Friday, March 11, 2011

Rain and Sunshine

I know my blogging has been sparse over the last couple of years. I've always kind of thought of my blog as a kind of therapy for me. A place where I can retell our stresses and daily lives with a bit of humor (hopefully) and a new perspective. However, the last two years held what seemed like one life-changing battle after another. We all go through storms in our lives but, to us, it seemed like a never-ending tsunami of grief and uncertainty. Don't get me wrong, we had our good times and every day spent watching our children grow and learn was, of course, a blessing. But, everyday had this little shadow hanging over it. I'll start in December 2008, on the day my perfect world came crashing down.

Mom has cancer. She had found a lump, sought testing, and was informed just a couple of weeks before Christmas that she had breast cancer. She spent Christmas in the hospital that year because, during an attempt to put in a port, her lung was nicked and collapsed.

In the midst of this, we found a lump on Memphis's lower back between his spine and his skin. We were advised that is was probably a cyst, but the location was concerning, and they wanted to remove it.

In January 2009, my grandfather was diagnosed with esophagus cancer.

In February, Memphis had his surgery to remove what turned out to be a tumor, not a cyst. The good news- not cancer. Just some kind of random tumor. Honestly, the doctors did not have a specific diagnosis. Not cancer was good enough for me.

Also in February, my step-dad's sister died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Mom had her mastectomy in March. The surgery went well, but she had months of chemo and radiation in her future.

April brought the death of my grandfather. He went in to have his tumor removed after months of treatment to shrink it. He never made it out of surgery.

Somewhere in these months (you'll forgive my memory failure please) doctors found a tumor in the center of my father's brain. Not only could they not operate, they couldn't even biopsy. And they couldn't tell whether or not it was growing. A waiting game they said. Easy for them to say.

May brought more surgery for Mom. I couldn't be with her this time because, of course, I somehow contracted the swine flu. This was when H1N1 was causing panic and I was unofficially quarantined in my home. Mom got through surgery ok though. I feel awful when I think about this surgery for her because Darrell, my step-dad, was in the hospital with pneumonia and I was home with swine flu. Thank God for a good friend of hers who went to be with her or she would have been totally alone.

Darrell was in the hospital for a lot of June.

Memphis had to have his tonsils and adenoids out in July. They were making it very hard for him to breathe, and having asthma, he just didn't need more obstacles there. He did well, but man, that was a rough 2 week recovery.

In August, I was forced to hand the reigns of my home to others while I had and recovered from a hysterectomy. By this time I knew pre-cancerous cells were nothing to mess around with. Better to get rid of them.

Mom had several bad reactions and arm infections (due to her lack of lymph nodes from the mastectomy) and other problems over these months.

Over the next couple of months, we were on a roller coaster ride with Mom's results. First, things were looking great, she was moving from chemo to radiation, and was finally on her last radiation treatment. Then, they found spots on her lungs. Metastasized breast cancer.

And, Memphis's tumor returned. Bigger and badder than ever. Removal was suggested once again. We asked for a quick surgery date and in December we checked him in again, praying for the same results as last time.

Mom had to have her spots biopsied and, once again, her lung collapsed resulting in yet another hospital stay.

Memphis's tumor again came up benign, but the doctor warned us that it was likely to make another return. Turns out, it had many tentacles and they were fairly sure they had not removed them all.

He developed an infection in the incision site and ended up with a hole as big around as a quarter and more than a half inch deep. It took months to heal and was very painful for him. The surgeon said that when (he said when, I was thinking if) the tumor came back they wanted to remove it again and keep it alive, feeding it until they knew what it would turn into. This was the first time I realized they had no idea what it really was. I didn't care; it wasn't cancer.

My sister-in-law, Kim, was pregnant. She was due in July but noticed in May that something wasn't right. The baby wasn't moving. The doctors paid her no attention until she just kept going back. Finally they did an ultrasound and realized Kim's placenta had torn partially away from her uterine wall. They did a c-section and precious baby Hope Leigh was born into this world with very little blood left in her tiny body.

Her condition was touch and go for the first few days with even some of the doctors admitting they weren't sure she would make it. Those doctors should know by now that any baby born into this family would be a fighter.

Mom was approved for a new therapy called a cyber knife, some kind of ultra concentrated radiation. Unfortunately, the CT scan just before she would have the treatment revealed many more lesions and cyber knife was no longer a consideration.

Hope spent many months in the NICU before being released to go home. Her release day was a great celebration.

In October 2010, we discovered that many of Mom's lesions had disappeared and the remaining ones were smaller. She had a few more chemo treatments and then a PET scan. All of the leftover lesions were cold. What a joyful day it was when this was found.

Hope spent more days in the hospital in December after having surgery to repair a heart defect.

Dad had surgery in December too. His nasal cavity was full of papillomas which needed to be removed. When he went back for his checkup in January, they were all back and then some. The doctor said that the speed at which they had grown back so thickly pointed to cancer and that the proximity to his brain did not bode well. He was immediately scheduled for another surgery to be done in February.

Here's a miracle for you. When he went back in February, his pre-surgery scan showed that the cavity was 85% clear. From 100% blockage one month to 85% clear the next with no treatment other than some routine pre-surgery antibiotics.

Since then, we have been without incident which is more than welcome. We are all weary, no one more so than my mother whose fight and tenacity I have never seen the equal.

We are praying that the storm is over. It was an especially long and intense journey and, even as I read over what I have written here, I can't believe we all made it through. I really believe that if we did not have our faith in God, we would have been lost to depression or worse, hopelessness.

I believe we were under attack. Maybe it was a test of faith, maybe a strengthening by fire. I don't know if we'll ever know, but these events have made me so much more grateful for love and family. I believe they have made me a better mom, and hopefully, a better wife, daughter, sister, aunt. I know my faith is stronger. I no longer hesitate to present my requests to God with thanksgiving for all he has blessed me with.

Cody turned 10 in January.

Carson will be 7 in March.

Meyson turns 18 in April.

My brother, Bill, is taking me and Mom to New York in May, right before precious Hope has her first birthday.

In June, Silas will turn 3, Brianna 14, and Memphis will be 5.

We will all celebrate Mom's 50th birthday in July. That's going to be a big celebration!

Brad and I will have our 4th anniversary in August.

These are the miracles I am looking forward to. The blessings that will overwhelm us for the next few months.

We will celebrate these with full knowledge that we don't deserve any one of them. They are gifts and will never again be taken for granted. God is good!

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