Friday, October 25, 2013

Welcome to the 5%

I'm sorry to interrupt our scheduled programming and I'm also sorry for leaving you all at a moment of suspense in my little story. I've been caught in a bit of a whirlwind these past weeks, and nearly all my thoughts and energies have been consumed in its wake. I promise to resume the love story soon, but right now, I'm wide awake at 4 a.m. with a desperate need to tell you all about something else.

Did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? I didn't, actually, until last Monday when I was sitting next to Roby on the Paris/Salt Lake City flight, and the stewardess accompanied my orange juice with a pink-lettered napkin. "Take flight in the fight against breast cancer," it said. How ironic--because that's exactly what we were doing.

No surprises or cliff-hangers here, folks: just the overwhelming truth. Last Friday, I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my breast.

Roby was in Lyon with me. We'd arranged his first visit there over a month before, and somehow all I can think is that God knew I would need him desperately that day. I'd recently completed a cycle of antibiotics to treat what the doctor assumed was an unusual infection. But when the swelling didn't completely disappear, he ordered a biopsy. The results sent both me and Roby to the States within just a few days. He only had a week's worth of clothes and had to make special arrangements with a police officer friend to get his passport sent to him. Miraculously, everything still fell into place for us to be together--just as it always has. I have no doubt in my mind that I'm marrying the best man in this world. If you hadn't already guessed the end to my love story, I apologize for spoiling things a little...

We had an appointment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute yesterday--it's the premier location in the West for those needing treatment and all that goes with it. I arrived at 10:30 with a small entourage--Roby, my mom, one of my sisters--clutching a shiny, red folder filled with half-translated exams and images and results. Medical French is complicated...but I've learned a fair amount this past month. Six hours later, completely exhausted and in a bit of pain from having become a temporary pin-cushion, I left. All of our minds were spinning with the information that had bombarded us all day: starting chemo therapy treatments as soon as possible, getting surgery in a few months, undergoing genetic testing because 29 year-olds don't usually get breast cancer, learning that treatments could make me infertile. And then, for me, the real kicker: facing the reality of losing my hair. I think that last one deserves a post of its own. I'll go there another day.

I'm still struggling with jet lag right now, and can't believe I'm having to make decisions that I never even knew people had to make. I'm not even supposed to be here. I should be in France, missing my fiancé following his first visit to our future home. I should be teaching a math or a French or a history lesson. I should be sending messages to my mom about what kind of flowers I decided to have for my wedding. Nothing seems real. To be honest, I've been running away inside my mind. But I guess I can't run away forever when I suddenly have dozens of people telling me what I have to do and what's going to happen.

Apparently, only 5% of breast cancer patients are under the age of 40. I don't know how I won those odds. I've never won anything.

But that's enough. Let's get all of that awful, depressing stuff out of the way. I have to tell you, friends--wholeheartedly and without hesitation--that even though this is very hard and frightening and derailing, I don't doubt for one moment that God is aware of me. I want you all to know that I am not bitter about this. I'm scared out of my mind at times, but I am also unendingly grateful to be surrounded by people--angels--who love me. And while I could be asking why this is happening now--two months before our wedding--I'm mostly just grateful that I don't have to go through any of this without the love of my life by my side. God knows what He's doing;
I am grateful for His timing.

Remember how I said my love story is all about faith and healing and learning to trust? It's all still true. I just didn't know that I had a new plot twist around the corner which would further try my faith, build my trust, and add a different layer to the idea of being healed.

Six years ago today, I met a brand new 25-year-old Italian missionary. Now, in two months and two days, we will be getting married. Everything else is just a wrinkle in our plans. We are going to make it. In the meantime, we would love your prayers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

...To Be Together...

Have you ever seen North and South? It's undoubtedly one of my very favorite movies. At the end, there's this fantastic moment at a train station where the two protagonists magically cross paths, and suddenly several months' of confusion is resolved in one perfect kiss. I've always loved the idea of trains and train stations--they are a rarity where I come from--but that scene makes them seem positively dreamy. And I won't lie--of all the scenarios I imagined for when Roby and I first "re-met," this was what I secretly wanted.

My girlfriends, some of them as giddy with anticipation as I was, dropped me off at the station just as the sun was rising on that fresh spring day. I walked nervously toward the corridor where we would meet, and as I stepped through the sliding glass door, he was the only person I saw. Ahem... Well, that's actually because at 6:50 a.m. on a Saturday, he was the only person there. He had his back to me, and when he turned around and saw me...he looked somewhat stressed.

To infuse a little reality back into my life, those first several minutes were a bit awkward. We exchanged a quick hug, rushed to buy tickets, and then bumbled through a little small talk while I ate an apple. He kept his distance. I tried to hide my disappointment and be rational. When the train arrived and we got on, I did my best to sit as close to him as I comfortably could, hoping he would get the hint. We flirted a little shyly at first, and then we both started warming up--almost in synch with the morning light.

Yes, this is really what we saw.
I absolutely adore Switzerland, and we were speeding through some of my very favorite parts of the country--the places where I had spent the best months of my missionary service. As I was sitting by the window, I would look out and excitedly point out what we were passing--the vineyards, the lake, the breathtaking views that had entered into my heart years before. I felt like I was sharing something very special and deeply personal. He leaned towards me several times to look out--and my fears of not sensing chemistry were immediately quieted.

At one point, he asked me if I felt comfortable with him. It was easy to say yes, because I'd never felt so rapidly at ease with a guy in my life. He seemed relieved and started to tell me about a dream he'd had recently, and as I listened attentively, I realized he was trying to work up the courage to do or say something. Right as I sensed the anticipated moment coming, however, we pulled into another station and a good friend of mine hopped on and sat down with us, abruptly ending everything.

I had known she was going to join us--I had invited her to come and even told her which train we'd be on. But it was still difficult not to be a little grumpy at the unfortunate timing... Roby was quiet for at least five minutes--obviously trying not to be irritated. Regardless--Christina, I know you're reading this, and we both love you dearly! :)

I have to admit, I felt discouraged. I was certain that the train ride would be our only chance to establish a connection and decide if we both had similar feelings. We arrived at the temple without ever re-establishing that special moment, and I felt deflated and even a little desperate. As I sat impatiently through our session, I came to a conclusion--I had to take matters into my own hands and tell Roby how I felt, or I would risk regretting that day for the rest of my life.