Friday, March 1, 2013

one year later

what i remember
I remember it snowed.  The first words out of the doctor's mouth still ring in my ears sometimes, "it's not good."  I remember there was peace.  I remember he was calm, so maddeningly calm.  I remember finally laying my head on his chest in that tiny room and telling him I was trying so hard to be strong.  I remember the pictures of his tumors, how unhealthy they looked.  I remember listening to a surgeon tell me she wouldn't perform his surgery because it was too complicated.  I remember the cars in my driveway.  I remember watching the world around me keep moving when mine had come to a screeching halt.  I remember scriptures, and how much strength the words of God running through my head gave me.  I remember him lying alone in the dark with his hoodie over his head.  I remember the sweater I was wearing.  I remember the sound of him sobbing as he changed our baby's diaper, not knowing how much longer he would be on the earth to watch her grow.  I remember, miraculously, we all slept so soundly.  I remember my babies in my bed and for once not wishing they were in their own.

Today I was so happy to do normal things.  I took my daughter to preschool.  I cleaned, vacuumed, and wiped down counters.  I fed children lunch.  Today marks one year since Wes was diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer.  As the one year anniversary of this day drew nearer, memories that I had seemed to repress started bubbling to the surface.  It was as if a they were locked in box, sitting on a shelf, in the back of my mind. Only to be unlocked around this time of year. Today we celebrated how far we have come. This last year was filled with so much hurt an uncertainty, but mostly I remember laughing and little girls and parks and rec probably because I choose to remember that.
Is it strange to celebrate a day when our lives were derailed?  These days I will take any excuse to have a party.  So a party is what I planned.  There were balloons, and food, and family, and cake.
We watched a slideshow I put together of the last year and then sent lanterns into the sky.
We've come so far.  We have such wonderful family and friends who celebrated with us and remembered just how stupid this day was for us one year ago.

what march means
March is colon cancer awareness month.  I still can't believe Wes was diagnosed on wear blue for colon cancer day.  I think it is neat that his diagnosis anniversary falls on that day.  We all dressed in blue today.
Wes's grandmother died of colon cancer in her 40's.  We always knew we wanted him screened early.  Age thirty was when he was expected to get his first colonoscopy.  But at the age of 28 he found himself in pain and going to the bathroom more then he should have been.  What was at first diagnosed as hemrroids, became worse and worse until a colonoscopy was needed to investigate further.  Stage 3 colon and rectal cancer was discovered.  His doctors urged his family members to get screened and many did.  Since then one sister, two cousins, and a friend, all in their twenties, have found pre-cancer in their colonoscopies and will be saved from a fate like his, thanks to him.  He is a hero.  Colon cancer is very treatable if caught early or can even be sliced off in the initial colonoscopy if it is a precancerous polyp.  It is recommended that every person over the age of 50 be screened.  March means get yourself or your loved one screened if they are over that age or if things don't seem right.  Just your friendly reminder to check your poo.

what i want you to know
Why does growth hurt so much?  It is in times of trial that we really stretch ourselves beyond what we ever thought we are capable of.  Cancer has pushed me to my limits and beyond.  I hate the way I learned these things, but am grateful for the opportunity to learn them.  I want you to know that you are stronger then you think.  The things you think you can't handle, that are too hard, too much, too painful can be done.  Your strength is added upon you.  Angels are round about you to bear you up.  I have sometimes felt the prayers of others have kept me afloat.  And sometimes when I am very quiet, I can almost hear the eternal part of me whispering, "it's okay."  Because it will be, even if it won't be okay in this life, one day it will be.
I want you to know that you can be grateful for trials.  A few months ago I was praying and I was prompted to express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for this trial.  I had no idea why I would say that when gratitude is certainly not my first thought when it comes to watching my husband suffer.  So without knowing why, I said I was grateful.  And instantly I was flooded with a remembrance of all my growth and the things I have learned along the way.  In that moment I truly felt grateful for all the growth this trial had given me, these are things that cannot be learned any other way.
I want you to know that there were a few days when Wes did not know how long he was going to live.  We did not know how far his cancer had spread. I want you to know what matters most.  I think Wes knows what matters most because he knows what it feels like to know that it all could be taken away.  He has stared his own death in the face.  And in those moments of truth, all that mattered was his relationship with God, his relationship with his family, and time.  I want you to know that he wasn't thinking about houses, or cars, or jobs, or toys, or things with no eternal importance.  He was thinking of eternal things, promises he had made to God and his family, things that matter most.  I want you to know that our perspective has changed.  Each day has new meaning and new life.  Each day is a special chance for you to be kind to your children, to love your spouse a little better, to make a new memory, or to draw closer to God.
I want you to know you should be a little kinder.  The day Wes was diagnosed I picked up food for us from a restaurant, I was walking around shell shocked that day.  As I turned to leave the cashier said, "have a great day."  Nothing mean, something very common, but I wasn't having a great day.  And there was no way she could have known what news this 25 year old mother of two had received that morning.  It hit me that we really have no idea what is happening in another person's life.  You don't truly know why they are driving distracted that day or yelling at their kids or acting aloof or angry.  Each is engaged in his own personal battles you know nothing about.  Be slow to anger and compassionate, they may need your compassion and kindness more than you will ever know.
I want you to know that you always have a choice.  Sometimes our choices bring about our trials.  Other times it seems we have no choice, it is what it is.  My husband had cancer and I can't change that.  But I do have a choice.  I can choose to be happy.  I can choose to see the blessings and not the things that seem unfair about my life.  Over the last year I had a little mantra that I started saying to myself.  I would tell myself, "I will not let cancer dull my sparkle.  I will not let the light leave my eyes."  It is a choice I had to make every day.  Some days were better then others.  That saying "endure to the end" is a funny one.  We are all going to get to the end of our days whenever that may be, but the trick is in the endure part.  The enduring is the little choices we make each day.  How will you endure?  The choice is yours to make.

the future
 As of right now Wes is cancer free.  He is in remission.  For the next five years they will monitor him closely.  He will have rectal exams and yearly CT scans.  Every three months they will draw his blood and look for a certain cancer marker.  If that starts to increase at all there is a good chance his cancer will have returned.  If you want the numbers here they are: for stage 3 colon cancer with the treatment that he underwent there is a 75% chance he will be cured after five years and a 25% chance of a recurrence.  The recurrence will usually happen on the liver or lungs.  I don't know what the future holds for him.  Sometimes when I start thinking too far ahead I start to panic.  I find my time is best spent thinking about here and now.  I have faith in a loving Heavenly Father's plan for us.  I don't know what that plan is, but whatever it is I am on board.  The future is truly as bright as your faith.  Here's to a better year!