summer’s finish line 

Last week, my 12-year-old ran a 4K in his first cross country meet. By the time I was his age, I had run a mile once. I was not in attendence, but as he tells it, he started out behind the pack of about 75 runners. He passed a bunch of people (not the majority, but a bunch) and then toward the end there were some teammates cheering and encouraging him shouting, “You’re almost there!!” So he sped up and charged onward. This did not serve him well, because he is more accustomed to track distances, not cross country. He pushed through a few episodes of wretching, but eventually pulled off course, quickly threw up as he was passed by those he had previously dusted, and then started running again. And thus he completed his first official race. 

Today marks the last day of summer for me. Phoebe’s first day of Kindergarten is tomorrow. Wearied by the summer’s beating, I will peel myself out of bed, get dressed, make breakfast (maybe) and with my husband, take our last child to her first day of Kindergarten. And then we will go to the hospital and I will have my 11th infusion of chemotherapy. I wonder how many moms are in the exact same boat…

This summer was distinctly marked by cancer. duh. Much to my own surprise, I have had an amazingly cheery disposition about this whole thing. That would be a combination of equal parts grace and denial. But, the weight of cancer has been starting to press down. Summers are always a challenging time for me. Teenagers and children who are just learning to swim go at different speeds. It’s hard on a mom. And so is cancer. It’s been a lot, but we were helped a ton, so that helped keep me afloat. 

Just today, between Phoebe’s Kindergarten conference and a doctor’s appointment for her, I was lost in thought. So lost that I wasn’t aware of my speed. I was pulled over by a merciless officer who said all the stupidest things I have ever heard since I’ve had cancer. “This isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things…It looks like you have bigger problems to worry about…Don’t let this ruin your day.” I was bawling my eyes out because I haven’t had a speeding ticket since the 90s. And because I have cancer. And because I’m tired. And because he was being insensitive. And because I’m bald.

I was almost done with all my summer duties. I had almost made it across the finish line with that smile on my face. I was almost home free to have some space to grieve the loss of health, hair, and dreams…without the small audience of worried eyes…I held it together for three months exactly. And with summer’s finish line in sight, the straw that broke this camel’s back was a speeding ticket. I’ve sobbed off and on all day.

Anyway, back to my boy. Miles, who loves to philosophize, says, “Throwing up in a race isn’t a sign of physical weakness, but a sign of mental strength.” So maybe my version of throwing up–a big fat cry–doesn’t mean I failed at being a happy mother who has faced four kids and summer and cancer all at once. I made it this far. And here’s another thought from a new friend–a breast cancer survivor: “You have to look at each day as pass/fail. Did you get to the end of the day? You passed.” I didn’t quite appreciate the weight and simplicity of this mindset until today.

Today, it looks like I’m gonna make it to the end of the day. I’m SURROUNDED by helpers*. I’m HELD by God. And even mostly UNDERSTOOD (my love language) by my loved ones. And I’m gonna make it. Today, I passed.

*My crew of helpers have dubbed themselves “Team Jenna.” If you want to join them, follow that link. I’ve meant to post it on the blog as a few of you have asked. Please, do not feel pressure!!! 

3 thoughts on “summer’s finish line 

  1. Jenna, you are amazing. Your honesty, faith and incredible sense of humor are unsurpassed! I bawled and laughed once again!!! I will be praying for Phoebe to have an awesome first day of kindergarten tomorrow and for your 11th infusion to go smoothly – and for you to get some much-needed rest during it. So proud of Miles and his mental toughness – finishing the race after puking!!! And, by the way, I want to punch that officer! Ugh! So frustrating! We are praying without ceasing!! No weapon formed against you shall remain! Go team Jenna! I want to join! 💗 Joy


  2. I hope you don’t mind, but I tell my friends what an Amazing woman you are. I pray for you, Brent and the kids. They are something, too. It’s difficult not to believe that you will beat this. Your Faith and your Attitude are on your side. Take care sweet Jenna. Keep on keeping on. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That’s You.


  3. Thanks for sharing, Jenna.You are such an amazing person .After the war comes the real battle.Gods army is at hand.You will beat this.They say God doesn’t give us more then we can handle ,but I think he does ,to test our strength and we are all proud of the strength and the courage you’ve shown .I wish I could be there to comfort you,but you have the comfort of God and all of your amazing friends.Stay strong.I love you!


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