The Elephant in the Room
He’s always been my protector. He’s always stood up against people who would bully me or treat me disrespectfully. As my husband, he has taken seriously his responsibility of being a dad, a provider, my friend and confidant, and taking care of me and our five girls.
When he was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer, he never veered away from any of that and, if anything, he added more stress and pressure onto himself to provide joy and hope for us but also others.
The hard thing that I’ve noticed since his diagnosis is that an elephant moved in. Often, people want to talk about the elephant in the room and we appreciate that very much. Even when people ask questions with good intentions, like, “What’s the prognosis after this round?”, we extend them grace because they are talking to us about the elephant in the room and trying their best. Pete and I know that his chemo is to keep the cancer from spreading and taking his life. The prognosis is palliative and that, hopefully, he will be one of those people in some of our FB groups that says, “I’m on round 95 and have been given 5 more years of life than was expected.” When we talk about the fact that this journey is a long game and not quickly won, we can see that tension affect our friends and that's perfectly ok and a normal response.
Many people know that the elephant exists and worry about addressing it incorrectly or making matters worse. They just avoid it altogether. Some friendships fall away. Their response isn’t wrong, it’s just how they deal with the elephant in the room. This is one of the reasons why Pete is creating Stages to help so many find a voice to encourage their friends and loved ones facing this disease.
But I know that elephant all too well. The hardest part of my day is when I’m in the quiet of our bedroom and Pete is sleeping. Everything that that elephant has brought to my life has changed me forever. My instinct is to mother this grown man who’s always taken care of me and sacrificed for me and my family. But he didn’t lose his will to provide for my family or to listen to my worries when he was told he had cancer. He didn’t stop being a hard worker who was very pivotal in the lives of so many just because the elephant showed up. For two months I was able to take him to appointments and deal with all of the scheduling. Then I started a new job that was needed but also very hard because the elephant filled up my office and pushed in on my identity because I wasn’t the one in the trenches and I learned to be okay with taking help from loved ones.
The elephant is always around, even when we aren’t talking about it. It steals my peace and my sleep. It has ravaged our relationship and brought up hard things that we’ve addressed. We do know that God didn’t inflict us with this elephant and that God’s heart is breaking because of it. We also know that He has never left us to be homeless and He has always taken care of us. The elephant sometimes likes to sit on my chest and make it so I can’t breathe or think straight but that is because I’ve let It have that power.
When I am my strongest in fighting it, I have reminded myself of the many times God has taken care of me, that He loves me in and through my circumstances, and that He is still in control and powerful beyond what I can think or imagine. The elephant is still in the room, but I can decide how I deal with it, whether head-on or avoiding it, and the power I give it. It isn’t an overnight change but I am trying every day to give that elephant less power in affecting all aspects of my health. I’m choosing daily to be grateful and present in the good and giving it my focus. That’s when I partner with God to defiantly throw it off my chest and remind myself that I am not alone, that we have wonderful friends who have stuck with us through this battle, and that God is bigger than that powerless elephant. In fact, God has slayed many elephants in my life, so why not this one?