It’s not breaking news that the year of 2014 was a rough one for the Smiths. It was brutal. It was relentless. It kicked our butts over and over again. We counted down the days leading up to 2014 in Lithuania- confused and waiting to hear results of a scan on Andrew’s chest. On January 2nd, we sat at our kitchen table with the General Manager of his basketball team telling us in broken English that there was a large tumor in Andrew’s chest and things were very serious. 36 hours later, we were on an emergency flight home. A week later, we received a heartbreaking, dream-crushing cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatments began a few days after that. We have spent a lot of our days in the hospital- some days in agony, some riddled with impatience, and some with only one of us conscious. I’ll be frank, this year has been terrible, and I have never been happier to see the clock strike midnight and have 365 days behind me.
This year has been one of conscience decision-making. Aside from taking a few days to be filled with tears and give into our sadness here and there, Andrew has been wonderful about choosing to stay positive and has endlessly encouraged me when I failed to do so. I fully admit that there have been some days that I have been stunned with fear of the day to follow. I have wallowed in sadness and the injustice of it all, and I’ve struggled with the idea of moving on from the chaos and madness of this year. How do you pick up the pieces after a year like this? It seemed like every time Andrew and I felt like we could reset and start over something bad would happen. And not just bad, something that would rock us all over again. I hated that this disease began to alter our decision-making and made us second guess planning our future. I remember the exact moment that this hostility flooded my body and anger boiled over towards this illness: Andrew and I talked about the idea of one day having kids and it was followed by a “but, what if…?” He didn’t need to finish his sentence, and we both knew the “what if”. What if treatment didn’t work? What if the cancer came back? What if we created a big, beautiful family and then things went wrong and I had to take care of them and Andrew by myself? What if? It was in this moment I realized that we had given this sickness too much control.
Andrew and I refuse to give this past year and all of its awful counterparts authority over our lives. Ever since that conversation, we have consciously rejected the paralyzing fear over planning a future that might never be. What good is a blessed, God-given life if you’re not going to live it? This disease has been life changing, of course, but we refuse to let it be life crippling. “God sometimes takes us into troubled waters; not to drown us, but to cleanse us.” The Lord didn’t bring this illness into our lives for it to take over and suffocate the goodness, but to mold our hearts and use us to help others. I smile from ear to ear when I read the many messages and cards telling Andrew and I how much we’ve helped others. I don’t smile because I think we did it, because I assure you, it wasn’t us. I smile because I feel a purpose for all of the suffering and heartache this past year. Andrew and I both strongly feel and believe that if only one person breathed a little easier because of sharing Andrew’s beautiful testimony, every minute of this past year was worth it.
So to 2014, good riddance! Thank you for your many lessons, but I’ve never looked forward to a new year more! We cannot wait to dream and live our crazy, beautiful life in this upcoming year. Andrew is doing extremely well and we are not looking backwards! Blessings to you all and we truly wish you the happiest of New Years. I pray that this year will be your best yet! :)
“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.” (Tony Gaskins)