Go Gray in May

Go Gray in May

IMG_6755May is Brain Tumor Awareness month. I’ll admit, in the past, I never paid much attention to health observances or the ribbons people wear for every type of disease/diagnosis imaginable. It seemed silly. After all, what difference can colored ribbons make?

On December 26, 2015, my grandfather was rushed to the emergency room, where tests revealed a tumor that was causing swelling in his brain. The following morning, he had brain surgery, and we learned afterward that he had a glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive type of brain tumor. He was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer.

Cancer.

 Last year, nearly 1.7 million Americans learned they have cancer. It’s a life-altering diagnosis that interrupts your life and knocks you off balance.

“Living with cancer has been a profoundly frightening, instructive, exhilarating, and yes, even humorous experience. It is a rude introduction to a basic fact of life: your body, that mass of bone, blood, cells, nerves ad organs, is your friend. Until it isn’t,” wrote Tom Brokaw in his 2015 memoir, A Lucky Life Interrupted.

Papaw’s cancer diagnosis not only altered his life, but it changed our lives, too. Suddenly cancer wasn’t a subject that only affected “other” people, but it now affected us, too. We were shaken with the knowledge that Papaw was sick, and this wasn’t an illness that an antibiotic could fix in 14-21 days. Radiation and chemotherapy started a couple of months after his diagnosis, and we all watched as he endured that. We have witnessed a support system gather around him, felt the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ pleading with the Lord to heal his body, and watched Papaw fight his cancer battle with grace and strength.

And now it’s May 2017. It’s Brain Tumor Awareness month, and I see gray ribbons pinned to shirts, Facebook profile pictures with the “Go Gray in May” frame, and social media posts from people about how their lives have been changed by brain tumors or brain cancer. Those ribbons? They don’t seem so silly now. They represent a community of people who are standing together; a camaraderie of people who understand the viciousness of cancer. When you see a gray ribbon—whether it’s pinned to a shirt, tied to a purse or backpack, posted on Facebook, or shared on a blog—you know that person understands; he or she is standing with you.

Worth the Wait

Worth the Wait

“Paper pregnant.”

That’s a term I didn’t really understand until we started the adoption process. Sure, I knew adoption required a lot of paperwork, but I don’t think I truly understood how much. But gosh, y’all. It’s a lot. We each had to write autobiographical statements, telling our life story. There were about 43 questions we had to address in this statement. Mine was originally 12 pages, but I finally edited it down to seven. I’m sure our social worker was thankful. In the last month, we have gathered references; rounded up birth certificates and our marriage license; filled out questionnaires about our families and childhood; completed “child preference” questionnaires—don’t get me started on that; made contingency plans in case something happens to us one day; drew fire plans and marked escape routes; listed all our assets, debts and values of our house/cars/possessions; made copies of social security cards, licenses, and car, home and life insurance policies; pestered our vet to write a letter saying Rosie is happy and healthy; provided a list of every prior residence; gathered letters from our employers; made copies of tax returns; and much, much more.

It’s a lot.

It would be really easy to complain and say, “People don’t have to do this before getting pregnant!” Actually, I have said that. I said it right around the time I was drawing floor plans for our home and marking every possible escape in case of fire. I grumbled and muttered under my breath, “No pregnant woman has to do this before her baby is born.”

But, y’all, it’s so worth it.

The moment a baby is placed in my arms, I won’t care about the hours spent making copies and tracking down the necessary information.

The hand cramps from signing our names on 50+ pages of paperwork? They won’t matter.
The frustration I felt after the 17th revision of our profile book? It will be forgotten.
The hours spent writing an autobiographical statement? It’s in the past. 

It’s worth it. I keep reminding myself of that, because I know that this is only going to get harder. The waiting period, I know, will be one of the most excruciating times of our lives. But the frustration, pain and anxiety I feel now can’t compare to the joy that is coming.

It’s worth the wait.

 

Lessons From My Father

img_1614-1My dad is my biggest supporter and fan. He’s been there to cheer me on and encourage me whenever I’ve doubted my skills, abilities or gifts. So to honor him on this Father’s Day, I thought I would share four life lessons from my dad.

1. Always be yourself—even if that means showing your crazy side. My dad is weird. I say that in the nicest, most loving way possible. He. Is. Weird. Guys, my teenage years consisted of traveling to BBQ competitions and watching my dad dress up as Elvis and smoke a slab of baby back ribs. That’s not a normal childhood. However, now that I am an adult, I’ve come to accept I’m just as weird as my dad. But he taught me early on to just be myself and be OK with who I am.

2. Don’t let “obstacles” slow you down. My dad wears hearing aids. He’s worn them my entire life. That’s because he was born with extreme hearing loss—about 80 percent in both ears. He’s gone through several different types of hearing aids, but he didn’t let that slow him down. In fact, he chose a career that few people with hearing loss would opt for: He travels around the country, giving talks about the products his company sells and making sales pitches. He didn’t let a “disability” stop him.

3. Life’s short; eat dessert.
My dad says we are “dessertatarians.” Some people like meat. Some people like vegetables. Some people like fruit. We like cake, pie, cookies and brownies. Life’s too short to skip dessert (especially if it’s made by Mimi).

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4. Stay humble. Tim McGraw would add “and kind,” and I would agree with that, too. My dad taught me that there are more important things than making money and a name for myself. Which is good, because I’m a writer, and let’s face it—I’m never going to have money! Dad (and Momma) taught me that life is more than money or prestige; it’s about loving and serving God, being a good friend, serving others, and being humble (and kind).

Gray Matters: World Cancer Day

Gray Matters: World Cancer Day

Today is World Cancer Day.

img_1180I didn’t acknowledge this day last year. I’ll admit it: I probably didn’t even know about this day. Cancer wasn’t something I knew much about. It didn’t affect my life or anyone in my immediate family. When I thought about cancer, I thought about pink ribbons, Race for the Cure, and other fundraisers for cures.

This year is different.

On December 26, 2015, Stephen and I were headed to East Tennessee for a belated Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. On the way there, my mom called to tell me that Papaw (her dad) was on his way to the emergency room—they suspected a stroke or even a brain bleed. Stephen and I drove on to my parents’ house to sit and wait for the news.

The hours dragged on. I paced the floor of my childhood bedroom, waiting for the news. Finally, that evening, the doctors told my family the news: They had found a malignant tumor. Brain surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

Everything changed in that moment. Cancer was no longer this foreign subject. Cancer was now the evil disease attacking my family.

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This year, I’m looking at World Cancer Day with new eyes. I now know that approximately 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. Globally, nearly 14 million people learn they have cancer every year. Like Papaw, millions of people wake up every morning knowing they are fighting the hardest battle of their lives.

My papaw has the best attitude—one that inspires me to keep trusting God. When the doctors gave him his diagnosis, he responded in faith: “Whatever happens, I win either way.” Today, he is on day four of chemotherapy and radiation. He’s determined to fight. He’s determined to win.

I now understand that cancer doesn’t just affect the person with the disease, but it also affects the lives of family, friends and loved ones. Chances are, someone you know is watching a loved one fight. And they’re fighting, too: They’re praying, pleading, crying, hoping, caring, loving.  I didn’t fully grasp that a year ago.

The twelve of us gathered in Papaw's hospital room to have a belated Christmas.
The twelve of us gathered in Papaw’s hospital room to have a belated Christmas.

Today, I am praying for every person fighting cancer. More specifically, I’m praying for my Papaw—for his health, his strength, his spirit and his faith. I’m praying for those people who are watching a loved one fight—I’m asking God to give His supernatural peace, His comfort, His strength. I’m praising God for giving doctors, surgeons, nurses and other medical professionals a passion for caring and healing. I’m thanking Him for the researchers and scientists who have devoted their lives to finding a cure for cancer. I’m asking God to give them wisdom and understanding as they test out new treatments and clinical trials.


“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18