Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Retreat and Recovery

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Journal entry 5/28/16: I’m sitting on the porch at Camp Arcadia twenty feet from the lake in disbelief that I am even here, that we drove all this way in the midst of pain, allergic reactions, anxiety, and achiness.

It is nice today – 74 degrees with the sun peeking out here and there and the wind constant at about 13 mph. Lake Michigan is crashing and turbulent and I’m trying not to stand out too much and feel guilty that everyone is working and I am not. We are here for opening weekend, which is a volunteer weekend to get camp ready for the season. I did not think we would be able to go this weekend, but I was given the all clear by the two surgeons and the camp director said I could be an “encourager” this weekend.

Thankfully most of the work near where I am sitting is done. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do anything, but I cut fabric for three hours this morning in the craft shop. But my cutting hand is on the right, the same side as the surgery and it started to ache. I don’t want to push it, so I’m here after resting in the room a bit.

Everyone is telling me to write, especially Jerry. He sees my potential, even when I cannot. I have two journals – a gift from Clare and another in the basket of love. Yet this pressure to write makes it hard. I’m an avoider. All of these emotions and pain, I don’t want to write them down and have to relive them again.

When I think back to surgery day, I think of how awful it was and YET every blood pressure check was calm and normal. I had a needle with wire in it, in my breast for hours – when I was awake, and I lived through it. I somehow made it through the nausea, recovery, sleeping propped up for days. Vicodin dreams, hazy days. The allergic reactions to the iodine and surgical tape. I’m still itching, skin still weeping under my arm. When I look at my chest and abdomen, I see a war zone. There are bruises, pin holes, red angry dots, stitches, steri strips, sutures, red, purple, blue, green, and yellow. My breast looks the best of all of it. My right underarm angry, red, raised, and fiery reaction and heat and sweat. Sore, but not painful. My belly swollen and raised and puffier than ever. I wonder how it will all look and feel in the end? I have partial feeling in my breast and it is unclear if all feeling will return.

I’m trying to keep my thoughts to right now, to the churning waves, and the cool breeze. Because when I think about the test results and next steps, tamoxifen, and testing every six months, my heart hurts and I am overwhelmed. I lay there last night unable to sleep, the anxiety too much and I let the sobs shake me until I coughed and choked and woke Jerry up. It’s a head game, Mom said. Yes…and I have fallen prey to this cruel game more than once.

I want to sit here and believe that the surgery is done, therefore cancer is done. But I don’t really know yet, so I try not to think about Tuesday – likely when I will hear the tumor testing results and the lymph node tests. I have a feeling that this continued healing will also involve more pain.

I keep thinking that it has only been one month and one day since I was diagnosed and what have I really learned?

  • We are only dust.
  • We know so little.
  • Planning is a pointless venture.
  • God forces us to pause for a reason – what is mine?
  • Life is on a grander scale than just my purposes and pain.
  • I can’t avoid the inevitable (death).
  • I am not afraid of death itself, just the bumpy path that may lead to it.
  • I am afraid of leaving all I love – I’m afraid for them, how they would cope.
  • I love Jerry more today than I could ever express.
  • I don’t know if I will be OK or not and somehow, I have to live life and find joy in that tension.
  • I can laugh and choose joy everyday – even in the face of this evil disease.
  • I will never by holy enough or pure enough to enter God’s presence – therefore sin and disease may do its work in me as they have this past month.
  • I will never claim this cancer as my own or call it as such but will continue to pray and discern why it was here and in fear and trembling pray it will never return.
  • I don’t want to become one of those people who is ruled by and obsessed by their condition.
  • As much as I love gifts, I hate it that I have so many right now because of cancer. I would rather be well and never receive another gift again.

I sit and gaze at the fury and beauty of Lake Michigan still in awe that I am here. Thankful, humbled, broken. Yet alive, joyful, grateful.


Hi! I'm Jennifer. I'm here in my little corner of southeastern Michigan observing relationships, family, and the world hoping to dig deeper and find the divine spark in it all. Thanks for visiting!

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