Tag Archives: Cancer

The Blessing That Was Cancer

Today’s post is one that I have thought about before and often rejected writing. So often, when I state the words that my experience with cancer blessed me it brings out the hate in people. I get it, I do. So today I ask if you are still battling cancer, have a loved one who is still sick, or perhaps it is still recent for you, consider skipping this post. In no way am I trying to minimize anyone’s pain. These are lessons and reflections from my journey with cancer.

The Blessing That Was Cancer

I remember asking at least once after my diagnosis, “Why me?” Not long after that I began reading many different stories from people who had battled cancer or been by the side of someone battling cancer. One story stands out in my mind, I don’t remember what it was called or even what it was about. What I do remember is how the author said they had a choice. They could ask, “Why me,” or they could ask instead, “Why not me?” I contemplated this question, and I prayed over it. And yes I concluded why not me? What made me think that I was better than anyone else? I wasn’t. There wasn’t anything I did that caused this. It was, what it was, and I was no better than anyone else. The way I saw things after this was asking, “Why me,” was part of a whiny self-indulgent pity party. I did not want pity. Instead asking, “Why not me,” helped me to realize this could happen just as easily to me as to anyone else. Let me tell you I have found when I encounter tough moments in this in life, if I remember to keep this perspective then those tough things are just a little bit easier to deal with, because I can tackle the issue at hand and not instead throw a pity party.

It was also during this time that I found myself knocking on death’s door, or maybe instead death came knocking at my door, I am not sure which. Then again I am not sure it matters. Either way this point in my journey found me broken on my bedroom floor. Crying, I prayed to God. I told him I was done, I just couldn’t fight any more. It was then I felt his presence say it was okay. If I wanted to be done fighting I could go home. He nudged me back though with another thought, not just leaving it there. What about my husband, and my family? I answered that I didn’t want to leave them but I didn’t want to fight anymore. In that moment though I became convinced that I didn’t want to fight for myself, but I needed to fight for them. A peace fell over me when I came to that point. It was a peace that said everything would be alright, that with the Lord by my side I could battle through this.

The Gold ribbon is the color ribbon for Osteosarcoma. That is the kind of cancer that I was diagnosed with.

The Gold ribbon is the color ribbon for Osteosarcoma. That is the kind of cancer that I was diagnosed with.

The trust I had in my God in those months is honestly unlike anything I ever experienced before or after that time. I have been blessed to understand and experience a complete trust in our Lord. It is a trust that I can only hope to come close to again. In the meantime I know I have been blessed to know that sort of close connection.

This experience also sent me into early menopause. It was from that experience and the subsequent  miracle of getting pregnant , that I can truly appreciate the miracle that is my children. If you want to read more about that experience you can read about it in last weeks post titled,  From Menopause to Motherhood: The Blessings That Are Children.

If you want to read more about my experience from another perspective, my husband, wrote a touching piece titled, I’m thankful for my wife.

***The toughest moments in our lives can bless us, and be blessings to us if we learn from them. What are some of the lessons/ things you have learned during the tough times?***

If this post has touched your heart in any way, I would ask that you share it today. Thank you.

*** Disclaimer: While I claim cancer was a blessing in my life because of what I learned from it I am in no way wishing it upon anyone. It is one thing I sincerely wish that no one would ever have to go through. It is tough. It can be messy. It is hard. But for me I found there was blessing in it, that is all.***

 

 

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{Rusty} Under The Sun: I’m thankful for my wife

Look, her hair is coming back!

A picture of Sara, about four months after her last round of chemo nearly killed her.

Many of you don’t know me.  You probably know of me, though.  My name is Rusty, I am Sara’s husband, and webmaster for the site.  At the beginning of the month, Sara approached me and asked me if I would write a piece for her month of thankfulness.  Well, here it is.  One of the things that I am most thankful for is my wife.  Read on to find out why.

Love.  Sara has it in spades.  When we first met, we were both teenagers.  Being the young introvert that I was, I always did my best to drive people away.  I had a few friends, and Sara was only my third girlfriend.  I knew I liked her, but had no way to show it, and tried to push her away a great many times.  Early in our relationship, she had decided that she loved me.  I don’t know how, she had met my family, and even spent a great deal of time at my house.  Either way, it was because of her love that she stuck by, even when I made some bonehead mistake, or hurt her feelings.  Even today, you can see how much she loves based on her interactions with our daughters.  You can see it when she talks to the neighbors, or even to complete strangers.  She is not naive, but she still likes to look at life with rose colored glasses.  And I desperately need that in my life.  She always knows when to give me space, or when to say something.

I'm Thankful For My Wife

My wife is strong.  Now, I know, a lot of you are likely thinking “all women are strong,” or “my wife has had X kids, naturally,” or “I have four kids and a full time job.”  I get it.  No woman has it easy when they decide to partner up with just about any man.   As a veteran in the U.S. Navy, and having served with the U.S. Army, too; I know my share of strong women.  But I need to tell you, my wife takes the cake.  She miscarried about a year after we started dating.  Then again, seven months after we were married.  As far as things go, the two were not that bad.  No hospitalization, just a check up with the doc, and some pain meds, and things happened naturally.  Now, the second miscarriage might have been a blessing in disguise.  After nine months of marriage, we discovered that Sara had a severe form of Osteosarcoma.

The form of cancer she had was fairly rare.  We were told that there was about a 1 in 3 fatality rate, but that it was discovered early enough, and that the long term survivability rate is nearly 7 in 10.  When they biopsied the tumor, they did not find any concern to merit chemotherapy, so, they did the surgery on 7th September, 2004.  They removed 95% of her left humerus (the upper arm bone), and inserted an endoprosthetic made of a  titanium / magnesium alloy.  The surgeon that performed the surgery didn’t feel it was necessary to attempt to sew the muscles back together so that she would have any motion afterwards.  Which means her arm now hangs limp at her side. Nine years later.  She manages though, quite well, I might add.  About two and a half weeks after the surgery, the doctors came back and told us that over a third of the tumor had, in fact, been ‘high grade cancer’ as they termed it.  Which meant that if one cell had left the tumor and stopped somewhere else in her body, it would form a new tumor there.  Most often, it hits the lungs first, which has a higher mortality rate.  So, ‘we’ started chemo.

Sara was supposed to get eight rounds of chemo, but, due to complications, only received seven.  The last one almost caused her to develop leukemia, cancer of the blood.  She spent two weeks in isolation.  She couldn’t have flowers, or fresh fruits or vegetables.  She quite literally had no immune system to speak of.  When the doctor told her that the treatment for it is more chemo, she said she would not be doing any more.  I was devastated, but she assured me that she would be fine, and she got better.  All this chemo, while it may have saved her life, had cause her body to go into menopause.  If you read yesterday’s post, you already know that Sara beat menopause, too.

There is not much she can’t do.  I love her more and more each day, and I am ever so thankful that the Lord saw fit to partner me up with her.  She supports all my crazy ideas, like the fact that my garage is a haphazard machine shop while I build my CNC machine.  She has followed me to four duty stations, five deployments, the last of which she had a four month old and a two year old.  She followed me back to Michigan when I separated, and most recently, here to Alabama, so I can work for NASA.

I love you, Sara, and I am happy to let the whole world know it!

Me and Sara, 17ish

Me and Sara, 17ish

 ***Who in your life are you thankful for? Why are they so special?***

If this post touched your heart. Or you enjoyed it for any reason, please share on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or any where really.

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From Menopause to Motherhood: The Blessings That Are Children

Rusty and I knew we wanted children even before we were married. We wanted a house full of laughter and love. Less than a year into our marriage we faced a stumbling block to whether or not this might ever happen the way we envisioned, I was diagnosed with cancer and would need chemotherapy. The chemotherapy did as chemo often does, it took a devastating toll on my body. By our first anniversary we had already had one of what would be many conversations concerning what we would do if we came out of this unable to get pregnant.

From Menopause to Motherhood

By our second anniversary we knew though. We knew that the chemotherapy drugs had thrown my body into an early menopause at the age of 21. In the years that followed we talked to three different fertility specialists, tried rounds of different drugs (to stimulate fertility,) and during one of his deployments we had hoped to save up enough money to try the donor egg program. In the end the doctors didn’t provide much hope. They explained how multiple tests showed I was post menopausal not even pre. Even the fertility drugs seemed to tell us that donor egg was the only way to go. Yet during his deployment we never quiet got the 10s of thousands of dollars set aside.

It was during that deployment I started to think that maybe a life without children would not be so bad. I know that there are many paths to parenthood, but at that point in our lives we were at an impasse concerning what that would mean. Yes I knew anything was possible with God, but at this point in my life it seemed to me that miracles happened to other people. We went back and forth on whether a donor egg was a way to achieve that miracle, or maybe we would adopt. In the end though I decided I was comfortable not having children of our own.

God had other plans though, as he often does. When Rusty returned home from Iraq, we had not saved up for the donor egg procedure, and I was alright with that. What did happen though was he came home in December and by Valentine’s Day I had learned I was pregnant. To say the news thrilled us was an understatement. We were walking on air. After all I had been through to get to this point, including two miscarriages even before the chemotherapy, I knew that this was nothing less than a modern-day miracle. My doctors all declared it was a miracle as well.

That pregnancy, as things were, turned out to be pretty uneventful. I was blessed with a pretty easy pregnancy. It gave me time to think. Think about how we hoped that this meant a door was opening so that we could have more children, yet even if this was not the case we were still thankful for one. In October of 2009 I gave birth to Chloe, my sweet, beautiful, servant-minded child.

By the time she was 6 almost 7 months old, I would learn I was pregnant again. It was another miracle! In February 2011 we were blessed with our second little miracle. Miss Paige is our rough and tough little girl who has a tender heart and wants nothing but to share her love.

In March of 2012 the blessings seemed to come to a terrifying stop. I miscarried again, and this time I was in the ER, after having arrived by ambulance. I lost enough blood that I needed a blood transfusion. We knew though, as sad and scary as this was, we had already been blessed. Those two girls were and are, blessing upon blessing.

It was upon the heals of that miscarriage though, I would get pregnant with our youngest daughter! Miss Madelyn was born January of this year, 2013. God is good.

I tell you this to let you know I have been there, I understand the pain of infertility, but I also know the joy of motherhood. Yes motherhood has its challenges and raising three strong-willed children between the ages of 4 and 9 months can be taxing. But it is a journey that I appreciate, and I value. It is a journey that is from the Lord.

From Menopause to Motherhood

To this day if you were to run a blood panel on me it would show that I am in menopause. I should not be able to have children according to modern medicine, yet the Lord has blessed me with 3 little girls. So it is for these three little miracles I want to thank the Lord for today!

***Do you have a story of infertility, miscarriage, or pregnancy you would like to share today? Or perhaps you are in need of a comforting ear. I am here for you. You can reach me through my contact page, Under the Sun’s Facebook page, or just leave a comment.***

 

The First Ten Years

Sara's Senior Prom

2001 (age 17)

This December Rusty and I will have finished the first ten years of our marriage. This September I will turn 30. So it is very easy for me to say that I was just a young girl when I got married. Although I was really a young semi-innocent girl.

Only semi innocent because at the tender age of 19 (the age in which he proposed to me) we had already started having sex. In high school while Rusty and I were dating, I had become pregnant. From the time I found out until well after I had miscarried I heard rumors and all sorts of mean spirited gossip.

At nineteen I was holding down a job. I had moved out of my parent’s house and in with a roommate. I had said goodbye to Rusty as he left for Navy boot camp. While he was away I experienced the pain of separation. I even had to sit down with police at one point a recount a painful experience involving unwelcome sexual contact (rape) only to be told later they would not be pursuing the matter because essentially I didn’t say the actual word no and this would just become a he said/ she said matter. (Honestly I don’t remember exactly what the police told me any more, I just remember how disappointed I was in the justice system at the time.)

 

 

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Our wedding 2003

By the time our wedding rolled around I just remember being very stressed. In my *infinite* wisdom I planned our wedding the week of my college finals. Our wedding like so many others had it’s hiccups but in the end it was a lovely affair and I had so much hope for our future. Despite all that I had already seen, the reason why I declare I was still even semi-innocent was I couldn’t even have imagined in my wildest dreams what our future would hold.

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Christmas 2004, while I was undergoing chemotherapy

Not even a year into our marriage I began a battle with cancer. Despite being in the Navy he did a stint as an Individual Augmentee working with the Army. (The emotions you experience when they are deployed with a ship are different than when they are on the ground. Or at least they were for me.) We have seen several deployments. Infidelity even found its way into our marriage for a bit. I was diagnosed with menopause secondary to chemotherapy. I have experienced two more miscarriages, one of which landed me in an ER. We have even experienced the Navy downsizing and let Rusty go mid career.

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Daddy and two of his girls 2011

At times in our marriage I have lost my faith in God. I have always come back though. Rusty and I have come back together. We have worked through our trials. We are closer to the Lord now, than we have ever been. We are closer to one another. We are parents to three smart, beautiful, and funny little girls.

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Easter 2013

So approaching the big 3-0 and the first 10 years of my marriage, I feel as if I have grown in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. The road is winding, but the Lord has always drawn me back to him, and even closer than I was before I wandered off the time before. When I have emerged from the different struggles I have faced, I find I have a new empathy for those who are still struggling with the things I have been through.

***What are some struggles that you have walked through that have helped you to grow closer to the Lord? Or perhaps you are struggling now and could use some prayer. Just leave as much or as little information about your situation as you feel comfortable sharing and I will be happy to pray with you.***

 

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