I think it’s fairly safe to say that 2011 will stand as the most eventful year of my life. I’ve had my share of major life events, like most people – my wedding, the birth of my son (without doubt the most awesome thing I was ever part of), the adoption of my daughter (fulfillment of the hopes of many years), divorce, my marriage to Sam… but all of these were individual days or events or changes.
2011, however, packed into one year more than I could have imagined. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions; fear, hope, joy, disappointment, with an overriding knowledge of God’s presence and power at all times.
2011 started, of course, with the diagnosis of lymphoma and all of the attending emotions and thoughts: What happens now? Could I actually die from this? How bad will the treatment be? Will my life ever be normal again? And the thought that recurred over and over, dozens if not hundreds of times a day: Cancer? I can’t have cancer. How can I have cancer? The one overwhelming constant throughout all of this was a solid knowledge that this was for God’s glory. We became aware of that almost as soon as we got the diagnosis. It was as certain as if it was part of the diagnosis itself: “You have lymphoma and this is all for the glory of God.” We just knew it. As our pastor says, “You just know it in your knower.” And we did.
When I was going for the first test to confirm the diagnosis of cancer, God gave me a verse, Isaiah 41:13 I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. I held onto that verse through tests, surgery to insert a port so the chemo could go directly into my heart, all the treatments, and anytime I just got scared. God was here, holding my hand. Here to help me, saying “don’t be afraid”. How much more personal could it get than that?
Chemotherapy started almost immediately after the diagnosis and was another world, a completely foreign place for me. I learned to adapt to the side effects and the treatments themselves; bringing my laptop to keep me amused while I was awake, a soft jacket to keep me warm when I got chills from the medicine, hard candy to suck for the dry mouth and crackers for the nausea. Oh, and the biggie – being bald for the first time since I turned one year old. Head, legs, eyelashes and all – hair everywhere except (for some unknown reason) my eyebrows fell out. I got to wear a wig or scarf every day for months.
In 2011 we were expecting to move to California. Earlier in 2010 Sam had been offered a dream job with more responsibility and a much higher salary, and the California climate would be wonderful for my fibromyalgia. The job was supposed to start in the first quarter of 2011. We had put our house on the market and made all the preparations to sell it, clearing out all the personal items and pictures and rearranging furniture for the staging. We then started having showings and open houses. And showings. And open houses. And showings. We eventually lost count of how many showings but it was over 50.
In March of 2011, Sam lost his job here in Omaha, at which point we found out that the “dream job” in California was exactly that – a dream. Lots of talk with nothing behind it. Suddenly we went from excitedly planning a very rosy future to wondering how we were going to pay the next mortgage. Several extremely scary weeks followed, weeks in which we learned a lot about what our source really is (hint – it’s not our jobs). We learned about trusting God and totally surrendering to his will in a way that we only thought we had before. We learned about how much we relied on ourselves and gave him lip service for providing.
One day, Sam went to an interview for a job he had no intention of taking. It was a sales job with a commission-only pay structure, and not a good possibility of very high pay at that. He came out and said, “I can’t explain it, but I feel that God wants me to take this job.” And just to underscore, to say “Yep, it’s me, God, not a coincidence”, within less than half an hour of that conversation we got a call that our house had sold. After seven months and dozens (and dozens) of viewings – and in this crazy market – we actually sold it for a profit. Oh, and that was the last call Sam got for an interview.
Now, some people asked us why we went ahead and sold our house after we found out that we weren’t going to move. There were a few reasons. The first one was, we found out how owning a house tied us to a place, and we determined that whatever God had for us in the future, we wanted to be available to do it. Additionally, we didn’t know what would happen with Sam, job-wise, and we thought it was wise to downsize. We found a terrific apartment right across the street from my office that we just love.
I cut my hours while I was going through chemo, but obviously wasn’t able to quit working as our financial situation is pretty difficult. God gave me the strength to do what was needed and Sam was amazing to do everything around the house, so I just went to work and came home and went to bed. Thankfully I am back to my regular hours and activities now (with my new short-but-growing hair!)
2011 was also the year I learned that I was cancer-free. That is every bit as life-changing as learning that I had cancer. Having cancer is like something that just came and went at this point, and yet, I will never be the same. It has made me look at myself, my life and the people around me differently. It’s such a cliche to say that every day is a gift – but cliches become that way for a reason. Usually because they are so true that they get said too often and people stop listening. So listen. Every day is a gift.
2011 is the year that I learned that God is close when things are good and close when things are bad, but I draw closer to him when things are hard. My faith grows when it’s tested. I grow when I’m stretched.
2011 is the year that I learned what wonderful friends I have, what an amazing family I have, and even more than before, what a true gift my husband is. Thank you, one and all.
2011 is the year that I looked death in the face and learned to love my life.