Up a Creek, Without a Paddle

Yesterday was rough. There’s no nice way to put it. All afternoon I felt like a dark cloud was hanging over my head. I still feel a bit sick from chemo last week, but it’s getting better. I tried all the usual things to lift my spirits….but it didn’t seem to help. It was a beautiful day here in Michigan. We took the kids to the park in the afternoon and I tried really hard to cheer up…..we took a walk, sat in the sun, but it just wasn’t there. I told my mother-in-law….I felt clausterphobic…..like I was in a tight space and couldn’t escape. In the afternoon I went to get my mistletoe shot and Jeremy called….he was close to the office so he came by to meet me. As we waited for the shot I lost it. In my tears I just wanted to scream….”I don’t want cancer!” I just don’t want it…..I hate it and I’m angry that it is invading my body and making me so sick. I hate that I don’t know how I got it or where it came from or how to stay away from it. I hate that I have this mastectomy surgery looming over my head. I hate that I have to wake up and look at my bald head every morning and be reminded that I have cancer. I hate the scarves….I’m either too cold or too hot with them on. I hate all of it. I just want it to go away. I want it to be a bad dream. I’ve wanted it to be a bad dream since day one. I look at other moms at the park and I feel so envious of their hair, health and seemingly happiness. I enviously wonder if I’ll ever be like that again, or feel that good again. Good enough to run after my kids or push them on the swing without feeling tired….or tired from chemo.

This claustrophobic feeling actually got me thinking about a funny story (one of many) from our honeymoon. (They say laughter is good medicine right.) Jeremy and I went camping in Northern Michigan (I know, I know…..not very glam huh). One thing I REALLY was looking forward to was going canoeing together. Well…we located a river and a canoe rental office and we signed up. Actually Jeremy went in and signed us up. He came out and told me he had purchased the 2 hour trip, rather than the all day one. I, however, wanted the full day romantic meandering trip together, so I sent him back in to get the REAL DEAL. The loving husband he was, he did it.

Well….from the very start, we were in trouble. Jeremy got so sick of me trying to steer that he made me sit in back. He figured if I wanted to steer…he’d let me! It was no meandering gentle river and we kept running into fallen limbs, getting caught on rocks and running into the bank. That wasn’t the worst of it. From the start we had these nasty deer flies biting us. As we floated along, they gathered in number, and in energy, because it was out of control after a while. They were swarming us. They were still swarming us when we passed the 2 hour trip marker (where we could have gotten out had we purchased the SHORTER trip!) and Jeremy pointed it out nicely to me. There was no one there waiting for us….sigh…so we had to keep going. After a while I covered my head with a towel and my new, and loving husband paddled furiously to get us to the end of our torturous canoe trip.

We never stopped for a romantic lunch, we never chatted about the beautiful nature surrounding us….nor have we ever gone canoeing again. We made it to the end in less than 3 hours, when it was supposed to take 4-5. When we got back to our campsite we crashed and slept all afternoon….bitten and bruised from our adventure.

I guess that’s how I feel a bit. Like I’m trying to escape those darned deer flies and they won’t let up or leave me alone. I want the trip to be over. I want to hang a towel over my head and call it quits.

But I can’t. There are so many reasons to keep going. My kids, my husband, my family. So many things I want to do and see and experience. If only the days I felt sick didn’t feel quite so long. They say when you’re having fun, time flies. Well….I can attest, when you have cancer it feels like sick days last for a life-time!

And then I remember that simple word “trust.” I can’t even begin to fathom God’s plan in all of this. I don’t believe for one minute God wants me to have this cancer, but I do believe he can make good of it. Beauty from ashes, strength for tears. (Isa 61:2-3) And I have to trust Him (Proverbs 3:5). Trust that healing will come in whatever way He wants, in the time He wants. I keep trying to steer the canoe. I keep putting down my paddle at the wrong times and it leads me astray. Somehow thinking I can figure it out. This disease is so much bigger than I can ever understand or fathom. I want to know answers that I will probably never know. In my frailness I want the how, why and what….and I want it now! I’m going to need to stick to the basics…..that He loves me, He cares about me and wants healing for me. I’m going to cling to that in these hours of darkness.

I’m up a creek without a paddle…..and well….I have to learn to be OK with that.


11 thoughts on “Up a Creek, Without a Paddle

  1. Karin says:

    Oh Jen! Your post has me in tears – first tears of empathy – then tears of laughter. I remember you recounting that story of canoes and deer flies to us – soon after it happened. So funny! Your good husband paddled his hardest to get you safely away from those nasty pests. There seem to be so many analogies one could make from that story. Putting your oar down and letting God steer the canoe is one. Finding humor in an infuriating situation is another.

    I love you, friend. My heart hurts with you this morning. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you! -karin

  2. Sarah S. says:

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. Your post really touched me. I loved your story about the canoe trip.
    We never know what he has in store for us. We just need to trust that he has a plan. Keep paddeling, keep strong. There is beauty just around the corner.

  3. throwslikeagirl74 says:

    I truly believe that it isn’t God’s plan for you and I to have cancer. Cancer happens. What might be part of his plan is what we do with it. Healing will happen and then we’ll be on the other side saying “we used to have cancer.” Hugs.

  4. Beth V. says:

    I ditto Karin’s sentiment exactly, partly because she said it so well, and partly because through all these darn tears, I’m finding it hard to see and type! I love you, friend!

  5. Jeremy says:


    I am humbled at how galant you make me sound, when I know that I definitely wasn’t the new husband I needed to be during that canoe trip. I wish that I could take all of the deer fly bites you are getting now on myself, but I cannot. I can only offer you a towel for your head and paddle furiously to the end while reminding you that we are one step, one day, one hour closer to the finish.

    I hope you know how much your smile inspires me. I remember seeing it last Wednesday as you walked through the chemo treatment room and acknowledging the other patients as you passed with a simple smile. Absolutely beautiful.

    Husband to a Beautifully Bald Bride.


  6. Pastor Chuck says:

    Jen & Jeremy,

    Just checking in to remind you guys that we love you and pray for you whenever the Lord brings you to mind which is often.

    We’re sorry that this is such a rough road to travel. It makes the rest of us feel a little helpless as we stand by and watch & wait & pray. We wish there was something more to do to relieve some of your hurt.

    We think God wanted us to share these words with you from Philippians 4:12-13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. (Here’s the important part…)I CAN do EVERYTHING through HIM who STRENGTHENS me.”

    We pray that God will give you the strength & courage you need to fight this battle.

    Your Friends,
    Chuck & Teri

  7. The Moody Foodie says:

    Hang in there, sister! It’s not fun. You feel like yuck, and you just want it to be over. I know—I did it last summer. I have a canoe story, too. You can check it out here: http://pinkthis.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/about-canoes-cancer/

    Blessings on ya~

  8. sande says:

    Thru the tears, I find a wonderfully made woman who has cancer.. has children, has a husband, extended family and hoards of family in Christ. None of them gave you cancer. The Lord up above did not give you cancer.. What was given to you was loving, caring, concerning and devoted family and friends sent to you from God. You received cancer because you are a strong person and you are learning how important all these lives are that are around you. You are learning that you.. Jen.. are important.. and it is worth every ounce of fight you put into it and more. A person with cancer, goes above and beyond and will come out ahead. God is there for you, he holds you, he tries to make the best for you in any situation you find yourself in. Keep fighting, Jen.. the sick feelings will eventually go away, the hair will come back.. sometimes not the way we want, however, *laughs*(mine came back real curly and gray gray gray!!!). The smile.. the TRUE smile will come back onto your face and you will feel the light again from the sunshine that shines throughout your life. I see you in church and it shows me how strong you are. It makes me smile. We who have or had cancer know.. you are strong
    Jen, you dont know me but I want to tell you how proud I am of you.. and you will always be my friend in Christ… Keep fighting… and I will keep praying for you.
    Love, Sande
    You need to try baseball caps.. they are lighter.. and they dont look half bad. And they dont fly off. And you can find some real cute ones too! (I hated scarves, wigs, turbans). I even wore my granddaughters pink and white barbie baseball cap.. boy, was she glad when I gave it back to her!! *S*

  9. Shelli says:

    oh sweetest friend, i love you! thank you for sharing your heart. you are so beautiful and strong. In your brokenness, i see jesus. i wish that i could take a “sick day” for you. i wish that somehow i could “make it better.” i wish that i could sit with you at the park and push your s on the swings for you while we talk and laugh. I am confident in the grace and mercy of jesus, and i know how passionatly he loves you and how he weeps to see you tired in suffering. i trust him with you and your sweet family. and, i pray, how i pray for you. thank you for sharing your journey.

  10. Hope says:

    Jen, You touched my heart with your courage and honesty. I’m praying for you.

  11. Gail Secord (and Kate) says:

    When I worked at the hospital, I saw several people with a button that said (in all caps), “CANCER SUCKS.” You have a theological education; you know God didn’t cause this, but still, it really f****** sucks. Makes me think of the psalmists, who said much the same sort of thing (just more poetically).
    I’ve since quit the hospital job — so if you ever want to get together give me a call. I’m usually around, and have a cute and smiley 7-month-old who’d love to meet you!

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