Tuesday, July 26, 2011

365 days later.

before i really get into this post i must begin with this...

i am cancer free. although on this day last year we were told otherwise we celebrate what the Lord has done in and through our lives. i can not even type that without crying. i am in awe of who He is and how He has changed our lives. thank you for reading this blog. i have said it before and i will say it again and again....because of this blog our entire cancer journey was different. you all joined into the fight with us. from near and far you entered into our pain. confusion. fear. numbness and uncertainty. but you also entered into our joys. good chemo days (the Christmas miracle). positive PET scans. my pixie cut. and the day we were waiting for...rejoice again i say rejoice i am CANCER FREE. today is bittersweet. which i imagined it would be. thankful to be alive and healthy and a little sad that i even had cancer and had to walk this path. but i think it is okay to feel both. experience both sides of it. the joy and the heartache. the sadness i had no idea i would feel. i am not sad all the time. not at all. but there is this new place inside my heart where i ache over cancer. the road we walked. what it all looked like and what it felt like for us. i still have a hard time even believing that it even happened. i still catch myself thinking...other people get cancer. not me. not us. this happens to other people. but now i know it doesn't. it did touch my family. it will touch yours too. maybe not cancer. but something. something big. something scary. but something that if you allow it. if you really allow yourself to trust the Lord can be one of the greatest things that will ever happen to you. i do not like cancer. i do not like chemo. i do not like getting my blood drawn. or getting scans. or losing my hair. or leaving ava. or getting sick. or watching justin put his sunglasses on during those first appointments to hide his tears. seeing his pain. i hated that. i do not like calling people you love the most to share with them that you have cancer. or being alone as much as i was when i was sick. i do not like any of that. but i do like that we did not walk this road alone. we were never alone. we were not in control. we could not take it away. so we trusted. maybe for the first time. at least for me. that the Lord is good. really good. all the time the Lord is good.  He will take things like cancer. a horrible deadly disease and use it to bring me closer to Him. to experience intimacy with Him in the midst of so much pain and fear.

there is a little sting today. a little lump in my throat. i am just sad. deeply sad. not for any certain reason. maybe just because i am starting to really think about aspects of cancer i never even thought about when i was sick. still in disbelief that we walked the road we did. but what i love about it all is that the Lord used cancer to bring me closer to himself. justin too. as we continue to make decisions about our life and our future i can not help but always come back to cancer. to this day. the day we were told i had lymphoma. we did not cry really. we sat in silence mostly. letting it sink in. asked some questions because i recall being so confused. not sure if he was really talking about my body. my body was filled with cancer? no way. not me. this is not our story. but then we walked out. not really talking. justin carrying ava in her car seat and we knew. we looked at each other from either side of the car and knew we were going to be okay. i recall feeling peaceful. feeling so close to justin. thinking if we can get through cancer we get through anything. i am so thankful that cancer united us. our bond became tighter. more real. literally within seconds. we knew nothing would ever be the same again. i believe in a bigger God now than i did before cancer. i believe and trust in a God where we do not always understand why. or the timing of things. or where we are headed. or simply...how is this possibly going to be good? and we are not always able to see it all or understand why until we get to the other side. but we are on the other side. we are living on the other side. the side of life. health. joy. we are not always happy. life is hard sometimes. we do not always know what we are doing. but we know what matters. we have gained a new perspective. a new outlook on life. something not everyone has or even wants. but in Christ it is a free gift. the freedom from our sin and brokenness because of the cross. He paid it all and He loves us. so much it hurts. a love we can not even begin to fathom. but it's true and you can experience it too. that God is for us. He is for you. He is for me. He is in this with you. whether it's cancer, or death of a child, or difficulties in marriage, or the inability to have a baby. He is for you. in the pain. in the late nights when you are crying and no one else knows it because it all feels too much and you wish it was not happening to you. but it is happening. it is real. it is your life and you are walking it daily. because we all our thing. you know what i am talking about. but the truth. what is true about whatever road you are on...you are not alone. He is for you. He loves you and His only desire is that you would give your life. remember we are talking your life here to Him. He is in control. we are not. His plan is better than our own. always. even when it hurts so bad you did not even want to try anymore. and you honestly believe with every ounce of your soul that nothing good can come from it...remember He is in the business of making all things new. He can change hearts. He can change marriages. He performs miracles. My body was covered with cancer and now it is not. so maybe your story is not cancer. but whatever your "cancer" is...He can restore it. He can make it new. He healed me and He will heal you. i believe that with everything i have. although i do not always understand why things happen the way they do or why some people's stories are so much more tragic and gut wrenching than my own...i am free because that is not my burden to bear. i am not in control He is. which is the hardest thing for me to actively live out on a daily basis. but it is my desire.

i do not want to write a lot about what this day was like for me last year. but i do a little bit. it helps me process how far we have come if i look back on where we were. just one little year ago. but one big big year. in a span of 13 months we had ava, got cancer, and beat cancer.

justin just called and asked how i was doing. i said emotional. not necessarily sad. just an emotional day. he went on to say...how crazy it is that it has already been a year and how he remembers ever second of this day. i do too.

i remember getting up real early and going to get blood work done. i went alone. i was not scared. not yet. when i came home it was still early and ava had just gotten up. she was laying in bed with justin. i nursed her. my most favorite thing to do as a mother. that just a few days later i would have to stop. that still makes me a little sad. an hour later they called and told me i had an appointment with an endocrinologist at 11am. i quick got ready. no time for a shower. i went alone. by choice. i was not worried. met my most favorite doctor ever besides dr. lee my now oncologist. he listened. he made things happen. he took it seriously. they had found a large mass on my neck two days prior and he was checking it out. i still do not know if he knew it was serious at this point or was simply scheduling an ultrasound because we were still planning on heading to upstate new york just two days later for young life. not sure. does not really matter. i called justin right away. i was a little more anxious. but it is not my nature to jump to conclusions and plan for the worst. got home. had a babysitter come over for ava. we went together. i laugh at how we both tried to settle each other down by saying..."he is only doing this because we are heading out of town for a month, not because there could possibly be anything wrong." we checked in at the hospital. insurance card. license. the whole thing. we did that like a hundred more times throughout this little cancer journey. then we waited. we wondered the hallways. we could not find the ultrasound room. i poked my head into a room and asked..."is this where you do ultrasounds." they said yes and i went in. justin had to wait outside. it was laid back. the tech was sweet. relaxed. it was business as usual for her. i now know this is just what medical professionals do. no matter if it is serious or not they always seem relaxed. which is good. i walk out after like five minutes and justin says, "that's it?" yup and we head to the car. it was so hot outside. as we are driving home we get a call from the doctor to go back and get some additional blood work and a chest x-ray. i knew secretly this can not be good. but we will still try to assure each other that the dr. is just trying to be thorough with us. we appreciated that. get my x-ray. i ask them how long it will be until we get the results and they said 7-10 days. i remembering think we do not have that kind of time if we are heading to new york in two days. after that i get some blood work. we waited what seemed like forever. justin called to check in on ava and thankfully she was doing fine. our little girl is a champ. still is. go with the flow. might be a little more strong willed now. but we'll take it. got the blood work done and head home. i remember calling family at this point i think. sorry mom and dad that we waited so long to tell you what was going on. i just did not want to scare anyone. we got home and i started feeding ava some applesauce. we told deborah who was watching ava about the day. i do not remember if we were calm or not. i think i was calm or at least trying to be. then my phone rang. i remember it so so clearly. sitting at the kitchen table feeding ava. i pick up and it is the doctor. my results were in from the blood work and x-ray and they wanted me to come in. bring my husband and please come now. i dropped the phone. it was in slow motion as i hung up and let it fall to the ground. the tears began to roll down my cheek. i knew it was not good. i knew it was big. i knew it. i felt it. i recall panicking a bit. pulled it together and we loaded up ava. we started calling immediate family. no one tells you how to start these conversations. trying to be calm. telling them we do not know anything yet. it might be nothing. but it would be something. it is like you are not ready to say it. say that it might be something bad. it is interesting how family responded. some people immediately assume the worst. while other's are quick to say i am sure it is nothing. we drove to my dr as a family. the three of us. we sit in the waiting room and wait and wait. it was awful. your mind racing. i could not slow my thoughts down. then we get called back. secretly you never want them to call your name but at the same time every minute you wait feels like a year. i remember mindlessly looking through a magazine. pretending that everything was fine. justin was pacing. he could not sit still. we go back. he tells us it's lymphoma. in my neck and throughout my chest. shows us the x-rays. i did not even know what to ask. i do not remember what he said or what i said or what justin said. i think i cried a little. just slow tears. i was numb. shocked. not sure what to do with anything he was saying. but we move forward. he gives us some direction on what is next in the whole process. he slows us down because our mind is jumping way ahead. he says he is in this with us. whatever we need. whatever he can do. we head out. scared and peaceful at the same time. then it begin. the phone calls. i am sorry for those of you i called where i wept. or laughed. or sounded apathetic. or scared. i was all over the place. i sometimes do not know what to do with serious things so i laugh. not because it is funny. not all. i am just not always sure what to do or how to act. the calls do not stop. it was exhausting and thus our cancer journey began. finally after we put little ava to bed. i nursed her. i cried. i cried the most with her that night in her glider in the dark. our sweet precious baby. not yet seven months old. her first year of life. our first year as parents was now taking an unexpected a new turn. we laid in bed together so sad. so confused. how can this be our life? is this even real? i felt anxious and tired and scared. i remember feeling really scared. not sure i slept very much at all. but i felt loved. i felt cared for. i did not feel alone. i felt numb. like i was going through the motions of someone else's life. not my my own. and certainly not ours. but we knww that this was only the beginning and the Lord was in this with us...and thus began our seven month journey with cancer.

we are on the other side if it now. sad that it happened. but thankful for how it changed us.

i began today with a drive to dunkin donuts with ava for a skim iced mocha and donut with sprinkles. my new love when i was sick. especially those first mornings in bed. reading emails. calling doctors. making plans for this new little change in the road what seemed like a detour at the time. but we now know it was taking us exactly where we were meant to be. i prayed with ava today. thanking God for healing her momma and how we are all changed by His love. she is asleep right now. justin is doing a little work. i am sitting upstairs in my favorite chair and looking at the water. how this is the place where i healed. where we healed as a family. this was not only my journey. but all of ours. family. friends. strangers who have now become friends. what a year it has been. justin and i will celebrate tonight. we will talk about this day and how we felt living it. but after that we will continue to look ahead. to what is next and how the same God that allowed cancer. who took it away and healed me will never leave us or foresake us. no matter what happens and that bring peace to my soul.

i am off to go swimming with ava and justin. that is what i like about today. it is a big day. a significant one for us. but it is still us. our little family living life together and making memories. how precious life is. we know that a little more now.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing hope, sweet friend. I needed it a lot today. So thankful that God healed you, and that you are willing to share all your feelings, your real feelings. Your words are comforting.

  2. thanks for sharing your heart and being raw with how confusing it can be. You are an inspiration to me!

  3. Libby, I've never commented before, but have been praying for you since the beginning. Ben and I are good friends of Becky and Jason.

    Thank you for this post. I needed to hear it today and to be reminded that God is with us in all our struggles. I hope you don't mind, but I shared some of your words on my blog.

    Rejoicing with you that you are cancer free today and can celebrate how far God has brought you.

  4. wow, so I totally got chills and tears and happiness as well. you and your family are an inspiration to me. you all are so strong, so amazing, so loving to one another. you and your husband have an amazing bond with each other. you went through one of the hardest things someone can imagine going through. AND YOU MADE IT!!! You survived it :)
    I am so happy for you. So happy for Justin and Ava. Reading your journey, your thoughts, you happiness and sadness has brought me closer to knowing God. To knowing he is in control...no matter what.
    Thank you for sharing your life journey with the world. I love following along.
    Enjoy today with your family of 3. Celebrate life at your beautiful lake house. Be together and soak in every second :)

  5. Your heart is so beautiful and we are so blessed you have shared the hard and good times with us :)

  6. Love you Libby! So thankful for you and your life. What a gift. God has touched so many people through you and your story, including me. I'm praising Him today!! You are truly a gift to so many people!

  7. yayyy! celebrating life with you today! crazy, FULL, abundant life! the harris' love the ryder's!

  8. Praise God! Thanks for allowing us to walk this journey with you. I am so blessed to have you in my life. It was pure joy seeing you well & healthy. Luv to you all.

  9. Libby,
    Celebrating with tears of joy with you and your family on this day. You continue to inspire me and you cannot imagine how timely your words of encouragement are for me whether it is personally or during a time that even a friend or family member may need encouragement. You are a blessing to me and I know that God is certainly looking down on you and Justin thinking “well done…” I know that you don’t expect any glory but you could have made this experience so totally different then you did. However, through your salt and light and even through your dark times shared, God has truly been glorified!
    Continued prayers for you and your family as you process your life without cancer. I love hearing from you on your blog about your time with YL girls and seeing pictures of you enjoying life with them and loving them. I am positive that you are an encouragement to these young ladies in more ways then you will ever know. Keep planting your seeds of faith and of God’s love Libby….it is contagious! Love in Christ…..donna cason

  10. So happy for you and so proud that you have shared your life in this blog... it helped my aunt who is now almost a year free from ovarian cancer, and a fellow friend of mine's mother was just diagnosed as well and I just emailed them your blog because I know it will help her! Thanks for what you've shared and I know you will be blessed more than you already are! Go Girl! You're awesome! Happy 1 yr Anniversary!! :)

  11. Such a precious post today Libby, thanks for sharing your heart. You truly live out my favorite verse, Proverbs 3:5-6

  12. i went to poquoson and was apart of YL there in high school so i've been following your blog from the beginning....your so right, everyone has their own "cancer". mine was when my dad died when i was 15. needless to say life has been completely changed and at first i didn't understand why, but in the past year it has all been coming together and i'm so grateful. thanks for sharing your journey, all of ours are different yet similar at the same time. i've been learning to trust god more and more recently and at first it was scary, but i'm realizing it's the best thing that has ever happened to me. i hid everything after my dad died and have only recently begun to lean on people, especially god. thanks for helping me along my journey, even though we have never met. liz

  13. I am proud of you Libby and honored that you are one of my best friends. Thank you for allowing the Lord to use your pain for His glory. I love you!

  14. What a beautiful blog. I cried when I read it. I can't believe it's been a year. What a year for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story, for sharing your faith, and your love for God and those around us. You are inspiring and encouraging people you don't even know.
    In Christ, Laura Flikkema (Becky's friend :))

  15. this rocked. it was perfect. i now want a sprinkle donut and its 1am. thank you, Lib, for sharing it all. i love that y'all went swimming. but that you also ached a little. and gave thanks. and dug deep to share what is was really like 1 year ago. i can't imagine. but what i can imagine is Jesus, carrying y'all through all of it. and the best part is that it was for His glory. He was glorified. thank you (and justin) for being faithful. love you, so so much. see you SOON.

  16. Praising God with you that you are HEALED! So thankful for His healing power! Love you Lib!

  17. Libby,
    I have been reading your blog from the beginning but this specific blog really hits me hard. I want to thank you for sharing such deep and painful words, but also sharing the light and the happiness. You may not know personally what you do for people (me esp.) on a given day, but your words are strong and your emotions that you choose to share with the world are stronger. Thank you.

  18. Hello,

    My mother was diagnosed with Lymphoma on Dec. 1st 2011. She has now started chemo. We have hope and faith that God will cure her. Thanks for for your blog and for your words, they bring a little more peace to my heart. God bless you and Im glad to see you that you are cancer free!

    Thank you,


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