One Year. And Counting.

This is a pretty big weekend and I’m in a pretty happy place …

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of our hot pink year. We’ve transitioned to pale pink for 2013 but “it’s still pretty pink on up in here” as my friends in South Dallas might say. I still sometimes don’t recognize myself in the mirror (the short brownish pixie has replaced the buzz and the grey pixie that replaced bald) and still laugh when others don’t recognize me (sweet note, Lori Pinto, and I certainly knew that the girl you hadn’t seen in years that looked quite different was a shocker whispering your name down the aisle in Bible study!) I still see a calendar full of more doctor’s appointments which is shocking for the girl who had never stayed in a hospital until Lincoln was born or had any health issues bigger than a broken finger. And I still feel like this has been one of the sweetest seasons of my life.

On this day last year, I very innocently and naively went to the doctor about the marble in my right breast. He thought it was a cyst and we scheduled another appointment. I came home without much worry and, later that night, Lincoln crawled for the first time. And that was far more noteworthy on that February 1st night than anything about my doctor’s appointment. By the next Tuesday, we sat in a surgeon’s office and, based on it’s shape, size, and the fact that I was nursing, he also surmised it was a cyst but would aspirate (hopefully) to confirm. When he left the office, Scott and I laughed feeling like we’d made “much ado about nothing” with both of us going to the appointment and Scott said, “sometimes you feel so stupid for coming to the doctor for something insignificant that you almost wish you had cancer to make it worth the trip …” We laughed and reminisced about a time that he’d gone to the hand specialist thinking something major was wrong with his hand and was met with a lot of compassion but the simplest diagnosis ever. Scott was embarrassed to come home and tell me. And it was so nothing that I can’t even remember what it was! But, we made up for any wasted trips to the doctor by the end of the appointment when the doctor turned very serious and also asked me how long I’d had the lump in my armpit. I responded with, “oh, that? yeah, I think it’s been there awhile … think they’re related?” Cancer 101: if you have a palpable lump in your breast and a lump big enough to feel in your armpit, you have an aggressive and invasive cancer. We knew something got serious and were asked to meet him at his office, between surgeries, on Thursday. Looking back, everything about that should have been a red flag but we were naive and aren’t prone to panic (at least not about cancer – maybe about a bad hair cut or something stupid I said or being late to church or the house being a mess … but not cancer!). We waited forever in his office that Thursday and my mom and Cynthia took turns with our little 8-month-old who was overdue for his nap in the waiting room. And then, so kindly and graciously and lovingly and tenderly as one could ever hope to hear, Dr. Kuhn called us back and told us that he regretted to tell us that I had cancer in both my right breast and lymph nodes and that he surmised I would begin chemotherapy immediately to try to shrink the tumor and control any spread and then have surgery followed by radiation. He predicted it perfectly. I responded with a deep and profound question … “will I lose my hair?” That summed up the extent of my knowledge of cancer. He let us go to the waiting room to tell Cynthia (whose mom had breast cancer so she’d been panicked and worried much moreso than we were) and hold Lincoln and call my mom who had gone back to work for a meeting. Her first words were, “it can’t be … I just knew it wasn’t cancer … it can’t be …” My first words were out of ignorance and her first words were rooted in a deep hope for another outcome. And then we all cried. Because Scott and I weren’t particularly worried, not very many people even knew we’d been to the doctor so I sent a text to friends who knew and were waiting updates. As I reflect on that text, I am laughing because I remember typing “boob” and thinking “why does everybody have to be so clinical?! Breast schmest. I’m gonna keep using boob” And from that day forward, everything changed. I’ve even matured enough to say “breast” more often than I say “boob.”

As I was sitting down to draft this, I got texts from Gigi and Jenn (unbeknownst to them what I was doing) as they had also remembered the date and were reflecting upon the year anniversary. This time last year, Jenn had driven to be with Gigi at Hyer Elementary and they sat in her office (with Molly on speaker phone) to cry and pray as they processed the news. How about that for precious friends?! And they haven’t missed a beat since then. And many many other friends and family have joined them in their prayers, tears, love, and acts of service.

At the end of this year, I find myself in awe of God’s grace, in awe of the body of friends and family and Christ at work in our lives and marveling at the incredible gifts of love and service and the random acts of kindness that have entertained and amazed us for a year.

I also stand in awe of the power of prayer because, though it was a hard year, it was infinitely easier than I expected – I didn’t say that it was easy. But it was easier than expected. We endured chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation along with the chaos of a world turned upside down and motherhood much better than I could have expected – with the help of friends and the incredible power of prayer. Oh, and not to mention that we hadn’t even had our second wedding anniversary so we aren’t exactly ‘experts’ on this whole marriage thing and loving each other sacrificially and dying to self and getting over a combined 85 years of singleness! But people prayed and God answered. I can’t tell you how many days, especially in the summer when the heat picked up and we were on the backside of 22 weeks of chemotherapy that I would think “people must be praying because there’s no other explanation for the fact that, though I need a lot of help, I am not completely horizontal or miserable.” I was tired, weary, often overwhelmed, and sometimes sick or grumpy … but never miserable. God graciously sustained us. And y’all were faithful to pray toward that end.

Not only is my heart in a happy place but my body is headed to one too. As we completed radiation, I received a card in the mail with a sweet note of encouragement and a gift card to Wildcatter Ranch for a weekend away with Scott. I was speechless. The Quicks are definitely good friends but not our closest friends and this was so thoughtful and generous that I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. And the timing was such a sweet gift from the Lord. Other friends had very generously given us a trip to Puerto Rico (a fun place neither of us had been and were excited because we love ourselves some beach!) using their miles and their corporate apartment and we’d scheduled, way back in the early fall, to take the trip on our year anniversary weekend. So fun! However, a couple months ago, the trip fell through because of logistics totally out of their control. We then marveled at the Lord’s timing for someone else to give us the gift of a weekend away the exact same week the other trip fell through. The Quicks have a baby girl that was born just 7 days after Lincoln so not only did they give us a weekend away but they also asked if they could keep Lincoln to play with Campbell! So, today, Lincoln is shacking up with an adorable 20 month old and I’m shacking up at a ranch with my boo. I can’t wait. As I said in my opening, I’m in a happy place. And it’s about to be happier as soon as we get on the road.

Speaking of roads, it’s been a long one since February 1st of 2012. And we’ve needed lots of pit stops and roadside assistance along the way. We are so thankful for the family and friends who have made a really bump road quite tolerable – and, oftentimes, even enjoyable. That reminds me of one of the very first verses I included in an email or blog … and it’s as true today as it was then …

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

He has led this blind and clueless girl down a path of cancer that I had not known. He has guided us down unfamiliar paths. He has turned our darkness into light and made the rough places smooth. He has done this. He has not forsaken us.

To God be the Glory. Great things He has done.