My Two Secrets — a guest post by Jocelyn Green (and a give-away)

This is my friend, Jocelyn Green. She's an author, speaker, mom, wife, and all around cool kid. I hope this post encourages you as much as it did me.

This is my friend, Jocelyn Green. She’s an author, speaker, mom, wife, and all around cool kid. I hope this post encourages you as much as it did me.

When I began writing Spy of Richmond, I had no idea I’d learn for myself what it meant to keep a gigantic secret from everyone I loved. My heroine’s secret, of course, was that she was a spy. My secret? My husband had cancer.

We thought it was just a lump on his clavicle. A very painful, swollen, hot-to-the-touch and out-of-nowhere lump. Even as they wheeled him into the operating room to remove it, the word “tumor” did not occur to me. So when the surgeon came to consult with me afterwards and said the tumor was too large to remove, I was completely caught off guard.

“We’re sending a sample to the lab,” he told me, “but if I were you, I’d want to know what we’re dealing with here. Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer.”

I jerked backwards, as if his words had slapped me across the face.

“I see this all the time,” he continued. “It’s a textbook case.” More words.  Chemotherapy . . Meet with the cancer team on Friday to get his treatment plan together. . .

I was crying by now. “Are you going to tell Rob? Am I supposed to tell him?”

“No, I don’t want to tell him until the labs are in. But you need to process this now so you can support him when the time comes.”

Well, if I wasn’t to tell Rob, then I wasn’t going to tell anyone. This was my first secret.

I went through the motions of life, holding the ugly news close to my heart until it bore a hole right through it. At the pharmacy, picking up Rob’s post-surgery prescriptions, I couldn’t bear to answer the cheerful question, “How are you?” On Facebook, someone asked Rob if the doctor said anything about cancer. Rob said no. My secret gnawed through my middle.

Then the phone call came: no cancer cells were detected. The mass was completely benign. This was the first time the doctor had been wrong, the nurse told me. I was stunned. After I hung up the phone I told Rob, “It isn’t cancer,” and started sobbing. “They told me it was cancer,” I choked out. It felt like a miracle to me, and suddenly the only thing that mattered was that Rob was going to be OK.

Still, recovery from that surgery was very challenging. Because of the depth and width of the incision, he needed follow-up appointments at the wound care clinic for weeks, and I was in charge of changing his dressings a few times a day at home, which was painful for him, and distressing to me. Add to this the fact that he developed a dependence on his narcotic and went through a terrible withdrawal.

A month or so after Rob’s surgery, our family took a mini-vacation, and I cracked my toe on a deck chair at the side of the hotel pool. Really hard. It hurt like the dickens, but I wasn’t about to complain. After all, look at what Rob is still going through! I thought. This is nothing. So we carried on, walking around the Science Museum that night and around the zoo the next day. My toe was killing me, but since it was nothing “compared to Rob,” I tried to deny the pain.

Weeks later, I still was limping. I finally went to the doctor, where an x-ray revealed I’d broken my toe. This, then, had been my second secret, one I had tried to keep even from myself. The truth of the matter—my secret—was that I was in pain. The lie that I had chanted to myself to drown out the truth, was that because my pain was less than someone else’s, my pain was invalid, and did not deserve attention. The lie was that acknowledging my own pain would be a wimpy thing to do.

Don’t we all deny our own pain sometimes?

But here’s the thing about pain, whether it’s physical or emotional. It’s real, even if/though someone else is currently suffering more than you are. Comparing burdens is useless. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. And only when we acknowledge that something is wrong will we be able to fix it.

I have this hunch that at least some of you are experiencing pain today. Hear this: your pain is real, and you are not weak for seeking help. What you’re feeling is valid. Don’t tell yourself that because someone else has it worse, you should be fine. C.S. Lewis once called pain the gift that no one wants. Pain is a message that we are not whole, and that we should be. Pain says something needs to change in order for us to feel better. But we have to be honest about it before we can get on the path to healing.

It’s a delicate balance, but one worth striving for. Let’s be grateful for the blessings we do have, but please, let’s not walk around on broken toes.

Don't miss out on this incredible sale price for all four of Jocelyn's novels. I've read every word of them and they are wonderful. These characters are tough cookies. Go on and get your downloads! Just click this picture!

Don’t miss out on this incredible sale price for all four of Jocelyn’s novels. I’ve read every word of them and they are wonderful. These characters are tough cookies. Go on and get your downloads! Just click this picture!

Don’t Click Away Just Yet! Jocelyn has offered to give-away one of the Heroines Behind the Lines books to one lucky reader. You pick the book (see the graphic above for the titles) and if you’d like a digital or paper copy. All you’ve got to do is tell me in the comments which you’d choose. I’ll pick a winner on Sunday and announce it on the Monday blog. Ready? Steady? GO, Eddie!

Scourge–Inspired by Kristi West

I’m at it again! A challenge to write short stories based on the ideas and inspirations of my readers! We had 30 stories in September (find links to those stories here). Well, that was so popular (and insanely fun for me) that I decided to do it for December and January! Tune in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to read the stories and vote on Saturday, Sunday and Mondays. Weekly winners will be announced on the Tuesday after the vote.

Today’s story idea comes from the lovely Kristi West. She was the first contributor in September with her story idea for Good-bye George. She also shared her creativity for Being Found and Broken and Empty. She is very creative. I admire her so much. (I really do, Kristi…). Here’s her idea…

Character: Jane. After having several miscarriages, is finally through the first trimester of a healthy pregnancy.

Setting: At home after a doctor’s appointment

Conflict: Jane was just diagnosed with cancer

Scourge

Jane was surprised how differently her living room looked. Only a few hours ago, everything had looked clean. Friendly. Welcoming. But, as she turned to close the front door, she felt cold. Not a chilly, need a sweater cold. Rather, a deep, ice in the blood cold. A disbelieving cold. A giving up kind of cold.

She touched the tiny bump of stomach that barely popped out under her blouse. The small avocado sized baby that grew in her stomach was fine. The ultrasound showed two arms, two legs, a strong heartbeat. Seventeen weeks she’d been pregnant. The longest pregnancy she’d ever had.

She and her husband, Rob, bounced with excitement for this baby.

So sure of joy. That this time all would be well. Before Halloween they would hold a baby. And that baby would be their own. They had hoped for this child. Prayed. Begged. This should have been what would heal her pain. Five miscarriages. Five deaths. She felt the injustice, the darkness in each loss.

But this time was different. The baby was healthy. But, Jane. Jane was not.

She hadn’t told Rob about the irregular PAP smear. She kept the doctor’s discovery to herself. Lesions on her cervix. The doctor had been concerned. Ordered a biopsy. That was ten days ago. Jane pushed the possibilities out of her mind. Didn’t allow the fear to sink into her gut.

Until her appointment that morning.

She sat on the other side of an oak desk from her doctor. Doctor Zachary. He was young. Wore trendy glasses. Shaggy hair.

“Jane, are you sure you don’t want Rob here for this?” Doctor Zachary asked.

“No. I’m fine.” She crossed her legs. “The baby’s okay, right?”

“Well, yes.” He cleared his throat, averted his eyes. “At this point.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You have cancer,” he said. “Stage 2 cervical cancer.”

She heard him, but couldn’t understand his words. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“Cervical cancer has spread. For now, the womb is unaffected. Which is good for the fetus…”

“Baby,” she interrupted. “It’s a baby. A small human. That word, fetus, is so harsh. Like it’s just a flap of skin.”

“Right. Baby.” He opened her file. “The baby is okay for now. I’m concerned about your health, though.”

“Can’t we treat the cancer later?”

“Well, that’s an option. But it isn’t the best option.”

She looked out the window. One dark cloud drifted among several puffy white ones.

“Jane, we don’t know how this cancer will progress in the next 23 weeks. My concern is that, by then, it will be too late.”

“Too late for what?”

Doctor Zachary stood. “I think it would be best if we called your husband. You shouldn’t be alone right now.”

“No. Just tell me. I need to know.”

“Jane, this cancer isn’t something to play with. It’s spreading. I don’t know how fast it will move. I don’t know what the prognosis is for you.”

“What do you think I should do?”

He walked to the window, leaned on the ledge. “This isn’t easy for me to say.”

“Tell me.”

“The best chance you have is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.”

“Wouldn’t that hurt the baby?”

Doctor Zachary folded his arms across his chest. He slumped his shoulders. “We’d also need to perform a hysterectomy.”

“But how could you do that? I’m pregnant.”

“Yes. I know.” He used a skinny finger to push up his glasses. “We’d need to terminate the pregnancy.”

“No. I won’t. I can’t.”

“It might be the only chance we have to beat this cancer.”

“Will I die? If I don’t do that, will I die?”

“I don’t know.”

“What happens if I won’t let you kill my baby?”

“Jane. That’s harsh.”

“But this is my baby.”

“You’re right.” He moved back to his desk, sat in his chair. “Listen, Jane. You get to decide what happens. That’s your right.”

“If I let you take out my womb, I’ll never have another baby.”

“Correct.”

“So, you want to take this baby and every other baby I could ever have.”

“If you carry this baby to term, you might be risking your life.” He rubbed his forehead. “Or you could be fine for treatment later. I don’t know. It’s a gamble.”

“What should I do?”

“Talk to your husband. See what he wants.” He took off his glasses. “I’ll want to see both of you tomorrow.”

And so Jane had driven home. Completely aware of the sunshine and the beauty of the day. Beauty that seemed hard-edged to her. The day seemed to say “Look at this wonderful world that you will never fully enjoy”.

At home, curled up on the couch, Jane felt neither the budding life or the deadly scourge within her. But she was fully aware of both.

Thunder sounded. Lightening blasted. That one dark cloud had overtaken the fluffy ones.

“Jane?” Rob called as he walked in through the back door. “Honey? Where are you?”

She didn’t answer. Just opened her eyes, surprised by how dark her home was. She could hear the rain dropping on the roof.

“Janie?” He came into the living room, turned on a light. “Are you alright?”

“No.”

“Is it the baby?”

“This time it’s me.” She looked directly at her husband. “I’m the one who’s dying this time.”

Rob sat on the floor next to the couch. He held Jane’s hands. “So, what do we do?”

Jane closed her eyes, shook her head. “We go to bed. Then tomorrow we tell the doctor that we’re going to wait. This baby will be healthy.”

“But what about you?”

“I don’t know.”

Jane felt the smallest flutter inside. Like a bubble moving gently, tickling every so slightly. The feeling left. Then came again. She opened her eyes. So wide.

“Are you okay?” Rob asked.

All Jane could manage with a giggle. She caressed her stomach.

“Honey, what’s going on?” Rob got up, touched her face.

“I think I just felt the baby.” She smiled.

“Isn’t it too early?”

“The book said I would be able to feel the baby around this time.” Jane sat up. “This is incredible.”

“What does it feel like?”

“Give me your hand.”

Jane ran her knuckle softly across the palm of Rob’s hand. Just barely touching him.

“That must be so strange.”

“It’s the best thing.” She looked at him, still holding his hand. “The baby is real.”

Rob couldn’t help it. He let the tears come. He didn’t fight them. This emotion had nothing to do with masculinity or strength. The pain and the joy pulled and pushed and throttled him.

“I don’t know what the right choice is, Jane.”

“I do.”

“But I can’t lose you.”

“We can’t lose this baby.”

Jane put her hand on his cheek. He sobbed. Grief that was his gift to her, telling her how much she was loved. Treasured. Needed.

“Rob, I’m scared.”

“Me too, Babe.”

“Not for me. For this baby. God gave this child to us for a reason. I’m just so scared to push that blessing away.”

He looked at his wife. Regained his breathing. Tried to trust.

“Okay.” Rob pulled Jane to her feet. Kissed her forehead. Put his hand on her tummy. “Let’s go to bed.”

The next morning, as Rob drove Jane to Doctor Zachary’s office, they were in awe of how clear blue the sky was.