There are lots of things in my life that are amazing and awesome, but this is downright unbelievable. It’s crazy. Insane, actually. Today marks 3 years since I was diagnosed as having advanced stage malignant melanoma. So much has happened (and if you’ve been with me from the beginning you’re well aware of that) but as I soaked it in today through all of the wonderfully mundane things I did, I realized that so much is the same. How can this be? How can my life look so normal? It’s unfathomable (don’t worry, I’ll run out of adjectives eventually…)
It’s wild to think that three years ago today I was at work in our church office with my cell phone right beside me just waiting for it to ring. I already knew. I knew I was sick but there was that small glimmer of hope that they were just wrong. That the biopsy would show the lymph nodes were benign. That it was all just a crazy scare.
I’ll never forget taking that phone call. Hearing those words. Trying to soak in everything it means to have cancer while also just trying to figure out the logistics of getting an appointment at Penn and the scans I’d need to rule out more metastasis. How would I get there? Who would watch the kids? What am I supposed to tell my one and two year old?! It was right then that I learned that dealing with cancer is an existential awakening as well as a logical, practical process. There were steps and protocol and buttloads of appointments. Appointments for days. And scans. And more appointments. More specialists. Endless specialists. (Here we learn how good it is to have cancer in America. We are fortunate to have this level of care and for that I’ll always be grateful.)
It’s been 1,059 days since I heard the words, “You have cancer.” And not any part of that was easy. Not physically, not emotionally, not relationally, not spiritually. The surgery, the radiation, the chemo. All of it was awful. It was awful for me and everyone who knew me. I don’t say that to sound conceited, but you don’t realize it until you have it that cancer affects everyone you know. And it’s hard to watch.
And then came that little part where we were told it’s terminal. I’m going to die. And not in the philosophical sense of “oh we are all dying aren’t we?” but in the “buy a burial plot, tie up all the loose ends that you can, and look at these hospice pamphlets” sort of way.
I was told I wouldn’t live past Christmas 2014. That was when they found my brain tumor and I was told the cancer was “exploding in my body”. They would try to slow it down, try to control it of they could, try to zap it as it popped up, but at the end of the day, the term “quality of life” was thrown around much more than one would like to hear when they are 30 and with a young family.
669 days. I’m 669 days past my expiration date. 669 glorious, beautiful, painful, crazy, wonderful days. It’s absolutely baffling. It’s something that makes me want to stand up and cheer and it’s something that without exception brings shame and guilt. Every single time I hear about someone who has passed from cancer, all I can think is “it’s not fair. That should be me.” Survivor’s guilt is real, and it is painful.
But I’ve grown. I’ve loved more radically. I’ve reached out more. Been a better mother and wife because of this. I’ve been able to watch my kids grow and learn and be awesome little people. I know people who don’t like to think of their cancer as a journey, and that’s ok. But for me it absolutely has been. I’ve allowed the Lord full control of my entire life and have trusted the Spirit in times when I could not possibly do things myself. I’ve learned that God has a sense of humor in that I’ve been privileged enough to have been able to (and continue to) share my story in many churches and at cancer events. I hate public speaking, but I love the Lord and wish to be some small part of furthering His kingdom so I’ve (sometimes with grumbling) agreed to do His will here for as long as I possibly can. I’ve learned how to say yes to God, unquestioningly. And that’s been the best part.
And I’ve learned that, above all and through everything, my only goal is to spread hope. I wish I could honestly say that I was interested in giving people hope that they may survive cancer. But I can’t and won’t do that. Because I never want to lie to people. But I will absolutely tell people about the hope in Christ. The hope of peace, purpose, and a love that surpasses anything Hollywood can concoct. Hope in something very real and absolutely true. And hope that through Him, our sufferings are not in vain.
I’m still here. I don’t understand any of this, and of course my prognosis is still guarded, but I don’t feel cancery. I don’t feel like someone with cancer. Although mentally it will always be there and physically it’s statistically very likely to be an issue again in the near future, I feel good. And have peace. And, Lord willing, tomorrow I will celebrate 670 days past my expiration date.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this with me. Whether walking alongside me physically or just hearing of my story and praying. I just love you all so much.
Happy Cancerversary to me…
I’d do it all again in a heartbeat ❤