And so many months without a post!
Hello?? IS anyone reading??
We just had a huge milestone in our family. April 19th was the one year anniversary of Katie Mei’s cancer free diagnosis. Still reeling over this past year, and the journey we have been on.
A few months ago I was so honored to be asked to speak at our old church in California’s Women’s Tea. I got to see dear friends and I shared a little of our story. Just wanted to share it. I will post another musings post soon. For I have been musing. A lot.
If you had asked me a year ago to come and share a little of my life with you, my story would have been entirely different. My journey over the past year has completely changed the roadmap of our lives.
Let me tell you a little about my family. I have an amazingly wonderful husband of 17 years, Michael- and 4 kids (heaven help me) Jack, Sam, Katie Mei and Lauren. Jack and Sam are homegrown- and we adopted both Katie Mei and Lauren from China. I love my kids. They drive me insane, they drive Michael insane, they make me laugh harder then I ever believed I could- and they draw me closer to the Lord every day. There are days when I am so close to the Lord I am BEGGING him to please come back NOW so I don’t have to do another load of laundry.
We are close.
When Sam was about 2 Michael and I started talking about weather we were wanting another child. Before we had been married we talked about kids, how many etc….and what we might do if we couldn’t conceive on our own. Both of our hearts were pulled towards adoption. So when we started praying about having a third child we really felt God calling us to adopt. Excited and scared, we started *I STARTED* the research and paperwork.
All roads that we walked on lead to one place, China. Paperwork, tears, what ifs and even weight gain were all parts of my paper pregnancy. Waiting for our referral (photos and information of our child) was like the agonizing last days of pregnancy. Complete with phone calls from well meaning friends of when.
When that call came, time stood still. The next day, the Fed Ex man delivered our baby. I told him so. He looked at me like I was insane as I stood there tearing up. I didn’t care- all I knew is that I got to see that face. We all sat in our car and opened the package together. And we saw our sweet Katie Mei for the first time.
She was so sweet- the most beautiful little girl…. we couldn’t wait to go get her.
Fast forward a few months, and we were on a bus headed to a non descript office building in Changsha, China. As we stepped into a room bustling with crying babies and parents, I saw her. She was sitting on the lap of an older gentleman in a yellow teletubbies outfit and sucking her thumb. Our girl.
A few legalities, a few questions and then she was in my arms.
In that moment, something I had NEVER anticipated happened. In that monment, my entire relationship with the Lord changed.
I held onto my sweet girl, whom I had prayed for, whom I had longed for, whom I had loved before I knew her, and I GOT it. I was struck with the knowledge of how much God loved me. How he knew me before I even knew he existed. I understood for the first time that He loved me so much He would lay His life down for me. He adored me and wanted a relationship with me. I held that little baby, a new addition to our family, and I got an even bigger gift then I ever expected. A deeper love, a closer walk with my Savior.
This journey into the world of adoption changed our lives forever.
So much so that when we had sold all our baby things, all the old toys all the clothes, the Lord knocked on our hearts again- and the exclamation point to our family sentence entered the scene. We all traveled back to China, this time to ZhengZhou to adopt our ball of sunshine, amazingly gifted, strong, goofball Lauren Grace.
Lauren was 4 when we adopted her 2 years ago. To say that she astonished us with her strength and bravery when we adopted her would be a huge understatement. She floored us. And continues to. She is a gift that we may have missed had we not heard that still small voice in our hearts urging us to go.
We had been home from China for almost a year- still adjusting to the addition of a little girl- figuring out life as a family of 6. Katie Mei and Sammy were knee deep in the last performances of Annie, and the crud hit our house. Strep Throat stinks. Lots of popcicles, advil and movies later, and the kids were better.
Then Katie comes back telling me her throat hurts. Round 2 for her. Better for a week, and then again. Fever of 103, her glands swollen- strep again. Then Christmas- she was feeling better and we had a great holiday. Her glands were still pretty swollen- but thankfully no fever.
On New Years Eve- she spiked a huge fever- and couldn’t even swallow her own saliva. We had pain medication, but she started halucinating. Yeah that was fun….
We got her past the fever- but Michael and I were concerned- 4 rounds of strep- and her lymph nodes had swollen so almost baseball size. Huge. So we went to an ENT and a date was set for her to get her tonsils and adenoids out- and while she was under they were going to take a sample of the lymph node- doctors both thought it was all just a part of the tonsils- not to worry.
She healed well from that surgery. And we waited. To be honest, waiting is not my strong suit.
I finally got a call on Friday- but still no answer. Our ENT said “Well, the easy answers have all been ruled out.”
Um, Ok. What are the hard answers.
“I need to tell you, I am concerned” He told me. Then he said he would be praying for her and for us all weekend and would call me as soon as he had any news.
Ok. When a doctor tells you he is concerned, then I panic.
And when I panic, I eat bread. And chips, and crackers.
And I also research. Lame, I know but I do. Well- just let me caution you- do NOT google when a doctor says he is concerned.
We prayed a lot that weekend. Michael and I sought the Lord that weekend, and asked our family and friends to pray.
Monday came and the phone finally rang.
After checking on his patient, the came out with the news, our sweet girl has Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Our 8 year old gift straight from God has cancer.
There were no answers up front.
I am not really sure what happened next.
I know I called Michael and I know I was crying.
I know my friend Joy called to say she was coming over to watch the girls while Michael and I talked.
And I know that I asked the Lord over and over again to give the cancer to me.
A whirlwind of activities started. We got to know words like staging, chemo port, pet scan, bone marrow testing and the science of blood counts.
I felt almost dizzy. There was so much. So much to ingest and digest. So many questions from Katie and from our other kids.
One thing I was so cognizant of was that I was not in charge.
I was not in control.
I could not change this.
I could not heal my daughter.
But one thing I know for sure, I know who can.
I also knew that our view of life is limited.
Imagine being in a boat drifting down a beautiful river in the middle of this amazing canyon. You can see down the river aways, but you can’t see around that corner. Or beyond that rock. There may be rapids that can shake you clear out of your boat, or there may be a waterfall. Your view is limited. But imagine flying above that river, seeing the river in it’s entirety. You see where it begins as a small creek and where it blends with the endless ocean. You can see every turn, ever rapid, every whirlpool. You know what to expect and how to plan for every situation.
Friends, that is such a comfort. To know that as limited as our sight is regarding our future, our lives in the coming days, we have a God who sees our lives from beginning to end. He knows the twists and turns that are ahead. He sees the rapids that may tumble us.
I became acutely aware of my needing to trust Him completely with my daughter. His view was perfect. He knew what lay ahead. He knows her better then I do.
And so I fell head first into this rapid. Pointing my feet downstream and holding onto my life jacket, my relationship with the Lord ready for this ride.
Leading up to her diagnosis, we look now and see how the Lord had provided.
6 months prior to Katie being sick, our dear friends got news that the husband had a brain tumor. One that would be fatal. One that may mean a very difficult death, and life.
We knew about cancer. And the kids were able to watch us walk through the first few months with Colby and Emily. And knew about cancer and chemo. Colby is a miracle himself- long story short, this tumor has stopped growing and they just returned from Taiwan with their newly adopted son. Only God.
Katie had been placed in the PERFECT class, the perfect teacher, the most amazingly wonderful school. It amazed us daily.
We also had been given precious friends out in OK- who rushed over the night we got the diagnosis to pray over us and hug us. And bring us food.
Dude. The food. Let me say- people LOVE to bring food. ANd I love to eat food. Hence my 20 pound weight gain. Yeah. Food is good.
Our hearts overflowed as the news of Katie’s illness scattered to all parts of the world. And people began to pray. On the morning of her pet scan, my cell phone rang with a number I didn;t know- usually I wouldn’t answer, but I really heart a voice telling me to. I did. A sweet woman introduced herself a friend of a classmate, whose daughter had just celebrated one year cancer free from Hodgkins Lymphoma. She was treated at the same hospital, she is a sophomore at a local high school and she is now Katie Mei’s big sister Caroline. Her mom prayed over the phone with me and told me what to expect. And continued to walk with me, often holding me up through our journey through cancer.
She imediatley was staged at 2, (no cancer past her upper chest), chemo port was inserted, and 2 rounds of chemo began.
Katie Mei. A girl, if you know her who has a spirit of grace, wisdom beyond her years, compassionate, passionate and entirely full of joy. She faced cancer head on. Scared, but ready to get it out of her body. To say she is the bravest girl I know would be an understatement.
The most difficult thing for me as a mom was watching her suffer. Watching her lose her beautiful hair, hearing her sadness at not being at school. My heart broke for her as she couldn’t even sit up for too long because she was so tired. Her head hurting. Her throwing up.
As I held her and put cold cloths on her head, I prayed over her. I cried with Michael and tried to keep life normal for our other 3. We often sang together in the car on the way to and from treatment. She has an amazing voice. There were 3 songs she always asked for. Healer, Waiting here for you, and Forever Reign. Those words became our prayers daily. I believe your my healer. I believe you are all I need. Waiting here for you, with my hands lifted high in praise. You are life you are life in you death has lost its sting….. Those songs were moments with Jesus. Balm.
I shaved her head when the hair falling out became too annoying. We laughed for over an hour about that. She was bubbling with joy over finally seeing her bald head.
I never doubted. I never asked why. I knew that the Lord had allowed us to come into this valley for a purpose. Though we couldn’t see it now. Still tossing in that boat.
After 2 rounds of chemo, Katie had a scan. A new family in our small group (who happened to come the Sunday before her scan told us that he was a radiology resident at OU Childrens. And he would actually be the one reading her scan. Really? So we called Dan once we got to the hospital and he told us he would call us.
He called and I could tell he was crying. At first I got so scared. But then he said “I NEVER get to call with good news, and I have to let Dr. P officially look- but Jenny, it looks awesome.”
April 19th. 2 months and 6 days from the diagnosis, our girl was in Remission.
Friends, we later found out that this is rare.
And we rejoiced. Knowing indeed the prayers of a little girl, and thousands of people were answered.
The kids at school (the entire school) heard over the intercom about katie being cancer free that afternoon. She cried. She told everyone she could that God had healed her.
As strange as it sounds, I am so thankful for cancer.
I know, right?
How could I say that? I am not glad that my daughter had cancer. That makes me weepy. But, I can say with all my heart, I am thankful for cancer.
Our lives have been forever changed.
And our family is different.
More apt to hugging.
Laughing more then correcting.
Forgiving more than holding a grudge.
Realizing that life changes daily.
Realizing that we can do nothing to stop it.
Thankful that we don’t carry our burdens alone.
Thankful that we are not in control.
Amazed at how fast this life is flying by.
Our family is different.
we have cancer to thank.
We are on a journey, aren’t we. One thing that is common to all of our journeys is that they all have a beginning, middle and an end. Our journey through cancer may be done…..but it will always, always remain one of the biggest waterfalls we have ever gone down.
Knowing that the Lord holds the beginning, middle and end to our lives made us able to jump in the boat with both feet, hold on tightly through the rapids and even raise our arms wildly screaming down the waterfall. Knowing, trusting that we would again land, safely on the river, with the Lord holding us, loving us and guiding us as we head toward that ocean.
Thank you so much for listening. God bless each of you on your journeys.