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All Things Made New: After Five Days Of 'Cancer'

More than once, my usually optimistic husband's voice cracked; his eyes filled with frightened tears. His back probably still aches from sleeping by my side in that wompy hospital chair. He never complained.
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I know from experience that D-Day arouses the most acute type of fear, often more big and dramatic and scary than the worst that's yet to come. Unexplored territory can be terrifying.

These days you usually get your Diagnosis divvied up, with particles of information leaking like a slow drip. The doctor's best guess, blood work, biopsies.

I leave the house the other morning and the key sticks in the lock, which is badly in need of WD-40. It's only days after a surgery--I don't want to strain--so I give up and head out, thinking no one would dare burglar us, not now. Lightening couldn't possibly strike twice, or would that be three times? Or four?

But who's counting?

We all have our struggles. We look at the other bloke's and shake our heads and say, Now I couldn't manage that. But you could if you had to--somewhere down deep you know this.

You are not as fragile as you look.

Last night. With one five-minute phone call, I wriggle free from a cancer sentence--doctors aren't always correct initially, thank God. At my house, we are all the things you'd expect--relieved, elated, finally relaxed after a tense five days. We pop open a rogue bottle of champagne we find at the back of the fridge. (Life lesson: always keep a bottle of champagne on hand--one never knows what will surface that requires celebrating.)

But when the bubbles settle and I head to bed, this I know: with liberty regained comes great responsibility. I'd been trying, this last week, not to ask why but how. How can I use this, even this, for good?

Moments after we got our happy news, a friend, who also had surgery last week and is recovering nicely, asked to meet us for dinner this weekend. Without hesitation, I answered: "Yes! We are available to do anything and everything, with joyful hearts."

Our dinner outing will feel like a stolen treat. Man alive, it's all a stolen treat--sleeping in one's own bed and scolding one's children and waiting for the cable to come back on after a thunderstorm. Don't even get me started on the virtues of peeing on one's own accord. (Catheters are a nasty business.)

Not everyone is granted a "jk--you're all right after all!" phone call. Every day, people are getting really crappy phone calls. And so I want to keep asking how: How can I help--while I can? Time appears to be very much on my side. How can I work on the side of healing and comfort and the grand Yes, who was and is and evermore shall be?

My senses are keen; I'm on the lookout. I have a special needs child who needs her mama, so my others-love will have to be strategically spent--and likely spontaneously. This is okay. As a recipient of spur-of-the-moment love, I can tell you, it profoundly moves. The overflow of prayers and flowers and food and visits, they humble. My 70-something mother scrubbed my kitchen floor until it felt like butter under bare feet; my father ran out for toilet paper and Fig Newtons. My teen-aged daughters changed their autistic sister's diapers, made her mac and cheese, called her "darling."

More than once, my usually optimistic husband's voice cracked; his eyes filled with frightened tears. His back probably still aches from sleeping by my side in that wompy hospital chair. He never complained.

One friend's young daughter had nightmares about my so-called cancer; another friend experienced sympathy pains. How connected we all are.

And so, as quickly as I wasn't: I'm fine. I'm more than fine--I'm George Bailey after he gets back his Wonderful Life. Last night I dreamt of my favorite Christmas carols. This morning, I sang them in the shower.

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day...

The giddiness won't last. I'm determined, however, that the gratitude will.