Photo above: Our family, Christmas Day 2022, Left to right, back row: me, our friend Ann, my brother-in-law Cary, our oldest son Grant and his wife Taryn. Front row, left to right: son Kaleb, our daughter Sarah holding our son Bentley, son Xavier, Les and Grant and Taryn’s dog Chico.
With the end of the year fast approaching, it is the time of year when we look back on the months that have passed. The high and low points, bests and worsts become a collection of memories – a mental scrapbook of how the year went. My 2022 mental scrapbook is overflowing with all of the happenings. Maybe you’re just joining me on this journey via blog, or maybe you walked through the entire year with me. Whatever the case, I thought I would share my look back at 2022.
The year started with me being almost five months into a physical and mental battle with a large mass growing in my abdomen. We knew the mass was there, we knew how large it was and based on lab work and imaging, we suspected it was cancerous. We didn’t know what it was going to take for me to overcome almost 30 years of paralyzing anxiety and agoraphobia to get to the place where I could find help and answers.
In February and March I was going downhill physically and mentally. I knew I needed to go to the gynecological oncologist in St. Louis, but I spent what little energy I had trying to come up with solutions that felt doable to me (there weren’t any). I spent much of my time laying on the sofa and became so malnourished that it affected just about every aspect of my life. It got to the point where I was almost homebound, even to the point where one of my healthcare providers made a housecall of sorts. Unfortunately she didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, so I struggled to take her advice.
April turned out to be an eventful and life-changing month. I went to an appointment with my primary care provider and in a moment of clarity that can only be described as miraculous, I said I wanted to go to St. Louis for the care I needed. Wheels were quickly set in motion and the next day I was taken by ambulance to Barnes-Jewish Hospital where I had surgery to remove a very large cancerous tumor from my abdomen. After six days in the hospital I came home physically, but mentally I was somewhere else. Less than a week later I went back to the hospital, this time a hospital that would help with the mental and emotional problems that I was having.
Early May brought some good news – the surgeon called Les and told him that the cancer had not spread or metastasized. Although we were elated with this news, I was still not well mentally and it took some more time for that news to really sink in. May and June turned out to be difficult months in some ways. While I had overcome some fears and had a successful surgery, it seemed that my agoraphobia was still hanging on. During these months I experienced some of my darkest days. I will share more about these days in future posts, but for a time I even became convinced that I was going to die in my sleep and that I had missed my chance of going to heaven. Dark days, indeed.
Things began really changing for the better in July and August. I regained faith and confidence that I was okay and would continue getting better. As I gained strength, my physical and mental health improved. I began doing little things that I hadn’t done in a long time and stretching myself emotionally to overcome many long-held fears. I was also beginning to truly understand the miracles that God had done and continued to do in my story.
September was a bit of a roller coaster ride. While I continued to improve, we had some deaths in our families and my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. While we had suspected it for a while, the “official” diagnosis was a punch in the gut. At that point it had been about seven years since I had seen my mom and it had been almost 30 years since I had seen her in my hometown (where she lives). We had been making small trips pretty close to home but it finally felt like it was time to go further. We decided to go to our church’s fall retreat in mid-October and then go on to see my mom and my siblings right after that.
In October we did go to the fall retreat, which was amazing. Aside from my hospitalizations earlier in the year, it was the first time we had stayed that far away from home in decades. Everything about the retreat felt like God had planned it just for us – we learned and grew so much. We followed that up with a trip to Galesburg to visit my mom and siblings and their families. It was a special time that we will never forget.
During November and December we made as many trips as our time, budget and health would allow. We are enjoying learning this “new normal” and still soaking in the amazing things God has done in me and our family. The healing that I continue to experience is multi-faceted – emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. Sometimes working on one of those areas opens up stuff in another. I’m excited to see how this story continues to unfold in 2023!
I am eager to share with you many stories of my journey – both the good and the bad, the hurt and the healing – in posts in the coming weeks and months.
My prayer for you is that 2023 brings you love and joy. I pray that you will have good health and peace. If you’re afraid, I pray for calm. Most of all, I pray for confidence that God is not only in your story, but he is the author of it!
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