Sunday, June 7, 2015

Survivors

Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day. June 7, 2015.

Almost 14 years ago, cancer touched my family in a very real way.  Until then, cancer was something that happened to other people.  To older people. To someone else's mother.  Until it happened to mine.

The day I learned my mother had breast cancer is burned into my memory.  I had stopped by their house, unannounced, to find her quietly reading and favoring her arm.  Just as she was explaining that she had just had a needle biopsy to determine if a lump in her breast was cancerous, the phone rang.

It was the doctor.

It was cancer.

That moment changed my life and the way I saw my mother forever.  Suddenly she who had always cared for others, needed caring for.  She who was always strong, needed the strength of those around her to get her through the surgeries, tests, chemo and its side effects and all of the accoutrements that go along with breast cancer.

She had amazing doctors and surgeons and they treated her cancer aggressively.  By the time I gave birth to our fist child in May 2002, we were able to celebrate two lives-a new life given and another life saved, she was in remission.  About 5 years later, she was declared cancer-free.

She was a survivor.  And we were so thankful to God for her healing, because we knew that He is the Great Physician and her doctors here on earth could only assist Him in His work.
 Then about 2 years ago I got the call from my Dad.

The cancer was back.  It had metastasized to her spine.  It apparently was a spot they had been watching for several years (I think since about 2010), but they were not sure what it was and it was not growing.  Then, suddenly, it was growing-and required action.

So, again, with skilled and gifted doctors, a plan was developed to address this new tumor.  This time there would be no radical surgery, no chemo.  It was not in a place that was easily operable, chemo was not the best option.  This time they went with radiation therapy and oral cancer-fighting drugs.  The tumor shrunk some, apparently enough to satisfy the doctors.  But, there was pain.  Pain from the tumor, pain from the radiation damage to her spine. 

She was quietly brave about all of it, never showing weakness or fear-at least not to me.  Sometimes I wish she would, but that is not who she is-at least not with me, and I do not love her one bit less for that.  She is my Momma and she wants to protect me at all costs, and I love her deeply for that.

This time it was different though.  The doctors said there will be no cure, no cancer-free celebration.  This type of cancer is not going to go away.  She will likely die with this cancer (not from it, mind you), it will always be a part of her now.

They call today National Cancer Survivor's Day, but my Momma has done more than survive-she has thrived.  She has allowed God to fill in the gaps in her faith with His steadfast love.  She has allowed Him to lean in during the times she has been afraid and remind her that nothing comes to us that has not passed through His hands.  She has played with her grandchildren and watched them grow, taking in every moment.  She has taught them, loved them, cherished them, and prayed over them.  She takes them swimming, kayaking, searching for shells on the beach, to museums and movies, to events at church.  She volunteers and serves her community through her church.  She sings on the praise team-her beautiful voice worshiping her Mighty Healer and Comforter.  She lives life every moment.

I have no words to express how much I love this woman, this survivor.  She is brave and beautiful and I am blessed to call her Momma.


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