As I begin this blog, I want to give you a visual of the room I’m sitting in while tapping away on my laptop. I’m currently sitting in a cancer treatment room. I look around the room and see 14 large brown leather recliners. I see mostly elderly people receiving treatment for various diseases all of which are unknown to me. The one person in this room, whom I do know, is my son; my first-born son, and he is sitting in one of those large brown recliners. He’s 20, only 20. We’ve only been here for 3 hours with at least 4 more hours to go. They started his treatment as soon as we got here. They started with saline, then an anti-nausea medicine, then a steroid to prepare his body for the toxic medication they are about to deliver to his body. The toxic medication they are putting in his body is bright red and looks like fruit punch Gatorade. As I watch the colors in the IV go from clear and slowly mix to nothing but the red, my heart sinks. It sinks in a way that I cannot describe. It’s a fearful feeling of knowing this toxic chemical can kill but at the same time it is the one drug that will save his life. Sounds like such an oxymoron, doesn’t it? The second bag of toxic cocktails comes out covered in a black bag. Why in a black bag, we ask. Oh, that’s because it is light sensitive. The nurse tells us. Yet another oxymoron in my book. But enough with oxymorons and wanting to scream from the rooftop that we shouldn’t be here and don’t deserve to be here.
I look around the room and could easily get lost in the “this isn’t fair” mentality. But this is where the name of this blog comes in, Three Days in Wyoming. My husband works in the oilfield and is away from home 90% of the time. This particular season of his absence has been the longest he’s ever been gone at one time. He left on January 1, 2023, and by March of 2023 there was still no return date for him in sight. We both were longing for each other in all the ways. We decided in March that it was time for me to take a trip north to see him but also to unplug from life for a week. I was so torn with even leaving home for an entire week because mom life, right? Well, you can’t fill anyone’s cup if you don’t fill your own. So, with that in mind the Airbnb was booked, and I was all set for a 19-hour drive one way. I left on a Friday and arrived on Saturday evening. My plan for the lonely drive alone and the week away was to take a break, destress, and reconnect with Jesus. The entire drive I listened to Michael Todd from Transformation Church and praise and worship music. I don’t typically listen to praise and worship music, but I love music for so many reasons that I don’t find music I don’t like. And this trip was screaming for some praise and worship music! And Jesus wanted me to come close to Him. I had no idea why He wanted me so close, nor did I know what He was preparing me for. There is a peace in the unknown because ignorance can be bliss. But there also isn’t much Jesus.
My husband worked during the days while I was there visiting and would come “home” at night to a home cooked meal. We would then share sweet and precious moments together. We made goals for each other and goals for our future. I shared with him the things I learned while listening to Michael Todd and the things God had laid on my heart in the past few weeks. We had dinner “out on the town” in Pinedale, WY made a quick trip to the Dollar Tree and found the cutest frame leftover from Valentine’s Day that had tiny little wooden hearts that were removable. We decided to make an art project and prayer list with it. That night we took it back to the Airbnb and listed a single prayer on each heart. As we dropped each heart back in the frame, we prayed over that specific prayer request. One of the prayers was “God give us a deeper and better relationship with our son Kelton- (the oldest). Lead us to a better understanding of his wants and needs from us.” WHOA! Momma! Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it! Kidding kidding!! Pray it up mommas!
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday I had long snowy hikes with my golden retriever Abby. I was calling the snowy walks, prayer walks. Prayer walks consisted of asking God to show me purpose, show me what He wanted for my new business that I had created after a job loss, and to SHOW UP. I was in the midst of a battle prior to my trip doubting everything God had put before me. Questioning everything I was doing; wondering if it’s what He wanted me to do because life was just so difficult. God never says His plans are easy and it wasn’t until later that I learned His plans are never meant to be easy. But His plans are for His glory and for our good. (We will come back to this, and will see how I learned this)
Tuesday February 21, 2023, my son Kelton sends me a text and asks what doctor he should see. Me thinking, oh, so you have a sore throat. Go take some Tylenol you’ll be fine. I asked him what was going on and he said, “Uhm, pass.” No, son you don’t get a pass. I need to know what is wrong, so I know what doctor we need to see. I’m over here assuming it’s a “man” thing so okay I’ll give you a pass. But, no… He went on to say “So I have this lump on the side of my neck. It’s been there for a while but it’s large now and I think I should see someone.” Okay so a swollen lymph node? No big deal, we will get you some antibiotic and clear out any infection. I told him I would make him an appointment and we will see what she thinks. She is Carley and she will forever be on my list of the most amazing people that ever walked the face of the earth! Kelton goes to the doctor; she told him to immediately go for blood work and that she would call him the moment she gets the results. The next morning, Thursday the 23rd she received the results, they were messy and all over the place. She called him to let him know she was referring him to another doctor because he was severely anemic. At the age of 20 ignorance is bliss. Thankfully Kelton had the wisdom to put my name down as someone she could release medical information to. She then made the call to me. The call that forever changed my life. A call she never wanted to make. A call she didn’t know how to even put the words together to tell me that I needed to head home. Me: “Carley, are we talking the “C” word?” Carley: “Yes, yes, I think we are. I think you should head home because he’s going to need someone with him when he goes to see the oncologist.” My mind began racing on how in the world was I to get home in time to go with him when I’m a 19-hour drive away. The phone calls started as fast as the tears started streaming. The fear overwhelmed me, and I was standing alone in an Airbnb apartment that was completely unknown to me. That day still so vivid in my mind, but I will never forget how the holy spirit came to my rescue because He was my first call. I cried out in fear “My God My God show me what to do.” My body shaking, I made the call to my husband to tell him I had to leave right away. Thankfully his work was more than understanding and provided him time to drive me home. They insisted we leave immediately. We hit the road 2 hours after that phone call.
The road that was supposed to be 19 hours turned into 26, as we faced white out conditions and an all-night drive that took us into the next day. I knew there was no possible way I would be home in time to make it to the oncologist appointment and someone needed to go with this 20-year-old kid to help him understand the gravity of what he was facing. I called Kelton’s dad and stepmother to get them on their way to Kelton. They were only 2 hours from him and had time to make it in time for the appointment. I called my mother, who also lives 2 hours away. I knew she had time to make it as well. But by God’s perfect design she was already in town and was only 10 minutes away from Kelton. We attended the oncology appointment via FaceTime (thank God for technology); stopping along the way to ensure we had service in the foothills of the Tetons. We sat in the car at a gas station surrounded by so much of God’s beauty while snow fell to the ground. We made sure the connection was secure. Just as we knew the connection was good, in walked the doctor on the other side of our screen. The first words out of the doctor’s mouth were brutal and transparent. Doctor: “I’m not going to beat around the bush here, I’m 98% sure you have blood cancer.” We all sat in silence for a moment while the doctor let those words rest on our ears. As those words rested, they ran straight to my heart and shattered it into a million pieces. The doctor proceeded to tell us his plans to move forward with testing and told us that he was confident in Kelton beating this horrible disease; the dreaded C-word disease.
The doctor showed us statistics on people of his age and overall health that stated he had a 98% success rate. The doctor encouraged us on how fast he would be acting to order testing and get treatments scheduled. He left us feeling encouraged and not so fearful. The appointment was over, the “C” word had darkened the doorstep of my family yet again. I slammed the laptop shut and began a battle cry that I’ve only screamed once before. I jumped out of the car onto an icy parking lot and screamed at the sky and screamed at all the beauty that I was surrounded by. Bless the poor souls that surrounded me. I’m sure they thought I was involved in a domestic dispute or that I was headed right for a straight jacket. But this, this right here… is where God showed up.
God got us home safely. We arrived just a few minutes after they got home from the bone marrow biopsy. We drove home in 26 hours of silence, complete silence. Questions flooded my mind. Why did he carry around these swollen lymph nodes for over a year? (Again, ignorance is bliss at 20.) Why did he wait? Why did he not see the importance of his own health? These are questions I’ve been asking him for weeks now and I’m still waiting for an answer other than, “I don’t know.” The morning before Carley called to tell me I needed to head home was February 22nd, I was suffering from total mom guilt for all the things and worried what might come from the doctor appointment. But… in God’s perfect timing, He was already preparing my heart for what was to come. During those quiet moments…in those still moments in the Airbnb, He showed me versus that have carried me through; both found in Romans.
Romans 15:13-May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may OVERFLOW with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 5:1-11-Boast in the hope of God. There is glory in our sufferings because suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces character and character HOPE. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, while were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
On Saturday February 25th I finally had a chance to sit in my own home and alone. I was able to get a full grasp on the last few days that had been a complete blur. I broke out the journal that I started while in Wyoming and began writing about where we were in the new journey. One of the first words on those journal pages is WAIT. The word WAIT is one heavy word for only being four letters long. And WAIT seems to be the WRONG word when you’re at the brink of a cancer journey. But we were at the point of yes, waiting. We were told to wait on scheduling and test results before moving to the next step. Sorry, not sorry, we are NOT waiting on any of that! We ARE waiting on THE LORD. At this point in the journey, with all the unknowns, waiting is heavy so very heavy. But as I continued in my journal, I found reasons to be thankful. The word thankful seems like the wrong word to use at this point in my life BUT this is why I will forever be thankful for three days in Wyoming.
You see, I’ve been in darkness away from Christ before in my life. Darkness can be calming and peaceful. But if your heart is broken, darkness is only scary, and it’s complete hell on earth. On May 29, 2007, I gave birth to stillborn twin girls, and this is where my life took a turn away from Jesus. Anger covered my heart and turned my heart away from anything Jesus related. I thought turning away from God was the answer, because I couldn’t understand why God would do this to me. I’m a good person, I believe in God, and I’ve turned so many people into believers that I do not deserve this! You see God doesn’t do anything to hurt you. He does everything FOR you. While on this side of heaven none of this makes sense. But when you know, truly know God, you realize nothing is done TO you. When we begin to understand that God only puts you on a path to make you better, you become someone that can withstand anything He brings you to. During my time of darkness, I made choices that went against everything I believed was right. During my darkness I ended up a divorced, single mother to four boys. Thankfully God somehow brought me back to His light. During this time, I met my husband Daniel who is everything God needed him to be for me and is STILL everything God needs him to be for me…and more.
After losing my twin girls, losing my daddy to pancreatic cancer, and then my stepdad to a massive heart attack the month before losing my girls, I truly believed I had a “pass” to doing anything hard, like watching my son fight cancer. A “pass” that consisted of the “easy life”. A life that was on “coast”. We aren’t meant to “coast.” We are meant to trust God in all things He brings us to. Trust that God will bring us to everything with purpose and everything He wrote for us. He wrote your perfect story, because, you know, if we were all to pile up everything, we’ve been through in our lives, we’d only pick up our story because MY story sounds WAY easier than yours. When you hear the song from Hillsong for God to lead you out upon the waters, the great unknown where your feet may fail. Be ready. If you truly ask Him to lead you to those waters, be ready, He wants you. The faith that you didn’t think existed shows up. It shows up when you think you didn’t have any faith. Sometimes it shows up in places that are hard and in places that build you greater than you ever could’ve imagined. God wants you; He will be with you, carrying you in places you didn’t think you deserved. You didn’t “deserve” them. He didn’t put you in hard places as a punishment. He put you there because you are worthy of more. He knew you would stand up and believe it was for your good and truly understand what it means in the book of Romans that says: “glory is in our sufferings”.
I’m here for you friend. Pizza is my favorite and I’ll break bread over pizza with you any day of the week. I’ll stand with you in the hard times and laugh with you in the easy times. I can tell you what it feels to HAVE Jesus in the hard times, that are not okay. And I can also tell you what it feels like to NOT have Jesus in the hard times.
Jeremiah 29:12-14 tells us, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, “declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”
As we are eating pizza, I will tell you through it all, you’re not alone. He hasn’t given up on me and He hasn’t given up on you. I still believe. Through it all I will forever be grateful for my Three Days in Wyoming.