Like Cutting an Onion

The onion sat on the cutting board in front of me as if to taunt me.

I held the knife firm in my hand and pressed down. As soon as the blade had penetrated the firm flesh my nostrils filled with the pungent familiar smell. My eyes started to water.

I left the onion with only one slice in it to care for my daughter and when I returned the smell had diminished. Now, as I stood near the onion, my eyes no longer burned.

The onion had become adjusted to its environment. It was acclimated.

I hesitated to make the next slice, knowing that when I did so I would once again be wiping water from my eyes.

“Don’t you sort of want to know though?” The words she’d spoken just the day before, with tears shining in her eyes, linger in my mind as I pick up the blade.

My answer echoes like a yell as I put the knife down again without making the cut.

“No. I really don’t want to know.”

Sometime in the next two weeks Bryan will have another PET scan. Every day someone asks me, “Have you scheduled the PET scan yet?” Or “When will you do the next scan?”

There is a palpable anticipation all around me. An eagerness. A desire to know.

And it sort of makes me want to scream and hurl something at them.

They want to know whether the treatments we are using now are working. They want to know if Bryan is getting better or worse. They want to know at what rate he is getting worse, or at what rate he is getting better. They want to know our plan. They want to know how long we will continue living with my parents in Arizona.

I don’t want to know. There is not an ounce of me that wants this PET scan to come. If I could put it off I would.

It’s not that I’m not hopeful. It’s not that I don’t trust God. But no matter what the news from the PET scan is it will be like cutting into this onion. It will be a disruption of our new normal. It will mean new decisions that need to be made. And I don’t feel ready to make them.

My dad told me a few days ago that I’m burying my head in the sand, trying to avoid living life, by not making decisions about our future. I disagreed with him. I’m not trying to avoid living life by avoiding facing the future. I’m avoiding facing the future SO THAT I can live life here in the present. Facing the future makes me entirely incapable of facing life now.

I have only walked the my-husband-has-cancer-road for about a year and a half but its long enough for me to have learned something. Every time there is a PET scan or a physical exam or a surgery or a new treatment it’s like cutting into an onion.

For the past few weeks I feel like I have mostly been in a good place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I have felt like I can with open hands say honestly, “Lord, your will be done.” I have felt peace between me and my God and an acceptance of the journey He has us on with cancer.

But, I know that whenever there’s a new scan, a new test result, a new treatment, all that trust and peace gets put to the test.

And each time the result is the same.

“This is great Bethany. You do trust. You have surrendered. But there’s more. It’s not enough yet. I want to take you deeper.”

And so after each change in my husbands case there is a season of disruption. A season where I find that there is still much in my heart that doesn’t trust, that isn’t surrendered. And I have to re-learn and re-learn again.

A layer of onion is peeled back and I am face-to-face with the stink that is still so prevalent in my own heart. My eyes fill again.

God has to slowly blow his breathe into my soul and replace the stink with something new, a sweet aroma. I have to slowly open my hands a bit more.

I know that each time this has happened God has taken me deeper and I should be looking forward to another opportunity for deeper sanctification. But I’m not.

I’m not ready. It feels too soon. Didn’t we just do this?

It was not even three months ago that my worst fears were realized and my husbands cancer moved from stage three to stage four. That PET scan completely knocked me down. I feel like it has only been in the past few weeks that I have been able to say confidently again that all this is God’s severe mercy to us.

And as the next PET scan draws closer I can feel God drawing near, hear Him whisper into my heart, “We are going to cut again. I’m here. I won’t leave, but it’s going to smell, it’s going to hurt, and you are going to cry. Are you ready?”

And I want to scream back, “NO!” Just a little more time. Can’t I have just a little more time in this place of trust and relatively happy days?

But, I know the answer.

Rejoicing in the journey,

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

4 thoughts on “Like Cutting an Onion

  1. A gal I went to college with used to blog often during her cancer treatments and something she wrote at the start of her next round of treatments was a revelation that the Lord had given her while waiting in the doctor’s office. It’s been almost 3 years since she wrote this particular blog post, but its something I’ve thought about ever since and has brought me tremendous comfort during some very hard times. I’ll share, just in case it can be of some encouragement to you…. she was reminded that even though she’d received a new diagnosis that particular day, she was reminded that nothing had changed. We come into this life with numbered days, and so even though things come as a surprise or shock or new to us, God is in control and nothing shocks or surprises Him.
    I will be praying for you and Bryan as you make decisions on when to have the scan as well as decisions on how to proceed after the scan and that your heart and mind are comforted for whatever the news may be.

  2. Every Thanksgiving morning I stand at a cutting board and chop up an onion while tears stream down my face. I hate that moment, but I do it anyway out of love for my family. And every Thanksgiving we get to eat stuffing made savory from the onions I’ve cut.

    1. Janalyn, you are right. Really good things can often come from cutting into onions. Praying for good things to come from this next onion cut in our lives and feeling a bit more hopeful about it today…

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