I got the call from Ryan on my last day of work as a teacher, a half hour before the baby shower they were throwing for me after school. I was nine months pregnant at the time.
If I could have asked myself what I really needed to know about the first year of how Cancer would effect our lives, I would tell myself:
- Trust God, first and foremost. He is SO trustworthy and always there for you, even if it doesn't feel like it.
- Take one day at a time. Don't get overwhelmed worrying about the future. God says not to worry, anyway (Matt. 6:25-34).
- Have patience with the process and the people. All the pieces will unfold on God's time. The people involved in the process of helping Ryan heal are doing their job to the best of their ability. Pray for them daily, too!
- Accept help graciously by learning to say yes to the people who want to help you in their own way. God will put people to help you in your path at the right time, but don't expect it. As Ann Voskamp's Mom says, "Expectations kill relationships."
- Learn to be grateful in all circumstances. This is a tough one - but it's much better to be thankful for the living husband you have, even if he's sick in bed half the year. Yes, he could live that way for the rest of his life, but he's still alive.
- Overlook the minor things more and more often, until it becomes a habit. Life is too short to spend it arguing over petty nuances.
- Love more - both God and others. So many people are effected by Cancer too - reaching out to them helps both of you to have hope in your eternal destination.
- Give yourself permission to grieve what's been lost. Learn to accept it, but then move forward and let go of "what could have been."
- Remember the good times. You will have good times, even though you go to the hospital every other week - this isn't what either of you envisioned during your 9th year of marriage, for sure!
- Have fun anyway. A small baby and a sick hubby are quite an adjustment - but life is what you make of the circumstances that you're in, so make the best of every day you have together as a family.
I never thought hundreds of people from all over the world would be praying for Ryan's healing but thankfully, that's what has happened. His sole desire has been for people to pray for him and he (and I) have never asked for anything but this.
But God has put it on the hearts of so many people to help us in so many practical ways, from help with Talitha's clothes, shoes, toys, diapers, starting a college fund, to meals, hugs, visits, notes of encouragement, paying for gardeners, gift cards, and our medical bills funded for two years in a row.
I am amazed by the body of Christ in our church, Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills blessing us by not only praying for us daily but also finishing our dream kitchen for us because Ryan got sick right in the middle of our remodel. God clearly works in the realm of both the "needs" and "wants" in life.
When I asked Ryan what this past year has taught him, he said, "To not take everything for granted." We were so blessed before Ryan had Cancer and him getting sick has just made those blessings that much more clear.
As I look toward the next year post-diagnosis, I don't have the fear-filled frantic feeling in my heart that I had this day last year. I used to worry about all those statistics that said he wouldn't be alive for more than 13 months on average. Instead, I trust the Author of my life's story with more fervency than I ever have before, but recognize that I still have a very long way to go. I know I can trust Him with everything, because He got us through our first year with our first child and Ryan's hospital stay, one transfusion, four endoscopies, seven CT scans, and 22 rounds of chemo.
Even if the next year entails all that and more, I know without a doubt God will be with me, with our whole family, and He won't abandon us.
Here's to our second year walking with God through this Cancer journey. God is bigger than Cancer!