Earth, Air, Fire, and Ink

I haven’t written in nearly a month. With almost total absorption, and struggling with what I thought was my avoidance of the deep emotional terrain of this cancer experience, I seem to have been thrashing about as if I am drowning again. Only this time I have not found myself to be the victim of some environmental circumstance (swirling eddy) that has caused me to drown, but perhaps it has been my overestimation of my abilities that has been the culprit. I am in such a hurry to get to the other side of the shore, that maybe it seemed a little closer than I thought, and my confidence a little bigger than it should have been. So I set out with full speed, and got pretty tired pretty quick- and there I was, thrashing and flailing around again as if I had forgotten the first time!

Through the process of surrendering once again (*sigh* see you guys, I

really am not some spiritual giant, but have only been entrusted with

the measure of faith that God sees fit for His own glory), I was able to

come to the realization that it isn’t that I’m avoiding the pain and

loss this cancer has brought me, it’s just that it is so rich that one

cannot possibly experience the whole slice in one bite. While I thought

my words had becomes tools of avoidance- a way to put distance through

an analytical lens, I really think my writing has just been my attempt

to put to words what is really just unutterable. And I guess that’s

where my struggle has been…….in coming to accept that my emotions

are raw and without words. Words do not do them justice. And I have to

stop struggling so hard to make the words my gods. At best they can

offer a glimmer of insight, a string of connection, a tear of sympathy.

But they can’t and won’t truly honor the depth of my experience- they

are just two dimensional. Coming to that surrender takes me back to that

tattered raft. Thank God that I am no longer unconscious, nor am I

parched- for He has been my deliverer! But yet, ultimately I am alone

with my experience. This raft I am on is mine. And words of comfort and

prayer have been like soothing echoes of distant, glorious chimes

dangling in the breeze. They have served as beacons of light that have

illuminated the face of God around me, but they have brought me no

closer to an earthly companion who can walk with me in the shadow of my

death. I don’t think they’re supposed to, and have somehow failed. I

think that God just has a way of bringing each one of us out onto the

waters to be alone with just Him. And if you haven’t had that time yet,

you will.

So I’m feeling much better, right? That’s the question of the day. Yes.

I am. My body is getting quite a bit of energy back, and Spring is in

the air around here. No matter who or where you are, Spring seems to be

that magical season of renewal when our heads are held a little higher,

and our steps are a little lighter. Much of the heaviness of the fear

has lifted off of me, and most of my emotional work has been in working

through the loss of my breasts. I still mourn deeply. I still cry. But

it’s that bobbing head in the water kind of experience- and when I’m

inhaling air rather than water, I’m doing pretty good. But I’m trying to

just surrender, and not to force my head to stay above, or go below,

because there has been a certain anxiousness about me that wants to just

“get it over with” so I can get back to work. But you can’t rush

healing, no matter how hard you try……

I know because my chest has turned into a deep red, bubbly layer of hot

and itchy skin, and I can’t wait for it to heal. I had to discontinue

radiation for a few days, and even though the skin on my armpit remains

broken, I resumed radiation today. I think I have about 8 more treatments until I am finished. They actually give you some nifty little

certificate when you’re done- I wonder if I should hang it on the wall

with my degrees, which really are a testament of perseverance more than

they are of knowledge?! So, I’ve been doing everything they have told me

to do- soaking the gauze in the Domeboro solution and laying it on my

skin until it dries, covering it with the antibacterial cream and Biafin

several times a day. I just get so tired of all of this……….

Yesterday I got marked on again. I think I shared that I have two

permanent little blue dots on my chest that mark the radiation field.

And along the way they have to take x-rays and remark to make sure

they’re still “on target” for the treatment area. They use that

permanent felt pen (Sharpie) to mark the area, and if you’ve ever tried

it on your skin, you know it really isn’t permanent. I always end up

with a multicolored, abstract mural on the inside of my undershirt.

So we went to a tattoo convention this past weekend. It didn’t do much

for me other than make me realize how old I am getting. But the purpose

was to make contacts with tattoo artists who have done breast cancer

tattooing (aureole for reconstruction or scar cover-up). I did come into

acquaintance with an organization called “Healing Art Foundation”

( Pretty neat stuff they are trying to do,

and I hope to get more involved in some way. So, why, you ask? Well,

remember when I said I was thinking about just covering my scars with a

tattoo? I meant it. I know it’s hard for some people to understand, and

especially troubling for those Old Testament Christians who think that

tattooing on one’s body is a sin.  But let me sum it up- who needs a

shrink if you have ink? Joking aside…….I am still seriously

considering having a custom mural done on my chest for a whole bunch of

reasons I won’t go into. The only consideration at this point is my

motivation, and my expectations of what I would get out of it, and how

my perception might change in time. But either way, it’s a deeply

personal and spiritual way to express the awesome works that have gone

on in this Temple that He has entrusted to me. Even still, in between my

analysis and the words of the sentences lies a lot of pain, loss,

surrender, and wonderment. My cancer sister said it last night- we never

really know where the cancer experience is going to take us. So I’m

giving myself a year to recover, for my head to clear, and then I will

decide for certain if I want to cover my scars with a tattoo. Scars and

tattoos are different things, so the song says…..

I’ve been attending art therapy group through the cancer center, hosted

by a local MFT. I’m really enjoying that. The last meeting we worked on

clay figures. I missed the first session, so I had to pick from several

pieces that were already made. It didn’t take me but a second to catch

my eye on one piece in particular, and I readily claimed it as my own

and spent the remaining time painting it (Aren’t you so excited- I even included pictures?!). That experience motivated me to seek other more hands-on types of art forms, and Al and I have agreed to take a pottery class at our local community college next semester. I think there’s something deeply spiritual about learning to ‘center’ the clay on the wheel and then learning the fine tuning of the techniques (the water, the spinning, the tools) to shape it into a unique piece. I am looking forward to that. There is a performing ministry called Potter’s Field ( that I had the privilege to enjoy a few times years back and I learned a lot through the spiritual metaphor of shaping clay. Anyway, the group I attended last night was on poetry. We read a heart wrenching poem, explored words, and then were asked to write our own poem. I didn’t quite get mine finished, so I tinkered with it today and am satisfied with it. I’ll trustingly share it at the bottom, like I did the last one……….

I had yet another ultrasound today. I am sure the techs over there think

I’m a hypochondriac, because it seems like I am at that place every

week, and they never find anything wrong. Anyway, I had a gall bladder

UTS as I have been having some problems that might point to gall stones,

and that is unfortunately something that runs in my family. The surgeon

also ordered a UTS of my subclavian veins so he could determine the

viability of my veins for another port. I have two more chemo

treatments, and I need either another port, or a PIC line. As I was

laying there telling the tech about my horrible blood clot experience

last October, the thought struck me that I almost died that day. I know

that sounds overly dramatic, but truly, that is the closest I have ever

come to death, and being that helplessly sick is pretty darned scary. I

was thanking God for all His mercies. Have you seen “The Passion…..”

yet? I remember the first time we saw it the very distinctive thought

came loudly into my head- my experience with cancer has been nothing

compared to what He suffered so that I could be delivered from this body

of death! Oh, thank you Jesus. Words again fail to truly express the

deepness of my joy in what He has done……..

So I’m just going along. I am scheduled to return to work May 3rd. In

all honesty, the thought of it has put immense pressure on me to hurry

up and get my emotions contained into a nice little package so I can

move on. But, I’m learning to just be in the moment, and to let it come

when it does. I also dread the onslaught of concerned co-workers who do

truly care, but almost seem to want something from me- reassurance that

I am going to be ok, and that they are going to be ok too. It’s

draining……… and if my cancer has shown me anything, it is that I

still am so concerned with taking care of other people’s needs that I

have not taken care of mine. So I’m going to have to learn to be honest,

and believe the best of people- that they truly do what to know what

they can do for me, even if that means just giving me space. I am sure I

will not be done with treatment by the time I return to work. I am

hoping that Dr. Patel will not start my chemotherapy again until after

Al and I celebrate our 5th anniversary on April 11th (Easter). We have

planned a weekend trip on the Pearl, and will probably renew our vows.

We’re also taking a day to hang out with my Brother John next weekend,

and will be going to Magic Mountain together. Of course the kids are

very excited about that, and I am looking forward to spending fun time

with my Brother. So, I’ll let you know how it goes……….


In Jesus~





The Road of the Sojourner


The four things of fours: the seasons ripe with

evidence of their changing ways, the gospels that


offer singular perspective to merge into a glorious

picture, so seamless like the elements in which the


very soul is shaped, along the road that had no beginning

and no end, yet meandering in such a way that each pause feels


like I have begun again, in a circular motion that connects me to

the earth. With each breath the rhythm of my humanity is comfortably


familiar, and yet the soul never seems to gather it’s comfort when feet

touch the ground and eyes watch every step, or gaze intently at the


trees for evidence of the season to which they belong. And trees,

although ancient is their wisdom, cannot go where I have been, or where


I long to go. The roots that anchor them solidly in fierce times when

the elements are trying to merge, are the very chords that bind them


helplessly to their unmovable positions. So I look up to see primates

swing from limb to limb in an effortless movement of holding on and


letting go. The wonders of God are indeed evident in all of His

creation, and I am no different, yet find comfort in trusting that


I am just a sojourner traveling shortly on this windy, dusty road.


~ Aimee Kristine Shaw




See…..I told you my hair would grow back, and the puffiness of chemo

would melt off………

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