Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Cancer (page 1 of 4)

The Joy of Exhaling

Did you hear about the couple in California back in October that survived one of the wildfires by immersing themselves in their neighbor’s pool? For six hours, John and Jan Pascoe repeatedly submerged themselves to avoid the ash and flames. Luckily, their strategy worked. They walked away relatively unscathed, however their home and both of their vehicles were completely destroyed.

I have a hard time imagining what that experience would be like. I wonder how long they may have had to hold their breath at times, waiting for just the right moment to grab another chestful of air.

My husband, Jason, shared this story with me the same day he received news that his cancer may very well be in remission, and I have to confess that I immediately drew some parallels to our own lives.

Have you ever had a time where you felt like you were figuratively holding your breath? Maybe waiting on news of the results of an interview, final judgments in a competition, willing the pregnancy test to show positive or negative? Waiting can be so hard, and sometimes we are asked to do so for long periods of time.

December 19th, Jason and I made a visit to his oncologist. He’s reached the end of a clinical trial he has been a part of for two years. When his test results came back and one of the doctors told us that his blood work was normal, I felt myself truly exhale for the first time in six years. I’m not exaggerating. It’s like I had been unconsciously holding just part of my breath that entire time.

I think our experience mirrors this couple’s in many ways. For six hours they were up and down waiting and hoping for rescue. They watched things fall apart around them. They were at the mercy of the flames. For six years, we have had to tread the proverbial water. Each visit before the trial as the white cell counts grew we were holding our breath just a little bit more. Then, each visit after the start of the medication it would seep out ever so slightly as the numbers began to go down. We would suck a little more air in when side effects would pop up, or infection reared its ugly head. This sounds way more dramatic than reality, but the feeling is true, nonetheless.

There is so much uncertainty with cancer. Even when operations, treatments, or medications do their job, cancer still steals something from you. Your peace of mind is never the same afterwards. Just as this couple lost treasured possessions, there are things you lose with cancer that cannot be replaced. Peace of mind should not be taken for granted.

Maybe you are familiar with a popular Amy Grant Christmas song called “Breath of Heaven.” It is also known as “Mary’s Song.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

The original lyrics were written by English songwriter Chris Eaton. Amy Grant got permission to rework the song to make it into a Christmas tune. Here is what she had to say about it: “It is a prayer that fits a lot of people’s circumstances, because it is a cry of mercy. Some nights on stage I can hardly get through the song for knowing all of the collective, unspoken pain of the lives in front of me. And so the words become my prayer for the listener and the reader, as well as the singer.”

In Job 33:4, we read, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” In Genesis we read that God formed man from the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” In the book of John, the Bible tells us we must be born of the Spirit. The word Spirit can be translated as a current of air, a breath-blast, a breeze. Not only has God given us physical life, but we have the chance for him to breathe life into our very spirits.

It is for this reason that I cling to my belief in a magnificent Creator. There are times I may not be able to physically breathe, but I have something inside of me that gives me hope nonetheless, that keeps my spirit breathing.

God will not always answer my prayers in the affirmative. Through great research, good doctors, ideal circumstances, and a good physical match between the medication and my husband’s body he was healed this time (at least for now). When the breath of life is taken out of our bodies, or those we love, we can cling to the hope of the breath of heaven that can reside within us.

A few days after our good news I purchased this sign as a gift for Jason. We are looking forward to many more years together.

May you find yourself exhaling soon if life is hard or uncertain right now!


Renewed Hope

We are officially one year into Jason’s clinical trial for his CLL. Today is my birthday, and the one gift that I wanted more than anything was a test result of white blood cells within normal range. We didn’t quite make it, but we are SO close. A result within normal range is under 11 and his count was at 11.9. Man, we just missed the target goal. But that’s down from 16 last time which is an enormous improvement.

There is a Panera across from the hospital where we ate lunch. We ate outside, and from our vantage point I could see a sea of something sparkly. I insisted we check it out before we walked over for the appointment. Here’s what we found:


If you can’t read the sign, it says that each pinwheel represents a lifesaving organ transplant performed at OSU. While we may not be here for an organ transplant, we are grateful for the hope we have found through lifesaving research that happens here. There wasn’t a cure when Jason was first diagnosed five years ago, and each day we get closer to an answer that will same as eliminate this disease.

I didn’t get to do my happy dance in the doctor’s office today, but as he left the room with a parting, “God bless,” I certainly offered a silent prayer of gratitude for the doctors, nurses, friends, and family who have been a part of this journey.

“It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” Robert Schuller



A Million Ordinary Moments

Warm sunshine streaming through the sliding glass door grazed my right shoulder. I sat reading an engaging book while my youngest worked on a drawing project with instructions from YouTube. Quite suddenly, I felt taken aback by an overwhelming sense of contentment. I let the warmth of the sun soak in, I focused on the sounds of my husband’s saw emanating from the garage as he worked on his newest project, and smiled at Austin’s joy as he held up his work for me to encourage his progress. The moment, completely ordinary, held a certain kind of wonder.

No doubt these feelings were prompted by the book sitting in my lap. Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author of the memoir, Textbook, just passed away a couple of weeks ago from ovarian cancer. A prolific children’s author and YouTube video creator, Amy shot to the spotlight recently for an article that appeared in the New York Times entitled “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It was a final tribute to the man she desperately loved and hated to leave, a hope that some twist of fate might lead just the right woman into his path once she departed this earth.

It was my husband, Jason, that drew my attention to this author. He had me read the New York Times article. You see, Amy’s husband’s name is Jason, so the story seemed extra worthy of my attention.

Her book is quirky and creative, but I think what I like most about it, is that the stories and excerpts included are often just a matter of noticing…paying attention to the day-to-day happenings with eyes wide open. So far, there hasn’t been anything profound, but it does remind me to look at my surroundings with a fresh perspective.

In just a couple of weeks, we will return to OSU for Jason’s next clinical trial visit, and we are hoping his white cell count will finally be within normal range (if not this visit, then certainly the next). We have renewed hope that we will get to spend our retirement down the road together, God willing.

Life is full of twists and turns. There are mountaintop experiences, and times you get kicked off the mountain right down into the valley. Sometimes repeatedly. And that’s why I think we need to appreciate the moments that may seem otherwise insignificant, mundane even. The view from the summit holds amazement, but there are beautiful streams even in the valley.

What moment can you take time to appreciate today?


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