Thursday, December 31, 2015

So long, 2015.

Reflecting on this past year, my heart is full of love and gratitude. Yes, this year has stunk. But it also has shown me what love and charity look like. So here, in all it's glory, is the Johnson 2015 year in review.

January- Blake got to come home for 2 weeks from Korea! Plus, we had both our parents come visit at the same time. Grace was baptized and had both sets of Grandparents there! It was an amazing month!
  February- I don't really remember too much about February. I started getting sick. We attended a Valentines party for deployed spouses.

March- March was tough. I got even sicker. We attended several parties, including a really fun family fun night. I finally went to the doctor. This is the month where I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
 April- Blake got to come home for good! Woohoo! Elsa turned one and Grant turned 5. I had major brain surgery, and turned 29 the next day. I was in the hospital the entirety of this month. Cancer was diagnosed. I got to relearn how to do many things. We were shown such love and support this month (and the months beyond).

May- This month was learning how to get back in the swing of things. Normal, everyday life. Schedules and work. School and healing.
We also visited Washington DC with friends and got to visit Blake's parents there!

 June- We visited Baltimore, and met with my oncologist for the first time. Evelyn turned 3!

July- We spent the 4th of July camping in the Shenandoah valley with Megan and Brayton. And went to a parade in the small town called Middletown. We then 'moved' to Baltimore for 6 weeks of radiation treatments.


 August- Spent the month in Baltimore. We were able to go see amazing sights. My mom came to visit! We visited Boston and got to see Nathan on his mission. We also visited NYC. I got to ring the bell that signified the end of radiation treatments! We attended a Orioles game and met some amazing friends that were also going through the cancer journey.


 September- This was a very bittersweet month. I got to meet a very sweet angel that changed my life. Megan and Brayton moved to Idaho. I also lost my sweet grandmother. While the kids and Blake stayed in Virginia, I traveled to Utah to attend my grandmothers funeral. Grant started kindergarten and Grace started 3rd Grade! 

 October- Grace started soccer and loved it. My sweet friend, Mekselina passed away. This was a very difficult time for me. I drew a picture for her family, which helped me as well. We did a fun family Halloween, and all dressed as Star Wars characters.

 November- Blake turned 33 and Grace turned 9. We went to Great Wolf Lodge for Grace's birthday. We had a little thanksgiving with just our small family.

December- It was a very warm December here in Virginia! (Which makes me happy!) I was in a car accident. Not so fun. But the rest of the month was full of blessings and because of that, Christmas was amazing! We were blessed by so many people, including friends and strangers.
 So long, 2015. We are so ready for 2016!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dearest Cancer,

    The last six months have been a whirlwind. All surrounding you. You kind of suck. Just saying. But honestly, maybe I'm nieve, but you don't scare me. Yes, you were unexpected. As I'm sure you usually are. But I haven't been and will not be scared.
    I hadn't ever really seriously thought about you until I went to the ER that Saturday night. I overheard the doctor tell someone that he wanted to look again at the scans to make sure before he came and told me. I remember him saying that he hated giving bad news to good people. A cyst isn't that big of a deal, so maybe there was more not being said. You crossed my mind, but only briefly. I googled brain cysts in the ambulance on the way to the other hospital. You weren't mentioned much. And I was convinced it was just a precaution. 
    The next morning when the brain surgeon told me it was a tumor and that it could be you,  but there would be no way to tell until after surgery,  I could tell my husband was worried about you, but I wasn't for some reason.
    Even after surgery, when I learned you, in fact, came to visit, I was okay. They removed most of you. And you weren't that strong. Recovery was hard. I didn't blame you,  though. I never really blamed anyone.
    Now, when you got bumped up to a stronger, more dangerous problem,  it surprised me. I knew you were still going to lose. An optimist maybe? I don't know. But I wasnt ever scared of you. I'm still not.
    Despite not being afraid, you have caused a whole slew of other emotions in me. Most I don't understand. And probably won't ever really.
    The most unexpected emotion surrounding you is my own fear. Not of you, but what I will do without you. I'm scared to go back to the real world. I'm scared for my husband to go back to work and my kids to go back to school. I am scared of not being able to hide behind you. To use you. As an excuse or reasoning behind my own shortcomings. I'm sure you know, you've become some what of a joke around here. And, rest assured, I will still be using you as a comic relief. But I know you will still be in my mind, at every doctors appointment, every new scan, every ache and every pain. And I know I will never be truly free from your grasp, but I will not be hiding behind you anymore. I will stand up on my own. Without you as a crutch. And even though that scars me, I will overcome.
   I have many other emotions for you, but most are hard to put into words. Sadness for the hurt you caused my family and friends. Sadness over the pain I have seen in my husband's eyes, for me. Annoyance at the symptoms you cause.
   Luckily, my biggest emotion towards you is gratitude. You have given me a gift.  One that was worth every crappy part of your stay. You have shown me what matters. Who matters. Life means something more to me. I have realized what life is really about! I have gained an immense and unbreakable testimony of the love and caring nature of my Heavenly Father and Savior. I have grown in my faith, and that is something that I will never lose. I have also found love. Some say you are a love disease, and I finally understand why. I have realized the love I have for my family. My husband is a trooper. Dude. You have put him through more hell than you put me through! He has actually gained an eye twitch because of you. But you have shown me who he really is. I am so in love with him. He is an amazing father and husband. He is kind and so caring. You have helped me reseal my love for him.
    I have also realized how important family is. I had come to love living our little independent lifestyle. We lived away from family, even though we missed them, we loved being our own family unit. But you changed that too. I long to live closer to those that I love. I want to be around family again. I am so grateful for my relationships (albeit long distance) with them now. I have also found a greater love for my friends and neighbors. Previous strangers who have enriched and helped our lives. We have met some of the strongest people through you.  Some who are also fighting you. And I have gained friendships because of you.  I love so much deeper. I forgive easier. And you of all things provided me that.
    Isn't it great? Something that is supposed to cause so much heartache has caused so much joy.  You may not see it that way, but we do. My daughter told me she was grateful for you too. Because you have provided opportunities for our family to do things together. To be together all the time. I agree with her.
    I am a stronger, better person because of you. Not despite you. And because of that, I am grateful for your unexpected stop in our lives.
    Now, I know the chances of you coming back are pretty high. You aren't welcome, but obviously that hasn't ever stopped you before. So you should know this. You will not beat me. You will not beat us. We will always fight. I have an amazing support system that you cannot break. I am not afraid of you. You don't define me, nor our family. Oh, and please, if you must come back, take your time. Give my family a break. We deserve it!
Love, Meichelle

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The whole story

Here is a complete - {unedited} version of my story. 

 Firstly, the hand of god has been there from the beginning. I can see God's hand literally in some (actually all) of the things that have taken place.
I was having weird headaches. The kind that would come powerfully and then linger. I figured I was staying to get migraines again. (They started around January). They were daily, but I didn't have the time and didn't really care enough to go to the Dr. 
March came and I started getting sick. Very nauseous all the time. I'm talking, I couldn't get off the floor for hours on end because I was so sick to my stomach. I didn't throw up much, just was very nauseous. I'd have good days and feel like maybe it was just a bug going around and then be floored, quite literally, a few days later. 
I went to the doctor and he said he thought my posture was causing my headaches and that my nausea was from taking Tylenol and ibprophen so often. I knew something else was wrong so I asked if we could do more testing. He grudgingly agreed to do a ct scan. It was scheduled for a week later. 
A few days later, I was laying on the floor (pretty much my new normal) and skyping Blake. He insisted I go to the er, but I told him I figured I was just being a big baby. After I got off the phone with Blake, Grace came in, in tears and told me she missed the mommy that wasn't sick. She asked what was wrong with me and I told her I thought maybe I had caught the stomach bug again. She said no, mommy, there is something else wrong. So I decided to take my kids to the neighbors and run to the er to get some nausea meds.

I got in fairly quickly and they basically said, so, uh, you are having headaches and you are really nauseous?  I was like,  YES!  I know it sounds crazy, but yes. The er doc was doing his normal exam, where you follow their pen with your eyes and where they shine the lights and see how they dilate and things like that.  Well while I was following his pen with my eyes one eye bounced back. I could feel it do it, but couldn't control it. It only did it two times and then stopped doing it. He said sometimes it does that because we are tired, but since I had a ct scan already scheduled, that they would go ahead and do it. 
When he came back in (super quickly) with the results, I knew something was wrong. They found a quarter sized cyst on my brain stem and that he had no idea what it was from, but it was pushing right on my nausea center of my brain. (So ha! I wasn't crazy! Was honestly my first thought). He figured they would basically just drain it and all would be fine, but they said that they didn't have an MRI to get a closer look, but the naval base hospital about 45 minutes away did. So I told them I'd head over there Monday morning and get the scan done (it was late Saturday night). He said, oh no, you are going now, there is an ambulance coming.  So I had to call and make a whole bunch of arrangements for my kids and to get a quick blessing before I left and then we went to the naval hospital. 
As soon as we got there,  there was a neurosurgeon there (middle of the night on a Saturday) and they got the MRI done right away. I finally got a hold of Blake via skype and told him what was up, and who had the kids and that he may have to come home early, but I didn't know. As I was talking with him this sweet neurosurgeon came in (she's in her late 60's, and I learned later she was a nun, and then God told her she needed to be a neurosurgeon, so she became one!) She took the phone from me and told Blake he needed to get home asap. And then handed it back and told us both that I had a lesion on my brain, with a big brain tumor nestled in it, with a cyst on top.
 And then she left so Blake and I could talk. I was so in shock but Blake started right then and there getting things ready for him to get sent home from Korea. We had so many questions (was it cancer, where it come from, etc) but they said they couldn't answer any of our questions until it was out of my head. So I posted a plea on Facebook for prayers and immediately felt peace. 
My mom and Blake came quickly (Blake got there by that Tuesday afternoon) and the day before my birthday (about 4 days after they found it) I went into surgery. 

After 8 hours, we came out knowing more.  The tumor is called an Ependymoma, it is extremely rare in adults (we are talking 1 in a million) and that it was cancerous. And sadly, they couldn't get it all out. They did get 98% of that bugger out of me so it was good!

I should interject here, I have felt 100% peace this entire time. I haven't been scared ever. I haven't been worried or overwhelmed. We have actually all made it kind of a funny thing, lol, and 'it's not a tumor' is how my dad likes to answer the phone, and I use the whole 'I'm right cause I have a brain tumor' lots of times too. Lol!

Anyway, healing wasn't fun. It was tough and painful and hard. But I then got moved to a rehab center to help me re learn to walk and things. It was a whole month from the time I went to the emergency room till now, I finally got released from rehab.
I am going to be getting radiation treatments done at John Hopkins cancer hospital in Baltimore. It'll probably be around 6 weeks of treatments. The prognosis is good.  
Things are tough sometimes.  Getting back in the swing of things is hard. I'm tired all the time. Headaches are difficult to control sometimes. And I have a hard time controlling my movements. 
My testimony is stronger than it has ever been. I have seen the hand of the Lord in the big and little things in this trial. I am so happy. Happier than I ever have been before. Because I know my Savior is here, He is helping me with everything. And it's amazing.