I have not been feeling well lately.
My symptoms are odd and scary. I'm passing out (vasovegal episodes) when I go to the bathroom. My ankles have swollen and my feet have had intense neuropathy. My joints ache, my muscles are weak, my head is spinning. Thankfully, most of my symptoms respond well to steroids.
I've been diagnosed with everything from having normal aches and pains for a mother of 8, to Aids, to Stage 3 Lymes Disease. Every test I take comes back positive for something weird. My internal inflamation is rampant so it's probably some sort of auto-immune disease. So many people I know struggle with the challenges of life that I am well aware I'm not unique or even particularly special in my challenges.
They recently found two grapefruit-sized cysts on my right ovary. They look complex and cancerous. These cysts, combined with swollen lymph nodes, spots on my lungs, an inflamed spleen, and neuropathic involvement led my doctors to suggest that I might have stage IV ovarian cancer.
Don't google that. It's very scary and very sad. 17% 5 year survival rate. It's also probably not a good idea to watch youtube videos of moms who had stage IV cancer, vlogged about it, and then died. It might give you a headache.
I had a tough weekend.
It's scary thinking your body is filled with bad stuff. Thinking that you could die is terrifying, purifying, humbling, and somewhat empowering.
Honestly, I believe that contemplating and accepting my own mortality (on more than one occasion) has been a powerful process for me.
It brings perspective and beauty to life.
Please excuse me for a moment while I share this walk into the darkness with you so I can record here in this place, the beautiful light I found on the other end. I don't mean to sound melodramatic, although I think a little drama is quite cleansing at times.
Saturday morning I called my sweet aunt, I was sobbing. I kept telling her that I NEED to finish my picture albums. Leaving my children without leaving them their stories as told by their adoring mother is my single greatest fear.
I will die someday... Maybe sooner maybe later. I do not want to die without leaving them a tangible reminder that they were conceived in love, birthed in love, cherished, adored, and raised in love. We have some family books but I want them to have personal books.
I'm doing this-- now.
I also want to make each of them a quilt.
I am not going to spend another year caring how messy my basement playroom is.
Isn't that funny?
The possibility of IV ovarian cancer has me crying about picture albums.
(This was also the reason I knew I wouldn't die with Ben. I just felt that God would let me prepare my children and I knew I had not done that.)
My single greatest fear when faced with terminal cancer was that I would die without telling them their story. I want them to know it and always remember.
I'm a lady that has already been blessed with nine lives and I'm just not going to take any more chances. I need to make their books. (Oh friends, help me figure out how to do this!!)
Can I be honest with you about something else?
My second greatest fear about dying is that my children would hurt and do without if I died.
I believe mothering is so important-- I want my children to have a mother.
It was such a painful thought to me that it took my breath away, I couldn't breathe from the ache. I would just sob to my husband or sob when I saw my kids and felt my momma love for them.
(This was a cheerful Saturday at my home as you can imagine-- mostly I just stayed in my room contemplating death while Todd handled life downstairs.)
Sunday was a holy, healing day for me.
Gut wrenching agony always carves room for the holiest of healing balms.
A dear friend and an Elder in our church, came to our church meeting. He spoke to us, he counseled with us, and he blessed both Todd and me. My favorite part of enduring illness is feeling surrounded by a tangible love. I felt that on Sunday.
My heart was changed.
It was a gift from a loving Father.
As I prayed earnestly during the sacrament, I heard God. I am someone that loves others easily and He knows that.
While I was pouring to Him my fears and aching-- The Lord whispered to me the promise that my children would have me for as long as they need me. I knew it. I will live every day of the life I am created to live. And I know my mothering will not end with death, it is an eternal calling.
I know that He loves me and He loves them more than I do.
He whispered a simple idea into my soul. He asked if I could imagine another woman with strengths and talents different than mine that coul love and bless the lives of my children? Yes! I know so many woman that I cherish who are way better than me at so many things. I love so many amazing women.
I felt the sweet assurance that IF God ever decided to call me home, He would bless them with another mother who would love them like I do. Taking me would not diminish my influence, but it would only open the way for them to have MORE. The sting of death would hurt for a moment, yes. But like all experiences of life, it would be for their good.
My fear and hurt was washed away.
Where before I saw punishment I began to see blessing. Where at first I could only see loss, I began to see GAIN.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I began imagining so many of my beautiful, single friends and how I know they could love my children. This might sound dumb, but my heart aches for women who aren't loved like I am loved. Todd is my greatest gift. I would share him with someone that I love. I would also share my beautiful children and grandchildren with a good, good woman unable to have children of her own.
I have spent a few late nights whispering to Todd the traits he should look for in his second wife. Ha! I promised him that I would pick her for him and made him promise me that when and if I died, he would marry again. (Not too quickly, but pretty quickly.)
He is not enough.
My kids NEED a mother.
He has gently endured my passionate instructions.
She has to love Anna as much as Eve.
Bring her to the store and see if she picks out things for herself or if she says things like, "Leah would love this!"
She has to be able to organize large gatherings and fun family reunions.
She has to be beloved by those who know her, everyone you talk to will tell you what a great woman you're getting.
Look for someone from a strong family.
Tidy and well groomed is more important than hot and high maintenance.
But, I do hope she's beautiful and lady like and classy so she can teach that to my daughters.
Educated, well-read, organized, discerning.
For his sake, I would choose a women with a mild, tender voice (I have always wished I was a bit less "passionate" with my opinions on... everything.)
Choose someone like your mother, I make him promise.
Rebekah (my sister in law) will know, I insist. And so will Ellie.
It's actually quite fun thinking of the angel woman I would choose to co-mother my children with.
In a moment, this part of the pain and fear of dying was simply removed from me and replaced with peace, love, hope, and a perfect assurance that ALL THESE THINGS shall be for our GOOD.
I know it.
I know one more thing.
I have never written this blog for strangers. I have always written it for my daughters and shared it with strangers.
They will know my voice after I'm gone.
I have poured out my advice to them on the pages of this blog for years. They will know me.
Today, I want them to know one more thing.
Since I was a young girl, I have felt Heaven near.
I've known angels were surrounding me at my wedding, at the birth of my children, as I've given talks, on days when I'm overwhelmed with life, and on days when I'm overflowing with love for cute little toddlers as they eat their lunch.
I feel my grandmothers near me.
And, I actually think they are MORE a part of my daily life since they've passed than they ever could have been when they were alive. They really know me, they know my children, and they help strengthen me.
Just recently I was heading to a meeting and I felt very ill. I could barely get out of the car. I had the thought that I could do this. I just needed to put some lipstick on, put a smile on my face, and keep my head up! As I swiped my lips with red, I laughed. I KNEW that was my grandmother. She was right with me, strengthening me. I feel their humor buoying my spirits. I really have no doubt that angels are here and active.
I have ALWAYS wondered why God has given me this spiritual gift. And now, I understand. This gift was given to me so that I could teach my children what I know. Even if I die, I will be with them. I will talk to them, I will babysit for them so they can sleep in on Saturday morning, I will cry at their weddings and I will make their babies smile on the day they are born. I will hold them when they're sad and celebrate with them when they're happy! I will help them find the perfect wedding dress and I will send them gifts like flowers, sweet scriptures, good friends, and convenient parking spots.
I don't fear death because I KNOW death is not the end. I know it.
Yes, there is a veil. But it is thin.
I will be a really great angel someday!!
I'm sorry that there is pain attached to death.
I believe that grief is holy and it is the price we pay for loving someone.
I know that grieving is temporary!
We are not alone, we are loved, this life is but a short chapter in the eternal story.
Death is not the end of the book, our story continues.
Here is my favorite quote on death--
I'm sorry that I have spent so much time talking about death.
I promise I don't have a death wish nor am I walking around in sack cloth and ashes.
I thank God that I'm not dead yet.
I don't want to die.
I want to grow old!!
I LOVE THIS LIFE.
I am at peace with death.
It comes to all of us sooner or later.
You don't die because you're bad and you aren't spared from death because you're good.
The span of my life is in God's hands and He is a God of omnipotent love and mercy. I trust Him and I trust His plan.
Today-- I am going to build memories.
I'm going to enjoy this life!
I'm going to spend time loving my family, teaching them, feeling them.
I'm going to write their stories for them!
I'm meeting with a surgeon, an oncologist, and a rheumatologist.
My blood test results came back yesterday and they showed a LOW likelihood that I have ovarian cancer. !!!! Yay!! But, you know what? I don't care.
I don't care if a doctor tells me I have two months to live or fifty years to live-- all that we know for sure is that we have right NOW. And I'm so very grateful for today.
Oh my friends-- if I only had 38 years to live, I would choose to spend my years surrounded by little children, the best husband, and cows with cowbells. I'd have bunnies in my chicken coop and little boys who sneak screwdrivers to take apart my vacuum cleaner.
My life is perfect.
I am SO blessed today, I was blessed yesterday, and no matter what mountains I am asked to climb, I know eternity will be full of joy AND family.
All is well, all is well.