Confession: I was tempted to go barefoot to the cancer center. No, it wasn’t because I’d just gotten a fabulous pedi I wanted to show off…. (Hello, it’s fall, in Michigan, my toes are quietly entombed in shearling waiting for the thaw.) Nope. it was because I knew what shoes I had to wear: The Cancer shoes. (Okay that’s what I call them- but they’re actually- my awesome Movember Tom’s) I ordered matching Movember’s just about a year ago. Right after my husband’s diagnosis with prostate cancer. Shoes of solidarity- cause that’s how I roll. Well- that’s how I roll and as much as I love him- I’m not shaving my head if he loses his hair….But, I will wear matching shoes. (Trust me- I don’t do matchy… it’s a sacrifice for me.. ask my friends…) To every appointment.
Of which Prostate Cancer is just one of many ….but- at my house? Prostate cancer dominates like the Tigers. (Rawr- go Tigs!)
The truth is- I love my Tom’s. They’ve carried us to every appointment from radiation appointments- to urologists. From physical therapy sessions to surgery and recovery. Every time I saw that little ‘stache on the side of my shoe- just below my inked reminder that God is with us even here…. I knew he was, and that we weren’t alone in walking these steps. Other’s care. Other’s have been here. Other’s have been cheering us on.
That is- they reminded me of that-until my big toe started poking through the end of my Toms. (I told you- I’ve been wearing them. A lot.)
When I saw that tango tangerine toenail polish- I felt a little panicked. cancer does weird things to your thought process’. To be honest? Somehow- over the course of that year of appointments- my shoes started to mean more than solidarity. They started to mean hope. That tiny hole in the toe-felt like a hole in our hope-balloon.
The thing is- we still need hope. The clock has been quietly ticking all summer. Radiation ended. Life continues and one of the most important appointments loomed.
The post radiation- PSA test. (If you hear ominous music in your head- you should. It’s scary. PSA is a blood test that can give a window into the body’s response to treatment. Or whether there is a risk of Prostate cancer- as an early detection screening. FYI? Don’t care what the government says about whether it’s economically viable—- an early PSA screen is what caught my husband’s cancer. Get your men checked. I said so. I’m more trust worthy than the government. duh.)
Anyway- I reprimanded myself that my hope is not in a pair of shoes. I know that my hope is in a God who loves us and carries us every step of the way- regardless of our circumstances. But, you know what? Sometimes you need a reminder of that hope. Which is what those shoes have become. I tried to tell myself they were now: holy (hole-y) hope. I didn’t believe myself. (I’m not a good liar.) I went online and tried to order another pair. OUT OF STOCK. (I cried. seriously- hope should never be out of stock. Just saying. However- Movember Tom’s are a limited edition collection each year- they sell out fast, buy more than one pair. You’re welcome.) In desperation, I tweeted Tom’s about my plight.
Tom was too busy to answer- but, the @movember crew got back to me right away. They have connections. They take this stuff seriously…. and unbelievably- they sent us A big box of hope and courage. Shoes to carry us both through what ever’s next and enough Movember swag to spread the word. And the hope. Opening that box- we both cried. Happy tears. I’m not alone tears. I can o this even if I don’t want to- tears.
Except- when the day came for me to put on that new pair of shoes? I didn’t want to. Cause I’m tired of walking beside my husband through cancer. Not tired of HIM.. tired of CANCER. I hate cancer. And- I’m pretty sure that Jesus does too.
So- in a fit of cancer-ate my brains like a hope eating zombie- I considered going barefoot to the cancer center. I was convinced that by not wearing them- I wouldn’t have to. (Oh denial- how stupid you are….)
But- before we left the house- I thought “But what if I need them?” The truth is- I’d rather be prepared and scared than walk barefoot on the broken shards of a life still affected by cancer…. So I put on my big girl panties and my new Toms and headed out the door.
I chanted: “Whatever happens- we can do this. God is near- even here.” like a crazed- peri-menopausal cheerleader all the way to the cancer center.
I kept reaching out for my husband’s sweaty hand and squeezing it at random times through out the drive. (Mostly when he was trying to make a turn-I’m not especially helpful when nervous.)
Fortunately- the wait for the appointment was short. (They have a pre- appt process that involves questions that are both awkward and hilarious (hello- our current method of birth control is: prostate cancer. Duh. You took the plumbing that routes that line. Kind of why we’re here….) We made sick jokes and tweeted weird things. We prayed.
And then we went into the stark exam room to find out what’s next.
We waited/ Apparently in a hole in the time-space continuum. Because it FELT like we waited forever- but the clock showed only a couple of minutes passing.
We made jokes about the “price list” on the wall…. (Still don’t know what kind of clamp costs $267.00. But, apparently- one does- and it has something to do with a catheter. More than that- I don’t want to know.)
Then, the surgeon walked in. Smiling. (a good sign.)
Polite “How are you’s” were spoken— but I’ll be honest- I couldn’t answer or listen until he told us how we are…..
“You tell us.” was my smiling, but more serious than he could guess-response.
Because he’s a smart man- The surgeon turned to my husband: “Kyle, you’re PSA is undetectable.”
The relief was palpable. For just a second- I thought I’d pass out. I didn’t.
“As of right now- you’re cancer free.” We’ll keep re-checking. (every 3 months.) Go- enjoy the holidays.”
I caught sight of my Movember Toms- and realized they’d suddenly become dancing shoes.
The journey isn’t over. But our hope is even stronger than it was….we know that even here.. in cancer- God is present and we’re not alone.
And the scripture that says: “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes with the morning….” is still true. Some nights are just longer than others.
Cancer can kill. People still die. But not my husband. Not right now.
And we’re rejoicing- even here.
I don’t know what you’re dealing with. Maybe you’re tempted to walk into the cancer center barefoot too- because denial seems safer than trust…. if so- I encourage you….. step into hope…..God is always trustworthy.