An update, some thank you's and a few deep thoughts

It has been far too long since I've written a blog post, mainly because my emotions have been wild and crazy and very inconsistent since I last wrote anything.  I've felt extreme gratitude and thankfulness and joy right alongside grief and confusion and fear.  I have not been able to figure out a cohesive or pervading lesson/thought that God is trying to give me and that has stymied my writing.  So I decided to just do an update about the craziness of the last three weeks, and I know that it will become clear (as always) how intimately God has been involved in every waking moment.

On Sunday, March 17th, Ryan and I packed up the boys and headed for Seaside.  My pre-op appointment was March 20th at OHSU, so we wanted to enjoy some family time before I was attached to IV’s.  My amazing gramma, Marlene, reserved us a place right on the beach and we had a blast.  I was truly able to forget everything for a few days and just thoroughly enjoy my family.  We went to aquariums, arcades and fun stores.  We ate LOTS of sea food and even had a beautiful, sunny day building sandcastles on the beach.  Our boys talked non-stop and delighted us with their fun thoughts (Liam-which girl in his class he was going to marry, Sawyer-what animal he was going to be when he grew up, Everett-pure gibberish).  On the evening before we had to leave, I went on a run for a few miles alongside the crashing waves.  My beautiful friend, Sarah Turnage, had told me to imagine that each wave was like God’s endless love falling down on me, and I truly felt him pouring his love and consistency into my soul.

And so we packed up, and I headed to the hospital to become a human pin cushion.  For those of you who have had surgery before, you know that pre-op really just means the medical professionals try to figure out how many ways they could poke and prod every part of your body.  My wonderful in-laws watched the boys as Ryan and I laughed our way through the process.  Ryan has been by my side through every step of this crazy journey, and one of the best gifts he gives me, besides his unwavering love, is the gift of laughter.  We have laughed our way through many a dark and scary time. 

They sent me home with some devil-juice that would make me feel like my insides hated me, and we went home to the amazing hotel that Laurie and Doug Dean had arranged for us to have through our OHSU stay.  That night could have been one of the worst in my life.  I was really REALLY sick to my stomach because of the medicine that was cleaning me out, Everett spiked a very high fever and Liam’s throat started swelling (he has been fighting strep throat for weeks).  But I truly felt a peace that passes understanding.  God was my companion through every minute of that long night.  I didn’t sleep for even a moment, but I prayed a lot, watched clips of The Ellen Show and Bones, and researched what kind of puppy I should get some day.  When our 4:00am wake-up time FINALLY rolled around, I was feeling jittery and tired, but also ready to get this surgery DONE!

We dropped the boys off with my in-laws again and headed to the hospital.  Because I spent much of the following days in a drugged fog, I will give you a montage of my OHSU stay: I was gripped with fear right before they wheeled me away.  They had had a really hard time getting an IV in because I was dehydrated and had low blood pressure.  I suddenly felt this was a bad sign (even though I don’t really believe in signs) and thought that they were going to find ovarian cancer when they opened me up.  I believe I was under attack by Satan.  Ryan prayed over me until they wheeled me away and once again, I felt peace and determination.  The surgery went perfectly; they did not find anything scary and they were able to locate and eliminate the spot on my liver. The doctors were all thrilled that they had pulled off a total hysterectomy and a liver ablation in one surgery, and that everything went exactly as we had all hoped.  I received excellent care from the doctors, nurses and even house-cleaning staff.  One of the major ways God has taken care of me and guided my path through my cancer journey is by giving me the most phenomenal doctors. 

I spent two days in the hospital, two days in the hotel in Portland and then lots of days on my couch at home after Ryan surrounded me with pillows and blankets and drove me slowly, thoughtfully, carefully home.  I had eight incisions all over my abdomen and bruises up and down my arm (five IV pokes and one arterial line!), but being home was magical!  And here is where my thank you’s come in.  I have been surrounded by care and love once again.  God’s love and provision has come to me through the hands of his followers. My husband has met my every need and kept my spirits up through every painful moment.  My in-laws watched the boys while I was in surgery. My dad and gramma tirelessly cared for my three (SICK) boys until Ryan and I could take over.  I had numerous visitors from the Portland area while I was in the hospital and in the hotel.  I had dear friends take days of work to be by my side, many of whom traveled from Klamath to be with Ryan while I was in surgery and me as I was recovering.  I have had family and friends come stay with me for days at a time to help with boys and grocery shopping and pretty much everything since I couldn’t lift a thing for two weeks.  The church has once again provided us with wonderful, healthy meals and a couple of lovely ladies cleaned my house from top to bottom.  I have received tons of encouraging emails and texts.  I am overwhelmed by the support my family has gotten.  Thank you thank you thank you!  I don’t feel as if I’ll ever be able to thank everyone sufficiently.

But hopefully I will have lots of time to give it a shot!  On March 29th, I got a call from the gynecological oncology department at OHSU.  The pathology from my hysterectomy came back and it was completely clear!  Meaning...I’m officially cancer-free!  Eight months ago, I was given the news that my prognosis was not good.  People do not often survive stage IV metastatic breast cancer.  God has worked a miracle in me, and I want to spend my life (however long it may be), praising his name and serving people.

To my surprise, it has actually been hard to accept this, and I think it may be a process to start to live as though I am healed.  I do not want to live like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I want to move forward with the knowledge that life is fleeting and that I am not guaranteed a long and healthy life, but I do not want to make every decision out of fear; I do not want to have “but-what-if-I’m-going-to-die-soon” influence my every thought and action.  My beautiful and wise friend, Lauren, put it perfectly when she said, “It’s ok to count on living.” 

I’m going to wrap up with one of the ponderings I’ve had the last few weeks.  I have had some well meaning people say things like, “Well, I always knew God would heal you” or “God has rewarded you for your faith.”  The reality is, I was never guaranteed healing, and I am still not promised a long and happy life.  Also, my faith is not the reason I am cancer free, because I never placed my faith in being cancer free.  I’ve had to have faith that God is good and is who he says he is no matter what the outcome.  My mom was a powerful woman of faith, and while I think God healed her and prolonged her life many times, he did not spare her from dying of cancer.  I have friends right now who are faithfully clinging to God as they receive really bad news about their cancer battle.  So I’ve wondered what my response is to this of-course-God-healed-you mentality, and I keep coming back to a verse I discovered through a Beth Moore Bible study I’m in.  Saul’s son Jonathan is about to go against a whole Philistine regiment with just his armor bearer by his side.  He says, “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.  Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6b).  I love this, because he doesn’t say that he knows the Lord will make them victorious.  He says perhaps he will save them, but he believes that the Lord absolutely can save them no matter what they face.  As I read the stories of the people in the Bible and I look at the people who are fighting all sorts of battles around me today, I’ve realized that God rarely spares us from the journey to our deliverance. AND sometimes that deliverance is not life on this earth.  The Israelites had to fight horrific battles time and time again, Mary and Joseph faced public shame in order to stay together and have Jesus, Jesus had to endure death and separation from God, Paul had to spend lots of time in prison and was eventually martyred, my mom had to fight a painful battle that she lost here on earth, I had to had many of my body parts removed, chemo-ed, radiated and reshaped.  The journey to deliverance is often unimaginably hard, but the reward comes from believing that God can save us no matter what we face, he loves us enough to provide us salvation through Jesus, and he has made our souls invincible if we accept this gift.

May you feel God’s unwavering presence and love wherever you are on your journey!  Thank you all for being God’s hands, feet and voice to me as I’ve gone through my journey and I am excited to keep writing as I pass into the next chapter.