I lay with my left arm outstretched, waiting for the needle stick to numb my skin...so that I could have a permanent IV line placed in my upper arm. It felt like the last straw over the last seven months of treatment for cancer. The technician was thorough as she explained the procedure. I could see her expressive blue eyes above the mask she wore over her mouth. "You know," she said, "Sometimes the body just says no more. And that's what your veins are saying. No more punctures. We've had it. So we're going to give your body a rest, give it a a break. No more sticks. This will be the last one for a while." I appreciated her try for optimism, yet I wasn't sold on the idea of the permanence of a needle in my arm. It felt like another way I was held captive in this journey to prevent the cancer from coming back. In fact, as I continued through the procedure, the technician kept talking. She said, "You know, I think chemotherapy is a lot like being held hostage. You know at some point you'll be released, but you don't know exactly when. It's not only a fight physically, but also psychologically, spiritually and emotionally."
When the insertion of the IV line was over, I looked down at my arm, swathed in a type of fishnet bandage for protection, and thought of the technician's metaphor. "Boy, she was not kidding when she said chemo is a lot like being held hostage." Now I couldn't even take showers anymore. In my head I screamed, "This sucks!" And it does. Yet as I've thought about the place I'm held captive, I can also say in many ways it does not suck.
First, I imagined what my cell would look like. I conjured a comfortable room, with a locked iron gate keeping me confined. I could see a door that was just outside the gate that opened to the outside world. When I'm released, I'll be able to open the door, witness blue skies and be free from the physical weakness, psychological depression and emotional roller coaster. My hair will grow back. I'll have eyebrows. But for now, those amenities are held at bay. A good friend of mine said he envisioned me "shaking the gate" attempting to get out. He said, however, "There are vast rooms under the gate. Go there." And so, under his exhortation, I've let go of the iron bars and found the secret spot in the floor boards that lead to the vast rooms. And so, while I wait for freedom, I find there is liberty, too, here in these rooms. While in captivity I've been able to spend a lot of enjoyable time, honestly. I've written 6,000 words on my book, and I hope to write more before this "captivity" is over; I've listened to countless sermons on You Tube and have been greatly encouraged over and over again, soaking in God's Word. I've laughed, too, listening to comedians when I've felt low. I've kept my blog going--almost weekly. That has helped me feel productive. I've taken two continuing education classes on-line, and I've read sixteen books. I've worked my job and missed only the days surrounding chemo. But perhaps more than anything, I've been blessed with much comfort, not only from scores of family and friends who regularly text me, send me letters of encouragement through snail mail (who does this anymore?), but also from the Holy Spirit. He never stops to provide word pictures that sustain me and bring joy, resurrection from despair. The other day I wrote in my journal, "I have a vision that Jesus has provided me. I am sitting close by Aslan's side, my arms around HIs great mane. I bury my face in that golden fur and draw strength and comfort. He pads always by my side never leaving me. He lays by me in the chemo room. He is my beautiful, majestic companion, warding off the enemy with HIs mighty roar, His teeth that cut the enemy and his minions to shreds. He is my Lion of Judah." I am not alone in captivity.
Strangers, too, are in the vast rooms. A lady at Publix approached me and said she is praying for me--that she is sure I will be okay. How did she know? Then a colleague of my husband's gave me a gold necklace in a navy blue box. In silver letters the box read The Giving Keys, A Pay It Forward Company. A minature key dangled from the necklace. The colleague instructed me that I was to give the necklace to someone who "needed it more than I do" at some point. She believed I could use the key now. So the little gold key hangs around my neck, a reminder of my imminent release. I will look forward to the day I can use it to open the iron gate and run through the door on the other side. But until that time, I will celebrate the goodness of God in these vast rooms and rejoice in the hope that there is a day when I'll pay it forward.