Many of you followed along as I shared Lynnette’s story of grace, forgiveness, faith and hope almost one year ago. We learned how she persevered after one extreme circumstance after another. She has endured MUCH more than many of us ever will. Yet, she has overcome like none other. She loves selflessly and tirelessly gives of herself for her family and friends. So what has she been doing for the last twelve months? Read on to find out.
Even though I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Breast Cancer in August of 2015, it’s really the year 2016 that I can’t remember. My treatment split the years and my memory struggles with what happened after treatment. I remember certain things, I guess, mostly picking up in March of 2016 after my final rounds of radiation. But the year as a whole seems to be a blur. It went so fast and I kept track of the time by my hair regrowth. I attended a retreat for women facing cancer diagnoses. I remember I was bald, so it had to have been in March. I learned a tremendous amount about nutrition and complimentary energy techniques like Qigong at this Noble Circle Project retreat. Qigong is a Chinese meditation practice that can heal the body and mind with intentions and body movements. IT IS FASCINATING. I practice it now and feel empowered to heal myself physically, spiritually and emotionally. I have, over the years, grossly underestimated the mind/body connection. I’ve spent the past twelve months healing that connection. This group of women have become lifelines to me. I’m actually speaking at the yearly fundraiser today. I’ll be sharing much of my life journey I shared with all of you a year ago. It feels very different sharing my words via a blog than speaking them to 750 people!
Laurie, of Winter-Freire Photography, a talented photographer who has taken nearly all of my daughter’s professional photos, called me up and offered to photograph Gianna and me. She thought it might be an important time in our lives to remember. Even though I didn’t think it at the time, she was right. I had a short buzz, so I’m thinking this was early April.
By the time we went to Kiawah Island in June for an extended family vacation, my ringlets started emerging. While we had a wonderful time, I was haunted by the beach. Now that treatment was over, a new wave of fear washed over me. Just as the early diagnosis time is terrifying, so are the first few months post treatment. As long as I was in treatment, I was actively fighting against the cancer. Now? Now, I relied on my body (which failed me in the first place), along with hormone therapy, to keep suppressing and preventing the cancer from growing again. I couldn’t help but stand on the shore at sunrise and wonder if this was the last time I’d see the ocean. As I type this 9 months later, those thoughts seem ludicrous. But the fear was so intense during those days. What I remember is not the vacation itself, but standing in the sand imagining everyone else back at the beach house waking up to a day that would no longer include me.
By mid summer 2016, my hair could almost pass as an intentional hair style. At least that is what a group of girlfriends said when they came to spend the weekend with me. Sara came from Texas, Carrie from Arkansas, LaDawn from Kentucky and I got the surprise of my life when Maura (driving from Michigan) showed up at dinner! I cannot adequately describe what this weekend meant to me. I don’t think I’ll even try. It might have been the most significant event of 2016 for me.
I repurposed my wedding dress and wore it to The Ohio Valley Regional EMMY Awards. I remember having a good hair day. It was super curly but looked quite striking. Chic even. I won two Regional EMMY Awards and left my broadcasting career behind two days later.
This is where things get real fuzzy. Once, Gianna tried to run her fingers through my hair and they got stuck! The last time my hair was this curly was in seventh grade when my mom thought it was a great idea to perm my shortish hair. We can all imagine how that turned out.
I began spending my days at home with Gianna and watching a baby boy two days a week. I wanted to focus on my health through nutrition and exercise and needed time to just ‘be.’ I went back to work part time after treatment, but I found it emotionally difficult. Maybe it was too early. I just couldn’t see how being there was important. Being with my three year old seemed important. And the brain fog from chemo made my job challenging. I don’t miss my career. I miss the income, but by God’s grace we are making it. He continues to provide for us. There always seems to be a freelance gig or an unexpected gift when we need some cash. My husband, Michael, has taken wonderful care of us emotionally and financially.
I haven’t cut my hair, yet. It’s been just over a year since it started growing back and I’m still learning how to manage naturally curly hair since it’s not something I’ve ever had before (thanks chemo). Some days I feel obsessed about my hair. I think it’s a way to NOT think about the other stuff. The scary stuff. The scars. The monthly shot. The hot flashes. The what ifs. I will have my final reconstructive surgery in early March. Then that’s it. I’ll be all done. Just the hormone therapy for four more years. Then if I have not had a recurrence, I’ll be considered ‘cured.’ That’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Cured? Cured of what? Cured of cancer? of fear? of stress?
I continue to burst with gratitude! I’m okay with not remembering the days or details of my treatment. But I do feel sad about not remembering the days after with Gianna. She was two and a half when I was diagnosed and turns four right after my upcoming surgery. I feel like I missed a whole year of her life. But I know I didn’t. I KNOW I was present with her. I KNOW those days mattered. She grew and I grew. I’m grateful we grew TOGETHER over the last twelve months. And I plan on growing with her for many years to come.
As I shared with you guys nearly a year ago, Lynnette is one of my FAVORITE people on this planet. She EXEMPLIFIES everything this blog represents. She displays grace in relationships. She forgave those who hurt her immensely. And I watched as she battled for her life with faith and hope. Yet Lynnette has not been afraid to display vulnerability, admitting fears that threatened to consume her. I am excited to watch Lynnette’s life unfold. She is an AMAZING mother and wife. Her legacy will be lived out through precious Gianna and all who hear her story! How incredibly lucky you and I are to now “know” Lynnette. May we all learn from her example of grace, forgiveness, faith and hope!
If you feel led, I’d love for you to share some additional words of encouragement for Lynnette (in the comment section below). Much love to all!