On Christmas day Amber's parents gave each of their children a complete printed out copy of Amber's blog posts.  They were kind in enough to give one to me also, which I appreciated very much.  That gift made me think of a couple of really heartfelt, thought provoking things that she wrote to share her deepest feelings with her breast cancer friends.  This is what led me to find and post the "Confessions of a Hospice Patient" post that she did 08/2009.  Then my thoughts turned back a couple of years to something she shared on breastcancer.org all the way back in 12/2007 while she was doing radiation.  I want to emphasize that "Confessions of a Hospice Patient" and "If You Could Trade Cancer, Would You?" were meant to be shared only with those who shared the disease and may understand how Amber was feeling or be helped by Amber's boundless faith, courage, and optimism.  Most of what she shared there I will not be preserving because it was very specifically for the person or people she wrote it for.  But these two posts to me were special and there was a message that could be beneficial for anyone.  The main reason I am concerned about preserving these is so our children can have a record of their mother's strength, courage, and faith. 

The story behind this post is as follows.  One day in December 2007 Amber and I decided to go out to dinner at what later became her favorite restaurant, Texas Roadhouse.  I still remember everything about our date that afternoon, where we sat, what we ate, what we talked about, and especially how we felt.  As we sat waiting for our food we were talking with guarded optimism about finishing agressive treatment in a month, our hope for years and years of stable cancer, the things we would do, and etc.  We could not help but become excited about the prospects because there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel.  Our conversation then turned back to all the things we had indured in 7 months as a family.  We laughed together about the joyous times we had enjoying the simple things and living life to its fullest.  We pondered the increase in love and testimony of Christ that we felt in our hearts.  We rejoiced together over the miracles great and small and the cherished friendships that had been made or strengthened during that time.  We marveled at the way a loving Father in Heaven had prepared us and strengthened us so that we could find peace, joy and gratitude through this unimaginable trial.  At last we shed tears for the suffering that had been endured during that time, the loss of independance, and the loss of so many long term hopes and dreams we knew even then would never be realized.
As we talked it was as if we were the only ones in the restaurant.  I'm sure everyone who saw us including the waitress thought we were crazy.  Then a question came into my mind and before I could stop it, it tumbled over my tounge and past my lips. 
"If you could trade cancer and all of the things we have just been talking about and make it as if it had never happened, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the growth, the love, the friends, and especially the eternal implications of the trial, would you do it?"
I had been asked by different people if I would take away Amber's cancer if I could.  I had thought about the answer over the last few months but I had not dared discuss my thoughts or ask her the same until now.  I had seen it all from the inside out but I did not know what her response would be.  Amber's answer did not surprise me but it did captivate me.
Posted on: Dec 23, 2007 02:08 am
If you could trade cancer, would you?

If somebody offered to take away your cancer and all of your pain and misery and suffering, take you back to the day you were diagnosed and have that event in your life never happen, would you take them up on that offer?  You would have a guarantee that you would never have to go through having cancer or dealing with cancer.  Would you take that offer and return your life to the way it used to be?  I know that some of us long for the way things used to be, I find myself so very often longing for things to be back to normal.

Well, my husband and I had a discussion this afternoon about this exact same subject.  Someone had asked him if he could take away my cancer, would he?    This was my answer.

It has been a year of suffering and pain.  Months spent trying to find out why I felt so lousy, why I had so much pain, then me discovering IBC on IBC research website.  Being certain that that was exactly what I had, and yet going to 3 different doctors to get brushed off and told that it was nothing, or engourgement, or mastitis.  As I continued to get sicker, couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, sick to my stomach all the time, in pain all the time.  

By the time I was finally diagnosed, I was first RELIEVED to figure out what was wrong with me and I felt vindicated to know that it wasn't just all in my head, and that I wasn't overreacting, and that I wasn't a hypocondriac.

Final diagnosis, Inflammatory breast cancer stage 4, mets to the bones (Back, hip, pelivis, femur, ribs) and a spot of cancer on my lung.  Breast Tumor area is 9 inches around and 2 inches deep. (feels like a baseball in my breast)

I survived a 2 week whirlwind of tests and scans, biopsies and doctors visits.  Within a week of being diagnosed, I had my port placed and chemo started.

I have finished 17 treatments of Taxol & Herceptin.  I then had a modified radical mastectomy.  I am still on weekly Herceptin and monthly Zometa, and am currently doing radiation (5x a week for 6 weeks).  Not to mention surviving these treatments, then you have the joy of paying for those treatments.

I lost my hair, I lost my eyelashes, and eyebrows, I lost some weight (YEAH!), I lost a breast, I lost my sense of taste and smell (which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you have to change your 20 month's old son's diapers)  I tried not to loose my sense of humor, or my smile.  I had a lot more fun going shopping for cute jammies instead of cute clothes.  I seriously have more pj's than clothes in my closet now.

But lets take a minute here to talk about what I gained by having cancer

I gained an even closer, more loving, tender, relationship with my dear sweetheart, Dan.  To see him take a more active role in the teaching, and caretaking of the children,  To see him serve our family by doing dishes, washing laundry, all so  I can rest.  I know that even if my time here on earth is short, and if Dan has to take over my role in caring for our children, I KNOW he can do it, and he would be wonderful.

I feel a more profound and tender love for each of my children, and I have been able to see them step up and grow and help each other and me.  I have seen their faith grow as with their simple prayers praying that Heavenly Father will make their mother all better.   I take more delight in the simple things of reading a story with them, sitting and tickling their back, throwing a ball back and  forth, or playing cars.  There is more joy in the simple time we spend together.

There have been so many miracles wrought in our behalf. We have received countless hours of service from inspired friends and neighbors, who listened to promptings of the holy spirit, and filled a need for us without even being asked.  We have had so many friends and family help watching the kids with all of my doctors appointments, surguries, test days, and sick days.  Never once have we had an need that was not filled.  We are so humbled by all of those who are willing to serve us, even those who don't really know us, but know OF us that have served and helped us.  I had a small army of sisters come and clean my house from top to bottom.  AMAZING!!  The love that we feel from those that do that has brought such joy into our lives.  The donations that have been freely given to us to help with doctor bills, or for christmas for our family, friends being willing to do all of our shopping and wrapping of presents.  Truly amazes me.  I can say thank you a million times, and it still couldn't adaquately describe the gratitude that my family and I feel.  Saying Thank you just seems so trite, but I say it from the bottom of my heart, and hope those who have served and given feel that joy in their heart that comes from serving others.

So, even though this last year could be considered a year from hell, dealing with cancer and all of it's crap, this last year has been one of the best years of our lives.  The blessings we have received, the tender mercies of our Heavenly Father, our testimonies of Christ, has brought our family together stronger than ever before.  Old personality conflicts, once thought so deep and unsurrmountable, now have blossomed into precious, tender, friendships, where there once was jealousy and misunderstanding.  The new friends we have met and been able to share this journey with has been another precious outcome from dealing with cancer.  I wouldn't have met all of the wonderful gals who are also afflicted with this same disease.  I find such comfort from them, and hope I bring a little of that comfort to your lives.

I am truly blessed.  Not by having cancer, necessarily, but because of all of the wonderful things I have been able to see happen because I have cancer .  I believe things happen for a reason, and when bad things happen, we can choose to learn and grow from them, or we can retreat into ourselves and become bitter and unhappy.  I choose to grow and become what I am meant to become.  I hope one day that I will be able to share this knowledge with others and be able to make someone's load lighter, like what has happened to me and my family time and time again.

Thank you all for being a part of my life, and my journey.  I am so thankful for all of the love and prayers and support I receive.  I cherish the friendships that have been forged, and the knowledge that I have learned.

So, I think I just might say, that what could possibly be the worst year in ones life, I am going to say that this has been the best year in my life.  It is the best because I have never felt so loved, so looked out for, so richly blessed because of all those who step up and help and do so much more than we need, just because they want to help lighten our load.  I feel so blessed to live where we live, around good people who truly love their neighbors.  Most of all I would not trade the closer, more personal relationship I have developed and cherished with my Savior Jesus Christ. 

So, no, I won't trade my cancer.  Because I want to keep all of the precious experiences that have came into my life because of it.   

After we left the restaurant we went home and that night Amber wrote "If you could trade cancer, would you?"  She told me she felt very sure that she needed to post it on breastcancer.org because someone needed to hear that message.  After posting some people on the site immediately made emotional comments attacking Amber's position and feelings.  Some even suggested that she was crazy to think such a thing.  I reminded her of her impression that the message needed to be shared and suggested that those who were touched by her words may still be internalizing it and maybe have not made comment about it on the site.  She agreed that even if one person was helped by her sharing her feelings it was worth it.  After that she was a peace with her decision to share even if others did not agree.  

I think Amber's response to the question is unique because she really understood the eternal perspective of things.  She could see that this life, while vitally important, was not all there was.  She knew that a short, productive time trying to do things the Lord's way was worth more in the eternities than a longer time pursuing our own course.  I am sure that if we could ask her the same question right now, in heaven, her answer would still be a resounding NO!  Even though the kids and I miss her in so many ways we try to have the same perspective she showed us.