For the jokes

There aren't a whole lot of great things about getting cancer. It does teach you about what's really important in life, and it shows you who your down and dirty people are, blah, blah, etc... but if I could say one thing that is pretty fantastic, it's that cancer is the ultimate comedic pass for a person with a dark sense of humor, i.e. Me.

It's true, I have always enjoyed jokes or zingers that make some people cringe and others who are sick like me (in the literal and figurative sense) let out an irreverent cackle, but adding cancer to the mix has taken it to another level. For better or worse, in sickness and in eventual health.

Although I probably shouldn't, I will shamelessly admit to having as much fun as I possibly can with my cancer comedy pass. But I've learned the hard way that it can make people uncomfortable, to say the least. I see the faces of shock and I know what's behind the small gasps and not-so-well-hidden grimaces... Oohhhhh, is that really something to joke about? What did she say? Is it ok to laugh at this? Yes, yes it is. Please laugh. Please laugh with me because if it's not the best medicine, than radioactive iodine might be and heaven help us if that's true. (See, there it was again.)

It has been years since I've watched Seinfeld, but I think everyone remembers The Yada Yada episode. I love that one, not because of the iconic "Yada, yada, yada..." line that kids in high school who have never even seen the show probably spout off, but because of the dentist story line. Jerry is convinced that his dentist has only converted to Judaism "for the jokes". He tells a priest in confession, CONFESSION (glorious), that he is offended by this not as a Jewish person, but as a comedian. I mean... Spectacular!

I was recently in actual confession/therapy with one of my favorite priests (Are you supposed to have favorites? Oh well. I do.) and he wondered if I had asked God, "Why did you let this happen to me?" To be honest, that question had never occurred to me. I suppose I could agonize over what I've done or not done in my life to deserve a difficult path right now. And I could probably get into a lot of very tiring debates over whether or not God allows bad things to happen to people. But I learned, or maybe just decided, a long time ago not to think that way.

But, having said that, if I ever did ask the question, "Why in the world would God allow me to get cancer?!?!" The answer is so very clear: for the jokes.

Saying the things, part II

This is a message that my dad sent after my post last week. (It was intended as a comment, but was too large to post as such.) The candid retelling of his own experience through the last year, and beyond, is too profound not to share...


Sara, you are a strong, intelligent, capable, and loving person. You need no affirmation from social media. The blog isn't for others (though it will--and I do say WILL--touch others hearts like mine) as much as it is for you.

And now comes my own "saying the things" that I've held in since your diagnosis. It started with a conversation with the Lord... "God, you've got to be shitting me! F’ing cancer again? Can't you just leave me and my family out of the cancer loop? Haven't I had to deal with this disease long enough?"

Yeah. Hearing you had cancer made the memory tapes play over and over again as an 11 year old boy watching his mother die of cancer...and as an adult watching my grandfather die of cancer...and my Aunt Marg die of cancer (all in the same family, no less). Then a month after Marg died, “Pop-Pop”, your mother's dad was diagnosed with cancer and died 9 months later. I honestly thought I might have shaken the cancer hound. Then it was my turn with a malignant melanoma on my head. Cancer wasn’t done. Other family members and close friends have been diagnosed with cancer, some treated with success, others I've stood by their bed as they took their last breath. Fourteen years after my step-sister Cheryl’s death, I had the hopeful thought that cancer was done with my family. But it wasn’t. It was your turn.

I was in no way prepared for that. The first thought that went through my mind (and I couldn't help it even after hearing the "success rate" for thyroid cancer) was this: "I'm going to lose my own daughter." (insert string of colorful metaphors here). Then on the day of your surgery while driving from Indy to Lexington, I got a text from Curt saying that it was definitely cancer and worse than expected. I felt like my entire body was shot up with Novocain. I was literally numb. I honestly don't remember much of the drive from Cincinnati to Lexington after that news. All I could think was, "It's bad...really bad."

My brain immediately vaulted to worse-case scenario. I began to think of how Mom and I could get positions in Lexington and move there so we could help Curt take care of the kids when you were gone. (It's sad that I even thought that.) I got to the hospital and found Curt and Tony in the surgery waiting room. I had seen that look on their faces before because I had seen in on my own face looking into a mirror as a child and as an adult. Tony had lost his wife and Curt his mother to cancer. I realized all three of us were in the same boat—that God forsaken cancer boat. I don't remember any conversations the rest of that morning except when the surgeon came out and met with us. He described what he had done and what he believed the prognosis was--very good. Even though I could see relief on Curt and Tony's face, I wasn't so easily sold.

I waited in your hospital room for you to arrive from recovery. When you did, I wanted to grab you and hold you tight, and not let you go—but you wouldn’t have appreciated that too much. You were able to muster a smile and talk with us. I was trying to be supportive on the outside, but on the inside, my guts had been through a blender. I was frightened of what the road ahead would hold for you, and if I could even go on, if it one day became a dead-end, no pun intended.

Since then, you’ve been through two more scans and treatments. And now the clock is ticking toward April when you will have yet another scan and blood work to discover if this…this…thing…this cancer will have been defeated. As much as I want to be hopeful that there will be good news, I am having difficulty trying to stay positive. But it’s not necessarily that you won’t be declared officially “in remission.” It’s that even if you are cured, when will the cancer beast next rear its ugly, nasty, merciless head?

The answer to that last question can only be, “Who knows?” In a way, for the last 49 years, I have been living with that question and answer. I don’t know who will next be diagnosed. I don’t know who will have to go through treatments. I don’t know who will be in remission…and who will succumb to this heinous disease. I have officiated at more funerals due to cancer than I would ever want to.

But I do know that on this side of eternity, life is not perfect. People I know and care about will be stricken with cancer. So you may be wondering what hope do I cling to in the days of facing the current and unknown future of “The Big C”?

It’s the verse from Romans 8:28 that has become my mantra: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
In spite of the fact that cancer has been woven into my life in a way I can’t unravel, I have certainly been blessed beyond all blessings imaginable with my family. The love and support we have for each other through the thick and thin of life is priceless. And that in itself is more ginormous than anything cancer can throw at me.

I apologize for my comment that has turned into its own “blog”, but I wanted to share with you and “say the things” I have never said before to you or to anyone else. There is, however, one thing I have said before that I need to say again…I love you very, very much Sara Elizabeth! XOXO Dad.

Thank you, Dad. I love you too.

Saying the things

I am going to go on record for those who may not know and confess that I am a pretty hard core fan of Sex and the City. Sure there's excessive nudity and crass conversation that makes it painful to watch with a parent, but then there is Season 6, Part II. Oh Season 6 Part II, how I love you. The obnoxious antics, superficial plot lines and talking straight into the camera that annoyed the crap out of me in the first few seasons was completely forgiven, all because it led to the last eight episodes, which are perfection.

One of my very favorite parts [Spoiler Alert] is a scene where Samantha picks Carrie up on the way to Miranda's wedding. She wants to reveal to someone that she has breast cancer so she doesn't blurt out, "I have cancer!" in the middle of the ceremony. I had never really been able to relate to Samantha very much, but in that moment, I got her.

Ten years later, I was prepping for a second round of scans, blood work and treatment. I was miserable, but had previously agreed to attend an event that was very important to me. That day was particularly challenging physically, but I was determined not to let cancer keep me down and I was going to be there no matter what. Even so, I was terrified that I would accidentally shout in someone's face, "Hey yeah, great to see you! Did you know I have cancer? Well I do, and in case you can't tell, right now I feel like shit on a stick."

So earlier that afternoon I called my sister and said, "I am calling you because I need to say some things. I need to say the things that I don't want to say later and I'm hoping that if I tell them to you now, they won't come out when I don't want them to. Like Samantha."

"Got it." She said, "Say the things."

Aren't sisters the best?

Well here I am now, determined to blog again, but also terrified. There are several things that have held me back from writing these past few years, especially the last one, and they haven't gone away. In order to move forward, truly and with purpose, I think the best thing to do is get them out in the open. I need to let them go. I need to say the things, so that they won't continue to haunt me, or accidentally creep out and get me by surprise.

Here they are: The things.

1. When I was blogging regularly, there were times when I was excessively concerned with whether or not my blog was popular enough. I mean, really. I am a grown up, in my 30's, with a husband and friends, raising three kids, and I was worried about people liking me. UUuuuugggghhhhhh. Ridiculous. All areas of social media can lead to a place of insecurity, and while I am not in that place right now, I know how quickly it can shift to, "How many likes did I get? Do I have any comments? How many?" Checking all. the. time. Bad news. Very bad. 

2. I'm afraid this will become a cancer blog. I do not want that. Cancer has happened to me and it's part of the lens that I see the world through for now, but it is not who I am and I won't let it define me. (Clenching fists and stomping) I won't! I won't!

3. What if it doesn't work? What if I tell my truths and get it all out and I'm still not feeling any better? What if I spill my guts only to feel naked and raw and embarrassed that I put it all out there? On the interwebs. For all time and eternity. Sara and her silly cancer stories. (Yikes, that one got me choked up. Must mean I'm onto something. This is getting good.)

4. I'm afraid that my subject matter will be too negative. In this blog and everywhere else, my deepest desire is to be a light to others. The past eleven months have taken me to some of the most beautiful spiritual peaks I've ever experienced, but it has also lead me to a place darker than sadness: to apathy... feeling nothing at all. Being honest about my journey is of the utmost importance to me, but I don't want to do it in a way that's depressing. Sometimes that is hard.

5. What if I quit? The last few times I felt compelled to write consistently, life and fear got in the way and I ended up abandoning that goal for immediate priorities like breastfeeding and cleaning up vomit and sleeping and (let's be honest) binge watching Breaking Bad. Well my boobs are way out of business, kids are better at aiming for the choke box (story for another time), everyone is mostly sleeping through the night, and I finally know what happened to my little love, Jesse, who I still secretly worry about. Sure, I'm more focused right now, but distractions are sneaky little things. They can trick you any time.

Hmmm. Yes, I think that's all for today. They seem a lot less scary written out and not buzzing around in my head, these things. Smaller. Maybe not stripped from ALL of their power, but there's definitely less. A whole lot less. That Samantha... wiser than she lets on. Season 6 Part II for the win!

Doctors orders

Take a minute and stop to think about the scariest word you can think of... Death? Hate? Evil?


Nothing makes my heart race, mouth dry, or stomach drop more than the mention of that word when it's connected to someone I love. But no matter how many times I've loved, supported or prayed for someone with that most frightening illness, nothing in this world could have prepare me for how it would feel to sit in a doctor's office, have him look in my eyes and say that word relating to me.

"It is cancer." I have thyroid cancer.

There was no evil masked murderer, no violent act of terror, no physical force.... just tiny microscopic cells, silently growing and dividing inside my body. Quiet. No explosion or gun shot... just a few words.

I remember blinking a lot and holding my hands in my lap so they wouldn't shake and looking at my husband. I had been fearing that moment for about a week but didn't really believe that it would be our reality. After days of googling questions and searching for percentages and explanations for inconclusive pathology reports, suddenly my mind was completely blank.

The next half hour went by in the absence of time. Explaining, questions, answers, processing, scheduling, understanding, breathing, crying, holding. Surgery. Thyroid cancer: the best cancer to have. "Excellent chance at a full and complete recovery." But still, that word: cancer.


It has been almost a year since that day. I've had a tough surgery, two even tougher rounds of radioactive iodine treatment, and experienced what is quite possibly the widest range of emotions a person can feel in a lifetime, all smushed into 11 months. And it isn't over.

Not long ago, I had my annual exam with our family doctor and completely broke down into a most ugly cry. An appointment that was supposed to be a simple check up of blood pressure and cholesterol levels turned into a glorious counseling session that ended with the recommendation that I start blogging again. Huh.

My body has been working overtime to fight and heal, but my heart... my heart is fighting too. Fighting to stay positive, to be hopeful... fighting to find the light. This doctor has never lead me astray before and I'm not going to start doubting him now. So here I am, filling my prescription with unlimited refills: writing to heal.