I have not blogged too much about her cancer. I feel it is mostly off limits. I feel it is her story to tell. But, recently she started a Facebook group called Living After Cancer and in many ways it has taken me back a bit. So I need to let it out, at least my side, before my mind blows. I think most people who like to write or blog can relate. The title Living After Cancer is powerful and so is her way of living after cancer. She holds her head high even when it isn’t easy. I try to fathom what it would be like and I cannot. Just the affect it has had on my little life is confounding…
It was my yearly physical. My doctor kept feeling my neck over and over again. He stopped and then felt it again before he said, “I feel something on your neck.” Wait––what? I must’ve had quite the look on my face because he grabbed my hand and placed in on the area and told me to feel. Sure enough I felt it. Of course, the first thought that came to mind was cancer. My husband assured me it was probably nothing…but I still remember feeling the little lump continuously. I went in for all the testing and it ended up not being anything to be worried about. So I went on with my life. End of story.
It wasn’t too long after my tiny scare that I found out my sister-in-law found a lump in her breast. All the possibilities ran through my mind. If the word “cancer” began to creep in my thoughts I quickly pushed it out and rationalized why it could never be cancer. She is too young. Her kids are too young. No, it just won’t be cancer. The chances are just too slim. It is just a tiny scare like I had. I was convinced that it just couldn’t be.
Then we found it it was. Wait––what? No. Nope, it can’t be. I could not wrap my head around it. But then it hit me. She has cancer. She really does. In that moment I was changed. Until it hits someone so close to you it is hard to imagine how it changes more than the person diagnosed. I mean I knew logically it would and does, but I guess I never knew how much…or how fast. Maybe I believed it would never happen to someone so close to me. What can I say? I guess my life had been sheltered up to that point.
I believe I needed to step out and see ‘real’ life isn’t always good and easy. I needed to see how much I had taken for granted and I needed to see how ‘real’ life strengthens you. I also needed to see my own strength and (sometimes) weakness in being there for someone. I have learned, grown, fallen apart, came back together, and began to truly live because of her cancer. There is a bit of guilt associated with knowing cancer in someone else’s life to help bring me to where I am today. But then, I hope she knows it was because of the love I have for her…the fear of losing her…her growing faith…and her strength and honesty through the pain that helped me and many others to grow.
Everything after her diagnosis happened fast. Wait––what? She already is starting her chemo? Now this happened? Oh my not that? You get the point. Partially it was a blur. We helped with the kids a lot. It was easier than I thought it would be. God was a huge part of the peace we had in our house as we took care of our two kids and their two kids. There were a few times when my nephew struggled. I remember his tears and my holding him. But I also remember the smiles and laughter we all shared. There were more smiles and laughter than there were tears. We had many pizza parties and many dance parties. I thank God for the those moments. I know we all needed it.
There were so many things where I saw God’s hand in her life. For one, He swooped Matt and I up and moved us closer. He had many people there for her. It really was overwhelming (in a good way) to see all the support she had. I don’t want to say it was all positive and it definitely wasn’t easy. I remember moments where I couldn’t hold it together and moments it was hard to even look at the pain. Anytime I fell apart, I felt guilty. Who was I to complain about anything? The first time I saw her without hair was one of the most painful moments in my life. Again, my pain was nothing compared to hers. The second time I saw her without hair I thought, “Wow, she is beautiful. Even bald, she is so beautiful.” I told her that many times too. I hope she knows I meant it. I hope she knows how beautiful she is inside and out. I hope she knows how much she means to everyone.
Today, she is cancer-free. There is the fear of it returning. I try to push it out and mostly I am good at doing so. I feel I need to push it out for now. It is the way I get through it best. I pray I never have to face the day. More so, I pray she never has to face the day. I can’t help but to be selfish and want her to grow old so we can sit outside drinking lemonade as we watch our grandkids play together. Wait––what? Did I say lemonade? Haha that will be wine for us!