Tuesday, May 24, 2005

It's a happy day

Why? Because today, my mother is a one-year breast cancer survivor.

May 24, 2004. I didn’t usually call mom in the morning. And I don’t remember why I did on this particular morning. But for some reason, I sat down in my classroom and dialed her number. Her crying voice picked up on the other end and said, “I have cancer.” I had a vague recollection that she had gotten a lump checked out. We cried together on the phone for a while. But I had to say goodbye and collect myself. I would have 16 kindergarteners invading my classroom in a matter of minutes. The following week brought uncertainty, a plethora of cards and pink flowers, and a schedule for surgery.

Come the middle of June, mom would have two lumpectomies. The second was on my 24th birthday. They removed the two lumps and 19 lymph nodes, 3 of which were positive.

By the end of July, she was starting chemotherapy. The total of eight treatments took place every two weeks and would bring her right into November. I had the humbling opportunity to accompany her on two of these trips. The chemo took a toll on her body (and hair), but her spirits were stronger than ever. She amazingly continued working through all of this.

Around Thanksgiving, mom started a 6 ½ week course of radiation. Her hair started growing back around Christmas, and her attitude remained as positive as ever. By the middle of January, we were celebrating the end of cancer treatments.

The next few months progressed without any major changes. A couple of doctor’s appointments just for check-ups.

And now, here we are, one year later. Celebrating life. Celebrating strength. Celebrating God’s faithfulness.

So much in me has risen up in this year of watching someone so dear to me play with the crappy hand life dealt her. I remember at one point, toward the end of chemo, she wrote these words:

“So now I'm looking back, and I realize that if the cancer comes back I won't go to pieces! Some might read that as me not having faith that God has healed me. That's not it at all. I know that the Lord walked with me every step of the way. He was so close and so dear. My family and friends were amazing. I may never have to deal with cancer again. But if I do, I'll be okay.”

That gave me such hope as her daughter. I certainly don’t want to watch her go through it again, but knowing that she know she’s going to be okay makes me feel okay. I also felt that if I ever had to go through this myself, I wouldn't be scared.

Fear also rose up at more than one point along this journey. The realization that breast cancer was now part of our family medical history was less than exciting. Watching mom deal with nausea, pain, and fatigue was unbearable. Wanting so badly to help her but not knowing exactly how to was tough.

I remember feelings of thankfulness being prominent. At every point of the journey—the diagnosis, the treatments—there was something to be thankful for. That the lumps weren’t bigger. That more lymph nodes weren’t positive. For the amazing doctors and nurses that were in charge of her care. There was always an overwhelming feeling of the preciousness of life.

By the grace of God, we all made it through the whole ordeal. And just as mom had said, we don’t want to do this all over again, but we know God holds our lives in His amazingly loving hands, and we can’t do anything but trust Him.

My mom is an incredible woman of God. I’m glad that I can call her my best friend. And today I’m glad to call her a survivor.

11 comments:

jeffmacsimus said...

Wow. As I entered the last paragraph of this post, the song on iTunes ended, and I heard a guitar start strumming followed by these words:

All of You is more than enough for all of me,
Every thirst and every need.
You satisfy me with Your love and all I have in You
is more than enough.

It's like God provided you with a soundtrack! Praise the Lord for His faithfulness to you and your mom! I celebrate and worship with you.

-Lisa- said...

I told this to you already today, but I love you. And I also love your mom and family! When I think of your family I think of real love and honesty. Not pretending things are okay, but recognizing that cancer is awful and sucks, you all marched through it and trusted our mighty God in times of uncertainty and doubt.
I rejoice with praise and thanks to God! You're mom's a survivor! Amen!

Vicki Degner said...

I am proud to call your mom my best friend. I am proud of you, her faithful, caring daughter. Today I was remembering the phone call 1 year ago right after your mom talked to you. We all dug in and met God together in Peggy's journey with breast cancer. I will never forget "Who Am I?" by Casting Crowns, your mom's anthem. God does not hand us over to the enemy, but sets our feet in a wide place!(Psalm 31:8) Yeah Peggy!!!

Duane said...

Erin, You've been a wonderful daughter and friend during this journey. Mom and I truly appreciate you love and support. We could not have walked this road alone. God's grace and love with all of the support of family and friends helped us take each step. Thanks for all your help. Love, Dad

david said...

Congratulations!

I can definately relate to you and your Mom on this one. I had to go through the whole cancer thing 8 years ago and it is amazing how quickly it can change your life. One minute everything is normal, then the next you go to the doctor and a week later you've had several surgeries and are on chemo and radiation for the next 6 months.

Over comming all that and being able to re-establish some normalcy is worth celebrating!

Mom said...

Erin, you are such a blessing to me. Can you believe all that's happened this past year? And we did it together. You and me and Dad and Sean. And all our amazing friends and family. I love remembering the sweet times we had in the chemo room, and hearing others' stories. Weird to have chemo and sweet in the same sentence! :) So I'm a "Survivor"!! This has been quite the reality show! The reality is that I know whose I am.
Love,
Mom

Mbolton said...

Erin,I thought of you and your entire family yesterday since you told me Monday your mom's one year was upon us. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is a gift beyond words. Your mom wrote in her comment, "The reality is I know whose I am." Nothing will ever change that, not even cancer.
~Peace.

Jan said...

Life is so short. Every day so precious. I celebrate with you your journey into faith and hope this last year. May the presence of God continue to guide and companion you in the days ahead.

Danb said...

Your strength and tenderness are incredible! Traits which you definately brought with you from an incredible family! Walking through this with you Erin, was an amazing testimony to me... The way you love people is simply amazing. You're a true friend, incredible daughter, and AMAZING wife! oh man this is getting gushy... Love ya!

I'm out!

oh and Peggy! watching you hold on to the hem of His garmet was amazing to watch. Blessings! and may He always place your feet on high places! Oh! and thanks for being a hip (that means kind, loving, fun, etc...) mother-in-law!

Peace

YIKES i'm sooo wordy!

Marian said...

Hey sweetie! I was on the phone with your mom last night waiting to find out who would be the next American Idol (my TV was acting up and I didn't want to miss the big moment!) After all that was done, we talked about the big anniversary. What a year it was! I was blessed to be able to spend time with your mom (my favorite sister BTW) both in June at surgery time and in October in the middle of chemo. I was in awe of the love that surrounded her - family, friends, church. It was amazing. You are a wonderful daugher, Erin (and a pretty neat niece!)

Katie Wegner said...

Hey Erin,
I feel you girl. My mom is now I believe 6 years out and my what a wonderful feeling that is. I just wanted to say as I embark upon my 60 mile journey for breast cancer in a couple weeks, your mom and you will be the ones that I will be walking for! Miss you.