sense, believing God has the capability to heal her little body, but unconvinced that that's what would happen. 

I've never thought myself a delicate person, emotionally. I can speak of my brother's cancer, and of the day he died with full clarity, and without tears... as if I'm simply stating facts void of emotion. I can brush past trials and think with that glass far more than half full more times than not. When people tell me about their hard times, I think to myself that they should perhaps just correct bad habits and enjoy the day to day- rather than let the hard times and emotions consume them...

But then there are things that trigger impractical explosions of emotions below the surface, down in my core. The feeling of crippling and unreasonable fear that perhaps I'll be put the same situation that I was in when I was age 11, 12, 13, 14... and... after. By God's grace, I feel we made it through the pain of losing someone we loved so dearly with a deep sense of peace and stronger faith than ever...

When my brother got cancer, I was so full of hope for health. I prayed with hope, I talked with hope, and I imagined it would all turn out properly and we'd all live to old ages and have children who played together, and a long future. That said, there was so much heartache in the middle of it that I can generally block from my memory. There were more days than I could count that meant life or death- high risk surgeries, chemotherapy causing excessive sickness, and the worst: CAT scans that would indicate how the cancer was spreading. There was a day I was called out of class and told Dave had low blood count and had caught pneumonia and we didn't know if that day was going to be it. It was three years of up then down then up then down, and then- well, worst case scenario. 

I generally feel stronger for having gone through that in my teenage years. I was less vulnerable to negative peer pressure- I mean, who cares what this or that person thinks of me when my brother is terminally ill? Life & death matters... my faith matters... my family matters. I told my mom multiple times that "I don't want any more character!" in answer to her sweet encouragement that trials build character. I don't want character! I just want my brother! And yet, that character and strength did build through each painful obstacle overcome.

Then I got pregnant. Then I had children. Annd all that strength I felt I had built... I began to feel the opposite. I feel the vulnerability. I want these girls to be safe with my entire heart. I want them to be healthy. I want to be able to know I will be able to kiss them goodnight every day. I found myself having frantic moments earlier this year when I had no answers and I had no control over my sweet girl's health. It triggered the helplessness I felt when David was sick, and somehow I managed to cry more tears over losing my brother in the first six months of this year than I cried in the preceding 10 years. I cried about the hard days I had blocked so thoroughly from my memory. I read old journal entries from junior high, and cried for that tiny girl I once was with the weight of the world on my shoulders. Poor Brian hasn't had to deal with as many random tear-fests in our entire marriage as he got to see in early 2014.

And then one day, we got the positive news about Maggie's lymph nodes. We got the all-clear. The once large lymph nodes were now small and harmless. 

I cried again. And hugged and kissed her again and again. And prayed with thankfulness.

My mom- that dear wise mom of mine- is right. Trials build character. This character that was built is different... it feels like the bits of pain and heartbreak burrowed deep below the surface of my being- the pieces that I don't invite even myself to feel- were brought to the surface... In contrast to other times I've thought hard thoughts and dismissed them; this time, I allowed myself to FEEL those thoughts... to pray through them, to process them. 

SO. 2014, this crazy year has unexpectedly been one of emotional healing. And I feel healthier for it. A little more able to talk about REAL challenges with real friends {and on this blog!} rather than keeping it all inside. It feels right to share things that are real here, particularly on this end of it all... when I am sleeping better again, and hoping and praying that no more "character building" sessions are looming directly ahead. 

Happy Friday, friends!