What I Learned from Cancer in 2014

As I fell to the floor in pain on the morning of February 25th last year, I had no idea how quickly it would change our 2014 and our future as a family. Two weeks later, I was in surgery and learned that the biopsy results indicated ovarian cancer – probably at a later stage.

I was numb — in shock. I began questioning God: “Why would you do this? Is this all you have planned for me? What about my kids, God? Why would you take a mother away from these already traumatized children so young? What will happen to them?  Will my young boys even remember me?

In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
Psalm 18:6

Lesson #1 – Make memories

During my cancer, my mind was constantly swirling with questions: “What will my young boys remember about me?  Will they remember snuggles, reading, trips to the park?  Or will they remember how frustrated I would get with them?” With an uncertain number of days with my young boys, every single moment became about them and less about me. And that’s the whole point of motherhood, isn’t it? Focusing on your children.

Be the MOM you want them to remember! #motherhood #cancer #quote

Lesson #2 – Record memories

My boys are only 5 and 7 years old – what can they remember on their own? I have so many photos and videos on memory cards. What good are they there?  My desire is to bring those memories to life through videos and photobooks. I have made a few photobooks for my kids and a few of the vacations we have taken but, for the most part, the photos of their childhood are on memory cards.  This year, I will make a photobook for the years 2008 to 2013 – that’s a commitment of making an annual family album at least every other month. I hope Picaboo has some great deals this year.

Lesson #3 – Be authentic

When my journey with cancer began last February, I didn’t want to share it — even with family — and didn’t for a month. As odd as it sounds with me writing on this blog, I can be quite private and introverted. Especially when I am grieving — I just want to shut the world out and work through my sadness by myself.  I guess it’s because I feel overwhelmed by other’s emotions when I am struggling to handle my own.  {For this reason, I chose not to have a public visitation when my father died many years ago}

With my cancer, I felt pressured to share this very personal journey — and then, there were those that shared it for me – before I even had shared with my family, which overwhelmed me even more.  A week before my last surgery, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Her beautiful smiling face was a joy to see. But when she smiled and asked: “How are you?”  I was at a loss for words. How should I respond? She obviously didn’t know about my cancer. I felt so disingenuous when I replied: “Good!”  I realized that I had to share my story – my truth – to be authentic in my journey.

Lesson #4 – Prayer is powerful

Through my cancer, my prayer life became much more personal, more constant. Every moment became a battle to keep my composure in front of my kids and in public.

Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.
Psalm 86:6-7

I’ve learned that the power of our almighty God is through our prayers to Him – but not just my prayers – I needed prayer warriors. And although I didn’t feel comfortable with others knowing my story, I began to feel all the prayers wrap around me and comfort me – it was only then that my soul was quiet enough to listen…

Lesson #5 – Listen to God

Through my cancer journey, I learned that listening to God is just as important as prayer. My cancer was discovered through a fluke test result. One doctor said yes, it was cancer, but yet another was saying it wasn’t. The conflicting reports from the different doctors overwhelmed me with confusion. I prayed and questioned God on what was happening. But then, when I stopped and listened –  I felt His comforting arms wrap around me while His peace flowed through me. “I am here with you, Penelope. Just rely on me.

The moment I called out, you stepped in; 
you made my life large with strength.
Psalm 138:3

My cancer surgery was a success, and I have now been cancer-free since July 31, 2014!!!

Listening is the beginning of prayer. Mother Teresa quote