This year began in the worst way. Audrey and I were in the hospital receiving a chemotherapy treatment. The doom of our separation for radiation in Jacksonville loomed. After Audrey recovered from chemo we went on a weekend trip with our cancer group to Charleston. From there Audrey and I travelled to Jacksonville where she began her proton radiation. We made it through the first week on our own until the issues with my back and leg became so severe that I passed out from the pain. The next five weeks Ryan's mom came to save us and stayed with us for the duration of our time in Jacksonville.
During our separation Nathan grew up a lot. Though he and Ryan were able to come and visit most weekends his daily after school care was done by church and school friends and Aunt Sandy. When I say that Nathan "grew up a lot" this was noticed by his teachers as well. He began doing more and better work at school. He dropped his shyness in class and began speaking up. He learned how to make friends without Mom around. He learned how to listen to other adults. And he may have even tried a new food or two.
My mom came to help out for nearly a month. Time spent with her was wonderful. When we weren't in the hospital we were very productive. There were many sewing projects, Easter, yard work and preparation for Elysse.
Ryan's parents came to stay with us and help again. We thought they were going to be here for Audrey's last chemo treatment but her immune system was taking longer to rebound than we had anticipated.
During an OB visit I was told that the baby had stopped growing. I was then taken to ultrasound where it was determined that the baby had probably stopped growing for several weeks. The ultrasound estimated the baby to weigh around 4 pounds. I tried to separate myself from the baby and figured that I would never hold her alive. An induction was scheduled for Friday, May 28th. As Ryan was at the hospital with Audrey for her last hospitalized chemotherapy I had to drive myself to the induction. I arrived at the hospital with a large suitcase by myself and the nurses could hardly believe it. Soon enough they learned my whole story and supported me throughout the process. Sandy dropped Nathan off to our friends' house and came to stay with Audrey while Ryan joined me. At 4:01 p.m. Elysse Jayne with a head full of thick dark hair joined us.
We experienced a miracle that day – a baby I never expected to hold was born healthy and weighed nearly a pound and a half more than we expected. Audrey finished her last hospitalized chemotherapy and has been cancer free ever since. That night I enjoyed a cheeseburger from Texas Roadhouse and a cookies and cream shake from Chick Fil-A.
Over the next few months we dealt with Audrey's week immune system. It was so much more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Never did I think the period of time after chemo would be more difficult than the time during the chemo. I believe that my expectations are what made it so hard. During chemo we expected fevers and illnesses. It seemed that fevers were more frequent after the treatments had stopped. I wanted so badly for it to be over that any time something happened it felt as if life would never be "normal."
My brother Chad and his wife Sarah came with my parents to go camping in the summer. We had a fun time and the kids still ask about going to "the camp." We looked forward to Christmas when we expected to travel to Michigan to be with them all again and with Justin who was still serving a mission in Idaho.
We celebrated Nathan's birthday. Audrey's birthday celebration was the best ever. I had a good birthday. Then came Thanksgiving – Ryan's entire family came to celebrate Thanksgiving here. We had a wonderful time. It was especially nice having both our house and Sandy's to accommodate everyone.
In mid December my brother, Justin, came to visit so we could drive up to Michigan together. We had a going away party for some of the closest friends we have made while we have been here in North Carolina – luckily they are only moving a few hours away and we anticipate being able to see them still. We travelled to MI for Christmas with three healthy children and experienced the blessings of a safe holiday with family.
This year may sound terrible to some. But all I can see are the blessing and miracles we have been given. I will forever be grateful for the friends and family that loved us, cared for us, prayed for us and sacrificed time and money to come to our aid time and again. For without all of you we could not have made it through this past year.