On October 17, 2012, our daughter’s adoption was finalized. A long eight months after her birth, and we could finally exhale. I remember when I heard the judge’s gavel hit, I hit the floor. Relief flooding through my body. This long-awaited for child was OURS! Our little dream come true. Our pink caboose. Our family was complete and I was over the moon. We went out to dinner to celebrate and told everyone we met. It was a good day. My life was right where I pictured it to be. I couldn’t have asked for one thing more.
On Oct 2, 2013, I found out I had breast cancer. I once again hit the floor, but for an entirely different reason. My perfectly constructed life came crashing down around me. How could this happen? How could all of my dreams come true and then I have to leave them? How do I say good bye to my husband and our children? Why did God give me this baby girl and then snatch me away? On Oct 16, 2013 I had a mastectomy. For two weeks I could not hold our daughter. I couldn’t really even be around her 19-month little self due to the drains that were coming out of my body and her busy little constantly-in-motion body. I ached for her. I experienced a physical pain that I likened to what her birth mom must have felt after placement. To know she was right there, but I could not hold her close, breathe in her scent, snuggle her little body. It was agony.
By Thanksgiving I could pick her up again. I could sit on the couch and snuggle her, but the fear remained. Why was I given the gift of these children if I was going to leave them prematurely? How did I tell her birth family that I had cancer? Would they even want to know? I told them; it didn’t phase them. But they did share that no one in their family had ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, which was a relief as I looked at my little girl. And then I realized no one in my family had either. Until me. She still wasn’t safe.
Around Christmas time my fear reached a frenzied peak. I couldn’t focus. I was trying to walk in grace but instead I was totally frozen in fear. I looked at old ladies with jealousy. I wanted to be old! I wanted gray hair! I wanted grandchildren and great grandchildren. I wanted to watch my boys who were in 8th grade, 6th grade, and 1st grade grow up. I wanted to teach them to drive. To take pictures of proms. To fix their graduation caps. To pack them up and send them off to college. To watch them graduate again. To be there at their weddings. I asked God why this was happening? How can you give me this child only to take me away? Although the cancer was gone, the fear remained.
Gently a friend encompassed me. She looked straight into my eyes and saw my inner soul scurrying around, frightened. And she whispered the answer to my plea: ”God did not give you that baby girl, your dream come true, to separate you. God gave you that baby to help you through this journey. To prove to you that miracles happen and sometimes, people are lucky, and they happen more than once to them. You will grow old with your children. You will watch your daughter marry. You will hold her hand as she gives birth. You will be with her every step of the way until as a very old woman, you will go home to our maker. God did not give her to you, to take you away. He gave her to you to remind you of His way.”
So true. When I was diagnosed with cancer I tried so hard to walk in God’s grace. To continue to have the same faith in Him as I did through our adoption process, knowing in my heart that He didn’t bring me to adoption or cancer only to abandon me. That I was under His protection all the while. I blindly walked in faith with our adoption process, totally trusting each twist and turn was a weave of our story. I would not allow doubt or fear to enter in. This baby was meant for us. It was God’s will. I knew it.
So then, why did I flounder with my cancer walk? Even when the tests came back that they got clear margins and the cancer was gone from my body, why did I doubt God’s love to keep me alive? I never asked, “Why me?” with my diagnosis. Never asked, “Why did I get cancer?” Or “What did I do to cause this in my body?” I didn’t care. I only said, “Why not me? Why did I dare to think I was so special in life that I could not die? Or that I could not have an illness that would cut short my life?” I was 42 years old, healthy, in shape, ate well, exercised . . . no risk factors. Yet, there I was. I had cancer.
In a few short weeks I will celebrate my third cancer-versary. The third year I have been cancer-free. I taught my oldest son to drive. I straightened his brother’s 8th-grade graduation cap. I taught our third son to fish. I dance in the rain and watch the clouds pass by with my daughter, who is now 4. The point is, we don’t know. We don’t know when we go through the adoption process if we will be around for the duration. We don’t know what is lingering in our bodies. We don’t know the number of the days we have left. But that shouldn’t scare us. That shouldn’t stop us from letting down our guard and going for that dream in our lives. Life doesn’t hardly ever turn out like we think it should. Or go as planned. Sometimes the alternate route is horrifying. Stop-dead-in-your-tracks life-changing. Or gloriously filled with the good people have to offer.
Look for the lesson, then be a blessing. So, please remember to do your monthly breast exams. Please keep up with your yearly mammograms. Please keep your faith. And remember sometimes God gives us trials to remember His way. Embrace them. Even cancer.