Introduced by Amy
Hannah is my friend who my son may love more than me. (Kididng, Not Kidding. He asks for her and tells me that he loves her--no joke! Pretty bold for a two-year-old, huh? Ha!) My husband met her in their grad programs, and he heard that she is amazing with kids (she's the oldest of six kids--she's had a lot of practice), so we asked her to babysit. Seriously, I remember thinking watching her interacting with my son, "Crap, she's better with my baby than I am!"
Hannah is mature beyond her age, super talented (she's got a gorgeous, soulful voice and some mean piano skills) and she truly is beautiful (to use the cliche) inside and out. One night after she came over for dinner with us, we talked for hours, and she told me about her battle with cancer. I was blown away. Not just that she'd already faced such a trail (she's only like 21!) but I was amazed by her attitude about the whole thing. Most of us would be so angry with God, with fate, with destiny, or whatever to have to deal with chemo and hospital stays while the other girls our age are crushing on boys and planning for prom. But not Hannah. So of course, being the weirdo blogger lady that I am, I begged her to share her story here on SOM. :)
I hope you find her story as uplifting as I did! Enjoy! :)
January 24, 2009 was a day that began one of the most treasured experiences of my life: My cancer.
Just keep reading.
I was sixteen years old, was finally coming out of my awkward stage, had just gotten my license, and was two weeks into my second semester of college. (I homeschooled so I was able to finish my coursework and graduate from high school early.) I was on top of the world. I'd always had a plan for how my life was supposed to go, and things were right on track. Life was perfect.
Out of nowhere on a Sunday evening, I felt a dull pain in my lower left side. It was like it was just underneath my ribs, but I didn't think much of it. By that Wednesday I could tell it wasn't just going to go away. Over the course of that week my pain got much worse, and by that Saturday morning I was convinced I was dying. My mom took me in to urgent care and demanded that they do a chest x-ray. We were taken into the doctor’s office where she showed us the x-ray on a computer screen. She pointed to the picture as she said, “This is your right lung, and this is where your left lung should be, but it’s not.”
My thoughts started racing. I only have one lung? I’ve only had one lung for a whole week?! My mom and I were sent directly to the emergency room where a team of doctors was waiting for us. People were throwing the term “chest tube” around, and in my mind I was picturing something similar to a bike pump that they could just put down my throat, pump my lung up, and send me home. So I was confused when I was told to don a hospital gown and lay on the stretcher. The doctor explained that they were going to have to make an incision in my side to insert a chest tube which would hopefully drain the fluid they were guessing was there which had probably caused my lung to collapse. However, because I had had some crackers within the past hour, they weren’t going to be able to give me any general anesthesia. They could only numb the skin they were going to cut into.
They cut me open, and I remember it feeling like someone was running an ice cube across my skin. Then I felt all of it. They shoved a tube through my muscles and ribs, and immediately three liters of fluid began to drain from my chest cavity. My mom sat by my side as my body racked and jolted with the pain. I remember thinking I needed a distraction, so I screamed for my mom to tell me stories. Thankfully, they gave me something to make me forget what I felt.
I was then life-flighted to a bigger and better hospital about an hour’s drive from where we lived. I spent a week undergoing countless number of x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, blood draws, having a second chest tube placed, and a bone marrow biopsy taken all of which only told us that there was a “mass” in my chest. Our last resort was to take a biopsy of the mass, or tumor, which confirmed my diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.
I had cancer.
I didn't really know what it meant. I just knew my grandpa had died from it, and it was what the cardboard signs at McDonald’s with bald children on them asked you to donate to. Over the next two years I received chemotherapy and became much more acquainted with what it means to have cancer.
|My little brother and sister visiting me in the hospital.|
It means that some things matter and others don’t. One day after I'd come home from a chemo treatment, I went straight to my bed. I was exhausted, but was distracted by my siblings fighting over something inconsequential and my mom yelling at them for it. I got out of my bed and walked down the hall to the top of the stairs so that everyone in the house could hear me. I screamed at the top of my lungs for them to stop it and that it didn't matter. I’m sure my mom about had a heart attack to hear me exerting myself that way.
It means that appreciating the little things can make all the difference. For about three months I barely left my bed, and I lost about 60 pounds. All of my muscle was practically gone. I remember the first time I put my pants on by myself, took a shower without assistance, made a meal for myself, and even just sat up for an entire day rather than lying down. Can you imagine how elated I was when I ran for the first time? Occasionally it still hits me when I'm doing something as simple as brushing my teeth… “I used to not be able to do this.”
It means that acts of service are the greatest ways for us to become closer to our Savior, on both the giving and receiving end. One night I was craving pickles, and my friend brought me a baggie of them the next morning. Another night I wanted ice cream, and a friend who was visiting ran home and back again to bring me some. I craved yummy potatoes, and a friend made us two giant pans so we could freeze some. Another friend helped me wash my hair as chunks of it fell into her hands. So many other acts of service were rendered, and each one helped me feel how mindful the Lord was of me in that time.
|When I started growing back a little fuzz...|
It means so many things. I could not hope to list all of the things I learned through that process, and the things I am continuing to learn because of it. To name a few: It’s all about perspective. Life is beautiful. Your level of gratitude is directly related to your level of happiness. Everything that happens to us can benefit us if we let it. Family will always be there. God’s plan for me is far better than anything I could ever plan for myself. I am in control of my attitude. Your best tools are optimism and positive thinking.
Nothing is more important than true, pure, eternal love. Love without judgment or reserve. Love the people you don’t know, and remember to love the people you do know.
Love your trials.
Love the Savior.
But most of all, know that you are loved.
Isn't she amazing? I am continually inspired by her attitude...sheesh, I get a sinus infection and I'm about ready to give up on life! Ha! Thank you, Hannah, for sharing your story with us!
Friends, have you ever dealt with a long-term illness? How did/do you get through? How do you keep positive in such a heavy trial? We'd love to hear your perspective!
I am amazed by those who constantly battle a chronic illness, but continue living their lives. What a struggle! Especially mommas who have a family to care for...wow. Not only physical illnesses-- mental illnesses would also be such a difficult struggle, because many times, no one fully knows the extent of what you're going through since it's not something that can be seen on the outside. It makes me want to be more aware of those around me and be quick to serve, like the friends and family in Hannah's life. I love her motto: Love Wins. I agree. Love wins, because after all is said and done, the acts of love and service given during a trial, as well as our increased reliance on the Savior, give meaning to what could have otherwise been just pointless suffering. We will all have times when we get to be God's hands for others as well as times when we will be on the receiving end of loving service! Heavenly Father is pretty darn smart for designing life that way. :)
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