Someone asked me the other day, “So, are you ok now?”
Do you want the truth? You’ve seen my articles. The pictures of my family and me. My big smile. Some of you have seen Facebook posts of my husband Kevin, 3-year-old daughter Ahzi and of me having a good time again. Of selfishly focusing on one another again. Homemade meal posts. The recent birthday party planning for Ahzi. A vacation we went on.
But what you haven’t seen are the days or nights I struggle with what just happened. What is still happening. The last year and a half so much has changed and in such a short span of time.
Imagine being chained to a bed for four months. You’ve been given a sentence. And you must see it through. Unless you take your own life. These are your options.
I was in a physical prison of suffering and chained to the confines of my bed continually for four months and off and on for the past year and a half. I saw life happening all around me. I counted the leaves on a plant I could see from the side of my bed. I counted daily — 1. To see if my brain was still working and 2. To see if any new life was happening. I needed to see life taking place to take the focus off the fear that was looming over my bed like a canopy of death. Often times I could hear Ahzi in the living room laughing with her nanny as I silently cried from my bed begging God to let it be me with Ahzi — once I started feeling better. That one day soon, I would feel better. I thought the day my sentence was over (weekly low-dose chemo) that I’d feel free to simply live. But on the inside, I’m still living out this sentence.
Cancer isn’t hard because of the cancer. It’s hard because of all that comes with it. Being so close to physical death is the trauma. Not death itself.
I still have stage 4 cancer. I will always have stage 4 cancer, according to the doctors. The tumor is still showing in the CT scans of my lungs. The tumors in my brain have been “resolved.” Meaning they aren’t doing anything right now and haven’t been for over a year. (Thank you God!) Cancer grows and spreads. The prayer is that it will go away completely. I am on chemo still. It’s a daily pill and much more tolerable than low-dose chemo (where you go in and have chemicals pumped into your veins weekly). Yet it still has side effects that I could complain about — but why? It’s better than the alternative — death. I am so very thankful I am alive today. But I want more life. More time here. Good time.
I am praying for a miracle. If you pray, I ask you to please continue to pray. I thank you from the bottom, top and sides of my heart for every prayer you’ve sent. Every good wish. Every good vibe. Every dollar (cancer is so very expensive for any family. And can be especially on a young family).
You see the articles I’ve written and/or Facebook posts I’ve shared of my husband, daughter and I having fun, because I am choosing to live — I’m learning how to live with this. My faith has shifted too. I am learning how to trust God. Like really trust Him because I got the memo that my life isn’t in my hands. I’m getting to know God. And my God is about love. Not fear. Fear is a liar. Fear is a monster.
I wake up and fight a couple of monsters at the start of my day. Another time, I’ll share what a typical day for me looks like physically and all the things I have to do in order to strive for decent health. (Daily self-induced enema anyone?) Gross right? Takes all the glitz and glamour out of it. But that’s the truth. What you don’t see.
Often times, I’m too tired to be her mommy. His wife. Your friend. I write this so you will understand that it’s not that I want to be short with you or that I don’t want to shoot the shit with you about nothing. It’s because I just can’t right now. My tank doesn’t have the same amount of gas. And that needs to be OK. I’m just now opening some gifts that were so kindly sent to us because I didn’t even have the emotionally energy it took to open them. (Hoping the “I’m sorry you have cancer gift etiquette” is the same as wedding gift etiquette and I have up to year to send a thank you message).
And I’m cleaning our home. Imagine going a year and a half without any organizing. When we moved in, I couldn’t even walk. I was that sick. It’s been a year and a half of closets stuffed with unopened boxes. It’s time to open them. Sift through and purge. Keeping only what our family needs. Getting rid of anything taking up unnecessary energy and space. Metaphor much?
I have decided the past two months to turn around and start hugging Kevin and Ahzi more and it has me hugging others less. This is the season I’m in. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. That I’m not thankful for you. Or that you aren’t important to me.
Writing, I hope you too are reading this. Because writing, you are my first love. Writing has been my best friend my entire life. We first met when I was a child all dressed up in my room and with nowhere to go. I turned to my right and on my homemade cardboard nightstand (trying to mimic a do it yourself homemaking show I saw with my mom before DIY was super cool), there she sat. My diary. A sort of busted-looking, completely,safe place that I would learn to use as my vessel, discovering my place in this world and using it to navigate through. In a lot of ways, I am still that 9-year-old girl. Only now I use a computer from the Apple store instead of a diary I found in the half-off bin at Pic N Save.
Writing is a place where, like with a best friend, I can come to and together we allow a space of honesty, joy and tears — and at the end I feel put back together. So for me not to write, means I’ve been missing a best friend of mine. And I’m so ready to spend time with her again. You see, I underestimated the entirety of what healing would look like with this cancer battle. The healing takes place once the weekly chemo appointments are done. Once I am able to get out of bed again.
Because now, I am able to process emotionally what just happened to me physically. Whereas when I was in it, I only had enough energy to get through the night. Now that I am gaining my strength again, I can think about it. Cry about it. Forgive. And I must harken back to it to move forward and regain my footing in this world.
I’ve over-promised myself in various ways, wanting so very badly to be well enough to do everything my heart desires — yet I’m just not physically able to. Thank God I have a very understanding editor who may have known this would be more difficult at times for me to submit an article than I even knew. I appreciate so very much the room she’s given me. The room to heal. No judgment. No shame. Only acceptance. Just like writing, she has welcomed me back. My voice.
My silence has only meant that I’m coming out of a very real trauma. And I’m finding rest in my family so that I can come back out and be with friends, strangers — the world. This is my recharging phase.
The past two months I’ve also concentrated on increasing my faith. On learning how to truly be thankful for today and try so very hard not to worry about the day I’m going to die. Some would say I’m already living a miracle. I hope all can say that I am SO very grateful for each day. For every breath. For each moment in time.
I’m taking this recharging time to understand what my next step is. What does life have for me now, given my “new normal?” I love my family. I love people. I love God. Writing. Cooking. Gardening. And I love living. I have less physical ability and more desire in my heart to give back and do things that really matter. I no longer want to impress you. I want to serve you. Make a difference in some way. But I need to heal first. I’m still ill. Beyond the smile, the Facebook posts and articles. I’m still healing.
So what’s next in medical terms?
I have a CT scan on my lungs on Monday and an MRI on my brain on Thursday. They are my quarterly scans. Every three months like clockwork, I get them. If you pray, please pray that they don’t see any cancer. That’s what we are praying for. A complete healing. I know, it sounds crazy, but why not? There have been people who have been cured of cancer. Yes — even stage 4. Some days, I look up, smile and say, “Come on God. Let’s do this. Let’s prove them wrong.”
And because I want to continue to have integrity and grace in this battle, and continue to live out of faith — I am also praying that no matter what these reports show, that I will remain strong in my faith and in my purpose here on earth in life, not death.
I have been through the depths of hell here on earth. And each time I’ve come out of it — I’ve found heaven. And I want to continue to see heaven.
Here on earth.
Eternally grateful, ecstatic to be here, ever learning,
Your friend, mother, wife and writer Jenn
— By Jennifer Sabounchi
Edmonds resident Jennifer Sabounchi has served as a special events manager for The Ritz-Carlton in New York, a private chef to families in and around Seattle, and founder of an allergy-friendly food company. Recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Jenn’s new column — “Life, Thank You for Having Me” — provides an intimate portrait of her fight for her life. She also invites readers to get to know her and her family by visiting her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.sabounchi