First of all, I had the opportunity to share with a friend (Heather) her last round of chemo Wednesday! I told her it sounded weird to say that I had a great time with her during her last treatment, understanding the fact that she does have cancer, but it was such a joyous occasion! All of the nurses were happy for her, as were all of her supporters she has had through this journey so far. Here's where God stepped in in a mighty way and orchestrated some important events...
I have Heather's son in my class this year. I had not met Heather or her son until this year. In October is when we, as teachers, begin our conferences with the ending of the first 9 weeks of school. Heather sen a letter with her son explaining that she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and that she would need to conference earlier than everyone else because of her upcoming surgery. I was so heart-broken at this news to say the least. I wrote a letter back explaining mine and Brad's story and how life can be turned upside down so quickly it leaves our head spinning. A few weeks passed after finding this out before I was laying in bed (Sunday, October 27) when I had the thought to do a self-check on myself. My thoughts were, "I'm 28, there's no need to really check as often as people say to do, or ever. This is one of those things that happen to others, not me." Well, was I surprised when I felt a lump! I sat up and still felt it. Brad felt it. Lifted my arm, laid back down, still felt it. I had the urge to freak out, but was still thinking, "Surely this is nothing. I'm so young." This next morning in the shower, it was still there. I called my OB-GYN Monday and his nurse told me to come after school and they would check it out. Sure enough, he felt it too! This is when I began to freak out! If he could feel it right away, I knew something was wrong. He made an appointment for me to have a mammogram Tuesday. I get to the doctor's office Tuesday and they tell me they want to do an ultrasound first because most of the time with people my age it's nothing to worry about. So they do the ultrasound, that doctor looks at it, and now they want me to have the mammogram; at 28 this is blowing my mind! The mammogram showed something "suspicious" which means now it's time to meet with a surgeon. We met with our surgeon Wednesday and he told us it would be better to go ahead and remove the mass instead of trying to have a needle biopsy done. He scheduled the surgery for the next morning, Halloween. How appropriate, right? Within 5 days, I find a lump, meet with 3 doctors and have surgery to have a breast mass removed, crazy!! I'm not going to lie and say that all of this did not completely freak me out, but I had this peace about the whole situation. When the thought that this could be cancer creeped in, I had to shut it out and pray that God would bring us through this next hurdle. I tried not to psyche myself out too much because I absolutely do. not. do. needles!!! I didn't cry (because of the surgery) until surgery day when I'm back in the prep room when they come to put me to sleep before taking me back. Then it all hit me. I cried just knowing what was about to happen and then I was out. They said the surgery took longer than expected, but we are used to this at this point. They said it would take a few days to know the results. A few days when waiting to hear news of this magnitude is like weeks! This was on Thursday, I recovered over the weekend and was back at work Monday. Thankfully, the doctor called Monday and the mass was benign. What a relief! Of course, the human side of me was thinking, "Why would God allow this to happen when it wasn't cancerous in the first place? Haven't we been through enough?" But God is always working behind the scenes and He continues to be faithful!
On a much happier note Brad and I have recently gotten new bicycles! Brad had been riding a loaner hand-cycle from the rehab center to see if this was something he would be interested in. It was a great trial because we were actually able to get out and be "normal" while riding. Brad had submitted paperwork to see if it would be possible for his bike to be covered financially. We were told probably not, but they would turn in the paperwork and see what happens. That was late summer, early fall. We hadn't heard anything from the company so we were expecting to pay out-of-pocket for a bike. And, of course, the bike I had been riding was my middle school bike so I was in desperate need for a new one as well. On January 14th, Brad got a call from the hand-cycle company saying that they had a purchase requisition for a bike for Brad and needed to know what color he wanted! Are you serious? Nothing for months and then out of the blue we are getting one! God is so good! Brad was able to pick the color and some other personalized options and the bike arrived about 3 weeks later! Before Brad's bike arrived, my mom and one of her friends were at our house and I was just telling her about Brad's bike working out and how we were going to buy me a new one. My mom's friend offered to buy my new bike! This is crazy! We go from thinking we are going to be out quite a bit of money to not having to pay for any of it! We went to look at bikes and found one that I really liked! I sent my mom's friend a picture and she said, "Get it!" Financially, God has showed up in HUGE ways since the accident! Everything medically costs so much, but we have never been in need or want. God has taken such a huge weigh off of our shoulders!
Lastly, we recently had the privilege of meeting Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband, Ken! We were in Lifeway and Brad was getting his name put on his new Bible when the girl behind the counter thought she knew Brad and was trying to make that connection. It turned out not to be anything and she left the store after Brad paid because it was the end of her shift. We stayed in the store looking around when she came back in and found us. She sat down beside us and asked if Brad had a spinal cord injury. Brad said he did and she told us her brother did as well. He was in a diving accident when he was 15. He's now in his 30's, lives in Arizona, and is married with a baby now! We asked her if she knew who Joni is since she was also in a diving accident in her teens. She didn't know her but told us that Joni was going to be in Jackson on February 28th! We couldn't believe this because we talk about Joni daily at our house! She is such an inspiration to all who know her and her story. So we marked this date on our calendar and waited. In the meantime, we emailed Joni (not knowing who would actually read the email) explaining our story and wondering if we could meet her after the conference that Friday night. At the bottom of the email I noted our blog address, just in case. We got a response from Martie at her Jackson office inviting us to meet Joni at a meet-and-greet that Sunday afternoon. So pumped we would actually get to meet and talk with her! So we are still waiting for the "Joni weekend" when someone calls from our church telling us Joni was going to be at Belhaven Saturday night! Three opportunities to listen to her testimony and finally get to meet her! Friday and Saturday were awesome, her story touching and humbling. Sunday came and when we pulled up there were so many people. Brad and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing, "We are never going to get to talk with her." However, we got there right after Joni and Ken arrived and followed them into the gym, still unsure of how the events of the afternoon would happen. Joni and Ken were gathered with Martie and some others from the Jackson office so we headed their way. Once we got close enough Martie said she knew exactly who we were. That means that she had read our blog to know what we looked like! Wow! She introduced us to Joni and Ken and Brad gave a short version of our story. Ken graciously gave us a copy of their book they wrote together about their marriage. Joni signed this book and her autobiography we brought with us! Since Joni loves to draw and paint Brad brought a copy of the oil painting of his motorcycle for Joni to have. She was so impressed with his ability and grateful for this gift. We asked her what she does for her pain (she also deals with chronic pain daily) and she mentioned drinking lots of water but not taking medicine because of the anxious feeling they gave her. She said she would send us some information and for me to put our mailing address on the back of the picture. She then looked directly at me and said, "I promise I'll send you some information on pain." She took the extra step and sincerely said she would do this, this was not something she was simply saying in passing. How considerate! Joni spoke to the group a little later and then Brad and I left. 8 days later, this past Monday, there was a package in our mailbox from Joni with a personalized letter. She said how nice it was to meet us, she wished we lived closer together, how talented Brad is, and enclosed DVD's with study guides about pain and disability. Joni held true to her promise, and quickly at that! What a blessing she has been to our family!
In Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story, Joni shares what Alan Redpath (a British pastor and author) wrote, "There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose." What a great source of comfort for us all when life is not what we expected!
"Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles He performs for people!"
Us with BJ at MC's 2nd soccer State Championship!
Ally loves to nest in our clothes, and this is her favorite spot on the couch!
Does it get any cuter than this!!