It’s been one year. One whole blessed year. Like marriage or a child’s age, it feels like a lifetime and yesterday all at once.
On December 11th, 2019, I was being prepped for surgery. My surgeon prepared my mind and body for the worst. A 17 cm mass engulfed my left ovary, hemorrhaging my abdomen, and causing me to bleed at an alarming rate. Cancer. An egg sack tumor the size of a grapefruit. Forever altering my probability of having more children. And scarring my body.
You can read more about my experience in last December’s blog post here.
I’ve had ghost pains the last couple of days. A body’s memory is a funny thing. But it’s only fear playing tricks on us.
I had so many fears last year. Fear of dying with unfinished business. Fear of leaving my family. Fear of the darkness. And fearing my life would remain the same. I had so much stress too. I had the most anxiety I’ve ever had. But I also had hope. Hope for a bright future. Hope that all this darkness would soon be behind me. Hope that the cancer would never return. Hope that our move south would change everything. And hope that God had the BEST in store for us.
The next few days of 2019 were a whirlwind to say the least: mountains of moving obligations, visits with family on all sides, goodbye visits with friends, and bidding farewell to all of our Pennsylvania life. 3 days before Christmas we journeyed to our new state. 11 hours of driving with only 3 short stops because we were so excited to go to our new home in South Carolina. You can read more about our move here.
I took things easy in January and February since I was instructed to not lift anything for 6 weeks after my surgery. Yeah, that was an interesting move-in to say the least. lol My 6-inch scar took a while to heal, but it closed with time. I became strong enough to walk the 1/2 mile to Riker’s school each day to pick him up. I met several amazing new friends as we waited for our kids at what’s called “the back path.” We had play dates, ice cream gatherings, and excursions to the local parks. I enjoyed a stress-free life for the first time ever!
Then covid hit. And fear crept its ugly head back in.
After my surgery, I had 3 doctors tell me I should get chemo “just in case.” But all 3 agreed that my blood work showed the cancer was most likely gone. “But,” they said, “there’s an 80% chance the cancer could returning within the first year. After that it goes down drastically, but, don’t you want to be sure?”
I always want to be sure. I’m a planner. A scheduler. I say I like surprises, but honestly, I just want to know everything. So, sure, I wanted to KNOW the cancer was gone for good. But, something didn’t feel right with these doctors’ words. I heard God plain as day to NOT get the chemo. So, I said no. No to the chemo. All 3 times. Once in December. Once in February. And once in June.
When the first rumors of covid hit the media over the winter my immune system was strong. Sure, I’d just been through surgery, but I was eating healthy, no crippling radiation coursed through my body, and the southern sunshine does wonders for the spirit! In fact, in all of 2020 my little family and I weren’t sick once. Not even a sniffle. Until a couple of weeks ago.
Thanks to living in a state with few lockdown regulations, and our thriving immune systems, we actually ENJOYED this year. We’ve climbed mountains, splashed in waterfalls, traveled to neighboring states, vacationed on the beach, sailed on ships, saw dolphins, went to small parties, enjoyed neighbor’s campfires, kayaked a river, refinished my dining room set, held a birthday swim party for Riker, toured a vineyard, tried countless different foods for the first time, had friends over, went to friends’ homes, went out for girls’ nights, and joined my church band. I wrote a novel, a picture book, and a short Christmas play. Riker learned to swim, then competed in several swim-meets and won a couple! Riker played flag football and scored a few touchdowns. We lived despite 2020!!!!
Then for Thanksgiving we journeyed back to Pennsylvania to visit our families. We were so excited to see everyone, but had anxiety about passing over the forbidden Pennsylvania boarders. You see, PA just instated a travel ban asking all travelers to quarantine for 2 weeks once entering the state or have a negative covid test within the last 72 hours. We don’t trust a 40% accurate rushed covid test, so that option was out of the question. We were only going to visit for 4 days, so 2 weeks quarantine didn’t make any sense. We didn’t know if we’d be met with a string of checkpoints from police officers checking out-of-state plates. We didn’t know if we’d be turned in by a whistle-blower. But I felt strongly about going. We hadn’t seen some of our family members in a year, and I feared we wouldn’t get another chance to see them again for awhile. -There’s that fear again.-
We stressed for several days whether going would be the right decision. We agonized over it. I could feel my immune system compromising as anxiety raked my body. On our drive up, a sore throat formed. The soreness stayed for the entire trip, but that was my only symptom. It forced me to not eat as much junk at Thanksgiving at least, but I worried that I might be coming down with a cold soon. Sure enough, the day after we got home a cold hit me full-force. I was tired to my bones, no appetite, and zero energy. I was couch-ridden for almost 3 days. But I never got a fever, no cough, and no congestion. By the evening of the 3rd day I felt like myself again. And that was it. A whole year of health except for a 3 day cold. I think that’s pretty impressive for a cancer survivor. But I wonder if I wouldn’t have been so healthy in this crazy year if I had accepted chemo. Guess I’ll never know for sure.
Fear stems from the unknown. I didn’t know if the cancer would return during my first year. I didn’t know what would happen when we crossed over the PA boarder. We didn’t know if we’d have to battle covid.
Instead of fear coursing through my veins this Christmas season, I’m so extremely thankful. I’m thankful the cancer is gone. It didn’t return this year. And I’m believing in Jesus my healer that it’ll NEVER return. I’m thankful we never hit a single obstacle during our Pennsylvania trip. It truly was a wonderful time with family. I’m thankful the cold, or whatever sickness I had, was short-lived and didn’t stay in our house for long. I’m thankful that Jesus is Lord over all. It’s been a blessed year of living. I pray you all had a blessed year too. Despite the obstacles of 2020.
This year had its challenges too. I got a few more scars, several sleepless nights, battled some surges of depression, got numerous book rejections, and struggled to keep it together. My life isn’t all roses and sunshine. But like I’ve said many many times before: it’s about perspective.
Near-death experiences definitely give you perspective on life. But like children, marriage, and a year of living in a pandemic, it can pass by in a blink or feel like eternity. It depends how much you live. I pray you all take the time to live.
“It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.” ~ Galatians 2:20