Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Live Like You Were Dying

Back in the fall of 2006, I started feeling tired all of the time. I had headaches, pain in my back and neck, and my nose would randomly bleed. I didn’t think a whole lot about it. I have an electrolyte imbalance, so if I don’t regularly drink Gatorade or Powerade, or take some kind of electrolyte supplement, I get tired very easily. I had mild scoliosis as a child that, with the exception of a slight curvature in my neck, we had pretty much resolved with horseback ridding. So we attributed the headaches and back and neck pain to the curvature in my neck. After discussing things with the doctors, we decided to move forward with physical therapy in attempts to straighten out my spine. They took a few X-rays and did an MRI to determine just how curved my spine was, but they saw something on the MRI that caused them to send me in for a bone scan.  The scan it’s self was pretty cool. They injected a hot pink radioactive dye into my arm and my mother and I went to lunch (it takes a while for it to spread through your body and seep into your bones. An hour, maybe more? I can no longer remember). A week or two after the scan, I had a crazy dream. I was in a room, and there was a doctor directly in front of me. He looked at me and said, “You have bone cancer.” And that was all. I awoke to my mother telling me the doctors had called- they found something on my right scapula (Well what the heck is a scapula? Apparently, it’s your shoulder blade!). 
We went to a doctor at Emory, where we did more X-rays, a CT Scan, etc. After all of this was done, the doctor confirmed it- I had a tumor. I remember him going over the images from the MRI with us, he kept saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this. This is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this.” Let me tell you, hearing that made me feel GREAT! Haha! We scheduled for another MRI and a biopsy to be done the week after Christmas. If the tumor turned out to be cancerous, they would remove as much of it as possible and start chemo two weeks later- right before my 16th birthday.
The next few weeks I tried to live my life as normally as possible. I tried to ignore the probability of me having bone cancer, but it seemed as though that’s all anyone else ever thought about. Every time I turned around, some one wanted to pray about it or talk about it (the awkward silences every time I entered a room, along with the sympathetic stares, were the worst). Don’t get me wrong, I love that everyone was so supportive, but I was still in denial. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening.
Back then there was a Tim McGraw song that had recently come out and was VERY popular. They played it allll the time. “Live Like You Were Dying” was the title, and it talks about a guy who is diagnosed with cancer (or at least we are led to believe it’s cancer with the line "I spent most of the next days, Looking at the x-rays, An' talking 'bout the options an' talkin’ ‘bout sweet time.") and how he decides to do all of the things he’d always wanted to do, as well as live his life better (“I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying”). It’s a great song, however, it was just a little too personal for me at the time. That song was the absolute last song on earth that I wanted to hear. My mom on the other hand LOVED it, and every time it came on (which was All. The. Time.) she would crank it up and sing to it at the top of her lungs. I suppose to her the song represented hope, as the guy survived to live a nice long life. To me it was just a painful reminder that I was probably dying.
My cousins came to town for Christmas break, and their company helped to lift my spirits. I had a blast hanging out with them, and my health seemed to improve dramatically. I hadn’t had a nose bleed or a headache in a couple of weeks, and I actually had energy! I didn’t think much of it; I just figured my cousins were a good distraction from everything going on.
A few days after Christmas, I went back for my 2nd MRI. This time my aunt and siblings accompanied my mother and me to the doctors for support. After waiting forever for the doctor to look over the images from the MRI, he finally came in the room and sat down in front of me. He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “We’ve gone over the images several times. We can’t find anything. The tumor is gone.” My aunt just about fell out of her seat! “You mean it’s just gone?!” She exclaimed. “Yes. So far, we can not find anything. It’s a….. a miracle.”  He said, with the last part barely audible. We did another CT scan and more X-rays, just in case, but it was not there. There wasn’t a single tumor to be found in my entire body. I remember running out to the waiting room and hugging my brother and sister, crying out “It’s gone! It’s gone!” with tears of joy and relief streaming down my face.
A few weeks later, I celebrated my sweet 16 and landed my first job at Six Flags, where I met R and, well, you know the rest. I haven’t made the best decisions in the four years since then, but I’m doing better. I haven’t lived life the way I wanted to, and I’m changing that. God gave me a second chance, and so far I haven’t done much with it but mess up. So from now on I’m going to take full advantage of that second chance; I am going to live like I am dying

And I think I'll sing this song while doing it


MamaFoster said...

that was a miracle and an obvious way of God showing how much he cares for you.

what a great story about the power of God and a great reason to live like today may be our last.

Kiss and IM said...

Great story Ashleigh!!

mamamargie said...

Wow! Incredible story! Incredible God! And incredible YOU for getting back with God!


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