the thing about snowflakes


I have an oncology appointment today.  I go in every six months for a check-up and an injection of medicine that (hopefully) will prevent a breast cancer recurrence. Every time I visit my oncologist, I have really mixed feelings.  Part of me is grateful that, 9 years after my cancer diagnosis, I'm still here.  I'm also grateful that there's medicine I can take to not only treat, but prevent, cancer.  And part of me is angry that I got cancer in the first place, and angry at everything I lost in the process.  And part of me is sad.

A year ago, I had to start seeing a new oncologist because I moved.  I sat with him in the exam room and told him my medical history, from the beginning.  The fateful Easter Sunday night when I discovered my cancer, the mammogram and ultrasound and biopsy that confirmed it.  The mastectomy, the reconstruction, the recurrence, the other surgeries, the chemo, the other recurrence, the radiation, then more chemo, then the lung infection from which I nearly died.

When I finished rattling off all the tests and procedures and medications, I stopped talking and took a deep breath.

My oncologist said, "Thank you."  And we sat there in silence.  Then he said, "I just have one question for you."

"Okay," I said.

"Are you tired?" he asked.


And I lost it.  I totally lost it in a full-on messy, mascara-smearing, can't-catch-your-breath kind of cry.

Because I was.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

A few days later, I flew to New Hampshire to speak at a Christmas event of more than a thousand women.  The event coordinator had asked me to speak on Snowflakes, the their theme that year.

A few hours before the event, I was on my knees in my hotel room, crying into the carpet.  Because I didn't want to talk about snowflakes.  I didn't want to repeat the cliche that no two snowflakes are alike, and no two people are alike, and therefore we should all feel valuable and special.  And then everybody would eat cookies and drink tea and go home.

But I didn't have anything to replace the cliche with.  And I was running out of time. I've never been at a loss for words so close to an event.

I got up from my knees and began to do some research.  And by "research," I mean, I Googled the word "snowflake" and started reading.

I discovered that a snowflake is formed when a piece of dirt in the atmosphere is surrounded by a drop of water.  Then it freezes and crystallizes and falls to earth as a snowflake.

And that, to me, is the beautiful thing about snowflakes: they're made of dirt.

They don't start out being beautiful or white or intricately designed.  They start out as a piece of dirt.

From that night on, every time I see a snowflake, I think about myself -- often a fragile, weary piece of dust -- and I think about God's grace, that comes and wraps me up and holds me and carries me and creates something beautiful that I never could've imagined myself.

So this afternoon, I'll suck it up.  I'll get dressed (yes, I'm still in my pajamas. I write better that way) and I'll drive to my appointment and I'll have my vitals taken and I'll let my oncologist examine me and I'll and hold my breath until he says, "Everything looks good!" And then I'll get my shot, and then I'll go to the pharmacy and get another month's supply of anti-cancer pills.

And even if I'm scared or angry or weary, I'll take a deep breath and remember that sometimes dust is the beginning of breath-taking beauty.  And sometimes you just have to let the water of Grace come and wrap you up and carry you Home.

That's the thing about snowflakes.

That's the thing about me.