Saturday, August 9, 2008

Anniversary

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.

7 comments:

Panda-Mom said...

You are certainly a miracle, my friend! ; )

The Horton Family said...

I am sitting here with tears running down my face. What a story Allyson. What a story. God is bigger than all of this. God is in control for sure. And your baby boy is clear evidence of that. What a wonderful Maker we have. I am so glad He made you well. You are a wonderful person and I love you. I am so thankful you are in my life. Thanks for sharing this story.

Momma Wolg said...

I am so blessed to have you in my life. I'm so glad God had our paths cross.

Your story and strength are inspiring. I'm sure God will do wonderful things with your journey.

Much Love....

Clym Yeobright said...

Dear Allyson,

Your heart is beautiful.

Love,
Cousin # Something, Justin

3 Girl Mommy said...

I am finally home and catching up on your blog. LOVE your vacation pics and glad everyone had so much fun, despite the earthquake incident.

Your cancer anniversary is an awesome thing to celebrate!! I can't believe it's been a year. God is so wonderful and awesome!!! Your attitude and faith through the whole journey has been great. I love you and I am so thankful God put you in my life. You are an inspiration to me!!

Clym Yeobright said...

Check me out, I wrote you something.

CRIM said...

love you - happy to know you - and I thank God for you and your sweet family