My last six months of recovery have flown by. I have regained strength and can enjoy a variety of exercise without any of those worrisome side effects. I've discovered a genuine interest in learning to honor God with my health. How can I care for this body He has restored to life? How can I accept the changes that have occurred within me and celebrate each day of energy He's proportioned for my careful use? It means celebrating the changing leaves along the Great River Road, embracing the crisp fall air that accompanies football Sundays, and trying to find something beautiful in slushy winter weather (I find a SoyJoy from Starbucks to be helpful!)
It means standing in wonder before God and his ability to take a body that was clinging to life just one year ago and make it strong enough to create and sustain the life of a new little person this year:
There's a lot to celebrate these days!
We are anticipating the arrival of our son in early June. Crazy. Maybe it's fitting, since this whole cancer journey really began with a desire to have a baby over two years ago.
I try to remember this. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with gratitude as I look at our Christmas tree and remember how different I felt last year, gazing at the lights and ornaments from under comforters on the couch. But honestly, it's usually hard to remember. Life has moved on. We have moved on and it would be so simple to forget that cancer ever happened. (A doctor once told me this whole thing would seem like a small "blip" in our lives and I wanted to kick him...turns out he was kind of right.) This started to freak me out a little, like moving on would mean loosing some essential part of myself.
As things return to normal I realize there are some parts of this journey I wouldn't return, some parts of myself that I need, like learning to lean on friends, living each day to its fullest, saying "yes" to what matters most more often, and dancing every morning. In some ways, cancer was a gift.
Just to be clear, I don't think God sat in heaven contemplating cancer and concluded "Wow, Ashley will just LOVE the present I picked out for her this year! Can't wait for her to open it!"In fact, I think He's a far better gift-giver than I usually give Him credit for, but I do think He took this one opportunity to bring a dagger of His kingdom's beauty plunging into the heart of the kingdom of evil. And yes, cancer still totally sucks.
We did find a couple of ways to find closure and move on from the cancer era. First, my friends planned an incredible party where I smiled and laughed more than I had in months. Donut-eating contests, pig piñatas, and a three-legged race with Jonathan where we gathered far too much speed and skidded into a downhill face-plant, were a few highlights.
Second, Jonathan and my parents joined me in a fundraiser for blood cancer research called "Light the Night" which culminated in a late-night walk through Forest Park with illuminated balloons. It was a powerful experience. I felt connected to a new community as red-balloon supporters walked hand-in-hand with white-balloon survivors of all ages. I especially loved it when an elderly gentleman spontaneously escorted his white-balloon wife to an open space where they danced before hundreds of smiling onlookers. He had clearly learned life was too short to skip a good dance.
Then there were the gold balloon bearers; the most beautiful, by far. There was a unanimous, unspoken, respectful sort of pause when you saw one of these, as you knew the person carrying that gold balloon was here to testify about a life taken by blood cancer. Each gold balloon-bearer was a witness to the memory of a loved one that had bravely fought the cancer fight, and they walked as ones set apart. These were survivors of a loss each of us had feared but not had to experience.
As Jonathan stated, "It's sometimes easy to forget that we went through cancer this year, but impossible not to remember when I see you walking around with a big white balloon." Light the Night had a beautifully somber and respectful tone as we showed the world (or at least the park) the reality of cancer, but was also surprisingly light-hearted and celebratory. After walking the equivalent of a 5K with my family and new friends, we crossed a finish line with live music and enough energy to dance our way to our car...and then to Ted Drew's to replace all of those calories we lost.
|"I walk because my life depends on it"|
So from Jonathan and myself and the very bottom of our hearts, thank you again, for your support and love and for making sure that we never felt alone.
Hem, The Meeting Place
On the oldest day, that the world has known, I will meet you in the place we share.
And it's not okay,
But you're not alone.
I will find a way and meet you there
And all the ships are lost on the river, I'll swing a light on the safest shore.
And it's not okay,
But it's not too late.
Cuz we're not alone anymore.