Thursday, September 19, 2013

Because it CAN happen to you.

Cancer is not something that I ever thought would wreck my life. It was never on my radar as something that would happen to anyone in my family. It was always something that affected someone else. I never in a million years would have predicted that my mom would have been diagnosed with any cancer- much less a Stage 4 cancer that would take her life in two years- before her 50th birthday.

And then it did. 

Now, cancer is something I know endless information about. It is something I have researched, something I have obsessed over, something that has completely altered the course of my life. Cancer is now something that not only affects my life- but my children's. I now have to look at life my with cancer in my radar. 

And it still completely surprises me, because cancer was something that would 'never happen to me.'

My mom was 47 when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She had no family history, little to no warning signs, and was too young to be screened. (Colon cancer screenings generally begin at 50.) By the time we found her disease, fighting it was often like taking a water gun to a wild fire. 

I will never understand why things happened the way they did, or why she was taken so soon by something so seemingly out of the blue. 

But, I do know that this doesn't have to be everyone's story. It doesn't have to be mine, it doesn't have to be my babies', it doesn't have to be yours. 

I could go on for days about the importance of screenings and early detection. My mom didn't get a chance to do either of those things- and they truly, truly save lives.

The other thing I know, is that cancer research is key. It saves, lengthens, and enriches lives every. single. day. Although, there is no 'cure' for cancer, I got two more years with my mom because of advancements that were made in the last 10 years. The American Cancer Society is doing a historic study that will enroll 300,000 people and gather information about cancer over the next 20 years. The thought of the information that can be gathered from that many people gives me chills. 

The Midland American Cancer Society is participating!! They are looking for people 30-65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. All you have to do, is give a blood sample and then complete questionnaires that will be mailed to you over the next 20 years. Please, please consider contacting them at 1-888-604-5888. For more information, visit http://www.cancer.org/research/researchtopreventcancer/participate-cancer-prevention-3.

Do it. For me. For you. For this guy.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

2 months

2 months has gone by since I talked to my mom. 2 months since I called her on the way to Target. 2 months since I worried about her cancer. 2 months since she badgered me to send a picture of Owen. 2 months. 2 months that have been the longest, shortest months of my life.

One of the things I loved about my mom was that she always bought all the magazines- ALL the magazines- and she saved them for me. Magazines are something I rarely got to splurge on when Ryan was in PA school so I always looked forward to the stack she saved me. I miss her- and her magazines.

This last week I splurged on a People and in it was an article about a mom who lost all three of her girls in a tragic car wreck. She had written a book about her loss- and her girls. She talked about how terribly hard it was to write- how hard it was to remember. She said she did it because she wanted people to know them. She wanted people to know their life and for them to be remembered.

A thing that scares me the most is that Owen won't remember. He won't remember how he was the light of her world, how she wanted him to love the Rangers, Cowboys, and Mavericks more than most things, how she sang 'My Only Sunshine" to him as she rocked him. He won't remember- and it kills me.

I realized as I read that article that even though it hurts me to talk, write, and remember. I have to. I have to so that he will know her.

I felt this way about her funeral too. I didn't want it to be a generic funeral. I wanted it to be her funeral. I wanted people to know her. This is the letter I wrote that was read.

Dear Mom-
One of our last conversations, you told me you regretted not ever going to back to college to be a teacher, but as I reflect back on your life. I realize just how much of a teacher you were. Over the years, you taught me a lot of things, things that you realized and things you didn’t. I’ll probably never be able to recount all the things you taught me, but a few do stick out.

You taught me how to be brave. Over the past two years, I held your hand through numerous surgeries, procedures, blood draws, and scary talks with doctors. As I think back on those times, I think you held my hand more for my benefit than your own. You faced so much with such a courageous spirit, it made all of us brave too. 

You taught me how to find humor in situations, and that its ok to laugh through the tears. We had a lot of smiles and laughs during the hardest times, and most were jokes you made at your own expense. Your “cancer jokes” were just another way you took care of us.
You taught me how to make a bed- the right way. I didn’t appreciate this until much later in life, and I’m hoping one day Ryan might learn too. 

You taught me how to be selfless. Over the years, I have witnessed you help so many people, and there’s likely many I didn’t witness. It’s not that you helped that sticks with me now- it’s how you helped. You helped immediately- without weighing the options for yourself first. You just helped. No questions, no thoughts of yourself- just helped.

You taught me to love to read. My whole life, you told me of the great adventures in books. You taught me to appreciate the ’smell’ of a good book and the joy of a library. Oddly enough, the only 5 minutes of the day Owen sits still is while looking at books and it makes my heart smile that maybe he got this from you.

You taught me you don’t have to be on the birth certificate to be a mom to someone. Anyone, who walked through that door, you loved as your own. I complain a lot about being an only child, but the truth is that you were a mom to many.

You taught me how to love without abandon. When you loved someone or something – you loved fully. You loved without expectations.

Mostly, you taught me how to be faithful. I watched as you were so faithful to people, even when sometimes it wasn’t reciprocated. You were faithful to your word and someone on whom countless people could depend. You were a faithful employee for 18 years. You were a faithful wife for almost 30 years. You were even faithful to the Cowboys, Rangers, and Mavericks though they failed you often. Most importantly, you were faithful to God when He let you walk such a tough road.  You were faithful during the marathon chemos, the sickness, and the fear. You even remained faithful when you knew He was taking you too soon, and encouraged everyone else to as well.

These lessons, although no substitute for the teacher, will be my guide as I try to walk out the last thing you taught me- how to deal with the loss of my mom. You walked this road before me, and knew how hard it would be. So you knew your last lesson for me had to be to take it-one day at a time. Every one of those days will be spent loving and missing you, and hopefully teaching Owen some too. 

Even though writing it was terribly hard, people left knowing her better. I want that for Owen too- and for her. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Writing

Tonight I looked back on this blog. I looked back to get information for the baby book I am just now filling out for my 16 month old son. (Slacker mom of the year, I know) I looked back to be reminded of his happy moments, milestones, and pictures. ( The whole 2 months I recorded.) I looked back for joy, and instead was slapped in the face by my anguish.

The last blog I wrote was on anguish and joy. I wrote it during what I thought were some of my hardest days- days of uncertainty and fear.  I wrote it on January 25th, and less than 2 months later- I lost my mom.

Writing has always been somewhat cathartic for me. I'm not someone who can write well or even correctly. I'm also not someone who can write off the top of my head. The last time I wrote in this blog, a friend sent me a text about it and my response was that I apparently can only write while in super emotional states.

To say that I am in a super emotional state right now would be the understatement on the year. To say that I am wrecked- a mess would be almost close to covering it. So it would make sense that writing should bring me some sort of peace or calm, but instead I have avoided writing like the plague. (Its even one of my assignments for my grief counseling- whoops!)

I have avoided it for all kinds of reasons like- fear of being judged. Grief is this funny tightrope. I spend half of my time worrying that if I am a crying mess, I will alienate those closest to me and people will tire of my dramatics, and the other half worrying that if I smile or laugh too much people will wonder how I could forget so soon. I know this is all crazy, but so is grief.

 I think another reason is because the state I am is so personal and vulnerable and messy. To be honest, another reason is blogger drives me nuts.

But I think the main reason is because it hurts.

I hurt. My heart hurts, and writing about how much I hurt- hurts.

But I'm slowly learning, that avoiding the hurt doesn't make it go away.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Anguish and Joy

My mom has been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer for almost two years, and it sucks. There is no sugarcoating, there is no silver lining, it just sucks. Period. The roller coaster of chemos working and then not working sucks. The sickness sucks. The worrying sucks. You pretty much get the drift.

Its been a long two years of a lot of emotions, but as I sat in the Beth Moore bible study I'm doing on Wednesdays, she used a word that describes the one I have felt most often through this ordeal. ANGUISH. Although, I probably would not have come up with this word on my own, it struck such a chord deep within my soul. It so perfectly describes the heartache I have literally felt as I have been a passenger on this roller coaster. As I have attempted to hold my moms hand as we go through the ups and downs, I have felt much anguish.

And can I be honest- I have let it overwhelm me, consume me. Recently, we have been given more bad news. The chemo is not working- again. The difference this time is- we've done all the standard options. ( We are currently in the process of exploring experimental treatments.) As I processed through that- anguish took over and brought its good friends- hopelessness, fear, despair, bitterness, and just plain out pissedoffness. (Clearly a made up word.) I have spent much of the past two weeks, in just such an angry state- one I clearly feel I deserve to be in and one I was just ready to settle in. I was just FED UP.

But, like any other 'good' Christian I know, I continue to go through the motions, continue to go to my bible study that I am just not in the mood for- fully expecting just to go, sit, listen, leave, and still be mad.

So imagine my thoughts as she began to describe the very feelings I have been fighting, but she tacked another word onto it- JOY. She talked about the intertwining of the two, and even gave an example of a time in her life where her family was dealing with anguish and the Lord gave her her first daughter, who brought unspeakable joy to her life in the midst of unspeakable anguish.

It was like listening to her tell my own story.

If you know me, you already know this story, but I need to write it, I need to be able to look back in the midst of my anguish and see the truth from this story.

When my mom got diagnosed, Ryan was finishing up his last year of PA school. Everything was going according to 'plan.' Ryan would graduate, we would both work a year and reboost our savings, and probably try to get pregnant sometime that year. But the day she got diagnosed, we walked out of her hospital room and I looked at him and he knew. He knew I needed to experience all of those things with my mom. I needed to be able to call her and ask questions, needed her to be a grandmother, needed her. He knew, and he pushed all his 'plans' aside right there in that moment without taking the time to think about the budget or plan. With a simple, OK, that was that- we were going to start trying.

Here's where things get a little TMI for a blog- but I'm banking on my lack of posting meaning a lack of readers. Everything I knew about trying to have a baby meant it would take some time. During this time- Ryan and I were not even  living in the same place. He was doing a rotation in Plainview and I was spending a lot of time at home with my parents in Snyder. Clearly- I knew that was not conducive to making a baby either, but about a week, maybe two, after my moms diagnosis Ryan and I met for the day at our apartment in Lubbock. I had taken an ovulation test, so I knew I was ovulating, but was not expecting anything in the first month, especially given that we saw each other one day that month.

Two weeks later- I took an early pregnancy test just in case- and it was positive! Our minds were blown, but honestly until I sat and listened to Beth Moore this week, I really chalked it up to the birds and the bees.

But not anymore.

The Lord, in His Sovereignty, knew the anguish we would walk through. He knew the despair we were facing. He knew, and He sent us joy so that it would not overwhelm us.

He sent us Owen.
He sent me Owen.

I have cried more tears than I have ever cried, but I have also smiled more smiles and laughed more laughs at my sweet baby boy.

I have felt the most anguish, but also the most joy. At the same time. If I'm being completely honest, I often feel forgotten by the Lord during this journey- where is He? Why is He not taking care of us? But, He is- in His own way. He gave us unspeakable joy to accompany our unspeakable anguish because He cares and I needed that reminder this week and will probably need it again.
video


Owen's giggles will serve as a reminder that He does see and He does care even when it feels like He doesn't- even in the midst of my anguish. He gave me that because He knew I would need it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Owen's 1st Birthday

Our sweet baby boy celebrated his First Birthday on December 27th. We were lucky enough to have Daddy home with us so we had a fun day full of firsts for our sweet boy.

We started the day off right by trying out some donut holes.

We followed up all this fun with a family lunch date where Owen got his first taste of pizza. (and mommy left her camera at home)
 
The excitement didn't stop there. Owen got his first haircut on his birthday too!
 Thank goodness for puffs, he did great!
 
We ended all of our excitement with some fun presents.


Such a fun family day celebrating a year that has flown by!