Why My October is Forever Changed…

October is breast cancer awareness month. It is a month dedicated to all things pink, to bring awareness to the most common diagnosed type of cancer in women. It is a month where it is encouraged for even the most manly men to wear pink and acceptance of everything boobies. Am I close?

Let me tell you a bit more about what October is to me. It is Breast Cancer Awareness month and all things pink, yes. It is also the month that I answered the phone standing in my office, to hear my sister, Ellen, crying on the other end “I have breast cancer!”. It is the month that four years ago, I fell to the ground on my office floor crying with her. It is the month that Ellen was diagnosed with Stage 3/4 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. It is the month that Ellen started growing from a 29 year old mother of two into the warrior and servant God had planned for her life. Thus the journey began.

Ellen spent the next 3 1/2 years fighting for her life and fighting for her family. She had her priorities in order and lived every single day to the fullest. There is so much to her journey and if you want to read more about it, you can find her CarePage here – http://www.carepages.com/carepages/EllenVanOss/. As it became more clear to Paul and I that Ellen’s time with us on earth was limited, we made some decisions this past year to travel to Michigan and spend as much time as we could in her and the family’s presence. We spent last fall going to Pumpkin patches and cutting down Christmas trees, salmon fishing and golfing, walking the kids to the school bus stop in chilly MI weather, eating dinner with Ellen and the family. Our two families merged for a time way too brief, but marked on my heart forever.

This past summer, Ellen heard the words that she likely had 6 weeks to live. We did what came natural to us, packed up and moved to Michigan until further notice. Paul would fly back and forth between Michigan and San Antonio for work as needed, while the kids and I moved into Grandma’s house, dogs and all. While not everyone would make this choice, it was right for us.

In the time that I spent with Ellen this summer, it was hard to watch as she deteriorated. However, it was one of the biggest blessings in my life. You see, when someone is that close to death, when a Christian with amazing Hope and Faith, is that close to death, it is astounding to be a part of. Ellen and I spent so much time in the word and in prayer during those last days/weeks. Ellen’s faith unwavered and her readiness to go home to her Father was something of awe. She had peace, no fear. She had hope for the future, hope for her complete healing. I watched as she slowly let go of the earthly things that she wanted to complete before she left (scrapbooks, cards to her loved ones, school clothes for the kids, preparing her house for her family, etc). As the day we dreaded drew closer, Ellen kept her spiritual strength growing. The day before she died, she had an attack on her breathing and those present in this moment really thought this was going to be the end. She was gasping for air and at one point closed her eyes. Her dear friend Amy (yes two Amy’s), was standing in front of her and truly thought this was the moment. Then Ellen opened her eyes, looked up and said “I was SO close! I just saw Jesus!”. Paul and I showed up moments later and Ellen did rally from that moment, but didn’t make it another 24 hours. Her last day was full of loved ones near and God’s love and peace filled the house. And the best part, I know that Ellen is 100% healed and Jesus is saying “Well done thy good and faithful servant” Matthew 25:23.

So you ask, how was this a blessing to me? Certainly not losing Ellen. The blessing came in what God showed me this summer… His Grace . His Strength . His Healing . His Love. You see, I spent 8 weeks in Michigan with very little sleep, constantly on the go, giving more of myself than I ever had before. Giving selflessly in ways that even I look back and go, did all of that really happen? Especially since before I left for Michigan, simply staying caught up on laundry seemed overwhelming. No, what happened this summer, was only accomplished because of God’s supernatural strength; emotional, spiritual, and physical, to get me through. God covered me in his Grace to allow me to walk this path with Ellen and our family. God opened my eyes wide to allow me to see all of the amazing joys and sorrows along the way. Not one in which I take for granted. Not one in which I ever want to forget. This summer was a gift like no other. Walking through the tough stuff is what makes us so much stronger when we emerge on the other side. There was a lot of healing that has taken place between then and now. And the healing will continue, but I am thankful for so much. I miss Ellen terribly, however, I know that she is right where she belongs in this moment, healed. My selfishness wants her back, to talk to, to laugh with, so her children have a mommy, so her Jack has a wife, so Paul has his sister, so I have mine. Coming to terms with a loss at Ellen’s young age isn’t easy and sometimes doesn’t make sense. However, I have to trust that God’s plan is so much better than mine and in all things, He is. I do know that for me, I continue to have faith in Him and hold on to hope because of Him. I also know that, as Ellen always said, its a “See You Later” not goodbye.

And to think this all began in October.

Maile - 11.01.2012 - 12:43 pm

Amy, this is so precious and sweet and amazing. Everything. xo

Amy - 11.01.2012 - 5:19 pm

Thank you sweet Maile :) Love you!

Cindy Jackey - 11.03.2012 - 3:23 pm

Amy, I found a link to your site through an old post by our friends at Turtle Pond Photography. Your post about your dear sister has moved me to tears. Your words are so beautiful. I’m not that religious of a person but I can tell that God has shed his grace on you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Gwen - 11.05.2012 - 1:36 pm

It was so difficult seeing your family go through such a painful loss. I’m so glad you were able to be such an integral part of their journey. You’ll always carry those memories with you sweet friend. I hope each day brings a little more joy to her kids, Jack and your entire family. Love you lots and lots.


Amy - 11.11.2012 - 10:34 pm

Thank you Gwen! Love you too :) Your support and friendship has meant so much. Truly. You are the best!!

Amy - 11.11.2012 - 10:35 pm

Cindy, Thank you for posting and for your kind words :)

Amy C - 11.15.2012 - 7:33 pm

Oh Amy, this is just beautiful. Thank you so much for the reminder to live in faith and not to take things for granted. I had neglected my reader and had almost 800 posts in it. I am SO happy I stumbled across this one before I deleted them all. You are amazing!

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