Breaking up is hard to do

In her signature changeableness, autumn granted us a day of sun and 80 degree weather yesterday and today she is watering my mums in the cold wind. Until yesterday, our firepit was just that - a firering on the hillside, with space for our six chairs. 

Next week, we will host 40 people for a bonfire and worship night in thanksgiving for the 5 years God has given us with our Amelia. Two years ago, I vividly recall the Asian doctor's frown as he told me she had, at best, a 50/50 chance of surviving the infection ravaging her brain and spinal cord. She couldn't stand, sit, or remain awake for more than a few moments. They said she was basically comatose.

But today she is alive - very much so! - and so, on that sunny yesterday, we began to dig the red clay dirt, pile rocks, expand our firepit seating area.

The children are old enough now to really help. Scoop after tiny scoop went into the wheelbarrow while I used a spade, an axe and a hoe to dig out roots and heavy dirt, digging a deep ridge into the hillside.

"For me?!!" She asks incredulous. So much work just to celebrate her. Yes, I said, breath coming heavy and hard, chest tight from the digging.

In a family where you've nearly lost two children, and have cancer yourself, birthdays are a very big deal. They are not simply a cake-and-ice-cream celebration, but truly a thanksgiving for lives spare and lives enriched by these trials we've walked through together. Even Caleb could say "brain injury" and "cancer" since about age 2. When you hover this close to the grave, you have an intense response to God's gift of every single day. Another whole year of single days He spared you.

I go the doctor and today it is my heart that is being dug up again, over the most mundane of side effects. I am, indeed, losing both my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. It is a product of genetics, stress, radiation and cancer suppression. No one can tell me if it will come back. Should I shave my head now, or wait for it to be the wispy strands left by this ravaging inflammation? If my head were shaved, they could at least treat the pain (yes, apparently hair follicles can hurt) and the problems with my scalp.

I never pictured radiation burns on my head 2 1/2 years later, didn't know it lingered in my body so long. With every scan and treatment, more damage is done to my hair.

I return home and sit in the grayness, under my down quilt, and I can see the hair clippers from here, on my bathroom hamper. I don't know the answer. I am starting a new job in 2 weeks and I'd rather not be bald, but then I'd rather not be dandruffy and wispy either.

The firepit is finished, and we have room for 40 now. The rain today didn't wash our work away, and my chest expands as I realize it is a good job, a job well done. I never knew I had landscaping in me, as my thumb is decidedly not green.

I sit in bed and consider my options. The pros and cons of a bald head. You get more street cred for your cancer when you're bald, that's for sure. No more suffering in silence. Just like my dirty feet yesterday, a visible sign of the tons of dirt moved, a bald head would be a visible sign of the body that has betrayed me time and again. Yet what if I could have two more months of hair? Am I ready to lose it forever, if it never grows back? My grandma lost all her hair in a similar stage of life, and it didn't grow back until she was eighty. She lost it after an egg truck hit her and she was in the hospital for her injuries. My mother remembers helping her brush it just so, so the bald patches wouldn't show.

For just a moment, Janis Joplin plays through my head, my song to God today, "Take it - take another little piece of my heart now baby. Break it, break another little piece of my heart, I know you will." But I since it without vengeance, sing it without anger. More of Him, less of me. I desire it, ask for it, know it is good for me. But when the sacrifices come...oh, sometimes they are so bitter. I close my eyes and remember that the whole story of the Bible, that Word I love, is sacrifice with healing and wholeness following on it's heels. I do not need to be afraid, for I know He cares for me.

It's all so much to ponder. Life, death, thanksgiving, celebrations, side effects. I'll just keep praying and trust that I'll know the day is right when I do finally pick up the clippers.