What Should You Do With It?
Have you ever been given a second chance at something? A do over, take two, or a reprieve from what should have been a negative outcome? After getting this second chance, you might have questions about what to do now that you have that second chance?
As a cancer survivor, I have been given a second chance at life.
I had a tumor in my small intestine, which was close enough to the pancreas to be considered a pancreatic cancer. Just look at the survival rates, and you will see that it’s one of the more deadly forms of the disease a person can possibly have. Most people don’t show symptoms until it’s “too late”.
I received this second chance 13 years ago. For years, I had no idea what to do with it. It’s taken me most of these past 13 years to figure out what I was meant to do with this second chance in life.
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In my latest post, I wrote about ways to stop worrying. Worry is a constant struggle for me, and probably most adults, so it was a topic I could totally relate to well.
One of my recent worries was my upcoming Relay for Life Speech, which I was able to deliver last weekend. I’m happy to say it went VERY well, and I wasn’t too nervous beforehand! I’m also proud to be able to check it off as an accomplishment!
My speech is about my cancer story. In it, I share how cancer showed me the everyday miracles in my life. It’s also how I realized what I was supposed to do with my second chance in life.
You can read the transcript of my speech below. I’m also including a link to the video at the end of the post, in case you’d rather watch!
Relay for Life Speech
Theme- Hometown Hope
Hi everyone! Good afternoon. I am so excited to be with you today at the Harrison County Relay for Life!
When Molly contacted me in the spring about speaking today, I immediately said “yes” because I was so excited to be given the opportunity to share with you today. I’m also so thankful and humbled to be able to stand before you as a 13-year cancer survivor.
Receiving a Miracle
The story I’m about to share with you today is a miracle. I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you without it. I believe God uses everyday situations in our lives, and everyday ordinary people in it to work and bring about these miracles.
And I also believe when a miracle happens, it happens for a reason. We may not know what that reason is at first. As you’ll hear soon, it took me several years to figure out why I’m still here. Lots of prayers and soul searching went into finding the answer.
Of course, watching my kids grow up and enjoying all of life’s blessings these past 13 years are a part of that. But I also feel that part of receiving a miracle is answering the call to bless others with what you’ve received. I’ll get to all of that a little bit later. For now, let’s start at the beginning…
It was March of 2006. Chris and I were getting ready to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We had three young kids; our oldest, Natalie, just turned 7, our middle child, Keith, was 5, and our youngest, Danielle, was 4 at the time. We were in the process of adopting Keith.
It was the week after Natalie’s 7th birthday party. Over the weekend, we had hosted a skating party at Charlie’s roller rink. Several friends and family had joined us for a fun afternoon skating and celebrating. Monday, a few of the kids that had attended the party were home sick with strep, and Tuesday, Nat woke up with a sore throat.
The first appointment we could get for her was after school that day. So, she stayed home with her daddy, and I met them at Dr. Stephens’ with the younger 2. They took us back soon and began examining her before the doctor came in.
Any of you that remember Dr. Stephens, you probably remember him being totally focused on the patient he was seeing. That’s the way I remember him. So, it kind of caught me off guard when he walked into the room, and instead of going right to working on Nat, he stared straight at me and asked, “Are you tired?”
“Of Course I’m Tired!”
Being a busy working mom, I started telling him all the things I do and how they “of course” make me tired. He was a patient man because he let me give my full-on mom martyr speech before he checked on Natalie’s throat. After her exam, he looked back at me and said, “She has a viral infection. Plenty of rest and fluids, and she will be fine.” As for you, “he continued, “I want fasting blood work in the morning. You’re too pale.”
Before leaving the office, I was given a copy of my blood work orders and was advised about fasting beforehand. The staff told me that they should have my results sometime the next afternoon, and I should call after lunch to learn my results.
We all got up early the next morning so I could get my blood drawn and make it to school on time. I was planning to call the office later in the day, so getting a call at 10 a.m. from one of the nurses was rather surprising. “You have about a third of the blood you’re supposed to have,” she explained. “Dr. Stephens wants to see you in the office as soon as possible. He wants to talk with you before admitting you to the hospital for transfusions.”
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What’s Going On?
Whatever blood I still had in me drained to the floor as I hung up the phone and stared at my 3rd-grade students. Before that call, I was thinking along the lines of needing iron pills, so hearing the words “blood transfusions” totally floored me. I scheduled a substitute, left work, and started driving to the doctor’s office. I called Chris on the way, and he met me there.
After a short chat with Dr. Stephens, who mentioned a bleeding ulcer along with other possibilities, we drove to the hospital. I checked into the hospital and was prepped to receive 3 blood transfusions. Getting that much blood made me feel a ton better!
Tests, Tests, and More Tests
After that Dr. Stephens started ordering tests to find out what had made me severely anemic. I had an upper GI, a scope, and then a CT scan. All without being allowed to eat. I was scared, starving, and grumpy!
“I Think It’s Cancer.”
Waking up from the scope, I overheard the doctor telling my husband, “I think it’s a tumor, and I think it’s cancer.” Through the haze, I remember asking, “Am I going to have chemo and radiation?” before drifting back to sleep.
At my follow-up appointment the next week, the doctor told us it was indeed cancer. A cancerous tumor had been in my small intestine for around 6 months. The doctor who did my scope referred me to a surgeon in Lexington to perform the procedure.
I saw the surgeon a week later, where he explained the Whipple surgery to me, along with what to expect for my hospital stay, and following with a half year of chemo. After he scheduled my surgery for the following Monday, we went home to wait and plan for the upcoming busy months ahead.
I don’t remember much of my time in the hospital. I spent two days into ICU and then seven days on the cancer floor. Several people came to visit and I received tons of cards and flowers during my stay. But the best news I got during that time was the morning they came in to tell me I could go home.Faithbox 12 Month Subscription
Adoption Day. Yay!
On April 19th Keith’s adoption was final. It was amazing to be able to walk into the court hearing and sign those papers!
At the end of April, I went back for my follow up with my surgeon, and then on to my oncology appointment. My oncologist wanted to begin chemotherapy that day, with one day a week treatment for three weeks and then a week off. This would continue for 6 months.
Longest Six Months Ever
That was a long 6 months. Three weeks of chemo. One week off to start almost feeling normal. And then repeat.
Even though it was an exhausting 6 months, it was when I opened my eyes and I saw for the first time the miracles that were happening in my everyday life. Finding out I was sick, having surgery, and the healing time right after that was a crazy blur, and I was not really “with it” at that time. I was in survival mode, not really aware, just existing.
Miracles All Around Me
But during these never-ending chemo treatments, I began experiencing miracles all around me. And those miracles were the people who loved on me, and prayed for me, and nurtured my little family during this dark season. My sister-in-law and her husband flew out twice to help before and during surgery, Chris and I both feel so much calmer about tackling the craziness in the coming months!
One of my best friends gave the kids a ride to school pretty much every week I had treatments. It was such a relief not to worry about getting them to school!
Each week, I had a family member or close friend who drove me to my chemo treatments, sat there with me, and brought me safely home. It was a blessing, because I had terrible headaches from the chemo, and wasn’t up to driving much. I had another close friend who would come to visit each week. She would bring take out, because “kids don’t like casseroles”, and she would insist on helping around the house before leaving.
Another close friend took the kids on some adventures, so their summer wouldn’t be totally boring. And my parents, siblings, and in-laws were always ready to help with the house, the kids, or whatever we needed.
One of my favorite memories were these two little old ladies from church, who have since passed away, would bring a meal every few weeks. They would also bring snacks and sandwiches that kids like to eat.
Blessings Gave Me Hope
You see, those blessings people gave me during that difficult time were all a part of Hometown Hope. The cards that were sent, from church groups and individuals. The rides, the calls, the help that was given whenever we could possibly need it, were all a part of Hometown Hope. My school family sending food every week, and our church family, who were ready at any time to help and support gave me and my family hope.
My husband has been an amazing partner, supporter, and best friend throughout these past 23 years. We’ve had the privilege of raising 3 exceptional kids, who are now young adults. I know being a kid and your mom having cancer is extremely difficult.
But, I do think this early struggle has made them more caring and understanding. They are each amazing individuals, and I could not be more proud of each of them. I also believe that they are better people because of the hope given to them from our community during that time.
Using That Second Chance
After being given this second chance, and the hope I was given through the love of so many people, here in Cynthiana, and around the world, I knew I had to do something with it. I was given a second chance, and I believe that God wanted me to do something with that chance. To help someone, to be that hope and share the miracles given to me with people who so desperately need it in their lives!
I knew I was supposed to give hope and encourage other people, but at first, I had NO idea how to do it!
I tried to be encouraging whenever someone in my life was diagnosed with cancer. I’d send a card or make a phone call, or just listen when they needed someone who understands. As a survivor, I know those things are what you need desperately when riding the tidal waves of cancer.
I’ve been thinking about it for about a year now, but this past winter, I was feeling pushed to do something more.
It wasn’t something I could pinpoint exactly, but I knew I was supposed to reach more people. To share the encouragement and love I was given during my darkest hour. To lift them up and give them hope, just like my family and community gave me.
Starting This Blog
And one day it hit me- that I should start a blog. I read blogs all the time. Many of the searches I do on Pinterest lead me to blogs. It’s a great way to share a message with people all over the world. So, I did a little research and launched Faithful Ninja Momma in February.
The name comes from three things that describe me and what the blog is about. Faithful comes from using the blog to share my faith in God.
The Ninja comes from my love of martial arts. My family and I began karate classes 8 and a half years ago at Central Shaolin Martial Arts. I fell in love with this style of exercise almost immediately. Plus, anyone that knows about martial arts, you know that your dojo friends are just like family. And Momma comes from, well, that’s what my kids call me.
I began blogging by writing my cancer story, sharing the different stages from diagnosis to recovery. I also write about family vacations, parenting, faith, and fitness, along with other topics.
My writing goal for every article is to inspire people. To lift them up, give them helpful tips to live a better life, and to make them feel better about themselves than before they read it.
Why I Got a Second Chance
I truly believe this is the reason I’m still here. To encourage people and give them hope. To share the hope my hometown has given me and continues to give cancer survivors through the Relay for Life. And, of course, I am here to share the love of Christ.
Thank you for allowing me to tell you my cancer story. And thank you all for contributing and supporting the Relay for Life for so many years in Cynthiana. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be here today.
So What Can You Do?
Not everyone that gets a second chance is a cancer survivor. You might get a second chance by surviving a car accident. Maybe you lost a job and then were blessed with an even better career opportunity. A second marriage full of love and commitment might be your opportunity for a second chance.
When you get a second chance, whatever it is, it’s crucial to make the most of it. How you do that can be different for each person. Taking time to relax with your family, instead of stressing out, can be a great way to make the most of this second chance. Giving back to the community is another way to make the most of life.
Some people may know immediately how to do this. Others, like me, may take some time to figure it out. And that’s okay too.
What would you do with a second chance at life? Comment below or send me an email. I would love to hear your thoughts!