Monday, 17 March 2014

Redefining Victory

Dear Mom,

Two years ago this month you were diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The statistics said that if we were lucky you would have six to twelve months to live. You were so sick, we wondered if that could even be true. Though I was thirty three weeks pregnant, I wondered if you would even meet my son. Your oncologist encouraged you to begin a palliative chemotherapy regime, because he felt it could improve your quality of life and make you feel better. You did, and even though it made you sick, and gave you mouth blisters and nausea and weird aches and pains, you kept going. Even though you had to sleep 90% of the day, and were on so many narcotics that you could barely speak sensibly, you kept going. You fought.

Slowly your health began to improve. You could eat again. You gained weight. You were able to leave the house, cut down on your pain medication, and then small steps turned into leaps and bounds. Your tumor shrunk to half the size it once was. You learned your chemo rhythm, and how to tolerate your treatments and plan your schedule around them. You fought, and you got your life back.

I know that when you got a sick everyone encouraged you to push for the impossible- for a cure. We wanted you to not just fight, but to win the war against cancer. We wanted you to declare total victory, to be cancer-free. Everyone told you that you could do it, because you are tough, stubborn, and determined, truly a fighter. Maybe this wasn't fair. Maybe we shouldn't have asked you to go head to head with an almost unbeatable cancer. What a burden that must have been for you, to try an accomplish the impossible. But you tried. You did chemo, radiation, you ate well and exercised. You fought for your life.

But the cancer marched on. It spread, your pain increased and you had to start a new chemo regime, and you agreed to do it for those of us who love you and are reluctant to let you go so soon. Now you are exhausted. You live in constant pain, on huge doses of narcotics, and without the ability to do much of anything. It seems like you are back at square one. Yet once again, you oncologist is telling you to continue palliative chemotherapy, which he believes will decrease your pain and offer you some more quality time. He, the doctor we affectionately refer to as "Eeyore" for his generally gloomy outlook, wants you to keep going. Your cancer markers are down, the new drugs are working, they just need time to beat back your pain.

I know from where you sit, which I am willing to bet is the dark blue reclining sofa in our family room, the pain isn't worth fighting through because you know you can't win. Barring a miraculous healing or an unexpected medical breakthrough, this cancer will kill you. I know it is important to you that we acknowledge this. I understand that cancer will ultimately win this war. What I want you to see is how many battles you have won in the meantime. I want you to redefine what you think of as victory over your cancer. Victory is much bigger than being declared cancer free. Victory is each and every precious moment you snatch back from the jaws of this ravenous beast. Victory is living when you should have died. Victory is finding joy in what you can still experience and in what you have left to give.

Victory is watching Kenny enter the world, and hearing him call you Jjaja.

Victory is seeing Katie mother her sweet Owen, and kissing his chubby little cheeks.

Victory is watching Emily walk down the aisle (wasn't she a beautiful bride?), and dancing at her reception.

Victory is experiencing the joy on your baby's face when he proudly announced he had a pea in the pod, and snuggling with his little JP.

Victory is watching Nic learn to ride a bike, and seeing Tommy start elementary school.

Victory is celebrating your 35th anniversary in Hawaii with the man who has taken such good care of you and has fought so hard for your health.

Victory is two Christmases spent together, birthdays, Easters, and countless other moments.

Victory is trips and visits and snuggles and games of war and UCLA football games and scoops of ice cream and days at the beach. Victory is creating memories.

Because you fought, your grandkids will remember you. Because you fought you have shared in so many precious life experiences with all of us. You have consoled us when things are rough, you have counseled us when we need direction, you have continued to mother us when we need it. Your choice to fight has been an incomparable gift.

I know that you are at peace with death. Your faith in Jesus has sustained you, and I know your trust in Him makes letting go of this world easier. I know that you do not, nor will you ever, desperately cling to life out of fear. I don't want that for you. But I also don't want you to give up before it is time.

I know your courage is gone, and your will to fight has left you and you need a reason to go on because hope is lost. Pain is discouraging, it has overwhelmed you, fighting cancer has sucked you dry, and at this moment you feel done with your fight because your know you can't win the war. In this dark place, look toward the light. Look at all the God has accomplished in these last two years of your life. Look at how he has used you to encourage and inspire others. Think of all those who come to him regularly in prayer on your behalf. Look at all He has gifted you with, the memories you have made and the time you have spent with your family and friends. Then consider what it means to be victorious. You have already had victory over your cancer. Each day that you live is a battle won.


1 comment:

pastor bill said...

It feels almost like an intrusion to post a comment on something so beautiful. But, from one person who's watched and been part of this battle with too many family members and friends and loved ones in and out of churches, thank you, Amy, for words so true and so right and so helpful. Victory, indeed. You are all one very special family.
With love and prayers for every day and all that has been faced and is being faced so courageously,
Bill Evans