What I want you to know about surviving cancer

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Jen McManus.

that's what she said new

I rock the stay-at-home thing. Love my kiddos, 3 who came the natural way and 2 foster babies that were reunited with biological family.. I love to work out, play outside, eat horrible food, talk, laugh, and watch sports. I'm a horrible cook and suck at decorating, but I can clean anything and love to do it. I love my Savior who gives me hope to live each day in a way that I hopes shows everyone around me that He loves them and so do I. Everyday I strive to learn more about my Jesus, love others, fight for the orphan, "go" to the nations, and make people smile.

A year. A year fighting a disease that is trying to kill me. A year not giving up and pushing through. A year of blessing and beauty. A year of pain and sorrow. A year with chemo.....

A year of faith. I have watched God create a beautiful story with my life and this cancer battle. It is filled with ups and downs. Tears and smiles. And in it all joy! I believe in the power of the gospel. I believed that my soul has been saved. I believe that even if this is my last day on this earth, God is good.

A year of pain. Chemotherapy is a poison. And we knew that. We knew that this year would be hard on my body, mind, and spirit. We also knew that chemotherapy was the best chance I had to live. The cancer I have is a sneaky one. Stage 3 melanoma has a 80% reoccurrence. It kills quickly and doesn't respond to most treatments. My cancer had already begun to spread in my lymph nodes so we had to act quickly and aggressively. My body hurts. Daily fevers that spike to 103-105 degrees, painful headaches from swelling, nausea and puking, and weakness. But I can do it. I can keep fighting. With the help of prayers, support, and love from my family and friends I can fight through the pain.

A year pushing myself physically. I know crazy, right? But I don't want God to just destroy this cancer in my body, but I want to to be annihilated. I was a workout freak long before cancer, so it seemed fitting that I was going to work as hard as I could to fight cancer physically. So I have dragged my sick, broken, painful body to the gym at least 3 times a week ever since I started chemotherapy. Some weeks it didn't happen, but I would say for 90% of the time this year I have. It feels good knowing that I am doing everything I can physically to fight this monster. I enjoy the feeling of pushing my body. I love the time I have where I don't have to think about cancer. I need it. Now don't get me wrong. I am not strong right now. I am slow, tired, weak, but I am there. Running, lifting, cycling, and doing bootcamp. And in October just 3 months after taking a break from chemotherapy I am riding 100 miles in one day for the Livestrong Challenge.

A year of tears. I don't cry often and because of the weird medications I take I really don't cry often. But I do cry. Late at night when everyone is sleeping I find my tears. Tears that are filled with fear and uncertainty. I want to grow old with my husband. I want...no have...to see my kids grow up. I want to share the story God is telling in my life. I want life on the this earth no matter how ugly is seems sometimes. I know that heaven awaits me and that I won't look back when I am finally in the arms of my Savior. But I still weep for this body. But every tear that falls I know that Jesus is there crying every one with me. Jesus knew what I am feeling. He suffered. He wept. And I love that He can comfort me, because He knows.

A year being a horrible Mom and wife. This one hurts my heart to write. Because my husband and kids are the world to me. But unfortunately they have been hurt by this bitch cancer too. Before cancer I struggled with feeling like I wasn't a good enough wife and mother. I felt inadequate. My house could not be clean enough, I should make love to my husband more often, we should be eating gourmet meals, I should be crafting, and my children should be well behaved, smart, loving, and obedient. God was already working on my heart with this issue before cancer. I bought the lie that Satan had whispered into my heart for years. That if I could just be prettier, more liked by others, a perfect wife, a beyond perfect Mom, and a good person then what? Life would be perfect? What a lie! And what a day when I watched that lie fall apart. I got cancer. This year I have had to fight all those feelings. I haven't been a great wife this year. No worries because my husband is awesome, but I have had to lay down the hurt that I feel when I am not as good as I want to be. I have had to watch my husband love me not because I look good in lingerie or laughed at his jokes. I have had to give myself a break as a Mom. Cutting myself some slack on the days when my kids watch more TV then I planned or eat another meal of soup and cheese and crackers or ride their razor scooters in the house, because I am too tired to go outside and watch them play. Instead I am thankful for each day. Even the ones where I feel like I did everything wrong. I am joyful even when I don't feel like I was "good" enough. I might not have enough days to waste them trying to be a better version of Jen. I am beautiful, good enough to be loved, a perfect Mom, and deserve to feel that way everyday. Thanks cancer for helping me learn this lesson.

A year of miracles. It was a small miracle that my doctor found the tumor growing in my leg. I wasn't sick or tired or anything. I was actually is some pretty awesome shape and feeling great. I was training for my second triathlon and was looking forward to killing it on the course. 2 weeks before the race I went in to get some ance that was popping up on my face looked at. My doctor found the tumor and weeks later I was lying in a surgical room. A miracle. It's a miracle that my kids are this young. They don't know what cancer is, they don't worry or know that Mom could die. (my oldest has begun to ask questions, but nothing too serious) This is a miracle, because every Mom knows that battling my kids fears would be the hardest for me to watch. I am pretty sure my baby doesn't even remember me with my long beautiful hair. A miracle. My husband is my own, special little miracle. For over 365 days he has written me letters. A miracle that I needed EVERY day! (http://letterstojen.com/) God has put numerous people in my life that is in or has someone they love in a battle with cancer. And I have been able to be apart of hearing, responding, and praying for them. A miracle.

A year falling short. I am not strong. I am weak. I have not fought this fight perfectly. And I truly believe that everyone reading this would fight it the same way if not better. But it would crush me if people began to believe that I am strong. That I am fighting this fight so well. Because I AM NOT. Let me repeat myself, this is NOT ME. The strength people see is my God. The beauty you see in my story is that of the gospel. The glory goes to the Truth. He is the strong one. He is the one beating cancer. He is the one who already defeated the cancer in me. The cancer that was sin. I pray that at the end of my life people see God's story and His glory shining in the end. I trust that His plan is perfect. And that no matter what God wins.

A year serving others. It would have been easy for us to just hunker down for the year. To not worry about the children waiting for a family, to ignore the clean water kids and adults deserve to drink, and to not concern ourselves with any one else's problems. But that is not our family and that is not me. Even in the midst of stress, struggle, and financial burdens we made a decision to keep loving and serving others. When I was diagnosed with cancer we were fostering a little baby girl. She had had a rough 4 months of life and was thriving with our family. We were given the choice to move her or keep fostering her for as long as we could. We prayed and decided to keep fostering believing that God had a perfect plan. 3 weeks before we started chemo a distant relative completed a home study and she was placed with biological family. People thought we were crazy, but we did not want to give up on our little girl just because times were hard. We also hosted 2 Garage Sale for Orphans during the year, raising money with Help One Now (http://www.helponenow.com/). The financial burden is hard and has taken it's toll on our family, but we felt like we could still help others. It would have been so easy to put the money we made toward our medical bills, but watching the video and seeing the pictures of the little kids playing on a playground we helped fund in Haiti was priceless. We continued to teach and mentor couples in pre marital counseling and newlywed classes again trusting that God had a bigger story to share with others. It was difficult, I am not going to lie. But I want my faith to be more than just empty words for as long as I am here. God's love is big enough for me to never NOT share it with others.

Soon I will start a new chapter in this cancer journey. I will stop chemotherapy after a long year. And we will begin to let my body rest. In October we will have a big CT/PET scan to see if there is any more cancer growing. God is not done with this story. I pray that this post brought someone comfort, love, understanding, hope, and maybe a smile or too.

*If you feel led to help us financially we have a fundraiser to help with medical bills. You get an awesome T-shirt and will help us before the big Livestrong Challenge in October. 

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