Cancer came into my life Christmas 1993. It was Stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system (lymph nodes) which is part of our body’s immune system.
Elisa and I were struggling college students trying to get through school and raise three little boys. Cancer threw a dramatic twist into our life, and then I lost my job. But let me share the story of how that Christmas became one of our greatest ever… and the blessings started with a Christmas Jar full of quarters.
We were living in Aggie Village at Utah State University with other students all around us. So we were very surprised when a knock on the door revealed a box stuffed with the makings of a spaghetti dinner and a jar full of quarters. Quarters were hoarded to feed the washers and dryers, and that quart-size Mason jar had enough for several months.
While the bills piled up, gifts and blessings of all kinds poured into our lives. A grandmother paid our rent. Meals were brought in. Our church and the Cache Food Pantry helped out with food. More anonymous knocks at the door. Friends from our neighborhood and church volunteered to drive me to Ogden every day for ten weeks of radiation. One person drove on Monday, another on Tuesday, and so forth. This helped with the cost of gas plus my lack of energy. Never before had I felt so completely exhausted. Elisa always drove on Friday. This became our weekly date, though I often slept through both segments of the trip.
We accrued a lot of medical bills and being without work made it tough to pay. We made many phone calls asking for patience, promising to pay a little each month. We did our best, but in most cases we could only pay $5 or $10 a month to each. Gratefully, in our case, most providers were extremely understanding and willing to work with us.
The journey had many struggles but also more blessings along the way. One blessing came many years later with our final medical bill. It was for an anesthesiologist, I believe, who we owed a few hundred dollars. It was December and we were surprised with a beautiful Christmas card telling us the remaining debt had been forgiven.
The greatest blessings have come with health and family. I’ve been cancer free for nearly twenty years. We were able to have two more children, our beautiful daughters. We learned how to find hope and enjoy the journey while going through a really tough time, which has helped us get through tough experiences that came later on.
I hope each time I keeping going when life gets tough it’s a small tribute to the many people who gave me the gift of life. I’ll mention a few: My surgeon Dr. James Neeley who still says hi at the gym; my oncologist Dr. Leslye Ingersoll who cared with complete compassion; Karl Ward, a banker by trade and bishop by calling, who held our hand and helped us manage; my lawn mowing partner Aaron Kelson who got me out walking and back to work.
Elisa was by my side through the entire journey and I’m grateful for her complete and compassionate love. I have the same feelings of love for a baby whose birth we celebrate, for His precious gifts of joy, hope, and life. That Christmas was one of our best thanks to a wonderful spaghetti dinner and a Christmas Jar full of quarters.
Have a great Monday! Thanks for letting me share.
p.s. Take 13 minutes today to share your own Christmas Jar story and then share the gift again.
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