Today is either a Happy Valentines Day or Singles Awareness Day. For both parties: those who have found their forever love, and those who are still searching for it… Share your heart with those you care about, regardless of your relationship status.
Blessed. (June 2010)
While February 14th is a made-up holiday that our country feels obligated to spend money on chocolates and gifts, Matt and I still enjoy celebrating this day in some way. I challenge each of you to do the same. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not suggesting that you go out and spend money that you may or may not have on someone you may or may not truly love. My challenge to you is simply sharing your heart to those in your life who mean something to you. Write a letter. Make a phone call. Send a text. We’ve all heard it several times, “You never know what day is your last…”, and it’s the truth. My husband and I take this sentiment to heart. And frankly, this began well before my diagnosis. We never leave a conversation over the phone without saying, “I love you.” We never walk out of the house without saying, “I love you.” And it may sound weird, but we always end an argument by saying, “I love you.” We don’t want our last conversation to be one that we haven’t shared our love for one another. Every single day, I know how much my husband loves and cares for me, and he knows how much I love and care for him. There will never be a moment that either of us questions that. I encourage you to live in the same way. You don’t have to have a spouse in order to share your heart. Do you care about a friend? Tell them. Do you appreciate your family? Tell them. Do you adore your spouse with every fiber in your being? Tell them.
Love and adoration. (June 2010)
This will be Matt and my 5th time celebrating this “holiday” together, yet he is my valentine every single day. I adore this man. He has guarded, honored, loved, and tended to my heart since I gave it to him in 2008. He has loved me unconditionally no matter how much I may complain, no matter what my body looks like, and no matter what I do or don’t do. His love for me is selfless. He is the leader of our family, the calm in many of our storms, and the strong rock that I can lean upon. His character is outstanding and deserves applaud. He is level-headed, compassionate, strong, loyal, patient, and he finds a way to make me laugh every day. He treats me better than I often deserve. He makes sacrifices in order to assure that we are happy. He works his butt off to provide for our family. He is my best friend. The one I laugh and cry with, the one I share secrets with, and the one person who has never left my side. From before diagnosis through this very day, he has remained steadfast and faithful to our vows. This diagnosis has only brought us closer together, and has grown our love and affection for one another in ways I never knew possible. My diagnosis is scary, let’s face it. And although he has the chance to run away and find a healthy and fertile woman, he doesn’t. Because I am his woman. This journey has never been an easy one, and it often gets harder each day, however, we have committed to be in this adventure together, and no disease will ever change that. He is truly the man of my dreams. The man I always dreamed about and prayed for, but never imagined marrying. I am eternally blessed.
This morning, I reflect on the vows we promised each other more than two and a half years ago. They remain the same today and forevermore…
Vows. (June 5, 2010)
“You are my best friend. Today I give myself to you in marriage, in the presence of God, family, and friends. I promise to stand by your side in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and the bad. When life seems easy and when it seems hard. When our love is simple and when it is an effort. I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you. I promise to cherish you and always hold you in the highest regard. I look forward to raising our family and building our relationship under the care and guidance of God. These things I give to you today, and all the days of our life. I love you.”
Matt, I adore you. Thank you for standing by me through the easy times, and the most recent difficult times. Thank you for being my guardian. Thank you for continuing to take care of me, and making sure that I am alright. Thank you for firmly planting yourself by my side through this diagnosis and the slew of surgeries, treatments, and hospital visits. Thank you for believing that I am still beautiful, and thank you even more for telling me every day. Thank you for being the servant-like leader that God has called you to be, and for guiding us on the path that He has prepared for us. Thank you for your never-ending encouragement. Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for providing for us, and doing whatever it takes to keep us afloat. Thank you for the many sacrifices you make to ensure that we are happy. Thank you for your unwavering patience, your listening ears, and your words of wisdom. Thank you for continuing to put up with me. Thank you for believing in my healing and sharing that you are proud of me. Thank you for praying with and for me. Thank you for protecting me with strong and gentle hands. Thank you for never giving up.
Swoon! (June 2010)
I honor you. I respect you. I’m proud of you. And, I love you. I always have and always will…LINABEW.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (The Message)
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies…”
Four days and one year ago I was first diagnosed. I realized it was my “one year anniversary” by seeing another friend recently post about hers. We were diagnosed around the same time, yet have completely different stories. It’s incredible to me how one cancer diagnosis can be so different from another. And how the journey can take people in vastly different directions. The one thing we have in common throughout our adventure through cancer is our deep, passionate, and overflowing faith in God. No matter the treatment regimen, location of residency, age, or actual diagnosis, our foundations are the same. We both love Jesus and trust that He will carry us through this fight and heal our bodies. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: I can’t imagine not having my faith through this journey.
Without faith I would be unable to see the blessings that God has poured over my life this past year. Without faith I would be unable to find true joy in the midst of such sorrow and tragedy. Without faith I would be unable to hope for a better tomorrow. Without faith I would be unable to be genuinely thankful for this story God has given me.
This past year has been a roller coaster. It’s had its ups, downs, and twists along the way. At some points it’s been similar to the rides that take you forward on the tracks just to pull you backwards again. I’ve laughed and cried. And cried some more. I’ve had so many good days where cancer hasn’t been in the mix, and I’ve had several bad days where my diagnosis has slapped me in the face. I’ve felt victorious and defeated. I’ve been knocked down, kicked around, and beat up by the plethora of treatments my body has had to endure. I’ve become somewhat of a medical professional, and have knowledge of terms that never existed a year ago. Yet even though the adventure continues and is far from over, I still refuse to give up.
The beginning of the battle. Stephanie and Matt, February 2012
Many times throughout my twenty-six years I have wished to fast forward. Wished to see what was to come. Wished to skip the crap and get to the good stuff. Wished to see what we had planned. Yet, if God had allowed me to get a sneak peek a year ago, I would be terrified. I’d want to reverse. I’d want to go back in time and not have to face the future. And while there are still moments that I wish to see five years from now, I am reminded that God hasn’t given me the grace for it yet. He’s given me grace for today, so today is what I shall focus on. But, dammit…sometimes that’s just so hard to do! Most likely, if I had been allowed a peek behind the curtain in January of 2012 to see what the stage would unveil, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on the many blessings God had prepared for me. Most likely, I would have only seen the storms brewing. I would have seen a scary diagnosis, poor prognosis, sickness, pain, sorrow, grief, and exhaustion.
This year, the blessings have been abundant. I have grown tremendously. Spiritually. Emotionally. Physically. Dare I say, “Thank you, cancer?”
First, I will tell you what I know. I do not believe God has given me this disease. Rather, He has allowed it. Anything good comes from Him…and disease is not one of them. Disease sucks. So, if it’s not from God, it’s from the enemy. The enemy will try every last effort to defeat your mind, spirit, and body. However, I also know that what the enemy tries to make bad, God will turn around and create good. I see it as Jesus saying, “Oh really? Ha. See what I can do with that crap!” And so I will stand firm in that as well. Therefore, dare I say, “Thank you, cancer!”
One year later. Stephanie and Matt. January 2013.
Without a diagnosis I would not have had 90% of the blessings I received this year. I would have been blessed, but differently. With this diagnosis, my husband and I have discovered a deeper love for each other and for our Savior. We’ve learned and are living our vows of “in sickness and in health.” We’ve discovered a deeper meaning of loyalty, compassion, respect, honor, and love for one another. In fact, I can adamantly say I am more in love with Matt today than I ever have been. I respect him more than anyone on the face of this Earth. He is an amazing man. These trials have only strengthened our marriage. So, thank you, cancer.
With this diagnosis I have become more passionate of self-awareness, and now understand my body from head to toe. If something feels wrong, something is wrong. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, I have had the opportunity to meet a wonderful team of medical personnel, and have forged a bond that will last a lifetime. The nurses and doctors I see on a weekly basis have become dear friends of mine, and I look forward to every visit, simply because I get to spend time with them. Thank you, cancer.
With this diagnosis, I have fodder for a blog. And this blog has blown up and expanded in ways I never imagined. People from all over the world take time out of their lives to read the words I write. Many readers have shared their discoveries of inspiration and hope through this blog. And many have shared how my journey helps them through theirs. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, doors have opened to dreams I never knew existed. My husband and I will now have the pleasure of a unique story to parenthood. No excruciating childbirth for me, hooray! We will be able to adopt children that are in need of a loving home. We have discovered a hope for our children that didn’t exist a year ago. So, thank you, cancer.
With this diagnosis, my purpose has been revealed. Sharing my adventure publicly is what I am called to do, and opportunities are presenting themselves left and right. Being on the radio was just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, our church has become our family. We have been picked up and supported by our group of dear friends and Christ followers. We have unveiled a deeper meaning of “friendship” and “fellowship”, and are grateful to have them standing in support by our sides. Thank you, cancer.
With this diagnosis, our families and friends have become closer. We talk more. We spend more time together. We value moments differently than we did a year ago. Thank you, cancer. With this diagnosis, our community is coming together. One goal. One purpose. Thank you, cancer.
With this diagnosis, I am learning more about myself. I am stubborn. I am strong. I am a fighter. I look good bald. I am funny…Or so, I think. Thank you, cancer.
While I am thankful that my adventure through cancer has led to many blessings, I ultimately owe my thanks to God. With this diagnosis, love has blossomed, doors have opened, prayers have been answered, gifts have appeared, purpose has been revealed, and blessings have poured out. So, dare I say… “Thank you, God.”
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (MSG Version)
“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”