For Mike and I, love was almost overshadowed by fear, anxiety, and grief last Valentine’s Day. For us, it wasn’t merely a day to call loved ones and check the mailbox in hopes of a sweet card. It was more than that; it was the day after I was told I had cancer.
One year later, on this Valentine’s Day, I woke up early with my husband thanks to our favorite little alarm clock-John Paul. We drank coffee in the living room while John Paul tore our “safe” kitchen utensils out of the bottom drawer, one by one, with gusto. We hugged and smiled at one another, saying little, laughing with our sweet boy. There was nothing out of the ordinary or extra special about this morning, and it’s normalcy was lovely. We were just together, surrounded by love.
Last year on this very same day the three of us were also together, but in very different circumstances. Mike slept, snoring loudly, his body contorted uncomfortably on a metal chair in a small room in the Intensive Care Unit of Fairfax Hospital. I sat upright in a hospital bed next to him, unable to lie down because of the intense pain in my chest, drifting in and out of consciousness. And little John Paul was growing and kicking inside my belly, his heartbeat and movement monitored by a noisy machine.
Things were very different on this day one year ago. But even still, one thing was the same. For even on that terrible day, we were surrounded by love. As soon as we’d heard the whisper of the word cancer in the emergency room the night before, Mike had called my family, his family, and our closest friends. And though it was just the three of us in that room on Valentine’s Day morning, before family members began arriving and friends began visiting, we knew without a doubt, we could feel, how completely we were surrounded by love.
Though we are were blessed to be together at home this morning, without anxiety of immediate danger to mine or John Paul’s life, we still move forward with some uncertainty. As opposed to last year, we know now the specifics of what cancer afflicted my body, we know now the course of treatment that we will continue if needed, and most importantly, we know now that our boy is safe to grow and thrive.
Yet, meeting with my Dr. last Friday gave us a bit of a reality check amidst our recent celebration. While it is wonderful that my recent biopsy came back clean of cancer, it also came back clean of brown fat. Therefore, even though the samples they removed of my mass are cancer-free, since we don’t know what the activity on my PET scan was, we can’t completely rule out cancer. Though it is a much decreased chance, since sixty percent of my mass was removed and tested as cancer-free, there’s still the possibility that cancer cells exist in the rest of the mass that remains in my chest. And so, though we continue to thank God for a negative biopsy, we also continue to wait and hope for a time when I receive a completely clean scan.
In three months, the week before I turn twenty-eight, we will do another scan. If the level of activity has stayed the same or increased, we will assume it is cancer, and begin a course of radiation. This news is frustrating, yet, even as we continue to carry the cross of uncertainty, we remain hopeful that the activity will decrease, and I will be declared in continued remission.
On two different Valentine’s Days, with just one year in between them, our circumstances are completely different in so many ways. And yet, just as I was one year ago, I continue to struggle to find peace amidst uncertainty, and hope amidst a few lingering clouds of darkness. But I’ve seen all we’ve made it through this past year. I’ve seen how love never dies, even on our darkest, toughest days. I’ve seen the many blessings we’ve received, including your love, God’s love, and the love of our expressive, funny, joyful, strong-willed little boy. And all that I’ve seen gives me unending hope.
I don’t know where your heart is this Valentine’s Day. I don’t know if you’re full of joy or sorrow, or somewhere in between. But please remember this: love exists in all things, in all places, and in all circumstances. So happy Valentine’s Day to you dear friends, and here’s to all of your days being full of love, no matter what.