Happy 1 Year Anniversary to my husband Paul!
I look back at the past year and the word “unconventional” comes to mind. We were blessed to have an incredible wedding with so many loved ones that celebrated with us until the venue shut us down! It was my dream day, and we had an amazing honeymoon in Mexico. The week after our honeymoon I started to experience the symptoms from the brain tumor. Two months later the symptoms became so unbearable we made our second trip to the ER where they ordered an MRI and found a tumor of “considerable size” wedged between my brainstem and cerebellum. I will never forget that moment. I was sitting on the bed, and a group of doctors and specialists stood around me and delivered the news. I looked over at my mom and I could see in her eyes that her heart was breaking…my shoulders collapsed forward and you were sitting behind me on the hospital bed. When my shoulders collapsed I could feel you stretch out taller, puffing out your chest and broadening your shoulders. You didn’t have to say a thing; your body language said it all. In that moment I felt weak, but you towered over me with assurance, strength, and protection. During one of the darkest hours of this journey, I will always be thankful for your support in that moment.
That day we met with the man who would operate on my brain a week later. He warned us it looked as if the tumor was on the brainstem and there would be no guarantee he would be able to remove the whole thing. His goal was to at least get a piece of it to see whether it was malignant or benign. On May 9th, I said bye to you and our family and I was whisked away to the operating room. You waited patiently alongside our family for me to wake up. The surgeons came over to you and said the operation could not have been more perfect, it was a “textbook” surgery. The tumor was in fact on the brainstem, but when they reached for it, it simply “rolled off the brainstem”. The entire thing was removed and it was a moment of victory for us, a true miracle.
I returned from the hospital 4 days later and began my recovery. It took almost a month to get results of the pathology report, and it was confirmed the tumor was cancerous and that further treatment would be required. I’ll never forget driving home with you that day and asking how you were and how you felt. You turned to me and said, “This just means we have some business to take care of”. I quickly realized how blessed I was to have you by my side, that your attitude was identical to mine… as long as there was a battle to be fought, there was a victory to be won. Your comment foreshadowed how you would handle adversity in the months to follow.
By the time we got the report, I was 5 weeks post surgery and all of the specialists told us that treatment should begin around 7 weeks post surgery. Time was of the essence and we decided proton radiation therapy would be the best plan for me. We were able to get into Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for proton radiation therapy. The radiation oncologist really wanted to help me, and squeezed me in months earlier than expected. We got in at the nick of time, another miracle.
Every day, you walked me to the hospital from our apartment to get my daily dose of radiation and weekly dose of chemo. You patiently waited for me every single appointment. For my 25th birthday you decorated the entire waiting room with balloons and streamers and cupcakes for the staff with the help of my brother. My 25th birthday also marked the day I would begin to lose my hair which was a tough pill to swallow but you made that day special. We later fell in love with a Yorkshire terrier and brought her to our Boston home. It wasn’t until we returned to Winnipeg we found out she was born a day before my surgery. What a coincidence.
We made it through 6 weeks in Boston, and on August 18th we packed up the apartment and received a text from my sister, “You could be an aunt today!”. Sure enough, baby Henry arrived 3 hours after our plane landed in Winnipeg. He was early according to Heidi’s doctor, but to us Henry came into the world exactly on time. The day we became Aunt and Uncle together for the first time was another great day.
After being home for a month, I struggled to sleep. I would move from bed to bed in the house and you would follow me watching over closely. By the end of September, I slowly began to lose control of my hands and feet due to peripheral neuropathy, a side effect from chemo. I became 100% dependent on you as I could barely find my fingers to lift a fork up. My feet and hands were completely numb. You took care of me with such pride and joy. At times when I felt like a burden, weak, not enough, you looked after me like I was a precious jewel.
We still have “business to take care of” on this journey of healing. And it has been an unconventional first year of marriage, but one laced with so many miracles, signs, and wonders.
Happy anniversary my love, to many more years of slaying the dragons that come our way, and to defying the odds. Not through our own strength, but through the power of Jesus already in us.