>> Sunday, October 25, 2009
First and foremost, I'd like to extend a heartfelt "thank you" to all who have shared your sweet words of concern and encouragement here on my blog, in emails, and on Facebook. My mom, my family, and I have been deeply touched by the outpouring of love and kindness from relatives, from friends, and from those we have yet to meet. My sincere gratitude to everyone who has lifted my mom in prayer. I cannot fully express how much it has meant to me; suffice it to say that my cup runneth over. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As for my mom's progress, it has been a trying journey to say the very least. After about three weeks of daily chemotherapy and radiation treatments, we began to see a decline in both my mom's physical state and her emotional well-being. The treatments were grueling. She lost over 20 pounds in one month. She suffered nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, dehydration, pain, apathy, and loss of appetite. She was hospitalized twice, and received a blood transfusion during her last stay.
I can't begin to know or understand what my mom went through or how much she suffered during her 6+ weeks of chemo/radiation treatment. But for those of us who love her, watching her go through all that she did was heart-wrenching, and probably the most difficult experience any of us have gone through. The intense feeling of helplessness is something I'm sure most cancer families can relate to. The last day she was in the hospital, I remember standing near her bed, watching someone else's blood make its way through the plastic tubing and into my mom's tiny, frail arm. I remember seeing something different in her eyes, a dullness, a loss of hope, and I cried as I wished silently that she and I could change places, even for just a day, so that she could find some rest.
Three days later, she was back home at my sister's house. That morning, when I picked up the phone, I could hear in my dad's voice that he was crying. "Your mom", he stammered, "cooked for herself! She fed herself!" The tears of joy were contagious. Apparently my mom, who had grown so weak that my dad had to feed her, felt hungry in the middle of the night and proceeded to cook for herself. A small yet sweetly significant triumph, and one we won't soon forget.
A few weeks ago, my mom, my sister, and I were sitting together talking. She began to tell us about her last trip to the hospital, when she was saved. "I had a talk with God", she said. "I told Him that if it was my time to go, I'd understand." With her cheeks wet with tears, my mom continued to tell us how she had asked for His forgiveness ... and for a second chance. "I made a promise to God", she explained, "that if He could forgive me for all of the mistakes I've made and give me another chance in this life, then I would be a better person and serve Him in the way He planned for me." With a genuine happiness in her eyes, she calmly told us about her intentions to become much more involved in her church, and about all the other ways she wanted to help people in need.
Since then, my mom has not been burdened with any of the symptoms she experienced before or during her chemo/radiation therapy. She cooks every day. She eats regularly. She has gained some weight. She exercises to build up strength for her upcoming surgery. She fusses over us and dotes on her grandchildren. She does everything with more affection, greater understanding, and strengthened determination. And she shows each of us how much she loves us every single day.
In his book, The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World, Billy Graham writes, "God never removes something from our lives without replacing it with something far better. It might not seem so at the time, but later you will understand - and you will marvel at God's wisdom and goodness."
My mom will have surgery on Monday to remove whatever is left of the tumor. But I believe that it's already gone. Last month, I feared that my mom might not make it through the debilitating regimen of daily chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Today, I watch her perform the most mundane of tasks with deliberation and a renewed sense of purpose. It truly lifts my soul.
I have witnessed the true meaning of unconditional love in the way my dad has taken care of my mom; feeding her, reading to her, cooking for her, helping her use the bathroom, cleaning up after her - all without a single complaint. Sometimes, I would worry about his own strength, but he always managed to provide enough for both of them, and when he would kiss her forehead, it would simply warm my soul.
And I am incredibly amazed at the goodness and kindness of strangers; that so many of you would take time out of your busy schedules to send a note or say a prayer for a woman most of you have never met. I think my dear friend, Ginny, said it best in her comment on my last post. "Today the internet seems so inadequate", she wrote, " I wish I could just reach out & give you a hug & hold your hand." The caring, sweet, endearing words that you have shared with my family just fill my soul. I wish I could give each and every one of you a warm hug. Thank you for showering our family with hope, kindness, and sweet friendship. Thank you most of all for showing us the love and greatness of God.