Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Casey will change my life. "it's just a hand"...

It doesn't happen often... but every now and then. These moments where you get instant chills, and your insides wrench. These God-moments I call them.... Where I feel that sudden pinching reminder that my life is not my own. That I am in need of a subtle reality check. A grace given bucket of thankfulness. These moments come when I am greatly inspired by someone. I have been inspired by many, but every now and then I know it is specifically placed.
I had my days of frustration where I'd rather not make this jewelry-creating a job. Where it is too much admin work and not enough joyful creating. But every now and then someone share's their story with me and I am reminded that to some people, it means a lot. Last year I shared Ashley's story. Ashley and her sister Mandy will forever imprint me, and I have tucked their story in to my life lessons and noted it as one of my careful truths to live by.
Recently, I was gifted with another amazing woman to "meet" via etsy. She only gave me a small bit of her reason for her order in her check out notes, but it was enough already to make me thankful for her.
She was purchasing a design that is special to me. It carries my life verse - "not by my strength but by my spirit".
And in her message, this:
"I'm laying in a hospital bed with a staph infection waiting to see if the infection has spread throughout my hand, and while shopping to distract myself, I found this. It feels supportive in a way. If the infection has spread too far, they're going to take my hand. I'm 31, I have three children. I sort of need this hand! But this necklace will help me remember that its just a hand, I can get through it with support and inner strength. So thank you, your creativity just gave me a life raft, and I didn't realize until now how badly I needed one." 

Instant tears! "its just a hand". That will be another one of those learning moments I will tuck in to my life lessons and pull it out when I need it. I just kept thinking - if that was me, I'd be a wreck on the floor, screaming and angry. And she was able to say "its just a hand". Amazing.
I wrote her back to thank for her sharing that with me, because I knew that come the day when I faced my battle, I would remember that Casey was able to remember that it was just a hand and that she still had her life, and her kids and her family. And that is enough.
I also asked her if she'd be interested in sharing her story on my blog because she had such an amazing attitude about it and I knew that if more people, like me, heard it - it would help them to realize how right she was, and that we can each find courage and bravery when we remember that there is so much more in life, and that how we handle suffering can influence others.

I had no idea that her hand was only a small part of the story, and this life lesson would be so much bigger than I thought.

--------------------------
Leah, 

My hand is doing well, They took a small chunk (ew, for lack of a better word!) and shaved some bone, but I am keeping my hand. But my hand is only part of the story, there's a reason I got the infection that had to be treated in hospital. 

On what made me sick? Ugh, where to begin. I have an immune deficiency, my body doesn't make T-Cells to fight germs like other people's bodies do. Sort of like HIV, only this condition is genetic and not transferable to others. My children do not have it, thankfully. I get injections of something called "Gamma Globulin" its something normal bodies make, it helps me make t-cells to fight every day infections. 

When I was pregnant with my daughter, Ainsley, early on It was discovered that I had cervical cancer, which would spread very quickly because of the increased hormones from the pregnancy, and the doctors told me to abort her. I refused. They were adamant even as the pregnancy progressed and even pushed me to have her dangerously early and I flatly refused. I had her via c-section at 38 weeks, when she was nice and healthy and at full gestation, During the c-section they removed most of my cervix and assured me that I was safe, I had clear margins and they saw no more signs of cancer. 

During the pregnancy the situation was made MORE difficult because my husband and I felt as though we had to keep it a secret as his Grandmother was dying of ovarian cancer and everyone was so emotionally devastated as she simply went downhill so quickly. She was hanging on for Ainsley. In the family there had been six great-grandchildren born, all boys. Everyone was done having children, I was having this last (I have two boys as well) child, and I and everyone else so desperately wanted a girl. Goodness, how Grandma wanted that girl. She was so happy when I told her it was to be a girl she said, "Well thank goodness. I think you've perfected the boy process, its time we started on girls." She wanted to wait for Ainsley to be born to find out what her name was, but when it became clear she wasn't going to make it, everyone flew to Pittsburgh, PA to be at her side. We couldn't fly, I had to stay home and it was so hard, but she still lingered. Our Aunt said she knew she'd been waiting to hear the baby's name, so they held the phone to her ear and I said "Her name is Ainsley Grandma, it means 'my own'. You can go now, shes waiting to meet you, and when you're done holding her, please send her back to me." She'd been unresponsive until that point for several days, but grunted and tried to nod. A few minutes later she died, one week before Ainsley was born. 
I tell my boys that "Grandma Ginny" held Ainsley for an entire week before she was born and then let us have her, thats why she came out so healthy even though I was so unwell. A few months ago I went in for my routine check, early actually, I wasn't due until Sept but something told me to go in, and my uterus and ovaries are riddled with aggressive and fast growing cancerous tumors. Its spreading faster than the treatment can contain. In a couple weeks I'm going to have to have the surgery because we can't wait any longer, its spreading too fast. The problem is that because of my immune issues, I simply don't heal and I might go in for the surgery and not come out. I wanted to wait for school to start so I could see my oldest son, Connor, start 3rd grade. Hes so smart and inquisitive and genuinely kind. I want to see Max go to Kindergarten, such a strong, happy loving boy. I want to see Ainsley turn 3. I feel such a greed with the time I have, I WANT more. There are so many silly little things I want, and not to settle for less. Both boys have summer birthdays, so I made them extra special this year; A superhero birthday for Max, each child got a cape and mask and all his friends went crazy on a giant inflatable waterslide in the back yard. Connor had Indiana Jones and all the boys got hats and had to use a treasure map and clues to lead them all over the house for their goodie bags and then to play Indiana Jones video games half the night glggling and telling inappropriate jokes like boys do. And then there is AInsley. I just can't let go yet without giving her this last memory. So I won't. I'm just going to fight with every breath, every fiber, every cell and push and pull and this stupid cancer with have to drag me every inch of the way if it wants me. And my body might be tired and weak but my spirit is burning and blazing fire against anything that would take me from my children. 

I recently bought a necklace that says "not by my strength, but by my spirit" which for me means when my physical strength gives out, which it does tend to do, my spirit carries me through difficulty. I grasp that necklace often, to remind me that my inner light is stronger than I know. And I find my way through.

Thank You, 
Casey
--------------------------

.....And I am a blubbering mess.
So much bigger - this story. Not just a hand. A life. A real, living, heart loving mama, bigger than words, sort of life.
I can't imagine thinking of all the things I want my kidlets to know just in case.
I do keep a gratitude journal that I daily write down our happy moments and tape photos of them into, so one day they can look back and see it all. But I just can't imagine not knowing if I'd be here for the next big memory. The Firsts of everything. The hoping I've told them enough. All of it.

This necklace design originally stemmed from my life verse. I have spent a life time feeling weak, but determined to conquer with my spirit. Casey, however, gives it a whole new meaning because she truly exemplifies it, and she has also given me the strength to know that if she can face her battles with such strength and grace... I can face mine. And I will forever think of her when I face the even bigger ones. I will try not to throw myself on the floor like I always imagined I would, because I will remember that SHE said - "it's just a hand".

Today, I am praying for Casey, as she has her first procedure today. And I will BELIEVE that she will come through healthy and strong and recover. Because what a woman this earth is blessed to have, and those kids are gifted to be raised by. And what a true blessing she has been in teaching me some heavy duty life lessons.
Like Ashley, I will never forget Casey either. Or my dear friend Rachel O. These mamas have taught me to be a better one, to be braver, to be stronger, to be more thankful and ever present.
The life lessons these warriors have given me -  I am planning to add to my own necklace, with their names - as my stones of reminders.

I hope you will always remember them too.

12 comments:

Sabeha said...

Blubbering mess number 2!! No words... Just tears! My prayers are with her!

Tiffany Cornwell said...

Number 3!! God gives us people in our life for a reason!! Praying her healthy!!!

Snyder Family said...

Wow. I don't have words right now. Nothing can explain exactly how this made.me feel. My heart and prayers go out to her and her family as she endures and presses on. I sincerely hope that she can be fully healed and be there to see all of her kids milestones. To see them graduate. To help her daughter get her wedding dress on. To be there when her grandchildren are born.

On another note, I must say she has great taste in names. I have an Ainsley and a Max too =)

agillenh20 said...

Praying for Casey:
Almighty God, please heal this precious woman. Take all the cancer from her body and allow her body to heal free from infection or complications. Father, I pray that you allow this child of Yours to have many more years with her own children. Cover her in your protection, healing, strength, peace, and love. Thank you Father! In Jesus' name.

God bless you Casey!
Amanda Gillenwater

KK said...

THank you so much for sharing, I am a blubbering mess as well and so greatful for Casey's spirit, passion, and zest for life and her children.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family.

Kinsey

Courtney Thompson said...

oh my gosh, the tears.... geez, it's so hard to know that so many people are struggling with things like this in their daily lives- stories like this really put it all into perspective and make you appreciate things that much more. my heart goest out to Casey and her family today- i'm sending good vibes and best wishes her way. hugs hugs hugs from germany!

Unknown said...

I'm Casey, THE Casey in the story, and I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone for their kind words of support. I got bad news after my recent biopsy and scans and its stage IIIB Endometrial Adenocarcoma. It STINKS! I'm a bit pissy, I admit. I'm not thrilled to go into menopause at 31, I'm not happy about a hysterectomy or radiation or the possibility of chemo. Its so maddening, married to the same loving man for 12 years (yes, we were High School sweethearts, sorry for making you gag at the sappyness of that) and here I get something that makes me feel as though I misused my body and deserve punishment for. POO! But I threw a little pity party, thought about breaking a dish but cleaned out my closet instead and yelled at wrinkled clothes. Then I bought a candy bar and hid it so I didn't have to share with the kids. I keep forgetting to eat it. I'm trying to do normal things to remind myself that my life isn't over, I can still function, people do every day, and get ON with the business of living, since I've been given time, I think I'll use it wisely.

Casey

Rachel Olimb said...

She's an inspiration for sure! Thanks so much for sharing with us!!

Tim and Richelle said...

wow! thanks for sharing this powerful story. i too need to learn from her gracious perspective.

Lisa said...

Wow! What a powerful story! Thank you for sharing.

Kschrage said...

heart caught in my throat. Thanks for sharing.

Aimee Jongejan said...

I can identify a bit with this amazing woman!! I have some chronic illnesses as well that may honestly take my life at any point that God so chooses. I decided to homeschool my children to spend every minute that I can with them. I love your idea of the journal - going to start doing that today!! Thank you for sharing her story. It has touched me deeply in ways that I cannot express!!