I am honored to call Anna my friend. She asked me to take their family photos this year and I think I started crying when she said, “My hair has finally grown back in!” I don’t think you can fully understand the power of these photographs unless you know her story. I asked Anna to share it and she graciously accepted. May you see the hand of God throughout and know that He is good…
“I was determined to have family pictures taken this year! I wanted to have a visual reminder of just how far we have come in the last two years.
In Aug 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma cancer. I remember so clearly when I received the phone call that it was cancer; it’s amazing how quickly life can be forever changed. My husband put our boys (2 and 4 years old at the time) to bed and I wept in our room. The pastor from our church came over with milk shakes — one of every kind because he did not know what we would like. I chose chocolate and it did make me feel better. A little chocolate always does. It’s funny the small things you remember.
Soon we made plans for me to have several surgeries to remove the cancer which had metastasized. They do not know very much about melanoma other than it is extremely aggressive, with a survival rate about the same as stage 3 breast cancer. So after my surgeries I began a treatment similar to chemo. I went in 5 days a week for a month and then three times a week for a year to receive treatments at an infusion center in Tulsa.
It was the hardest year our family has ever been through. I lost 40 lbs., my hair, my ability to eat and taste food, and I was in constant pain. But the hardest part was not being able to be a wife and mother. My children did not quite understand why they could not hug mommy anytime they wanted or why I would be crying in my bed in pain. My sweet husband worked, took care of me like a trained professional and was a super dad. Our parents had to leave the role of grandparents and take up the role of primary care giver.
In times of trials it’s sometimes hard to feel the love, strength and hope that you know God is giving. My favorite quote that I would read over and over is one by Pastor Doug Wilson:
God is still your Father, and God wants you to learn how to remember in the dark what you knew in the light. God wants you to trust Him in the midst of discouragement. That is how He grows His saints—through difficulties and trials. As one Puritan put it, God had one Son without sin, but He had no sons without adversities.
Now fast forward to almost a year after my treatments. We are living in a time of “light” as Pastor Wilson would put it, when it is oh so easy to be thankful. As I look at our family pictures I am filled with such joy. I want to scream we SURVIVED and look at those sweet faces! I am so thankful for the strength my marriage has gained through trial, for the beautiful little boys God has given me and for their unabashed craziness.
I am thankful that our biggest problem is that there is not enough time in the day to accomplish all that I have set out to do. I am thankful that I am still cancer free! That my hair has grown back, my energy has returned and that I have a renewed perspective on God’s goodness. I am thankful that through all of our trials, God was faithful to our family. Through His church my children were loved and fed, my wonderful husband was nurtured and listened to, and I was encouraged by brothers and sisters in Christ that I have never met. We are so thankful for a constant God who loves us unconditionally, and it’s fun to think that one day, years from now, we can look back on these fun memories that we captured in these photos, remembering all these wonderful days “in the light” that He gives us.”