August 14

Last summer, my family’s world was flipped upside down. I’m going to give you a little bit of a backstory before I really get into it. I was in shambles, my emotional stability was shaken because I had just went through a very bad breakup. My mom had been taking care of my great grandmama with Alzheimers for over a year. My sister was starting a new job. My dad had been craving ice and losing his strength.

Daddy had been sick for a few months. He was getting tired easily, craving ice like you wouldn’t believe, and losing his strength. He couldn’t even work out in the yard for more than a few minutes at a time. He’s stubborn as a bull and didn’t want to go to the doctor but he had been having some digestive and bathroom problems and we were all a little bit worried about him. Doctors had been telling him for a few years that he had hemorrhoids, but we were certain it was something else.

A little over a week before we were supposed to go to Pigeon Forge for the weekend, Daddy went to the doctor to see a physician assistant that he hadn’t seen before. The PA was concerned when he realized that my dad had been craving ice as that is a sure sign of anemia. He scheduled a colonoscopy for August 14th.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 is the day that would change our lives forever. They found two masses. One was a polyp that was creating a blockage in his bowel, that bad boy was causing his bathroom problems. That polyp was the main reason he had gone to the doctor in the first place. Above that polyp, in his colon, was another mass. The doctors had their suspicions about that one. It was darker than a harmless mass would have been. Over the next couple of days, it was confirmed. Daddy had colon cancer.

We had a trip to the mountains planned for that same weekend and we went. We ate good food. We enjoyed each other’s company. We drove around and looked at God’s handiwork in the Great Smoky Mountains. We laughed, we cried, we sang. Mama and Daddy scheduled appointments over the phone. Friends, family, strangers reached out to us to tell us we were in their prayers and that everything would be okay. More than anything, we prayed. We prayed harder that weekend than any of us probably ever had because when your dad has cancer, all you can think to do is pray.

The next couple of days and weeks were a freaking whirlwind. Everything happened so fast. Surgery to remove the cancer, along with 14 inches of his colon, was scheduled for August 31st. We got to the hospital around 4 in the morning, because my PawPaw wanted to meet us there before the surgery so we could pray together. Surgery lasted a few hours, it went well, and he stayed in the hospital until September 4th. We found out that his cancer was stage 3A. A week after that, he was back at work.

October 8th was his first day of chemotherapy. He would have to get 12 rounds of chemo over six months. Every other week he spent Monday at the cancer center, sitting in this room (that he described as the most humbling room you could walk into) with other people sitting around the room getting chemo.

Over the course of the next six months, he made friends in this room with some incredibly strong people. Chemo is poison, people. It destroys your cancerous cells but unfortunately, chemo (like cancer) doesn’t discriminate and it destroys your good cells as well. It attacks the hair cells, mouth cells, the feet and hand cells, among others obviously. Daddy spent the next months struggling to figure out what he could eat and drink because food tasted wrong and drinks were thick, not to mention the cold felt like needles piercing into his lips and tongue. His feet hurt and he could hardly feel anything in his hands. The tips of his fingertips were numb. That man worked the whole time though. He may have called out sick three times… maybe.

Monday, March 11th was his last chemo. He actually still has neuropathy in his hands and feet. It’s manageable but dang, that sucks. April 10th, he had CT scans and on April 12th, we heard the best words we’d heard in months.

No Evidence of Disease. NED. Cancer free. It was as if the biggest weight had been lifted off our shoulders, because even though it was him going through it, we all went through it too. We lived with him, we watched him sick and in pain, we changed dinners up to accommodate. My mother was amazing during the time period. We had people praying for us in different states. The most amazing support system came out of this.

He is healed and our faith already told us that, but the scans confirmed it. I never imagined I would come home and have to hear my daddy tell us that he had cancer, but I knew from the moment it happened that God would bring us through and that he would be healed. The amazing thing is that through this journey, there were more good times than bad ones. It was scary and devestating, but it brought our family together and it created a deep-rooted faith in God that we all thought we had before but by the time it was over, we knew.

Listen. I believe God told my father to go to the doctor. I believe God told that PA that something was terribly wrong. And I believe God placed that polyp there so the cancer could be found, because let me tell you something. We later learned that had Daddy not gone to the doctor, had the cancer not been found when it was, had he waited just six more months… they would have given him two years. Just let that sink in for a moment.

In the Bible, the book of Job tells a story of a man who was tested. He didn’t deserve what he went through, but Job said that even if God did “slay” him, he would still trust Him. Job loved God more than all else in the world and he still faced challenges. Sometimes good people go through bad things.

Job 13:15 says “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.”

When terrible news is delivered, you can choose to listen to the devil and you can get sad and you can give up. Or you can stand up and look the devil in the face and tell him to get lost because God is right beside you. God is holding your hand and He will prevail. I’m posting this because a year ago, our lives changed. This is my dad’s story but it’s also mine. And my mom’s. And my sister’s. This is our testimony and it needs to be told and heard. Life can change in the blink of an eye and you never know what tomorrow holds, so love hard. Love your enemies, love your friends. Forgive the people who never apologized to you and be thankful for the ones praying for you. God is good, even in dark moments.

Deep Roots

I have always been a family oriented girl. I’ve been thinking for a few days about some great people in my life who have truly been there for me in some of my darkest moments. I’m writing about my family today and will post about some great friends next week. But there’s so many things to be thankful about and I’m tired of being a victim so I’m taking control of my life and realizing how much good I’ve got going for me.

I feel so heartbroken when friends tell me about their estranged relationships with their parents because I’ve never known what that feels like. I’ve had fights with my family, I don’t agree with every thing they say and do, but I will always have my family’s backs and I know they’ll always have mine. There’s a quote I love by someone who’s name I don’t know that says

when the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.

My mom has been my absolute best friend for… always. When the boy in 7th grade didn’t like me back and I came home crying, she’s the one who held me. When I was sitting in my freshman orientation for college doubting whether I could make it as a nurse, I suddenly decided that I wanted to do dental hygiene (which my school didn’t offer), she’s the one who sat right beside me, jumped up and ran out of orientation with me. She then proceeded to drive me to another college so I could speak with admissions, just so I could decide that I actually did want to go to nursing school. When the boy I put my life on hold for dumped me over a text message, after two years, because he decided that alcohol was more important than me… my mama was the one who reminded me who I am. She was the one who watched me change into a person I wasn’t. She was the one who saw me teetering over the edge and she was the one who pulled me back.

My dad is my hero. As a little girl, I always thought that, but as a woman I know that. My dad had colon cancer and went through six months of chemo that really took a toll on him. He continued to work and provide for his family. He continued to pray, and he is a big reason that my whole family has such a great relationship with God. When my sister’s brakes went out on her bicycle going down a hill and she flew over her handlebars and hit the pavement, he is the one who carried her up the driveway. When I was struggling with math in elementary school, he sat with me at the kitchen table after work doing his best to help me. When I missed buck after buck, he was the one who got me an eyepatch (fun fact, I can’t close just one eye) and kept pushing me to not give up. When I shot my first coyote and deer in the same evening, he is the one who was sitting next to me, he is the one who jumped up with tears in his eyes and shouted with joy, thanking God.

I have a sister who is always up for a random trip to the store and who loves me even after we just beat the crap out of each other. I have a cousin who missed his practice to come to my house and take me to get loaded tater tots just to help get my mind off things. I have grandparents, aunts and uncles, family who love me and have gone out of their way for me on multiple occasions and would do it again.

I am so thankful to have something that not everyone else has, and trust me, I don’t take it for granted. I thank God every night for giving me this family and this life. I am such a lucky woman.