My day has finally come.
My fourth and final surgery for breast cancer was one year ago today. How I wish that on that day I could have read the paragraph I'm about to write next.
Today, I had a normal day. I took a shower all by myself. I sang a hymn. I braided my own hair. I brewed hot tea and read a book. I listened to a dozen beautiful children recite poetry and heartily sing "Count Your Blessings" and giggle at Shakespeare and lose themselves in a Liszt prelude. I toted a book bag. I stretched my arms over my head with ease and fetched a bowl from a high shelf. I rubbed my young son's blonde head and bought him a hot dog and laughed with him in the ridiculously gorgeous Texas sunshine. I pumped gas. I bought groceries for people I love. I washed sheets and Jonagold apples and swept up broken glass and arranged flowers and cooked wild salmon in basil butter. I wrote in my journal with my new fountain pen. I had an easy, long, happy conversation with an old friend.
It was, as I said, a normal day. That may not seem like much to you, but listen to me well, my friends:
Normal is given, but it is not a given. Normal is a miracle.
At my post-op checkup six weeks after that final surgery, I was very discouraged. I still felt like I'd been thrown under a bus and I had zip zero energy. I felt like my own body had died and I'd been yanked out and hastily crammed into something half-numb, half on fire and lacking hinges. I lamented to my eternally optimistic surgeon, who had downplayed everything heretofore. But now he finally got real. "You don't know the half of what your body has been through. It's going to take you a full year from the final surgery to recover from all of it."
I've been counting down the months ever since.
For many of those months, I simply could not foresee how I could ever know an easy, happy, ordinary day again. I could write a chapter here on what it's like to have everything easy, familiar and normal erased from your life, but I wouldn't enjoy writing it and you wouldn't like reading it. But I can tell you truly that I have grieved for my old, familiar, normal life more than I have grieved for my old, familiar breasts.
There was a time when I wondered if the chronic, relentless pain would ever fade or if it was the secret torment of all breast cancer survivors. There was a time when I wondered if I'd ever take an easy breath without a merciless boa constrictor tying sailor knots around my torso. There were whole months when I wondered if my hands would ever obey my brain again, when I dropped everything and could not bend over to pick anything up. When pens fell out of my fumbling grasp and my signature was not my own. When my fingers curled up on the piano keys like chicken claws. When I couldn't remember yesterday to save me and coherent conversation was something I could see happening just a few feet away but somehow couldn't reach. When tears were always exactly three seconds away.
But my dearest friend Jesus Christ hovered over me with healing in His wings. My Jesus is Lord of all redemption and rebirth and renewal and unfathomable mercy. Little by little, the pain and frustrations have faded. Whatever remains He will give me grace to manage.
And so it is that today, One Year Later, I had a pretty normal day. I lived to see that sentence glowing in front of me on this screen. God is so good that there is no sufficiently superlative superlative for the kind of good He is. God is God. Maybe that is the only way to say it.
I think I want to type it again just to see it materialize on the screen:
Today I had a normal day.
Normal is fantastic. Normal is perfect.
Great Scot even sent me flowers. I think I should throw a Happy Normal Party, and soon. Don't you?
(And say, if you'd like to bake a happy normal cake and stick a candle in it and sing the Doxology and dance a silly jig for me, please consider that a happy, holy, and perfectly normal urge and do not resist it. Just be sure to take pictures and send them my way.)