May 15.

It was late in the morning on a warm Friday afternoon. I was out of work, still recovering from the lymph node biopsy I had the Tuesday before. Joe was off on our regular 3 days and was playing with the kids on the living room floor. I was sitting in the chair next to them, sipping coffee and enjoying the sound of the giggles. Then my phone rang. It was the hospital. I almost forgot I was still waiting on the results of the biopsy. I picked up my phone and walked quickly to our bedroom.

“Hello?”

“Hi this is Dr. Zheng, is this Ashley?”

“Yes, this is her.”

“Hi Ashley. We got the results of your biopsy back today and it is positive for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We will need to start chemotherapy very soon, so we will need to schedule you to have a port-o-cath placed. We will also need you to come in for some testing for a few baselines and to stage your disease. Would you be able to come in this afternoon for a bone marrow biopsy and echocardiagram? We may also be able to schedule your lung function test for this afternoon.”

That is a lot of information to process. Did she just say that I have cancer? I’m getting a bone marrow what? What is a port-o-cath and where is it getting placed? Isn’t this supposed to be a conversation we have in her office over a vast mahogany desk with my scans and lab results lining the walls. That’s the way it happens in the movies anyway.

“Yes, this afternoon works fine.” {I learned early that you say to yes to whatever appointment they have available and then you figure the rest out.}

“Great. I will get everything scheduled, you can come right to the infusion room. Can you be there by noon?”

It was 10:45. “Sure, I will be there.” What was an infusion room and where was it?

I hung up the phone and sat in silence for a second, gathering my thoughts. Did I want to cry? Was I relieved to finally have some answers? I didn’t have much time to decide. Joe walked in a second later. “It is cancer – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” I told him. As the words came out of my mouth, tears rolled out of my eyes. He hugged me and then we got to work finding a babysitter and getting to the hospital. There was a silent decision made between us in that moment that whatever it would take, and however long it would last, we were going to fight – for each other, for our family, for the future.

We’ve been fighting for the last 5 years.

Fighting cancer has looked like a lot of different things. It has looked like you might expect, sitting in an infusion chair being pumped full of chemotherapy to kill off all the cancer cells. It has looked like losing my hair and being weak, fatigued and broken physically. It has looked like procedures and surgeries and lots of blood draws and shots. Fighting has looked like weeping, like coming to the end of myself and moving forward anyway. It has been radiation and countless scans. It has been days and weeks spent in the hospital. It has been hours on the phone with doctors. Fighting cancer has been 2 steps forward and one step back.

In the normal sense, fighting assumes that there is a winner and a loser. So, ‘fighting cancer’ assumes that we will continue to fight until I either beat cancer (winning) or cancer beats me (losing). It’s important to me that you understand that this is not how I view fighting.

The fight for me has always looked like doing the next right thing. Fighting looks like taking steps forward when it feels like everything is pulling me back. It looks like finding joy when there is no earthly reason to do so. It looks like taking the fear and laying it at the feet of Jesus. Fighting looks a lot like leaning hard into the purpose that I have in the midst of cancer and not waiting until it is all over to find purpose. It is walking faithfully with a God who I believe could take this all away and trusting Him still when he doesn’t. The fight for me looks like being fully present in the moments I have because future moments aren’t promised.

If I am able to do any one of these things, then I am winning the fight against cancer, no matter how long it has been or what the most recent scan says.

I would love to be celebrating my 5-year-cancerversary in remission and definitely not in quarantine! Ideally I would go to the spa, out for a nice meal and maybe get another tattoo to commemorate such a momentous anniversary.

Instead I am in round three of my fight with cancer and preparing for PET scan number 13 next Wednesday {thank God I’m not superstitious…just a little stitious…any Office fans out there?! Anyway…}. I’ll celebrate today by appreciating the fact that I am still around to homeschool my kids…or at least try to appreciate it! I’ll go for a walk and thank God that I still have lungs and legs that work. And most of all, I will continue to seek purpose in all of this.

In my very first blog post on May 19, 2015, I said:

This is an unexpected journey, but we feel confident we are not walking it alone and we feel confident that when we arrive at the end, there will be beauty unimaginable.

Oh sweet Ashley, you had so much to learn about cancer and fighting and unexpected journeys. But, I am so thankful that you decided in that moment exactly how you would walk: with your eyes always forward to the beauty ahead, confident in the hope given by your good, good Savior.

Now excuse the over abundance of photos as I walk through 5 years of memories!

7 thoughts on “May 15.

  1. Ashley, once again, thank you for being such a great inspiration to all of us. You have taught us a lot. We live you and continue to pray for you. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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  2. I started my breast cancer journey about 3 weeks after you. As i go every 6 months for a checkup, i am always reminded of your journey and attitude to approach this. By the grace of God, i have been cancer free for almost 5 years, and will celebrate in August. You are always in my thought and prayers.

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  3. Dear Ash, you have learned a lot, as you said, about cancer and the “fight”. Thank you for sharing these words of wisdom and of lessons learned with me. PS I love the “puzzling with Dad” photo as well. Looks like it should be in a magazine!
    😍 Love you!

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  4. I love you, Ashley Hoover!! You are amazing amazing everything…woman of God, mother, wife, friend, daughter…and the list goes on. I cherish all the times we get to spend together and laugh and am so glad that I am included among your friends. I celebrate with you and continue to pray for your healing! 💕

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