Christmas grief.

‘Tis the season! Strings of twinkling lights, beautifully wrapped gifts under a sturdy (probably fake) tree, cozy fireplaces and the complications of figuring out how to celebrate this season amidst a global pandemic.

Have you felt it too? Has the holiday season thus far felt underwhelming? Has it felt like going through the motions, but in an unfamiliar kind of way? Have you felt more burdened than you have merry and bright? You’re not alone my friend.

I’ve been pretty silent the last couple months. Partly because there wasn’t much to say and partly because there was too much to say and I just haven’t known how to say it.

I had another clear scan on December 10th! They called with the results and said “still in remission – what a great early Christmas gift!” It is! Praise Jesus.

But, my body has been failing in a few other ways that have left me in the hospital twice now. It was a small kidney infection in November. Anyone else they would have sent home after one night of observation, but not me. I’m a little too complicated. A little too high risk. This is not how I imagined remission.

That luxury vacation in the hospital left me with a wicked blood clot where my IV had been. A lot of back and forth, but it was eventually determined to be superficial and not a more serious DVT. “It should clear in 1-2 weeks” they said. It took 4. This is not how I imagined remission.

In the meantime, we pushed hard through the final month with our girls before they finally got a chance to go home. We did a lot of special activities and stayed busy, making the most of a crappy season. We went off duty for Christmas break a week ago. By the time I finally sat down that evening, after what has felt like 5 months of non-stop, I felt it. A fever. Exhaustion. My body gently reminding me once again, that remission don’t mean nothing.

The next day, after a good night’s sleep, I went out to play with Owen and Myra in the snow. After firing one snowball and dodging the return attack, my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest and I couldn’t get a deep breath. Rest and hydration and monitoring is what my care team suggested. I could manage that!

But when Monday morning rolled around and my lungs still felt tight, I was given orders to head straight to the ER for a probable pulmonary embolism. It felt like an overreaction. Surely I didn’t have a PE, it was probably just a viral infection. But I went. Kissed Joe and the kids and said “see you later tonight.” I left with the hopes of still making it home for dinner.

I made it to the ER and did a lot of waiting. The test they needed to run required a medication I’m allergic to, so they gave me lots of premeds to assure I was safe and then I waited another four hours. Finally, as my family was sitting down for dinner, I was lying down on the CT table for my scan.

Sure enough, the scan showed multiple PE’s in my lungs, one large enough that it was beginning to block blood flow to a portion of my lung. It was a miracle that I wasn’t in more pain and once again, I felt liked I owed my life to my oncologist.

But it didn’t stop the tears from welling when they talked me through plans of admission for a night of observation, you know, because I’m high risk, complicated.

This is not how I imagined remission.

As I settle in back at home after a whirlwind 36 hours at the hospital, I’m wrestling with my emotions. Gratitude for my life and getting to be with my family on Christmas Day. Mourning the loss of what I thought life in remission could offer me.

Hasn’t that been much of 2020 for all of us? Finding gratitude for what we do have and mourning how this pandemic has altered our hopes and dreams for this year? I don’t know about you, but the holidays have made this struggle feel so much more acute.

There was supposed to be gathering and traveling and time with family. Now there are canceled plans and isolating and masking. Grieve the losses. Call them what they are and acknowledge that it sucks that it is this way.

But – especially in this advent season – we can find so much gratitude. Into this weary world the God man was born to give hope that can’t be extinguished by unmet expectations and unplanned illness and quarantining.

So let’s do our best to still enjoy those twinkly lights and trees and cozy fireplaces. Let’s enjoy Zoom Christmas get together and less presents and more time. Because in the end, the heart of this season is the hope that was born into a manger – hope that we could all use a little extra of this year.

5 thoughts on “Christmas grief.

  1. So sorry things have been trying lately. I pray for you and your family and know that God is in control of your lives. Sending you all love this Christmas season.

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  2. You have been on my heart and mind and just this afternoon I showed James you Christmas card. I shared part of your story, how you have overcome every obstacle that was in your way, and through it all with courage, positivity and the hugest faith in God. You are Ashley Hoover—don’t those PE’s know that? 🙏🏼👑 -Kel

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  3. I love reading your words especially since I’m too far away to see your beautiful face in person. Thank you for sharing. We have been having some bummer news mixed in with some sweet parts and with the same underlying hollowness 2020 has to offer still. Praying for you!! And for your family members by name. Love you!!

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  4. Thank you, Ashley, for more encouragement to us. You have been, and are still going through so much, yet you are keeping the Lord first (even when it’s very tough). You offer us all His hope every time you write. Merry Christmas to you, Joe, and your children. We love you. Tom and Becky.

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