Three weeks ago marked the 1 year anniversary of my lymphoma diagnosis. One year ago at this time, I was at home recovering from round 1 of chemotherapy. In the time span of a week, our life had been turned upside down. I was incapable of taking care of my kids. All plans were put on hold. I couldn't set up the house that we had just moved into. I stopped teaching.
As fall rolled around this year, "all the feels" from the past year came rushing back. We had only been living in Knoxville for 3 months before my diagnosis; therefore, my recent memories of the fall are all tied to cancer.
The fabulous blue sky reminded me of cancer.
Slipping into a pair of my cozy slippers made memories of the hospital come rushing over me.
Long sleeved t-shirts that I had bought last year made me think of the dozens of doctor appointments and blood draws.
Driving through downtown Knoxville reminds me of those first visits to the cancer institute.
Pumpkins reminded me of the fall festivals that I missed with my kids last year.
Our 15th wedding anniversary and the day of the biopsy were the same day.
It kind of made me sad. I love the fall and all that comes with it! In addition to cooler weather, gorgeous colors, yummy treats, and fun decorations, it is the time of year we were married and the time of year when my husband and I celebrate our birthdays! I don't like that there was this cloud hanging over this time of year.
One of the hardest parts of recovering from a cancer battle is what goes on in the mind. The physical recovery is (yes, still ongoing) tough too, but taking control of my thought life has always been a battle. This verse is hanging in our kitchen so I can be reminded all day:
I am more paranoid about my health now. Every time I cough or am out of breath, I get nervous. Is it the cancer returning?! I know it is a common feeling for cancer survivors, and it is a comfort to know that I am not alone.
Over the past couple months, I have found myself wanting the memories to go away. I hated thinking about the trauma of seeing the tumor on a scan, the anxiety of wondering whether I would survive to see my kids grow, and the difficulty of entrusting my kids to family and friends while I was in the hospital. I found myself wishing that I could erase the events of last year and go back to life pre-cancer.
But in His grace, God has slowly been changing my perspective. Through the Holy Spirit, I have been given the gift of a deep sense of gratitude. When the fear comes rushing in, I am learning to thank Him. Instead of letting the fear take root in my heart, I am choosing to thank God for my life...every single aspect of it.
Before cancer, I was not aware of the the gift of breath that whooshes through my lungs everyday. I think, somehow, I had come to expect a long life:
...to be able to do all I have dreamed of doing.
...as if somehow I am entitled to live to be 90.
But the fact is, we aren't guaranteed even our next moments.
To be here on this earth with my precious people is a gift that I hope I will never again take for granted. It is a privilege to be able to wash laundry, clean toilets, change diapers, and make meals. Taking care of my people and being able to go out and do life with them is what I missed the most. Cancer had a way of showing me what is most important.
I am grateful for how a battle with cancer has increased my faith in the power of prayer. His hand was ALL OVER the events of Fall 2016. We had an army of believers that rose up to pray for us, to care for me, and to care for my husband and kids. I felt like people were literally lifting us on their shoulders and carrying us through. My faith in the power of prayer has increased tremendously. I will never say that "All I can do is just pray," as if it is somehow less significant than taking care of a physical need like bringing a meal.
Prayer is everything.
Prayer is what gave me the strength to keep going.
Prayer is what gave me daily peace in the hospital.
Prayer is how my husband was able to go to work every day and then come home and care for me and the kids at night.
And because i have experienced the power of prayer, I am much more faithful in lifting those up who are fighting chronic or life threatening diseases. When I tell someone that I will pray for them, I take it VERY seriously.
There are days when I get frustrated with how I feel. I complain (yes, I am embarrassed to admit it) about the after effects of chemo. I get annoyed because I don't always feel well enough to do everything I want to do. When I talk to my husband about it, he kindly listens and empathizes with how I feel. Then he says, "But I am so glad that you get to be here."
Amen to that.