5 Years – What I’ve Learned

**Click here to read about my journey with cancer from the beginning of the story.**

**Click here to read about my experience with chemo.**

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you (or your husband, in my case) do a lot of research about the different treatment options, different medications, and different tests used to treat your cancer. You learn lots of new medical terms, medication names, and meet lots of new people.

But you learn a lot more than that. I learned a lot about myself, my family, and my friends during my journey with cancer and chemotheraphy. Most things were good, positive, inspiring things; but some were bad, negative, and depressing things. Being the person that I am, I’m going to tell you about the good things.

I’ll start with the things I learned about and from my friends:

  • Sometimes, just sitting with someone is enough. When my (best) friend would take me to chemo, she stayed with me for 5 hours. Most of the time we didn’t talk because I was too sick. At least half of each chemo session was spent in the dark with the lights out, segregated from the other patients. She didn’t feel the need to fill the silence or the darkness with words. She just sat. I know she prayed…I could feel her prayers. But she just sat with me…she was there if/when I needed her. She was there.
  • Helping someone isn’t just physical; it’s emotional and spiritual. At first, our church brought meals by regularly. That dwindled off, which is understandable. People came to bring us groceries, mow the grass, help clean the house, or help with Bubba. But the real help, the most valuable help, was the emotional and spiritual support. I would not have survived the last 5 years without the encouragement and prayers from my friends. The cards that came at the beginning of each round of chemo from friends out of state were uplifting. The comments on my posts on Facebook and mention of prayers were encouraging. That’s what I needed.
  • I couldn’t get by without church family. If you don’t have a church family, you need to find one. Not just a church, but a church family. These are the people who support you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They not only supported me as the cancer patient, but they supported my husband and son. They were there every step of the way, for 5 years. Anytime another medical issue came up, they were quick to offer prayers, support, encouragement, and whatever help they could. They reached out to us, even when it was inconvenient for them. If you don’t have a church family, GET ONE!!

Now, let me tell you what I learned about my family:

  • Families support each other, through thick and thin. My closest (nearest) family member was 10 hours away. Every time they came to help me, they had to drive for a full day!  They had to spend at least 5 days away from their families. They had to make arrangements for the care of their families to come care for mine. Even after cancer and chemotheraphy, they supported me when I had to change my diet. They don’t make fun of me or say that I’m crazy. They reached out and supported me.
  • It’s not easy or fun to take care of sick loved ones, but you do it anyways. Yes, it may have been “fun” for them to come and spend time with Bubba during treatments, but I know it was not fun to drive to my house, cook our food, watch me get sick, hold my hair while I puked, or listen to me moan in pain. It was not easy to leave their families and arrange care for them in order to come help me; but they did it anyways.
  • When helping with a cancer patient, patience is key. There would be many times they would ask how I was feeling and how they could help. Most of the time I didn’t have an answer. So, they would just wait patiently. They were patient as I got sick; they were patient as we had to prevent the AC from blowing on me; they were patient as I lay in bed most of the time they were here. They didn’t push me to do anything, eat anything, drink anything, or say anything. They were here…and that’s what counts.
  • Supporting the spouse of a cancer patient is just as important as supporting the patient. I remember my husband telling me how he hated I had cancer but he enjoyed spending the time with my family while I was in bed.  HAHA!!  He got to know my family because they took the time to talk with him. When he applied for jobs out of state and went to interviews, they stepped up and supported him. When he got frustrated at work or anxious about my treatments, they prayed for him and comforted him. They focused on him when I couldn’t.

Finally, let me tell you what I learned about myself:

  • I don’t have to be in control all the time; in fact, it might be better if I’m not in control. I am a planner. I have to have my day, week, month, year planned out. Obviously, I didn’t plan for cancer. I learned that it’s ok to give up control. It’s ok if things don’t go exactly as planned. It’s ok. It’s all ok.
  • God will carry me through even the darkest times of my life. When you’re told you have cancer, it’s like a dark cloud covers your life. Then when you start treatments, you realize that cloud just got darker. But when I quit fighting God and let Him carry me through this trial, I thought it would be easier. And it was.
  • God truly does give you the strength to bear the burdens He gives you. I remember round 1 of chemo being horrible. I remember telling Hubby that there was no way I could do another round, let alone 11 more rounds. I remember Hubby telling me to look for God for my strength. That’s when I realized that the only way to survive cancer and chemo was to rely on God’s strength. I certainly couldn’t do it on my own.
  • If you put God first and focus on Him, everything else fades into the background. When I made it a priority to do my devotions when I could and to pray when I could do nothing else (although prayer is the best and most important thing), my problems faded. The chemo pump didn’t seem so annoying; my neuropathy wasn’t as achy; my hives weren’t as itchy; my pain wasn’t as bad. During my “off” weeks, when I focused on spending quality time with God, my worries, cares, and anxious thoughts disappeared. When I focused on trying to learn what He was trying to teach me, life got easier.
  • I don’t have to understand or like everything to be able to accept it. I certainly don’t understand why I got cancer and neither do the doctors. I don’t like that I have a torturous, twisted, kinked colon and have to be careful with what I eat every day. I’m not happy that I missed Bubba’s first word, first step, or first birthday. But that doesn’t mean that I should just sit back and pout. This is what God gave me to deal with…I can accept it because I know that He has a greater purpose for it.
  • I know how to help other people better…not just when a trial first arises, but especially afterwards.  I now understand that most people reach out to help others when a trial first starts. But it’s AFTER the trial has been there for a while, that’s people need the most help. That’s when you get tired, discouraged, and depressed. That’s when you need the most help. I’m not just talking about chemo and cancer; I’m talking about depression, dealing with divorce, coping with the death of a loved on, having a new baby. If there’s a situation where you offer help to someone, remember to continue to offer help in a few months.
  • No matter how healthy you are (or think you are), you can get cancer. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be healthy…you should. I have learned how to take better care of my body and just how important a balanced diet, regular exercise, and drinking water truly is. God gives us one body and we need to take care of it!
  • God has created me the way I am for a reason. I have always loved Psalm 139, but it meant more to me during my cancer journey than any other time in my life. I don’t know why He chose to give me cancer, but I’ll take it. I don’t know why He chose to take away my hope of having a big family, but I accept it. I may not know the reasons for why God does things, but I love Him and trust Him anyways.
  • My cancer story is not mine…It’s God’s. Only HE can use my story to help others. I can tell you all that my family and I went through. I could give you a sob story. But that’s not the point. GOD wrote this story for me…and He’s not finished with me yet!!

Cancer is a journey. It’s a marathon for sure…definitely not a sprint. Even after you’ve been declared “cured” after 5 years, you will still have to deal with the side effects of chemotheraphy for the rest of your life. You will always have the label of “cancer patient” (read more about that here). But you don’t have to let that label define you. You move on. You LIVE.

No matter what difficult circumstance you may be in, it’s up to YOU to decide how you’re going to react: Are you going to rebel and dig your heels into the ground, or are you going to accept it and learn what God is trying to teach you?

 

**Click here to read about how I CELEBRATED being 5 YEARS CANCER FREE!!**

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