Ana lay comfortably on the red leather couch, with her grandmother’s quilt warming her. As she observed Grace at play with her dolls, she thanked God for the five wonderful years they had shared. Five miracle years.
Grace was only six weeks old when the lump doctors thought was caused by a breast infection turned out to be malignant. Ana’s vision of breastfeeding her daughter through her first birthday vanished in a moment. A dark cloud hovered over her life and changed her sweet dreams of motherhood into a shroud of fear and angst.
Ana and Joel commonly yearned for a large family long before they wed. Grace’s arrival almost a year to the day of their first anniversary seemed the perfect beginning of their life together. Ana’s closest friends enjoyed pursuing ambitious careers, while her heart’s desire was to raise and home school her own little flock. She had always felt certain of this calling until the diagnosis.
The cancer specialists recommended an aggressive treatment of chemo and radiation. They offered Ana the option of trying the latest treatment which boasted a cure rate of over eighty percent. However, the effects of the combination of medicines left over ninety percent of women barren. Ana and Joel agonized over the decision; her chances of survival were far less promising if she refused the new treatment. The doctors insisted on beginning her protocol immediately.
Ana requested three days to pray about her decision before proceeding. She knew her now uncertain medical background would make adoption impossible. She shed countless tears the first days grieving the loss of her future children. She prayed constantly and cried out to God for an answer. She only heard silence. She wanted God to tell her and Joel exactly what to do. Should they take the risk of having more children, yet possibly risk the life of their one beloved child’s mother?
She and Joel read scripture, fasted, prayed and asked friends and family to pray. Logic dictated accepting the new protocol and risking almost certain infertility, but Ana needed to be sure in her spirit that it was God leading her and not her fear. The last night before her scheduled treatment, Ana awoke and lay in bed unable to fall asleep again for hours. As she continued pleading with God, she heard Grace’s name whispered over and over in her head. No other words came, just Grace’s lovely name whispered again and again. Ana knew in her heart that God was telling her to trust him and follow the doctors’ recommendations.
An indescribable peace descended on Ana and she felt a contented acceptance of being mother to an only child. Throughout the cancer treatments, she experienced a remarkable quiet strength and was able to care for Grace during most of her illness. One year after being declared cancer free, Ana bounced back into life. She and Grace were inseparable as they attended swimming classes and story hour at the library. Ana recently threw an elaborate princess party to celebrate Grace’s fifth birthday.
Just months ago, Ana began to feel rundown and exhausted. Her annual cancer screening and battery of tests could prove her worst fear. She had become so accustomed to feeling normal and once regular thoughts of “what if the cancer came back?” had almost disappeared from her life. She tried to suppress her fears, but they nagged at her until the day of the dreaded appointment.
Now as she reflected on her recent news from the cancer specialist, she could hardly believe the test results. She knew the truth because her body couldn’t tell a lie, but it hardly seemed possible. Ana’s thoughts were interrupted by Grace who climbed on the couch to read with her exhausted mother.
“Mommy, can we read my favorite book one more time or are you too tired?”
“ I’d love to read, ‘Love you forever’. You know it’s one of my favorites, too.”
“Maybe after Christmas I’ll be able to read it all by myself.” Grace opened to the first page.
Ana tried to get more comfortable.
“Mommy, can I rub your tummy?”
“Of course you can sweetheart. I love it when you do that.”
“ Do you think I might feel one of the twins kick me again today?” Grace asked.
“ Well, they seem to know you are their big sister. They always start moving around when you rub my tummy.”
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