This time last year...

As we approach the month of September, I find myself reflecting quite a bit on this time last year.

This time last year, we were preparing for John to begin six cycles of chemotherapy to treat his CLL. If you go back and read some of my August/Septebmer 2009 blog posts, it's all there; concerns, fears, worries, and the peace of knowing that God was in control ... no matter what.

This time last year, I was also putting the finishing touches on my book. I finally submitted the pdf to the publisher on October 20. It took longer to revise and edit my work than it did to write the entire original 127,000 words. (The original manuscript was finished in early May; just before my 50th birthday.)

This time last year, I remember riding waves of fear and anxiety. I remember imagining worst case scenarios that I did not feel equipped to face. Fortunately, as is often the case when we project ourselves into the fear of the unknown, none of those worst fears actually happened.

If we could have known this time last year that John would not get a remission from FCR, we would not have chosen for him to receive it. But his immune system survived, and failing FCR was what enabled him to qualify for a clinical trial with CAL-101 as single agent ~ which is working beautifully for him now. As long as it continues to work, he will continue to receive it.

I am fully aware that CAL-101 could stop working at some point. Nobody knows how long it will work for any given patient. But one thing I have learned from this past year is not to invest myself deeply in worrying about dreaded worst case scenarios. It's working now. For that I am incredibly thankful. And I am choosing to live in the moment. Every time I look at John's thin neck, with NO visible lymph nodes sticking out, I am so thankful for one more day ... week ... month. I don't feel anxious as lab and scan appointments approach because I can see that the drug is working with my own eyes. If nodes ever start enlarging, I'm sure I will again feel some anxiety. But I'm not going to entertain thoughts of the drug failing us while it is working. No amount of worry can change the future. And the future may be far more promising and hopeful than my imagination.

Here's what I AM thinking about:
How wonderful the holidays are going to be this year in comparison to what we were going through last year!

I did not enjoy the holiday season last year. I couldn't wait for it to be over. John was so sick from early September through January. Last Thanksgiving and Christmas, we were pretty isolated by John's very compromised immune system. We had to avoid anyone with any type of infection in their household (including colds). For John, a common cold could have turned into pneumonia. So, Thanksgiving wound up being John, Marian and me. Kids are considered especially risky while undergoing chemo. So we didn't get to have our normal Christmas with the kids either. We attempted to get together with Danny, Rebecca and the boys at our house. But five minutes after they arrived (and before John got home, fortunately), Joshua just threw up out of nowhere. We thought it might have been from playing hard or something he'd eaten, but we had to be wise and cautious; not taking any chances. So we quickly opened presents and they left without even seeing Poppy John. I kept my game face on for the boys. But I did shed a few tears after they drove away. We spent the last few days of the year in the chemo room. So New Year's Eve weekend and our wedding anniversary (January 4) were not exactly festive either.

It was a tough season and I remember reminding myself so many times, "It's just one Thanksgiving, one Christmas, one New Year's, one anniversary. There will be others."

It's hard to believe a year has passed since John started chemo (September 8). Seven months have passed since he finished that course of treatment. He hasn't fully recovered from the toxicity. His energy level is low and he is often exhausted at the end of the day. But he is so much better than this time last year!

We never know what the future holds. We don't know what tomorrow holds. Life as we know it can change in an instant. I know this. I know it well from personal experience. But even still, I sometimes have to ask myself, "Are you living as if you believe this." I think ~ for the most part ~ I am.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.


~ Reinhold Niebuhr


Betty Kirschner said…
Shari, I always enjoy your Posts! Reflection is good for all of us for it puts things in perspective. I am so glad John is doing so much better. I will continue to keep both of you in my thoughts and prayers.
None of use knows what the future holds,I too know this well from personal experience.
Thank you for reminding me to keep each day in perspective!!!
Love You,
Shari said…
Thanks, Betty. I appreciate you so much. Your friendship is a blessing! Love you too!

(And for those of you who don't know this; Betty Kirschner was my kindergarten teacher in California! I think she may have written on my report card that I talked a little too much and was a little bossy. Tendencies that could be observed in me still today!)
Shari, that's funny! I love knowing that some of us have had some really great teachers that have had a lasting impact on our lives! My 4th grade teacher would be one of mine and she was just here a few weeks back! :) I pray that when I get a teaching job that I will be that type of teacher!
Shari said…
Amanda, I did not see my email notification of your comment until this afternoon. AOL put it in my spam folder and I missed it! Sorry for the delay in publishing it! I don't really using comment moderation, but it does eliminate spam.
Anonymous said…
Very nicely put. By God's grace "this time next year".

BTW - I think I might have actually finally posted something worth while. I will be trying to do so more often.
Shari said…
Glad to hear that, Barry. I've enjoyed reading your infrequent blog posts. : )