It's been one year exactly.
One year since our lives were turned upside down. One year of uncertainty, of exhaustion, of pain, of joy, of trial, and of grace. One year since we first heard the devastating diagnosis of cancer.
I think I spent the greater part of the year in shock, and somewhat in denial. To think that the person most dear to you is seriously ill is overwhelming, and to care for a family in the midst of that illness requires a kind of emotional distance and an almost stoic attitude. I don't think that I actually fully grieved what we went through until the late fall or winter, after it was practically over.
I learned how much I can endure during difficult times and seasons, but not through myself. Through the One who gives endurance.
But he said to me, "My
grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that
Christ's power may rest on me. That
is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in
hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
There are two instances I remember so vividly when God carried me through in a miraculous manner. The first was the night of Ryan's second chemo treatment. He became extremely ill, despite the anti-nausea meds, and was vomiting so continually that I ended up calling my sister and brother-in-law to come and stay at our house while our daughter slept, so that I could take him to the ER.
It was already around 8 or 9pm when we went, and probably closer to 10 by the time he was in a bed and starting to receive an IV. The ER was packed that Friday night, and as I listened to a drunk mouth off the ER staff, I tried to make my 38 week pregnant body comfortable on the foot of my husband's bed (there were no extra chairs to be found), while he alternated retching and attempting to sleep.
I stayed vigilant, keeping an eye on the IV, which kept running out, as the ER staff were too busy to keep up with my husband's next bag of fluids. At about 2:30am, he told me to go home and sleep, so I did, reluctantly. I slept fitfully from 3:30 until 6:30, waking every hour to call and see how he was. Finally in the early morning they said he could come home, so I wearily went back to pick up my exhausted, but finally stable, hubby.
The amazing part of this was that only 3 days later, I spent the evening and half the night up with false labor, which finally died off, and then the next day started labor again at noon, with my husband by my side coaching me and had our son in the late afternoon- and I was not exhausted! I felt so well that by the weekend my midwife was trying desperately to convince me to slow down and stay off my feet! God gives us the energy we need to sustain us for the circumstances we find ourselves in. They do not catch him off guard- He is never surprised by any experience we walk through.
The second instance happened much later in the summer, on the day of Ryan's very last chemo treatment. Because it was the last one, and I now had two little ones under 3 to care for and no extra help that day (which was rare, because we'd had either Ryan's mother or friends from church every single other chemo weekend), he opted to be dropped off and picked up by me, rather than me having to figure out what to do with our toddler and newborn.
It was nearing the time when I expected to receive a call from one of the nurses to let me know he was ready to be picked up, when I received the call. It was a social worker from the hospital whom I had never met, with an urgency in her voice. She stated (quite matter-of-factly) that my husband had a Code Blue and that I needed to come to the hospital right away. "What's a Code Blue?", I asked. "It means he's gone into cardiac arrest. But I believe they've got him going again."
I hung up the phone, my heart practically beating out of my chest, and looked around frantically for a moment before grabbing the church phone directory. I called 13 numbers before someone answered . The dear wife of one of our pastors picked up and I managed to blurt out what had happened. Stunned, she asked what she could do, and I could only answer "Come" before bursting into tears.
Somehow I managed to pack up the children, including some extra clothes for the baby, and sped towards the hospital (which was providentially only about 8 minutes from our house). I nervously ran towards the Cancer Centre, babes in both arms, to find my husband lying in a bed, surrounded by nurses and doctors, but smiling up at me.
Unbeknownst to me, he had not gone into a full arrest, but they had proactively managed to prevent it with steroids and goodness knows what else. Unbeknownst to him, I had been told the worst. We shared a moment where he could see how visibly shaken I was, and he said it was one of the best moments of the summer, when he could see that despite my distance and need to stay strong and unemotional, that I cared so deeply and had been terrified of losing him.
Sleeping that night in the hospital room with him, my three month old snuggled on the cot beside me, it all felt so surreal. Was I really walking through this? Was this really my life and not someone else's? Was life truly this frail, this delicate, this precious?
Many times throughout the summer, friends asked me how I was getting through it all, and commented that they didn't know how I did it and still seemed to be holding it all together. My only answer for them was that God provides exactly what we need for each season, but it never comes before we need it. His mercies are new each morning. He provides only enough strength for that moment, that hour, that day... but it is enough and He never fails.
More reflections to come...