Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thank You

It takes a village to raise a child....but it also takes a village to survive cancer. 

Especially when you have a husband, a house, and four kids to take care of (oh and a dog).

This post has taken me a while to put together because a) I wasn't quite sure how to go about thanking the hundreds of people that pulled us through cancer treatment, b) I didn't want anyone to get their feelings hurt if I forgot to mention them, and c) I'm just now getting out of the fog and realizing that this would not have been possible without these people.

You may not know these people, but I'm going to mention them by name anyway. Because they deserve the credit, and also because we can all draw inspiration from them the next time we know someone who is hurting or needs our help.

My family.
My mom - who babysat countless times, who brought us dinner/groceries/diapers, but was often the one who drove me to and from chemo and sat with me in the infusion room for 7 hours. She took me to more doctor's appointments than anyone else, apart from maybe Mark. Her presence and support of ME, individually, during this time, is proof alone of how strong a mother's love is.

My dad and my Mimi - for bringing countless lunches, groceries, and dinners....and for being my primary babysitters during radiation. For constantly being present week after week at my house. For advocating for me and knowing what I needed when I was too prideful or sick to ask. For driving me to doctor appointments and talking to me to distract me while I got poked and prodded and stuck.

My mother in law and father in law - without these two people, who knows what would have happened to my kids. It is only because of them that my girls were loved, cared for, and came out of this whole thing with very little damage. I never once worried about my girls while they were with my in-laws. They kept the girls more than everyone else combined, and for that, I am forever grateful.

My stepmom - who was an advocate for my medical care and provided me with resources and a VIP status at Northside Hospital. Without her presence and knowledge at Northside, I wouldn't have gotten the amazing doctors and medical care that I did. She also worked every Saturday so that she could take off work on Thursdays and come take care of the girls. She also provided me with my rockin' wig....who has still yet to be named.

My sister in laws - one from afar, and one from close by. Meredith babysat and provided meals for us all while working full time and taking care of her own family. Molly sent care packages and gift cards for meals, also while working full time and taking care of her own family. They also both texted me constantly to check in and send me bible verses or encouragement or tell me they were praying for me.

My aunts - my Aunt Traci constantly took care of my kids and also brought us many meals. My Aunt Gayle gave me more gifts and gift cards than I can count. Thanks to her I always had a book to read and a cute bag to put it in.

My friends.
Libby - she was my care coordinator. Libby knew what I needed and had it taken care of before I even knew that I needed it. She coordinated child care, meals, groceries, laundry, and cleaning services (graciously provided for financially by Leslie and her mom). Libby also entertained my kids, cleaned my house herself, and drew me up out of my depression pit when I was wallowing in self-pity. She was the first of my friends to say "we are not going to let you die." And there is no thank you big enough for that.

Two of my very dearest friends, Denby and Katie - these two beautiful women cleaned my house, took care of my kids, brought me gifts, cheered me up, brought us entire loads of groceries, folded our laundry, and cooked us meals. It should also be mentioned that they each have 4 kids of their own, and I'm honestly not sure how they managed to take care of me so well while also taking care of their own families.

Three more very dear friends, Claire, Kim, and Kacy - these three women also watched my children, brought me countless meals and groceries, and ALL saw me bald and at my worst. Their greatest gift to me during this time was their presence. All three were at my house often, lifting my spirits and serving me.

My milk suppliers, Emily and Denise - These two supplied me with a freezer full of breastmilk for Cora. (That's right, I fed my baby someone else's breastmilk. And when you go through chemo and have to abruptly stop breastfeeding your 7 month old, then you can start judging me. Otherwise keep your opinions to yourself.) I didn't know that I needed breastmilk for Cora. It wasn't something that I even thought about. But the Lord knew, and He put it on both of these ladies' hearts long before I needed it. Not having to worry about what Cora was going to eat was an amazing relief for me. Denise showed up at my house multiple times during my treatment with coolers full of frozen milk. Emily practically coordinated a drug deal by shipping me milk several times. Because of them, Cora was almost 11 months old before she ever had a drop of formula (again.....nothing against formula....no judgement....this is just what the Lord knew we needed during this time).

My small group and church.
For all of the prayers, for accepting us as we came in our mess and our wide-eyed looks of bewilderment and exhaustion, for not judging us or expecting anything from us, for constantly pouring into us without getting anything in return. For not recording our attendance or non-attendance, and for not mentioning my wig/scarf/hat/bald head or whatever apparatus I chose that day to hide my baldness.

For Tim and Malorie specifically, who set up our Go Fund Me account, without which we would not have been able to pay for my first chemo treatment and the many medical bills that piled on after (and continue to pile on). Malorie also coordinated our meal schedule website and made sure people knew when/if we needed meals.

Everyone at Mom 2 Mom.
I received many care packages, meals, cards, and gift cards, often from women I had never met or only met a few times. Mom 2 mom was a great community for me during this time and I will forever be grateful to this group of women who prayed for me and cared for me.

Everyone who gave us money, brought us a meal, sent us a card, and prayed for us.
Seriously there are too many people to count....many other dear friends and family members brought us multiple meals, babysat, sent cards/flowers/gift cards, cleaned our house, did yard work, and helped us get through this time in a million different ways. I can't tell you how many times a complete stranger walked up to me and said "I'm praying for you". You all provided us financial, emotional, spiritual, and physical support. I literally could NOT have gotten through chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation without all of you. I am so humbled and honored.

I also want you to know that if you sent us money, a gift, or a gift card, I tried my hardest to mail out thank you notes, but I know that I missed a LOT. So please forgive me if you did not receive a thank you note. Please know that your gift was greatly appreciated and used, and that it was only because the sickness fog outweighed my Southern manners that you did not receive a note.

And because I can't write a thank you post without mentioning my amazing husband, Mark. He was at the core of everything. He was both mom and dad on the good days, and on the bad days he was mom and dad and caretaker. We both joked several times that it was good that I got cancer instead of him because I would not be able to handle all of the different things that he had to do. He had to juggle a full time job, a very sick wife, and four girls needing/wanting attention. Not to mention heating/serving the meals that people brought, coordinating babysitting, keeping our house livable (because that's his standard), and talking me down off the ledge. He was my greatest earthly supporter through this. If he never does another nice thing for me for the rest of our marriage, I still owe him big time.

The Lord has taught me many things during this trial, but I think watching the church/community come together to care for us will be the thing that continues to stand out in my mind forever. It was amazing to watch, and even more amazing to be the recipient of. I'm really bad at asking for help. Mainly because I'm a control freak and like to do things myself. But also because I'm a control freak and like to do things myself. It's worth mentioning twice. Oh yeah, and that little thing called pride. I now see that I cannot do this thing alone. Not just cancer....but raising a family, being a wife, being who God called me to be...we were not meant to do things alone, but in community and in service to one another.

This community has taught me how to serve someone when they are sick, how to give when someone needs it, and that every little thing matters, even if you don't think that it does. If you think, "it really doesn't matter if I bring her this bag of muffins or not...she won't care", that is Satan whispering his lies in your ear. Because every single act of service points to Jesus, and every single gift and act made me feel loved.

So THANK YOU. I'm forever in your debt.

Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend. - Charles Spurgeon