Cancer Update: Life After

… is good and very weird.

(p.s. buckle up, this is a long one!)

I can’t believe has been four months since my last cancer update. I’ve been meaning to write a post, but, honestly, I haven’t even known where to start. So many of you have reached out so sweetly asking for an update, but I wasn’t quite sure how to formulate all of my feelings into words. And truthfully I’m still not sure, but for you, I’ll give it a shot….

Life after getting the “all clear” has been so wonderful, but surprisingly much more difficult than expected. We both naively thought as soon as we heard the words, “everything looks good,” we would jump for joy, and be able to move on from this season without a care in the world. And quite frankly, that hasn’t been the case. Did we jump for joy? Oh-my-gosh YES. Did we celebrate? Yes and more yes. But then did we totally and completely freak out?! Y-E-SSSSSSSSS. Ha.

I whole-heartedly believe that there should be a starter course for those who undergo treatment for cancer. Kind of like pre-marital counseling or the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. I vote there should be a mandatory something to help you manage treatment and the life after treatment, because y’all, it’s HARD.

Thankfully, we have been in counseling for years and years (we’re on the forever plan) because we love it and love what it does for our marriage. We joke that it’s our favorite date night of the month. We always leave deeper in love and more understanding of one another than when we showed up. But even then, these past few months have been a mixed bag of PTSD, joy, anxiety, gratefulness, and the overall task of putting our life back together. It has, in short, been WEIRD.

But, before I go any further…

Let me just say, I know first hand that even though this season has been weird, it has been an actual and literal GIFT that we don’t deserve. Not everyone gets to do life after cancer, and we know that. Over this past year we’ve lost loved ones we held hands with during chemo and wept long and hard with friends who’ve been on the wrong side of a prognosis. So please know that I am by no means complaining about our beautiful gift. If anything, I know more than ever before just how precious and wonderful the gift of living is and we celebrate that every day.

But I did think you deserved a bit of the actual, unfiltered truth about what the past few months have looked like.

I think what it really comes down to is that we now know, and have seen, too much. We’ve had to grapple with things that felt so heavy we could barely breathe and hold each other up when we were at our weakest. And over these past few months, at some points, it’s felt like too much.

When you are in a crisis, your mind and body goes into flight or fight mode. You just do, you power through, you fight. But when the crisis is over, you crash, because you need time to process. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.

Funnily (and not so funny) enough we dubbed the month of May “Sad May”. We gave ourselves an entire month to just be, meh. To process the past year and not be forced to feel something we didn’t. It is one of my favorite gifts we’ve given ourselves. A whole month of bah-humbug-ing around, and you know what? It felt good. It almost felt reverent to just take a moment to breathe through the past year. I’ll be forever grateful for “Sad May”.

But by the time June rolled around we were READY TO PARTY. We had gotten the “what in the world just happened-ness” out of our systems and we were here for the F-U-N. 😉 We booked trip after trip, filled our calendars to the brim with EVERYTHING and pushed ourselves to the “fun limit” more than once. But after May, it was soul filling.

Then there was July. I feel like July was our month that put us back into equilibrium. We started to find our groove in our post cancer life, and we were able to start putting our life puzzle slowly but surely back together. Sad May was long gone and EXTRA FUN June was fabulous, but not sustainable…. so Perfectly Normal and Wonderful July it was.

Which brings me to this month, today, in August where we are finally getting our groove back. Where we are still overly excitable, emotional, and grateful. I sometimes just cry when I look at him, I’m so happy. But also extremely cautious and anxious. We are just figuring out this new normal, of knowing and seeing and having experienced so much. And I’m okay with that.

What we’ve been through has actually been a gift. We see the entire world differently and I know (and pray) that over time the events of the past year will get a little less sharp. That they will scare us a little less. But I also pray that they won’t completely go away. Living in this new normal is the best normal. It’s messy and weird and complicated, but much more vibrant and beautiful. It is good. Life is, really good.

What Happens Next: Ryan’s scans in July came back clear and last week he had his chemo port removed. We will go for a CT Scan in 2 months, and then another PET Scan in 3 months after that. The crazy scans that after much ado ended up being clear last year are keeping the doctors extra cautious, which we are thankful for, but it’s also nerve wracking. So our prayer right now is for peace as we wait for another set of very clear scans in the next few months.

Catch up on our cancer journey here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

27 Comments

  1. Christine
    August 23, 2019 / 7:24 am

    I love, love your concept of “Sad May”. I had cancer as a teenager and as soon as I was told I was in remission, I was SO ready to close that chapter and MOVE ON. I also thought that I would be somehow ungrateful if I wasn’t always happy because I was one of the lucky ones who made it to the other side. So, I never gave myself the space to process what I had been through. You know what? All those emotions raised their head for me seemingly out of the blue 20 years later. My wonderful therapist helped me process things that I needed to have felt back then, but was feeling as an adult.

    So— this is a long way of saying, you are doing this the right way! Congratulations on Ryan’s health! Keep enjoying and celebrating life!!!

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:52 pm

      Christine!

      This means so much, thank you for taking the time to write such a sweet, kind, and hopeful note!

      Also, celebrating being cancer free right along side you!

      xo – Ashley Brooke

  2. Jan
    August 23, 2019 / 8:30 am

    Hi Ashley, I’ve never posted before but read your site all of the time. Just wanted to say that I’m so happy for you both and that you’re very strong and brave. Your honest update is beautiful. Sending you prayers and hugs! Jan

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:52 pm

      Jan,
      Thank you so much, this means the absolute world.
      xo – AB

  3. Ann
    August 23, 2019 / 8:54 am

    Thank You for sharing your personal journey

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:53 pm

      Ann,
      You are so welcome, thank you for being so kind!
      xo – Ashley Brooke

  4. Melissa
    August 23, 2019 / 8:55 am

    This is the best post I have ever read. You said everything with such maturity and clarity it made me cry.

    God is with us through all of our scares, hard fighting and learning to breathe again. I am going to read
    this post a few more times and pray for you and Ryan each time.

    Thank you for the update Ashley. Beautifully said.

    xoxo,
    Melissa

    • Mary
      August 23, 2019 / 6:45 pm

      You did such a great job describing the feelings surrounding a health crisis and the aftermath. Thank you for sharing such an honest update. Wishing you both many many years of good health and happiness!

      • September 3, 2019 / 1:00 pm

        Mary,
        Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean the absolute world!

        xo – Ashley Brooke

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:53 pm

      Ah! Melissa! This means the world, thank you for your kind words.

      xo – Ashley Brooke

  5. Lidia Oatman
    August 23, 2019 / 9:13 am

    You and Ryan are in some many people’s thoughts and prayers…thank you for the update.

    Martin Luther quoted: ‘I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.’

    I pray that is the case for you two, it isn’t easy but together with God as your Rock on where your faith stand, you will be uplifted.

    Many Hugs – Lidia

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:54 pm

      Lidia!

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and for the quote. Means so much.

      xo – Ashley Brooke

  6. Andie
    August 23, 2019 / 9:18 am

    Hi Ashley,
    I, too, have never posted before. I always look forward to your posts and this one is so touching. I think the picture of you two really says it all. You’re doing the “happy dance.”
    xo,
    Andie

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:54 pm

      Andie! Thank you for taking the time to comment, it means so much! Also, you are totally right, it really is a “happy dance”!

      xo – Ashley Brooke

  7. Patricia Haddad
    August 23, 2019 / 9:32 am

    I started writing this at least 3 times. I just don’t know what to say but am so happy you are at where you are at right now. Praying for nothing but good news in the future. HUGS (((()))) to the both of you.

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:55 pm

      Patricia!
      Thank you so much friend! Your comments mean the world!

      xo – Ashley Brooke

  8. August 23, 2019 / 10:27 am

    Following y’alls journey has been heartbreaking but so uplifting as well. Your honesty is refreshing and every post has been so well put. I can so clearly see God’s hand at work in your story and have been praying for you and Ryan both.

    xoxo,
    Juliana Grace | http://www.julianagraceblogspace.com

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:56 pm

      Juliana!
      Thank you friend, it means so much to hear this. Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

      xo – Ashley Brooke

  9. Gail
    August 23, 2019 / 11:59 am

    Hi, Ashley. I seem to be joining a growing list of first-time posters. I think most of us (if not all of us, sadly) know and love someone who has or has had cancer. And reading the posts of yours and Ryan’s journey has been a touchstone. Your honesty, your perspective, and your outlook have all helped to make what is a truly terrible journey seem less isolated. And this is especially true of this most recent post. I am hopeful that this post will allow me to better support those of my loved ones who have survived cancer; and I truly believe that those I have lost to cancer would be humbled by what you have shared.

    • September 3, 2019 / 12:57 pm

      Gail,
      Thank you for taking time out of your day to leave such an increadibly kind and vulnerable message. I can’t tell you HOW much it means to both Ryan and I. So thankful for you.
      xo – Ashley Brooke

  10. KW
    August 23, 2019 / 3:18 pm

    The trauma associated with illness is SO REAL. I spent the majority of my 20s barely surviving a chronic neurological infection that turned my entire life upside down. Today, I am physically so much better that when I am reminded of just how bad things were at some points, it almost feels like it must have happened to someone else. That said, emotionally I still feel most days like a literal shell of the vivacious, carefree, fun-loving person I used to be. It’s like once you’ve been in the trenches and felt such fear, despair, and darkness, you can never be fully and genuinely light-hearted again. I hope and pray I am wrong about that, but at the very least, it’s a looong and difficult process.

    I am so happy that you guys got good news again and that this particular part of your journey is over, but I completely understand the complicated mix of emotions and trauma that lingers long after you’ve gotten the “all clear”! Sending my continued prayers and well wishes to both you and Ryan. You are inspiring in so many ways and I am so thankful that you’ve been willing to share this whole journey so candidly here.

    • September 3, 2019 / 1:00 pm

      Krisyn,
      Oh my gosh, SO REAL. I hate hearing that you too went through something traumatizing. But am so thankful that there is hope outside the hard stuff.
      Praying and believing right along side you.

      xo – Ashley Brooke

  11. Mary
    August 24, 2019 / 10:50 am

    Today, August 23rd is my 65th birthday. Forty years ago, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and treated with radiation. The fear of cancer returning slowly goes away but I always felt that my body was somehow frail and I thought I would die at an early age. When I turned sixty, I suddenly had an epiphany. I wasn’t frail. It was too late for me to die at an early age. Since my diagnosis and treatment, I have married, had two children, graduated from law school and led a very happy life. I look back on cancer and all that went along with it as a blessing. You appreciate life, family, and friends with a new perspective and for me, it made me able to be more vulnerable and candid with my feelings. I wish you both health, happiness and a long life.

    • September 3, 2019 / 1:04 pm

      Mary,
      First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And second of all, thank you for your super kind and vulnerable comment. It means the absolute world to both Ryan and I. We can’t thank you enough for taking the time to reach out!
      lots of love, Ashley Brooke

  12. August 26, 2019 / 10:00 am

    You and Ryan are so unbelievably strong and I so admire how you’ve handled this entire experience with such perspective, strength and determination! Sending you both lots of love.

    • September 3, 2019 / 1:09 pm

      Meghan!
      Thank you so much for your increadibly kind note! LOVE you, friend!

      xo- Ashley Brooke

  13. steelmagnoliakate
    September 3, 2019 / 1:17 pm

    I have a friend that survived breast cancer and I never considered her life “after” until she’d have a stomachache and couldn’t just have a normal doctor experience or grab over the counter drugs without going through a slew of testing first. Everything needed to be checked, just in case, and it was something hanging over her – even years after. It’s something that people don’t realize until they live it or see it. I pray that through counseling that you can get rid of any cloud over you and learn to breathe deeply, soundly, every day. Your faith I’m sure will be the biggest saving grace. I just pray peace over you both.

    I also love that you openly speak of your counseling – I think that is wonderful in a relationship and I’m going to keep that in my back pocket just in case I get married one day. I’d love to say thank you in general for sharing your story, letting us go through it with you, even if just on the outskirts – it is inspiring and you’re both glorifying God with each bit of helping someone, somewhere with your honesty and hope and even bits of despair. For showing your humanity and your love, just…thank you both. And I am SO happy for you to have a good report!

powered by chloédigital