Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Matters

I know ya'll are waiting to hear about our trip and see pictures of the all-important First Day of School. That's coming, but tonight I have something else to share. It's simple, but much more important.
Today would have been my Grandad's 82nd birthday. Thinking that today would have been difficult for my grandmother, I made a point to call her. We chatted a while about this and that, and I just told her I had been thinking of her today more than usual. Gran acknowleged the significant date and told me that she had gone to the cemetery this morning. Know what else she said? "God's grace is sufficient to give us what we need. We just have to remember to ask for it. Tomorrow will be a better day."
Simple faith is great faith.
Happy Birthday, Grandad. I miss you.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Today I am celebrating an anniversary.
One year ago today, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. (You can read about the diagnosis and the cancer journey in my archives, beginning with the August 15, 2007 post.) In many ways, this year has been the longest and most difficult of my life. In a few smaller ways, it's hard to believe that 12 months have already gone by! A cancer diagnosis--a death sentence to many--may seem like an odd thing to celebrate. But I made a promise to myself that I will never again allow August 9 to pass without reflection on what happened and celebration of my miracle.
As part of my personal celebration, I pulled out the "speech" (if you want to call it that) that I gave at our church Thanksgiving dinner last year, and now I want to share it here. Names have been changed--obviously--because you just can't put every detail on the internet! :) Imagine me armed with nothing but a bunch of nerves and a small sonogram photograph. I shared this with my church family on November 11, 2007--3 months after my initial diagnosis:
“Then He got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm."

If you don’t know me, you may have heard about me and perhaps even prayed for me. My name is Allyson. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, and most importantly, I am a wife and a mommy. This account from the Bible could just as well describe the last few months of my life.

This summer I was enjoying my sons, especially savoring the last weeks before Goliath would start kindergarten. On the morning of June 30, I woke up feeling a pain in my back I had never had before. The pain intensified to the point I thought I was having a heart attack. Aimee came over and drove me to the hospital. 12 hours and 4 scans later, I was released with no definite diagnosis, but a warning that there was a mass on my left ovary and I should make an appointment with my doctor. I did so, and she determined that it was probably nothing to worry about, but it would be a good idea to remove it. Surgery was scheduled for August 7.

The operation went smoothly. I really wasn’t worried about much except the time it would take me to recover. Then, on August 9, Dr. A came in for her morning rounds. My mom was with me to hear the six words that would change my life forever: “I have bad news. It’s cancer.” I don’t remember much after that except calling Hubby. He came right away, and we all cried together.

One week later I sat in an oncologist’s office. Although I’d been assured he was the best around, I was very nervous and uncomfortable. He explained the components of my cancer, admitted that it appeared to have spread some, and advised that I undergo another surgery as soon as possible to remove all cancer cells and do further exploration. I spent the next week making arrangements and having pre-op work done. During that short time, Hubby and I made the heartbreaking decision to have a full hysterectomy done. We had talked about having another baby, but the risks to my health were now too great and it was not really much of a choice.

I also asked God for wisdom and courage as I told my children that their mommy was sick. I have no doubt that the Lord sat in my living room on that hot summer afternoon. I was prepared for the worst, but they only asked one question: “Mommy, are you going to get well?” The answer had to be YES.

The time leading up to my second surgery was the most difficult for me. I repeatedly asked God, “Why me?”, as if He might have forgotten how young I am, or how many children I have, or how full my life is. I was scared that the surgery would not be successful. I was scared that I would have to go through chemotherapy. Mostly, I was scared that I might not live to see my sons grow up to be men. My prayers were filled with questions and tears as I asked God for a miracle. Slowly—almost without my noticing—my fear was replaced with peace.

On August 30, 2 months after my ER visit, I was back in an OR. Dr. M removed all visible signs of cancer and performed the hysterectomy. Hours later, I began to come out of the fog of anesthesia and saw my entire family gathered around my bed. Hubby said to me, “They got it all. There is no more cancer”, and we cried together again.

Recovery has been painful and very slow. Those first weeks after surgery I was fully dependent on other people to do everything for me. I couldn’t take care of my home or my children. Though I desperately wanted to feel “normal” I was unable to do much more than lay in bed. Plus, I was burdened with the possibility that the biopsies and other tests might still reveal bad news. On the day of my follow-up appointment, I was a nervous wreck. The doctor came in almost immediately, seeming nearly cheerful. He said that all tests showed that the cancer was fully removed, had not spread, and that I should go home and start living my life again. My God had calmed the storm, and I had received my miracle.

If God had chosen to work in a different way—to allow the cancer to spread, or for me to go through treatments, or even to take my life-- He would still be God. He had all my days laid out for me before I was even born. My mom tells of the moment it became clear for her: When I was waiting on a gurney to be wheeled to the operating room for the second surgery, she placed her hands on my stomach where the cancer hid. She thought of how Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Issac, because it was what God asked of him. For the rest of my family, this journey has been that life-changing. We have come face to face with the power and the true character of God, knowing that my purpose is only to glorify my Father. He is unchanging, He is faithful, He is sovereign. I may never understand why He allowed this storm of cancer to surround me, but I praise Him because He would not let me drown. In my time of need, God never left his throne—He only drew me closer to it.

There is one more part of my story that not many people know. You can’t see this very well from where you sit, but if you were to look closely you would see a perfectly formed, wonderfully made baby waiting to make his grand entrance into the world. He was a total surprise to his mom and dad, but not a surprise to God. This picture was taken 2 ½ years ago, and that baby is my youngest son. While I never questioned the existence of my baby, I sure did wonder about God’s timing. I already had a baby at home—and a toddler—and a new baby was NOT in my plan until much later. My plan was flawed, though, and God’s plan was perfect. He knew what lay ahead for me. He knew that if we didn’t have Baby in the fall of 2005, we would never have had Baby at all. Today is Baby's 2nd birthday. Every morning when he calls my name as he wakes up, or when he runs into my arms, or when he climbs up on my lap to read a book, I am reminded that my God is indeed an awesome God. His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts….and I am thankful.

Vacation, Part 3

On Wednesday, we went back to the beach. Baby did not care much for the ocean. In spite of my best efforts, every time the water even lapped at his toes, he would scream, "No water! Me go back, Mommy! Me go baaaacccckkk!!!!" He spent all of his time building sandcastles.

Little Middle was brave enough to venture out into the water. He swam with Goliath and let the waves carry him a few times. It didn't take long, though, before he was done and joined Baby on dry land.

Goliath LOVED the beach. If he had to choose between Disney and the beach, I'm not entirely sure which he would prefer. He and I had the most fun out in the water--nothing like swallowing gallons of salt water to make you laugh out loud!
After we got cleaned up and had eaten dinner, we headed out for ice cream cones. I won't even tell you how much ice cream cones cost in the tourist-driven economy of southern California! Let's just say we could have bought a few gallons of Blue Bell had we been home in Texas!!!

On Thursday we returned to Disneyland for our last day. Goliath and Hubby FINALLY got to ride Indiana Jones! We spent most of the morning going back to our favorite rides:

We returned to our hotel for an afternoon nap (this plan worked great for our family!), then went back into Disney for one last hurrah. We stayed late into the night so we could see the Fantasmic! show, watch the fireworks, and take turns riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad one last time--it was our favorite!

We returned home late Friday night, tired but very happy. The boys are already asking when we can go back to Disneyland--ha! Good times had, sweet memories made.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Addition

I have to interrupt the vacation blog-saga to introduce the newest addition to our family:

Everyone, say hello to Nigel:

I was not necessarily in favor of yet another pet, but to be fair, Goliath has had some issues since Ellie the guinea pig met her untimely demise. Hubby thought a new pet might help (especially with being afraid to sleep in his room at night), and turns out he was right. Goliath loves his bunny! And yes, I am very aware that "Nigel" is an unusual name for a rabbit. He claims he heard it on a TV show and determined it was the perfect name; we could not persuade him otherwise. So......welcome to the family, Nigel.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vacation, Part 2

On Tuesday we went back to Disneyland. We spent most of the morning exploring Pirate's Lair:

When we were finished there, we headed to the Golden Horseshoe Theatre to catch the "Billy Hill and the Hillbillies" show.

We were laughing and having a fine old time, when the building started to shake. The chandeliers were swaying, furniture was know where I'm going with this, don't you? Yep...the first earthquake worth talking about in Southern California in 10 years happened to us! The performers ran off the stage, and the Disney employees came out from behind the counter. I confess: We thought it was part of the show. We are Texans, after all, and this WAS our first earthquake! But when the show failed to go on, and people started yelling, and they evacuated the building...well, there's your sign. We walked out into the sunlight to a sea of people. All the rides had been shut down, and everyone was glued to their cell phones. It didn't take long to figure out what was going on!

We opted to leave the park, rest up at the hotel, and try to return later in the day. While we were walking down the sidewalk, my brother called me--he had heard about the quake on CNN and wanted to make sure we were OK. I was walking and talking and managed to leave Hubs in the dust. I turned around to see that he was chatting it up with a stranger (unusual for my beloved introvert), so I went back. Turns out the stranger was wearing a press pass and wanted Hubby's take on the earthquake experience.

5 hours later, my brother called me back. He said, "Um, I don't think that reporter was any old reporter. You might want to get online--your man is quoted in a news story on" The reporter was actually with the Associated Press, and the earthquake story has been reprinted, with Hubby's paragraph, in hundreds of newspapers across the country! We are STILL laughing about it!

After we took a nap and recovered from our 15 minutes of fame, we headed back to Disneyland.

The boys each got Mickey ears, and we took them to the Mad Hatter shop to have their names embroidered on the back. We had a fun time trying on hats while we waited!

Just thinking about the earthquake has tired me out. I'll try to finish up tomorrow...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

We're Back!

Our vacation was fantastic! The kids were good, the weather was perfect, Disney was fun--it couldn't have been better. Well, maybe could have done without that small natural disaster, but more on that later. For now, what you've all been waiting for:

The H. Family Summer Vacation (In Pictures)

Riding the shuttle bus at DFW Airport

Baby's 1st airplane ride...he did great!
Our first night in California at the Jolly Roger Hotel. Our boys were tired!

On Sunday we went to Newport Beach,

then checked into our new hotel, the Portofino Inn. We loved it there!

We ended Sunday with a dip in the (chilly) pool.

Monday....Disney Day!

Waiting for the gates to open........

Excited to be in Fantasyland!!!

Checking out the animals on the Jungle Cruise

And if you're wondering why Baby missed this picture....

It was a long day at the Happiest Place on Earth.

More to come...........