(it's a long one)
today i celebrate one year as a cancer survivor. something called a cancerversary. it's not as if i'm celebrating the fact that i got cancer, but rather that i've lived a year since getting diagnosed. and what a year it has been. i'd like to do a sort of "year end review" starting with my diagnosis. technically it probably started in the weeks before when i went to the doctor. but it was on a friday afternoon last june that nurse ruth called to tell my my biopsy had come back and it was indeed cancer. this rocked my world at the age of 31 and with a 4 month old. and as i sat down to reflect (which i do a ton) on this past year it is full of big and little things, hard things, joy, hope, suffering, pain, fear, and so much more. the beginning is marked by my diagnosis and here is what happened in between...
...tests and scans...charis was baptized at our church and we celebrated with friends and family...we went to NOLA for laura's wedding....i had to stop nursing...charis began crawling...we went on an awesome pre-chemo date that was all paid for (and we still don't know who)...i started chemo...i had a head shaving party...we went on a family beach trip...all my hair finally came out and i was officially bald...i had my last period...the hot flashes began...we took a grueling hike at crowder's :)...charis started daycare/preschool...adam continued working on his thesis...i continued working...i had my last chemo...charis turned 1 and we had an awesome party thanks for my sweet friend, jen...i turned 32...i had a double mastectomy with lymph node removal...got to celebrate thanksgiving with all my siblings...we had to spend the weekend in the hospital b/c of an infection...ugh...monday morning bible study with 10th grade girls...we had a quick family overnight in blowing rock which was amazing...i started radiation every day...we took a trip to windy gap with YL staff...we celebrated christmas...i bought a prosthetic bra and forms for swimsuit...worst purchase ever...it snowed...went to myrtle beach for YL...started going back to campaigners more regularly...charis took her first steps...i finished radiation...my dad was diagnosed with bone cancer (metastasized prostate cancer)...adam turned 30 and we had a party at sir ed's...adam keeps plowing through his thesis and has a date for his defense...we get the news that i'm being laid off from YL...i go to the beach with YL staff women...i start my period...adam defends his thesis and passes...woo hoo!!...we take a family trip to the mountains...i help train my replacement at work and have my last day in the office.
the other bookend is my last day at work. when i think about starting the year with cancer and ending it with losing my job that seems completely horrible. but i have to say that it has not been horrible. with each of these "events" comes its own story and there is so much in between. i wouldn't trade this year. by the grace of God we made it through this year. we have survived. in fact, i think we've done more than just survive. i am a different person because of this year...a different wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend. i have become more dependent on God and others. i am more compassionate. i trust God more. i can remember those early days...they felt weird and scary yet i always had peace. and i still do.
we have no idea what the year ahead will look like. there are things we do know...i'll go to frontier with some girls...i'll have my reconstructive surgery...charis will turn 2. and there is a lot we don't know...will adam get a different job using his gifts/skills...will i work or stay home...will i remain cancer free...will God continue to provide the finances we need and the benefits...will we get to go on the post cancer vacation i dream about. regardless of what changes for us, i know that God is still the same. he will continue to provide through the sacrifices of our friends, he will continue to deepen our marriage, he will continue to pursue us, he will not abandon us. i know this.
i recently came across an excerpt from Philip Yancey's book Disappointment with God. it was some random copy i found in my stuff. and it seemed so appropriate b/c it was on the section "is God unfair?" he interviewed a man who's wife battled breast cancer then he was in an accident that caused a head injury...here are a few points this man, who knew suffering so well, made:
"we tend to think, 'life should be fair because God is fair.' but God is not life."
"God's existence, even his love for me, does not depend on my good health. frankly, i've had more time and opportunity to work on my relationship with God during my impairment than before." this is true for me too
"look at the story of Jesus. was life 'fair' to him? for me, the cross demolished for all time the basic assumption that life will be fair."
i sometimes struggle with this "fairness" b/c i see in other people's lives that it is easy (or at least appears to be). or it feels like i can't take one more hard thing. there are things i've come to know/believe in this past year:
God is good and he really loves us
God is the same no matter what news i receive
God is for us
i trust God way more than i trust myself or anybody else
i believe in His "pleasing and perfect will"
i may not get or agree or even like his plan, but ultimately i know it's better than anything i could dream up
Jesus knows suffering, which makes me feel less alone
i realize this post is ridiculously long. and i could keep writing. at some point i saw this past year as a road trip of sorts with different road blocks, detours, scenic routes and such. then the other day i saw it as a book shelf filled with books each telling a story. and on either end of those books were these bookends: cancer diagnosis & last day of work. i'm thinking those bookends are stories themselves.
let me end by saying that i'm thankful for this past year. crazy, i know. i'm thankful for my marriage and a husband who has loved me and pursued me regardless of how my body looks. i'm thankful for my relationship with Jesus. i am thankful for our sweet & feisty little lady. i'm thankful for my family. i'm thankful for my amazing friends. i'm thankful for cleaning for a reason. i'm thankful for nurses and doctors. i'm extremely thankful for our church community. there is so much to be thankful for. and i have lots of hope for what lies ahead. all i know is that i don't want to waste this experience. and i don't think i am.
if you stuck with me. thanks. :) this is how we feel sometimes