The Day The World Didn’t Stop… But It Should Have.

My mother was very sick for a long time. She already beat cancer once, but in January of 2017 (just at the mark of what would have been her five year remission) it came back. She had cervical cancer caused by the HPV virus, however this time it came back in her lymph nodes. I remember standing there in a state of numbness while the doctor’s voice sounded like something from an episode of the Peanuts cartoon (Charlie Brown), “wa wa wa” as she told my mother that she had 6-18 months to live.

She put up a good fight but around 13 months after her re-diagnosis she became sick with an infection. Her immune system couldn’t handle much more and she ended up being admitted to the hospital. Eventually she went into respiratory failure and became intubated. She spent the last 3 months of her life in the hospital, and the last 3 weeks of that on a ventilator. They knew that she was going to be on the ventilator long term, so after a couple days they trached her. There is much more about her condition that contributed to that, but that is for another time. However due to the tracheotomy she was moved to a specialty hospital that was an hour away from our home town.

Between my brother, dad, grandfather, and myself we did our best to make sure that she was never alone. She was awake and very much aware. Often times she was capable of making her own decisions and could communicate with a dry erase board that I bought her. We got to spend a lot of quality time together, and I was really good a reading her lips. She was impressed with how well I could read her lips, because we were able to have full fluid conversations without the dry erase board for the most part. Little did she realize that I was able to read her lips long before she was in that condition. She was, and still is, my greatest idol, of course I could read her lips, I have been watching her in admiration before I could talk. Anyways, we never wanted her to be alone because her anxiety was very bad. One night when I stayed with her she asked me to make up my hospital chair bed right next to her bedside so that we could hold hands while we slept. I did, and I will always cherish that.

We were fortunate to get the chance to celebrate one last Easter together, and my 29th birthday too. On Easter my husband and I brought the kids up to see her, the whole family was there. We had taken the kids shopping the day before and made her an Easter basket full of goodies. The kids got to dye Easter eggs with her, fake ones that we can hold dear forever. For my birthday we got a cake (per her request) and we all met her up at the hospital to celebrate together. She was able to eat things of a certain consistency, so she enjoyed some jello while we had cake. We shared the left over cake with the hospital staff. My mom was so happy for this. There’s nothing she loved more than spending time with her family, especially getting to see her grand-kids.

Late one night after my husband and I had a wonderful visit with mom that day, I was at home sleeping when I got a phone call. It was 2 in the morning, and I knew that only meant bad news. My brother had stayed that night with my mom, but it was my dad that called me. He told me that my brother had called him and said we’d better get up there, that mom was passing away. My heart sank and I quickly jumped in my car. I must have cut that hour drive down to 40 minutes at least. When I got there she was still awake, but she was fading fast. I grabbed onto her hand and said, “mamma I’m here. I love you!” I read her lips and she said, “love you”. At a loss for words I said it again, “I love you”, and again she said, “love you”. Then she mouthed a word that even I had a hard time making out, but upon reflection I believe she said, “always”, and that was the last thing my beautiful mother ever said.

Shortly after I got there they gave her some medication to keep her comfortable, without pain, and help her to not be anxious. After that she became very relaxed. I held one of her hands and my brother held onto the other. We talked to her, and to each other. At one point she squeezed both of our hands very tightly, as if to tell us she was still there. I know she meant it as a hug goodbye.

My grandfather showed up and said a prayer over her. He couldn’t stand to stay and watch his little girl die, so my brother offered to walk him to his car. My dad took over holding her hand, the one that my brother was holding. As we both held her hands, we were talking about how we were partially glad for her that her suffering was coming to an end. With that my mom took one last breath and let it out, almost like a sigh of relief, and she was gone. At 5 o’clock in the morning on April 11th 2018, right in the palm of my hand my mommy left this world, and went home to be with Jesus. It’s amazing when you watch someone die, you realize how our bodies are really just shells for our souls. When she let out that breath her skin felt different almost immediately, her color changed, and I knew that she had left her body. What laid before me was a beautiful empty shell where my mother used to reside. I don’t care what anyone believes, but you cannot experience something like that without coming to the conclusion that there is definitely something- somewhere beyond us. I call it Heaven, but whatever you want to call it, its real.

As soon as she took her last breath my brother came back in. I was sad for him that he missed it, but if I know my mom (and I do) I really believe that she waited for him to step out so she could go. He was her baby, and she didn’t want him to see that. He rushed to her side and reclaimed the hand my dad kept warm for him. Eventually the nurses came in and offered to “make her look more comfortable” if we would step out for a moment. I just remember my brother not wanting to let go of her hand, because he said he didn’t want it to get cold. That shattered my already broken heart.

When my brother was ready we left the room, and went to sit in his car to wait. While we sat in the car in the silence of disbelief, the sun began to rise. The sun coming out felt like a slap in the face, like someone rubbing salt in the wound. That’s when it hit me… My whole world just stopped, yet the world around me was going to go on like nothing happened. How? How is it possible to keep going on like that? How can I rise up like the sun for a new day? How?

Charlene Dawne Stewart, she made it 15 months after her diagnosis. She was only 46 years young. November 18, 1971 – April 11, 2018.

This is my journey to finding out “how” to be me without her.

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Under Attack!

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I haven’t posted in a long time. Ever since my mom was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, I have avoided the blog. I have decided that I really need to pick right back up. If you look around, you’ll notice some changes to the blog (and more to come) I am embarking on some fun adventures these days. But that will be another post, announcement pending.

Tonight’s post is going to be one that I have been dreading to post, the very reason I haven’t posted in so long. As a matter of fact it is hard for me to even form the words needed for this post. The things bouncing around in my head aren’t exactly easy to articulate, they’re more like feelings, so bare with me…

This year has been the worst year of my entire life, bar none. From my mom’s cancer, to my own mysterious health problems, other family emergencies, and every day there is seemingly something else. From an outsiders perspective it probably doesn’t look that bad. In fact I have accomplished a lot of great things this year, and from what people tell me I seem to be holding together very well! I get complimented all the time about how “strong” I am. I continue to push that on. I try not to complain often (hens the absence of posts), and when people ask me how I am doing I almost always answer with a “good” or “I’m doing alright!” But the truth is, I am not doing alright.

I have battled with diagnosed clinical depression and anxiety for the last decade. No one would really know it these days, because with the help of the Lord and great support of friends and doctors I considered myself to have overcome my depression, for at least the last 3-4 years. What does that mean exactly? Well, to put it simply I suppose I would say that for the last 3-4 years I have been able to live my life without the feeling of a thousand pound weight sitting on my chest.

I started feeling my depression sneaking back in a few months ago. It feels like you’re treading in deep dark waters, struggling to keep your head above the water while everyone just watches you drown… Believe me I have tried so hard to pray it away, unfortunately all that has seemed to accomplish is making me question if my faith is strong enough, because the dark and empty won’t stop. I haven’t said anything to anyone. I feel like as an outspoken Christian woman, I am supposed to set an example or something. People come to me for prayer, and what if they know that I struggle? I sit and minister to women weekly and what if they know that I can’t even help myself? How can they trust me? Am I a fraud? If people know, they’ll look at me differently… These are some of the thoughts that attack me, and hold me back from reaching out, from seeking help.

The truth is I know that I am not alone. I can’t be. Especially in the Christian community, I think a lot of us feel this way. Scared to talk about things, but we NEED to talk! Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Obviously Jesus is telling us to speak up when we are in need, so why wouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t I? I firmly believe that these thoughts that we can’t reach out for help in fear of judgment (or any other reason) are a tactic of the enemy. It is his intention to get us isolated, if we believe we are alone then we are easier for him to devour. Just like any predator will go after the straggler of a herd, the loner, the one that falls behind. Think animal kingdom, anytime you see a lion sink it’s teeth into a gazelle it’s always the one that the lion was able to isolate from the herd. Did you know that a single herd of gazelles can have up to 700 members in it? Still the lion will attack even when it is outnumbered. Think about that for a moment. No matter how big your church is, no matter how strong your faith is, if the enemy can isolate you, he will attack! No one is exempt from this.

So as my counter attack on the enemy, I am speaking out! I am not alone. I know there are others out there wanting to do the same, and I am here to tell you that you are not alone either. Despite what you think, people care… I care. God cares! I like to always think that God has a purpose for my pain. I don’t believe that He causes my pain, but I do believe that He won’t waste my suffering. If God can use my struggle to minister to someone I always allow myself to be used by the Lord. Maybe this post is His way of doing that, I dunno. But, what I do know is that I am suffering right now, and if you are too don’t be afraid to ask for help! I have overcome this before, and because of that I know that what God does one time, He will do it again.

One last thought before I go off to bed. If you know someone who struggles with depression, just be there for them. The other day I had a complete melt down. I mean, ugly crying okay. I was in that isolation and having terrible thoughts. I called my cousin in Hawaii (even though it was like 5 in the morning for her) and she stayed on the phone with me for nearly 4 hours (on and off). She isn’t a therapist or anything, she didn’t have magic words to make it all go away, but just by being on the phone with me, listening to me, and encouraging me, she really helped me off of a cliff that day. You don’t have to understand, you don’t even have to fix it, just be there.

Love you all,
Alyssa Joan

Love wins!

I don’t really know how to begin this blog post.

I guess I’ll just start with a back story. Five years ago as of January 18th my mom, Charlene was declared cancer free, and she was considered to be in remission. She is the strongest most beautiful woman I know. Even cancer couldn’t taint her beauty and grace. She had stage 3 cervical cancer and a 70% survival rate. She beat the odds and I never doubted for a moment that she would.

This week was particularly hard for my family. Just six days after the anniversary of her survival date, she landed in the hospital. Her lungs were filling with fluid among other things and her doctor had her admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital. After four days and three nights of being poked and prodded at the results came in.

We had waited intently for these results but as the doctor walked through the door I can remember thinking how I wanted to just stay in this limbo of not knowing. The doctor didn’t waste any time to let us know that her cancer has returned. This time in her lymph nodes. Everything sounded muffled as the doctor said things like, “now is the time to surround yourself with loved ones”. I felt a lump in my throat and I couldn’t even swallow.

I couldn’t say anything, all I could do was lift my tear filled eyes up to a cross that hung on the hospital room wall. I clung to that cross the entire time the doctor spoke, as she gave numbers I gave all my thoughts to God. I couldn’t find the words to pray in that moment but I just thought, “No, that cross has the final word, God has the final report.”

I don’t accept the doctor’s report. I respect the doctor and her report don’t get me wrong. But my faith is strong and I have hope that by the stripes of Jesus my mother will yet again overcome this. The Bible says that we may come boldly to God’s throne when we are sick asking for his mercy and healing. Jesus still has the power to heal us, and if what I am asking for is a miracle, then I come boldly to the throne of God and I declare that my Jesus is STILL in the business of making miracles, and I won’t move until I see it happen!

I ask that you will all believe this with me. Please pray for my mom and stand in agreeance with me today that in the name of Jesus she will be healed. Please add her to your prayer list’s and remember her in your nightly prayers.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
-Hebrews 4:16