The Ways of Love: A Journal through Divorce and Cancer
by Lauren E. Miller
Lauren grew up in an upper-middleclass family on Long Island, New York, the second oldest of four siblings. There was no breast cancer in her family, and she enjoyed excellent health. A personal trainer in martial arts, she had a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, barely drank, didn’t smoke, took vitamins, and prayed every day. Yet two weeks before her divorce was final, she found out she had cancer…
January 10, 2006
Father God, I am silenced within by the phone call I just received. The words are still ringing in my ears, “Lauren, are you sitting down? We have the results of your biopsy…Lauren, you have cancer…Invasive Ductile Carcinoma, grade three…and it’s in your lymph nodes.” I am shaking so hard I can barely write down my thoughts. I am only thirty-eight years old…. My children…their faces flood my mind. I am paralyzed…I cannot think. I am just finding my way through divorce after seventeen years of marriage. I can’t breathe.… Jesus, I don’t hear your voice within my heart, yet a small voice in my head is speaking to me of your presence. You must carry me through every second of this for I am not physically able to stand at this moment. I’m scared, Jesus…hold me… carry me. I am like a little child…. Take my trembling hand, Jesus, and lead my broken heart that is filled with fear on through the darkness.
January 20, 2006
I am in denial, Lord! I am being told that I need chemo for three months followed by surgery…a double mastectomy… more chemo and possible radiation. In my imagination, I see this genderless person, and I am so scared! No hair, no breasts…. I am forced to look deeply into the message I have preached to others through the years…that beauty flows from the heart. Man looks at the outer appearance but God looks at the heart. Do I believe? Lord, helpmy unbelief!
February 9, 2006
Lord, I am just one week past my first chemo treatment. I don’t really remember much of the first five days after my treatment. I am tired and worn down. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. I am told I will be bald in fourteen days. My hair is now half way down my back. I don’t want to be bald! I am scared to see myself bald. No! I don’t want this! No!
February 13, 2006
Today as I lie in my bed, I am feeling a deep sense of peace ad love surrounding me. I’m allowing your love that you have showered on me through my children, family, friends, and strangers to flood my soul and sustain me in a place of serenity and calm. I am beginning to truly believe that I am beautiful…that I am loved… that I have everything I need within me to rise above this condition of cancer and live fully. I am feeling that it is a new birth for me.
You are allowing me to see myself through this experience as you see me Father…beautifully and wonderfully created to be known and to know, to love and be loved. I am loved and beautiful not because of my looks on the outside but because of the beauty that lies within my soul…a beauty so dignified, feminine, romantic, alluring, and sensual it could never be fully expressed through any physical form. Therefore, anything that may change about me or be taken away physically during this time will not touch who I truly am as a woman of God. Oh, Jesus, please help me remember this peaceful moment of truth when I begin to weep and grieve over the loss of my hair and breasts. Thank you, God, for the opportunity to experience being beautiful, truly beautiful, without those physical representations of what I attached part of my identity to. And when my hair grows back and the doctors have reconstructed my breasts, I will know that my beauty truly shines from my soul out. I pray that nothing will ever be able to threaten this truth again… age or illness…my beautiful soul will remain untouched!
February 14, 2006
It is the fourteenth day today… Valentine’s Day! I am grieving, Lord! I am letting go of a part of me that is dying! I am losing my long, beautiful brown hair. I will cut it off and give it away to Locks of Love. This will give some purpose to the pain I feel inside.
(Later in the day after giving away my hair)
My three children and my mom came with me today. First, the hairdresser tied off little sections of my hair—about 50 of them—and put them into rubber bands. Then she cut off one section of hair at a time, right above each rubber band, leaving behind about half an inch of hair. My children’s little hands kept touching my head as they looked at me with wide eyes. My youngest asked, “Mommy is that still you?” I assured her it was me. My 10-year-old said, “Mom, it’s not the hair that makes you beautiful; it’s your soul and your face. You look like the woman in the James Bond movie!” These words of comfort that flowed from my beautiful children’s hearts helped my heart start to see a little ray of light in this dark moment…light and perspective. Lord, I see a greater good in this…not just one good but many “goods” that are coming from this trial, and I am so thankful that I am able to see them through my pain.
February 25, 2006
Round II of chemo…Wow, this one knocked me down harder than the first. I’m having a flashback to when I was in the State Championship for Tae Kwon Do and this lady kicked me in the head and I was knocked to the floor. I heard the count, and when the referee got to about five, I told myself that I had not trained six days a week, four hours a day, to go out like this. So I got up and beat her…and ended up with the silver medal. Right now, I am pulling from every moment of victory in my life. I am striving to rise above the effects of chemo…to reach a higher level of spiritual consciousness so I can provide the right environment for my body to heal itself. Lord, you have said that you have given me everything I need for life and godliness. I continue to hear your voice echo within my soul, “Daughter, your faith has healed you”(Mark 5:34).
March 3, 2006
This is my message through this experience to date: Be who I am… before me, before God…real, honest, open. Then in love accept and love others as they share their truths and self just as they are. Love always overcomes, always penetrates beyond the flesh into the soul. I desire to offer love generously knowing that I have been saved by love. It is love that is healing, restoring, and setting me free, and it is the gift that I will offer the world until the last breath I take on this planet.
April 16, 2006
My heart beats with anticipation knowing that all of this suffering has a purpose that is much bigger than I will ever be able to grasp. I tremble with excitement knowing that you are my dance partner, Jesus. You will teach me every step that I need to know. Please keep me safe through my double mastectomy. I know my dance is not over…it’s only just begun. This is my final death, physically speaking. They will not take anything else from me. I have lost all my hair, my strength, and now my breasts. It is time to rebuild, reclaim, and rejuvenate all that I have lost through this. It is time to focus on what I have gained. After surgery on Monday, it’s all uphill for me! I am ready to embrace the abundant life that you have in store for me. You are faithful!
May 17, 2006
After my mastectomy, I had my mom cover all my mirrors. Why? Because I wasn’t ready to look at myself bald and breastless. My mom said that some cultures don’t even have mirrors because they believe that the image in the mirror masks true beauty. I believe that. When I finally did get the courage to look at myself, I sat in silence as I slowly surveyed the damage done by the cancer. When I pulled my gaze away from the scars on my blank chest, I got very close to the mirror and looked into my eyes. I have heard that the eyes are the window to the soul, but I had never experienced the profound truth of this statement until this very moment. As I peered through my ransacked earth suit, I saw into my beautiful soul, and believed for the first time the truth that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.
May 18, 2006
My pathology report did not come back the way I wanted it to! The cancer is in seven out of the twelve lymph nodes that were removed during the double mastectomy. This means I will need chest wall radiation…possibly every day for five weeks, on top of twelve more weeks of chemo! The moment with my dad was one of the closest moments of my life, and I will store it in my heart forever. It was the first time I witnessed my dad weeping. I held him and he cried out, “Enough! I can’t take seeing my daughter suffer like this!” We wept in each other’s arms. He held me…bald and breastless. He witnessed to me the love I believe you have for me, Jesus, and I believe you wept with me through this. I used to be told that I resembled Julia Roberts, now I look like something from another planet. I wish I had a husband to validate me as a woman…I know I am still a woman in here! Lord, I know that you love me from my heart out…but I fear no one else will be able to look beyond these scars and see my true beauty.
June 6, 2006
Lord, speak to me…tell me your words of love and inspiration. I start chemo again on Wednesday. This is the end of the race, Lord…the last mountain to climb in this battle against cancer in my mind. You have surrounded me with beautiful people…souls that love and encourage my soul. I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this gift. You have taught me so intimately through this trial. Ilove because I have been loved by you in so many beautiful ways.
June 20, 2006
I am giving myself over to a sweet surrender to this moment in my life.I breathe deeper, laugh deeper, give deeper, and love God, myself, and others more honestly, freely, and completely. I am free to dance and sing because I have entered the dance of life. At times my feet grow weary, my body aches, and my steps are sluggish, yet the beat of your love strengthens my weak knees and feeble hands. My soul dances with beauty and ease as I feel the same power that raised your wounded body from the grave pulsate through my body and soul.
I had another chemo today. It took five hours…yet I feel untouched because my soul is so full of your love and the love of those around me. I am excited about this dance of love called life! Hold me close, Lord…let me hear the beat of your heart. Lead me on, beautiful Lord of my dance!
July 11, 2006
Lord, thank you for the gift of my children! They continually fill my heart with joy and hope. Seventeen years of marriage is a long time. This past year you have healed a lot of wounds left on my heart…feelings of anger, hurt, rejection, and confusion, and you’ve replaced them with forgiveness, acceptance, and understanding. You have never forsaken me even during the darkest nights of my soul. You have seen my broken heart; you have witnessed the depth of my despair throughout countless nights when I have cried out to you for help. Not once…not once have you failed to reveal your presence to me in the midst of my pain.
September 13, 2006
Today I started radiation for six straight weeks, every day…truly the last leg of this cancer race in my mind. Funny, I keep saying that! I will have my second reconstruction surgery in December. I have this image of myself walking out from the smoke of a burning building that is collapsing. I am a survivor! I have survived a life threatening disease that set up camp in my body…and won!
October 24, 2006
My last radiation was today. What am I feeling? Besides getting used to third degree burns all over my chest and getting over the nausea that I feel when I change my bandages twice a day, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for my family, my friends, and myself. I have won! Through my tears and heartache, God has produced within my soul a freedom and confidence that now guides my soul throughout the moments of my day—the freedom to be me without any attachments to the trivial worries that used to bind me to the world. I am free! I can love freely. This body has emerged from battle bruised and broken in many ways yet completely whole within.
January 30, 2007
I have been given the gift of new life. With each new day, I have the opportunity to learn how to love better. Even with the physical setbacks with the reconstruction of my body, I have a profound sense of who I am. I am going to be under treatment for a while. I just went in this week to get some stitches out and was back two days later for another surgery. I keep seeking a date when all the treatments and surgeries will be completed, but there’s no date in sight. In light of this, I have made the choice not to miss out on life in the present moment. So here I sit in my chair, writing down my thoughts, breathing in and out…I am alive now more than ever before…I am alive!