Our Cancer Journey

This blog post has been in my mind for quite a while. My purpose in this post is to be able to shed some light into what we’ve gone through, what our life looks like right now, and share some hope with anyone who is struggling.
Friday, April 22, 2016 is now a date I will never forget. Because my mom is a nurse, I’ve been fortunate to not be a “worrier” when it comes to anything medical. I’m typically a very calm person when it comes to medical situations. Luckily, Aaron and I, as well as our boys, are very healthy and we’ve never had to deal with anything major. This day was no exception. Aaron was scheduled for a colonoscopy. I wasn’t nervous about Aaron’s procedure, but I wasn’t naïve enough to think that there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with him. I just never dreamed that the doctor would tell us what he did. He came out from the surgery while Aaron was still a little groggy, and informed us that Aaron had a spot that was “malignant in appearance”. This didn’t quite register with Aaron until we were in the car. He looked at me and said, “Malignant means cancer, right?” I assured him we would talk about everything after we got home. I immediately called my mom to come look at the photos they gave us of his colon during the surgery. The worst part about this entire situation is the waiting. We were told we would know more on Monday, since Aaron’s surgery was on a Friday.
The following Monday, it was confirmed: Aaron had colon cancer. Cancer. That’s never a word I thought would be used to describe my young (36), healthy, funny, outgoing, charismatic husband. We were referred to a wonderful colon surgeon who has been incredibly positive and helpful throughout this process. Aaron then had a colon resection and the surgeon removed the cancer. We were hopeful that this cancer had not moved to any lymph nodes, but we were told it had. It was only in two lymph nodes near the site it was found, which we were told was good news. Every time we found out something new, we just wanted to know what we had to do next.
Our next step after surgery was to begin 6 months of chemo treatment to ensure that Aaron could be cured of the cancer. Our oncologist is also a wonderfully optimistic and caring man who believes we can beat this. At this point, it is safe to say that Aaron’s cancer was a result of genetics. The oncologist told us that Aaron hasn’t been alive long enough to do something bad enough to his body to give himself cancer. While that’s somewhat of a relief, it also worries me for our own boys. They will more than likely get colonoscopies at 30, if not before.
We are settling into our new “normal” right now. Aaron has now undergone his first chemo treatment and things are going fairly well. People keep asking us how we’re still functioning so “normally” through all of this. The truth is this: we don’t feel like we have any other choice. We have two little boys who brighten our days every single day and make us laugh. We have a wonderful support system of family and friends (who are like our family). We have our faith in God that we will come out of this stronger, learn from this, and grow in our faith during this time.
Here’s the other half to our truth: every day isn’t easy. We definitely have our struggles. I’m home on summer break right now, but juggling two very active little boys, scheduling appointments, running a photography business, etc. can have its downfalls. I have days that I lose my patience with the boys. I have days that I lose my patience with Aaron, which doesn’t seem fair. But none of this is “fair”. It’s just something that happened, and we are taking it in stride, figuring out the next thing we need to do in order to get to the other side. Even though we have our hard days, we know that we’re still so incredibly blessed. Blessed to have two healthy boys. Blessed to have a roof over our heads and food on our table. Blessed to have jobs. Blessed to have family and friends to lean on. Most importantly, we’re blessed to have an incredibly strong marriage. You always hear that saying, “Marriage isn’t easy. You have to work at it every day.” I think this is partly true. Yes, there are hard things to deal with. But I think if you have a strong foundation, the marriage part isn’t hard. It’s the other stuff you have to deal with that is – like cancer.
This has made me slow down a bit (I’ve only shot a few sessions since Aaron’s diagnosis). But it has made me relish in the little, every day things that I haven’t had time to notice lately. I’ve left my “big camera” laying out on our kitchen counter or table, to allow myself to capture some simple, yet important memories of our boys and Aaron. Although I’ve slowed down, I’m definitely ready to pick up my business again because I love having that creative outlet. It’s so important to find whatever it is that gives you passion and go do it.
Since the beginning of our little cancer journey, I’ve never once thought that Aaron wouldn’t beat this. I know in my heart of hearts that he will. I told someone at school one day that I guess I’m just blindly optimistic about all of this. She pointed out that blind optimism is faith. So, how are we holding our heads so high during this? How are we “normal” through these crappy circumstances? We have a very strong marriage, and we have faith. It’s that simple. There will definitely be some hard days ahead, and we’re not blind to that. But we know we will take them as they come and we’ll celebrate the small victories, whatever they may be. Cheers to the next 6 months.

  1. katherine oney says:

    i love you.

  2. Debbie Hopper says:

    Ashley….. I will continue praying for you and your beautiful family!

  3. Abbe Obszanski says:

    This is beautiful. You are an inspiration. Keeping you and your family in our prayers!

  4. John Carvalho says:

    Prayers for a quick recovery. We know you will pull through this.

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