I have not written on this blog in over half a year. Now that's not to say I haven't been doing anything because I have. I wrote, acted in, directed, and produced a short independent film with my wife and local church. I'll embed the teaser and trailer. I've also been editing the third and final book in my Scar of the Downer Series. I've taught college and homeschooled my children. Yes, this summer and fall have been quite busy.
I was planning on writing a new blog post a few months ago when something unexpected happened that stole my focus. My wife had developed skin cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer didn't look like textbook cancer and so it went undiagnosed for some time. This allowed the cancer to "break off" with satellite spots. Has it reached her lymph nodes? We don't know yet. We are still waiting on the results of the biopsy.
What has been difficult about this more than just the typical cancer fears and worries is that she had to have major facial surgery to remove the cancer. This has come with months of bandages on her face and quite drastic facial reconstruction that has been stressful and painful for her. Even her smiles have been affected. (They're more like smirks now.) We have also made many trips to Philadelphia so that she can have the best care this country has to offer.
All this to say, this gigantic hurdle has made many of the things I once cared about seem pointless and inconsequential. While autumn is typically my favorite season, I'll be honest and say that it has been difficult to find the motivation to complete the mundane. It has been almost impossible to care about the things that had made me love this time of year. I've allowed cancer to rob me of finding happiness in the small things such as hanging up Christmas decorations or writing a blog post, or even reading a book. I've allowed the fears of this disease to steal small moments of my life, moments I cannot get back.
But it has also made me realize with even more certainty why I'm doing what I'm doing, and why I can't give up or give in. This battle has made me understand how world-changing a game of Monopoly with my wife and children can be; how a simple dinner with my daughters can turn into a lifelong memory; how the quiet moments with my wife can be a reminder to her just how much I love her.
It will change you whether you want it to or not. In fact, Liz asked me if I think things will ever be the same again, and the simple yet difficult answer is no. Our lives have been forever altered - emotionally, spiritually, and physically (she has the scars to prove it). That, however, doesn't mean that it has to be all bad. Things like this can return one's focus to what matters in life. It can renew and test the bounds of faith in God. It can open a closed heart and make an ungrateful one thankful.
I'll admit that I've always struggled for happiness, for smiles. In a sense, it has been like my white whale - something that has eluded me. I've understood that about myself. It has been a thorn in my flesh that I've struggled against all my life. Smiles have always been rare to me. Many people have commented on it in my life. That is yet another thing that I've realized. Just how powerful a smile can be, especially to my four daughters in a time like this. But what my family has fought in these recent weeks has made the battle for a smile all the more difficult, and yet, all the more necessary.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.