2016 certainly didn’t happen like we’d planned — our worlds were upended on March 21 with a breast cancer diagnosis — but as Bill and I reflected back on the year recently, we realized that though it was definitely a HARD year, 2016 was not a BAD year.
When I called my friend Mandy — someone who knows too much about cancer — to tell her my news, she told me that there would be joy in times that I couldn’t imagine there being joy. She’s been right: over and over again, joy pops up, just in time. Maybe at some point, I’ll be ready to write about the experiences of this year, but right now, they’re still too raw. I have a bit of a pit in my stomach, even as I type right now.
For now, though, a few highlights of 2016:
- I felt so supported and loved by countless people. I can’t even begin to list all the cards, gifts, food, prayers, and ways that people reminded our family that we were not alone. Friendships were deepened and new friendships created in ways that only happens in the midst of struggle.
2. My awesome kids kept being awesome. Both girls were all sorts of brave in 2016: JA competed in high jump, performed with her choir at the Texas Music Educators Association convention, attended Maker Academy at ACU, participated in a church mission trip, moved up to pointe in ballet, and was appointed to leadership team at her school.
Molly read 9 million words, went to overnight camp at ACU, ran for mayor of her elementary school, joined the handbell choir, and learned to sew.
3. We had an amazing vacation in Western Colorado. Our original summer plans had included a month-long vacation to Canada, but chemo postponed that trip until 2017. We were able, however, to take a two-week vacation to Colorado, spending a few days in Mesa Verde National Park and 11-days in Ouray. We hiked, and hiked, and hiked (one of our family’s favorite pastimes), explored new places, worked puzzles, played games, and enjoyed being together.
4. I’m still me. That may sound weird, but one of my fears this year would be that cancer — and all the accompanying treatments — would change me, and, of course, there are ways it has. At my core, though, I’m still the same. I’ve worked, exercised, taught my classes, been a mom, traveled, laughed, gotten angry and thrown fits (one on the top of a mountain in Colorado), and been my goofy self day in and day out. (Even as my hair grows back, my same cowlicks are still there — something I was surprisingly relieved to discover.)
5. We’re ready for a new year. Cancer is SO 2016. I finished radiation in December, and now we learn to live in a post-cancer world. We figure out how to keep the anxiety and fears at bay, live in the present, and continue to seek joy.
The girls are back at school this week, and Bill and I are prepping for a new semester. Before we settle too far into the rhythms of a new year, we do have a little celebrating to do. Stay tuned…