©Wendy Anne Clark, 2016
Another birthday already? Unbelievable!
As I was thinking about what to write this year, I realized that this birthday is an anniversary of sorts. Twenty years ago, on my birthday, I was in a battle against Lymphoma. My husband and I had recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, our daughter Haley was almost 3 years old, Heather was 7 months old, and I had been told that there would likely never be a Hannah.
We had talked about what our lives might look like if the battle turned out to be a prolonged one or what might happen to Roy and the girls if I didn’t survive. Though it was a very turbulent time, at the same time, I felt the presence of God so near to me that I didn’t really feel afraid. Treatment was at times nasty, embarrassing, painful–and yet I felt incredible peace—the kind that defies all logic and is completely beyond our human understanding.
I was in the hospital on my birthday, feeling terrible, and receiving platelets. Still, by that time I had finished my first full round of chemo, the Lymphoma had dried up and disappeared, and I was getting ready for maintenance chemo and beginning to think about a future of teaching, singing, and one day feeling “normal” again.
Now, twenty years later, I can say that I’ve felt “normal” for a very long time. I seldom think about the time that I had cancer, and most people that I know now aren’t even aware that I ever did. I had Hannah long after I was told that I would likely never have any more children. And God has blessed me in so many ways that how can I begin to name them all?
And so this birthday, I want to say thank you. Thank you to all of the friends who sent me gifts and thought of me back during that time. Thank you to Marcia and Donna who came to visit me in the hospital even when I told them not to. I didn’t know how much I needed to see them. Thank you to my sweet students at Napa Valley College, who collected money and bought Christmas gifts for me and my family. Thank you to the kind co-workers at Napa who paid for us to get meals delivered to our home—what an amazing treat that was! Thank you to Denise, who took over my class in November, was so kind to my startled students, and became a good friend.
Thank you to Roy’s boss Phillip, who paid to fly us to Southern California for a Christmas party and who helped us out in so many ways. Thank you to Marsha and Lisa and Lauri for watching my children and to Dusty for cutting my hair and cleaning my house and giving me little gifts of things I would need along the way. Thanks to Kathy and Carolyn, who drove me to the hospital when I couldn’t drive myself and when Roy needed to be elsewhere even though they were both nervous drivers in their own way. (I know that Carolyn passed away a number of years ago, and that she knew how much I appreciated her.) Thank you to all you friends who helped us and gave to us when our house was robbed at Christmas time and thieves stole presents from under our tree. Yikes! Thank you to our friends in the “Counterparts” Sunday school class who send me CDs and a CD player and supported Roy. Thank you to all who gave blood on my behalf.
And a special thank you to all of you who took the time to pray for me and my family. I remember one particular afternoon when my mom prayed for me, and I felt her prayers and felt the change that it made in me, and I know there were so many other people who were taking the time to pray. Thank you.
Because of that time in my life, I take prayer very seriously, and I pray for all of you as you come to mind. And I am kinder, softer, more compassionate towards those who are suffering. Though it was a bad time in so many ways, and I wouldn’t wish for it for anyone that I love, it was such a transformational time for me that I wouldn’t go back and skip it even if I could. I am the person I am today because of that experience, along with so many others. And I learned so much about the faithfulness and love of God and of how personal and tender He is towards us.
And so today, on my 52nd birthday I celebrate twenty years of being cancer free, twenty years of walking ever more closely with Jesus, day by day, and twenty years of growing in the understanding of how valuable relationships are.
Thank you for being my friends.