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Strokes of Confidence and Pain

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					Strokes of Confidence and Pain
I saw an entry on First Descent's blog about an art competition for cancer patients, their families,
and oncologists. It's called "Oncology on Canvas". This immediately drew me in. While it has
been years since I have actively painted, I did start oil painting when I was nine. Growing up, art
was where I found my solace, and I have been eager to create a piece that I could really relate to
post-cancer. The competition states that the "judges will seek artwork that best portrays inspiring
cancer journeys". I have been contemplating this for hours now. How? How am I ever to
accurately express through paint and brush strokes what I felt while battling cancer? I scan the
past entries hoping that they will provide me with inspiration but I find nothing. Not that their
paintings aren't inspiring, but I still walk away perplexed. There are many paintings of women with
mastectomies that show true pain and joy together... but the idea of using my body of scars for
my entry just didn't appeal to me. For me, my scars are the symbol of victory, quiet reminders that
my doctors cut every cancer cell out of my body, but they are not my journey. My journey consists
of the many conversations I had with my family and friends, the moments that I found myself
having open conversations with God about death, and each night that I fell asleep to another old
movie with Cary Grant or Gene Kelly in it. But how can that be put on paper?

In an effort to discover how to create strokes of both confidence and pain, I'd like to share some
things that shaped my journey. There is a theme in all of my comforts that I later realized... maybe
you will notice it.

As I just mentioned, I watched many old movies in that hospital room, but there was one that I
could watch over and over again. "Singin' in the Rain" became my movie of choice. I'm not real
sure why, but I found it comforting. Even the title seemed to speak to me... maybe because that's
what I felt like I was doing... singing in the rain.

Before my surgery, every day when we would get in the car to drive to the hospital a certain song
would come on the radio. It never failed, every time we cranked the car this song would be
playing. Then, while I was in the hospital, my mom would always hear it on her way to see me
and she'd tell me about it when she arrived. It was called "Praise You in This Storm" by Casting
Crowns. Here are the lyrics... they were so powerful to me while I was sick:

I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away

I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

That was my song for all of the hard times. The moments that I felt like even tears couldn't
express the pain. But my journey was not all pain, and there is actually a song I have begun to
turn to when I want to express joy and a desire for life. It's called "Something Beautiful" by
Needtobreathe. The lyrics alone do not do justice to the song, so I suggest listening to it rather
than just reading it, but enjoy the lyrics anyway :)

In your ocean, I'm ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin' on my feet
It's like I know where I need to be
But I can't figure out, yeah I can't figure out

Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There's only one way to figure out
Will you let me drown, will you let me drown?

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees.
I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

And the water is rising quick
And for years I was scared of it
We can't be sure when it will subside
So I won't leave your side, no I can't leave your side.

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees.
I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

In a daydream, I couldn't live like this.
I wouldn't stop until I found something beautiful.
When I wake up, I know I will have
No, I still won't have what I need.
Something Beautiful

Hey now this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
Cause I am down on my knees
I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

If you haven't noticed by now what the theme is I need to just tell you. Rain, storms, ocean,
waves, tide, tears... water has become a place of solace for me. The week before my diagnosis I
was rafting on a river. Exactly a year later I was back on that same river. And a year after that I
was kayaking the Colorado with First Descents. This might seem silly and trivial but it's not to me.
Since I was a little kid I have felt a very odd "connection" to water. I could sit and stare at
waterfalls for hours. When I was 4 I even named my first puppy "Ripples" after the ripples I had
seen in water. I wanted to be a marine biologist for the majority of my young life simply so I could
be around water every day. I when my communications class my senior year of high school was
told to write a speech comparing ourselves to an inanimate object, I compared myself to a river.
And every time I went camping or to the beach I would always go sit by the water and just...
meditate (for lack of a better word). I'm not sure why, but there has always been something about
being near water that comforted me and gave me strength. Crazy isn't it? I can't explain it, and
I'm well aware of how ridiculous it sounds. But none-the-less, it's true. Every time I am near water
I just feel Go's presence more. I feel his power more.

Maybe that should be the theme of my art work. I am unsure how to incorporate it, but I probably
should find a way. So I'll end this blog with what my husband says to me when I say I love water.
David: "I love water. I love clouds. I love mountains. I love trees. I love the animals in the trees. I
love the fleas on the animals in the trees. I love the amoebas on the fleas on the animals in the
trees on the mountains by the water under the clouds."