Sunday, September 13, 2009

One Year Ago Today

A year ago today, Hannah, Bethany and I went to the American Idol concert in Oklahoma City. If you've followed Hannah's story, you know that she was a huge American Idol fan. She watched the show faithfully from the second season on (the Ruben/Clay year). She was one of those fans who would pick a favorite and vote for two solid hours every Tuesday night. From the third season on (the Fantasia/Diana year), we went to the American Idol concert every year. We would always go early in the afternoon and hang out around the venue trying to meet the singers (we jokingly called it "stalking")...and we were usually successful, getting lots of autographs and pictures every year. It was a fun thing that we always looked forward to doing together, and we would always order our tickets the first day they went on sale.

Last year's concert featured David Cook (the winner) and David Archuleta (the runner-up), along with the other top eight contestants. I didn't order the tickets right away (I believe they went on sale at the end of May), because I just wasn't sure how Hannah would be feeling. As the summer went on, though, she was doing well...she had completed her radiation treatments and was handling the oral chemotherapy with no real problems. She had had an MRI every two months since her surgery, and she had gotten an "all clear" every time. So, probably in July, I ordered tickets for the three of us girls (Brad never seemed to want to go with us...don't know why! (o; ) We were excited about the concert and were really looking forward to it. Hannah was a David Cook fan, and we had a special interest in him because his brother was battling brain cancer.

We spent that weekend with Brad's mom and dad, who live in Van Buren, so it would be a shorter drive to and from the concert in Oklahoma City. This was a blessing, because the weather was awful that weekend. The remnants of Hurricane Ike were blowing through Arkansas and Oklahoma, and we drove to Oklahoma City in heavy rain and strong winds. I remember that Hannah was somewhat tired when we left Van Buren that day, but that was not unusual, as the primary side effect of her chemo was fatigue. It was too rainy and yucky to do our usual "stalking" that afternoon, so we went out to eat instead. I noticed that Hannah actually seemed relieved that we would not be "stalking", even though she had been talking excitedly about it in the days leading up to the concert. We finally arrived at the concert, and showed our tickets to an arena worker, who directed us to the stairs. As we walked up the stairs, Hannah mentioned that she felt a little dizzy. This also was not really unusual...the radiation treatments had left her with a constant feeling of being "off balance"...her world was never completely level. We finally found our the very top row of the arena. And I mean the top row...the only thing behind us was the wall. We were definitely in what you would call the nosebleed section. As we sat waiting for the concert to start, Hannah again mentioned that she was dizzy, and we attributed it to the dizzying height at which we were sitting. She was very quiet during the concert...not singing along and yelling for her favorites like she usually did...and right about the time David Cook came out (the winner is usually saved for last at these concerts), she asked if we could leave. We immediately got up and left...and what a long ride back to Van Buren that was. We still had the incredibly heavy rain and the tropical storm force winds, and now it was pitch dark. But that's not really what made the trip so long.

As I drove through that stormy weather, a storm was building inside of me. That night, for the first time, I began to realize that Hannah might not survive this. At the time, as far as we knew, Hannah was cancer free. But deep down inside, I knew something was not right. It was the first time that I began to feel like we were losing her. We returned home to the Hot Springs area the next day and within about a week, Hannah developed what we thought was a stomach virus. After several days of nausea, the doctor ordered an MRI (about 10 days before her next routine scan was scheduled) and it revealed that the cancer had returned with a vengeance. There were now two tumors on her brainstem, and so many tumors up and down her spine that the doctor referred to them as "snowdrift" tumors. With tears in his eyes, he explained to the four of us that he believed Hannah had less than a five percent chance of survival at this point. Wow...what a blow! He did explain some treatment options, including a combination of chemo drugs that had shown some success with glioblastoma tumors, but really didn't give us much hope of cure. As the four of us drove home that day, we decided that we were just going to ignore that number...we knew that our God didn't deal in percentages. But, at the same time, we were just beginning to realize that God's plan for Hannah may not include earthly healing.

This post has become much longer than I intended it to be...I will share more on this topic another day...but I did want to mention what a wonderful time we had at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Prescott this weekend. They had a "Faith, Family, & Fun" emphasis this weekend, and we had the privilege of sharing our story both last night and this morning. What a precious fellowship of believers! This church has followed our story basically from the beginning, and took us in just like a part of their family. Of course, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and it was apparent this weekend. They truly blessed us with delicious food, beautiful music, and wonderful fellowship. Thank you, SGBC!

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