Wednesday, April 22, 2009

:::annus horribilis:::

{today is the one year anniversary of my mother's cancer diagnosis. i wrote this post to commemorate this day, and the journey we have taken as a family.}

queen elizabeth II called the year that brought scandals, failed relationships, and a fire that burned down much of windsor castle her annus horribilis -- a miserable year.

my annus horribilis can't be confined to 365 days on a calendar. in a sense, it began in the waning days of 2007 with my newborn niece molly.

it seemed that she was having trouble breathing, and was constantly going to the doctor, then being checked into hospitals. we didn't understand what was going on at first, but then reality gathered with swift momentum and suddenly a mere illness was speeding towards tragedy. the only thing, the most important thing, we could do was pray. so we prayed against the reality that was crushing down on such a little, tiny person, and hoped with real hope that our faith would beat the inevitable.

and it did. and we all breathed easier.

then my mother came home one day and found my father passed out on the floor in critical condition. after a hospital stay and careful medical attention, he survived this trauma that was brought on by a near fatal misdiagnosis of his medication.

he healed, we moved on.

and then april 22 came, the day my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. it's a date that i only know because my dad remembers it, and he reminded me of it in one of our many phone conversation during the chemo months. as my mom was laying curled up in a ball of tension and pain on the couch, my tough-as-nails-vietnam-vet-marine-corps dad broke down and cried because of the experience he'd had guiding his wife through the torture of chemo treatments and the searing pain and aggravating complications left behind by her surgery. "what a year," he choked out through tears. annus horribilis.

i have often thought of my parents during this time, not as individuals, but as a bound unit plodding along and struggling together from the startling diagnosis, the loss of hair, the wig issues, those dark days during the summer when this was all still very new and scary, the sadness, the fear, the moments of doubt, the feelings of deep discouragement, and the fatigue. the sleepless nights, financial concerns, unending pain, and the long road ahead. a problem that couldn't be solved. something they couldn't run away from. they were there, my sisters and i were all someplace else. we all felt stuck.

but as more time passed, the pain ebbed and the relief flowed. light started peeking in through cracks -- a small beam here (a shrinking tumor), another there (a less aggressive chemo cocktail), and another there (a move to radiation) -- and gathered into warming pools of light. more light came with more time, and finally our downtrodden souls were dazzled by brilliant illumination. these days i can call home and no one is crying anymore. we are well.

all of my life i have prayed that no tragedy would strike my family until i was married and had someone of my very own to lean on. when the pains of 2008 really started rolling in i recalled this long held hope and turned to the Lord. despite my deeply felt and well intentioned prayer of previous years, the only feeling i could muster at that point in my life was a shoulder shrug and a request for greater strength. what i initially wanted wasn't going to be the way things turned out, and i was ok with that. my new prayer was answered, and i am strong.

and we are strong.

annus mirabilis.


Tracy Ngu said...

That was a beautiful post Rebekah! And here I am without any tissues.

I am glad you all aren't crying anymore. I hope good health stays with your family.

lelly said...

i hope you will print this out and share it with your family. beautiful words about such a trying time. i know that this has not been easy, and appreciate that writing through it, while somewhat therapeutic, can also bring more pain. so i thank you for sharing this journey.

and your reference to the Queen and your use of the Latin...

emilysuze said...

I can only add my own praise for a beautifully written piece about a most difficult time for you and your family.

Hopefully the news will continue to get better and all those in your family will enjoy good health.

michelle said...

This is beautiful, Rebekah. So much strength comes from weathering those trials. I am glad all is well now.

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