When Oceans Rise…

This time last year, I was piled up on the beach. Waves crashing, sand between my toes, kids running and laughing, ocean breeze…you catch my drift. Sounds like fun, huh? Well, it was…other than the fact that my mind and heart were some 335 miles away. Our then 2 year old niece, Anna, had a tumor on her brain. They were going in the next day to do a biopsy. Regardless of results, the tumor would have to be removed eventually. Again, I was 335 miles away. I had been there for every surgery (small and large) she had since she was born. My nieces and nephews are literally like my own. My heart hurts just as bad for them as it does my own kids. How was I going to make this trip back home on such short notice, alone? Or…how was I going to be anywhere near functional and sociable if I stayed? My sister assured me that it was ok, for us to enjoy our vacation and my birthday (which was the same day as the biopsy). After deciding to stay in Florida, I couldn’t really take her advice and enjoy anything…so I prayed. We prayed. Under a beach tent, in our beach chairs, holding hands, we prayed. My father-in-law said the most powerful, heart felt prayer you could ever hear…all for our baby girl.

Early the next morning, the day of the biopsy, I was up with the sun. I am not a morning person AT ALL, but I had worried myself so much I couldn’t sleep. My husband and I decided to walk over to the beach to pray. I’ve said this a million times, but there is just something about looking into the great unknown, seeing the beauty of it all, knowing God made that, and He is in control of it…it’s absolutely breathtaking to me. As we stood there holding hands and praying, I couldn’t control the tears. After praying, I sat down in the sand as my husband tested out the water. I turned on Pandora radio and none other than “Oceans” by Hillsong United came on. If you aren’t familiar with Pandora radio, it just plays random songs from whatever genre you choose to listen to. And…if you aren’t familiar with that song, go YouTube it. My mouth seriously dropped. I knew at the very moment that God had this all under control, just as He has the ocean under control. A peace came over me like never before, followed by a rainbow in the distance. God is an on time God!

A few hours later, I got a phone call that the doctor decided the biopsy was not necessary at that moment. Anna, my sister, my brother-in-law, and everyone back home had already made it to the hospital, expecting the biopsy to be done. They had already prepped Anna. Everyone was as prepared as they could be, BUT, God intervened. The doctors wanted to go ahead and schedule surgery to remove the tumor, and would biopsy it once the tumor was out. Yes, we were still nervous about brain surgery…but one brain surgery was better than two. Especially on such a tiny baby girl, who had already been through so much, health-wise, in her 2 years of life. I, again, couldn’t control the tears. Under that same beach tent, we all held hands and prayed. This time, thanking God for this blessing…for intervening at the perfect time. Our God is an on time God!

Anna’s brain surgery was scheduled for June 17th. My family and I would still be at the beach, but I didn’t care what measures I had to go through, I was going to be there for her surgery. We looked up flights, I debated driving to Memphis alone (this still scares me thinking about it), we thought about cutting our vacation a few days short, etc. I was so confused on what the best decision was, so again…I prayed. Last minute, we decided that my husband and I would drive home the night before, be at the hospital in Memphis that morning, and as long as all went well, we would drive back to Florida after the surgery. The day came, our kids stayed at the beach with my in-laws, and we made our way to Mississippi. My sister, again, told us that it would be ok and for us to enjoy our vacation. I, however, took this as my “second chance”. I was NOT missing this surgery. We surprised my sister and brother-in-law that morning at the hospital. She may or may not have gotten on to me a little bit for coming home, but I know she would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot. Our bond is one I cherish with all my being. She told me when we hugged, “I didn’t want to sound selfish, but I really did want you to be here”. What she don’t know is I probably needed her worse than she needed me. She, besides Anna, is the strongest person I know. 

Surgery lasted a while, but the doctor finally thought they got all of the tumor. She was pretty positive that the tumor was benign, however, they would send it to St. Jude to do the biopsy. After making sure all was ok, seeing our sweet Anna in recovery, and saying our goodbyes, my husband and I made our way back to Florida.

A week or so later, everyone was back to reality, Anna had recovered well–considering, then…we got the dreaded phone call. The biopsy came back that the tumor was indeed malignant. I had always heard stories of that feeling you get when you hear those words, but never imagined it happening to our family. It causes a sick feeling I never knew possible. Here we were again, questioning and wondering. Why? How? What next? God, though. God showed us SO many times that He was (and is) in control! He has held Anna in His arms since day 1. He has calmed Anna’s parents when they needed it most. He has placed people in our paths just when we needed it. He has given peace and comfort to us when we didn’t think it was possible. He never failed us and He wouldn’t start now.

It’s been almost a year since this all started. It’s been almost a year since Anna started chemotherapy. A year full of ups and downs. A year full of sickness. A year full of figuring out what worked best. A year full of changes. A year full of isolation. But most of all, a year full of blessings!

Coming up the end of this month, Anna will take what we hope is her last chemo treatment. As long as the scans and lumbar puncture are clear, our little trooper will be done! Again, we pray! Always praying, because we know God is still in the healing business. We know what God can do. He’s never failed us, and He won’t start now.

If you, or anyone you know, are going through tough times…perhaps, been diagnosed with cancer. Don’t give up. Hold on. Pray. Believe. Trust God. Put your faith in Him.

“My soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine…”

– Aunt A

 

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Thanksgiving with Cancer

An American, family tradition. Thanksgiving Thursday at Grandma’s house, food galore, family you’ve not seen in a while, and SEC football. One of our most favorite days of the year. The one day we can pig completely out and not feel ashamed for going back for seconds…or thirds. Half of the room is red and blue, while the other is maroon and white.

Every year, before we say grace, we all gather in a circle, hold hands, and take turns saying what we are thankful for. We have a pretty big family, so our circle is more like a ginormous….shape….not sure what kind. Ha. Nonetheless, we are thankful for our big family. I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with this part of our family gathering, though. Not necessarily hate, but I dread it, because I know I will cry. Every year. It never fails. I am an emotional person. I get that from my Momma. Her Daddy always told her it just meant she had a big heart. So….I’ll not complain. My Granddaddy was a wise man. 🙂

Last year, my niece–Anna–had open heart surgery. It was April 2014. Long story short, she is the toughest little gal I know. She came through her heart surgery and recovery like a pro. I knew right away what I would say when it was my turn to tell what I was thankful for that Thanksgiving. God healed our baby girl’s heart!

Fast forward to June 2015. Anna had a brain tumor, and surgery was scheduled at LeBonheur. The surgery lasted a while, but once the doctor came out, she seemed pleased. They were sure they got all of the tumor and we’re almost positive it was benign. The tumor was sent to St. Jude for biopsy, though, to be certain. Again, Anna was a trooper. She recovered amazingly. A week later, our world was turned upside down. The tumor was not benign. It was a high-grade, agressive, malignant tumor called Anaplastic Astrocytoma. I don’t care how much you try to put yourself in that predicament, you are never prepared to hear those words.

I’ve always heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. When one child has cancer, that same village helps her fight. That village is ever so faithful prayer warriors. That village is our strength to stay positive when we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. That village is family, church family, and friends. That village is an amazing community. That village is Anna’s Army.

Thanksgiving 2015 is definitely one for the books. Yes, cancer is a horrible disease that I despise with all of my might. I hate so many things about it. I will pray for a cure until the day I die. However, it has made me be thankful for so much more than I ever have before. It makes me be thankful for the “small things” that I used to take for granted. It makes me thankful for that gray hair I found on my head. It makes me thankful for those nights my kids are driving me crazy. It makes me thankful that those doctors and nurses chose the career path they did. It makes me thankful for a niece that is tough as nails.

One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In EVERYTHING give thanks!

This Thanksgiving, I challenge you all to hold hands with your family, make a shape, and tell what you are thankful for. Think outside the box. God is faithful to us, we should be thankful to Him. Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

-Aunt A