Update Forty-Six

Wow, it’s been since May that I’ve last updated you all. Thanks everyone for checking in on me even though I have been less than amazing at keeping the update ball rolling. I have a new inspiration however to write more often. Not only in my own personal life, but on this website as well… sometimes they may overlap.  I guess I just feel like I have so many thoughts spilling over my brain, sometimes I feel like finding a way to put them into WORDS, not only for me to see but for others to see as well… can feel really overwhelming. So I decided to just start writing more and see what happens:) Maybe it doesn’t have to be such a big deal:)

So a new update. Here goes.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel a LOT in past several months. Some good, some hard, some both. A few months ago my Grandpa was just about to go in for hip replacement surgery but in a barrage of tests prior to surgery they found he had cancer spread to several of his major organs.  It all happened in a little over a month but he went from feeling great and being excited about yardwork with his new hip to bedridden in just a few short weeks. The neat part was much of our extended family, spread out all over thousands of miles, was able to make it out so see him before he passed away… some even while he was still feeling really good. I was able to drive up several times to visit and I am SO so thankful for the freedom in my schedule to have been able to be with my family at that time. God knew I needed to have the availability to get up there, and provided the way. Funny how I stressed and complained so much to myself about not having a job yet and not feeling like I was up on my independent two feet yet. God just smiled.. he knew what  he was doing:) The best part of the whole story is that my grandpa was a relatively new believer.  He and my grandma both (in their 70’s) accepted the Lord together a few years back. It is NEVER too late and I love that! In our last conversation as I was leaving for Portland I held Grandpa’s hand in bed and told him I was leaving and that I loved him. He told me he might not be able to make it down to visit Portland like he wanted to… but he was really glad I was able to keep coming up to visit. We said our I love you’s and I left. Grandpa you beat me to Heaven. There were times, we didn’t think that would happen… but so it did. I wish I could see what you see now:) I pray if I meet a similar end I can go as gracefully as Gene Theade did.

Other travels have brought me to Arizona for my roommate’s sister’s wedding, and then to Montana for yet even more adventures. I drove to Montana with my mom and I spoke at two different gatherings. One was with my Aunt Loralee’s color guard team in Pasco WA, and one was a group of my Aunt Jennifer’s friends in Manhattan MT. Both groups were great! I am always surprised when people actually show up to hear little old (NON-PUBLIC SPEAKER) me attempt to talk in front of them. I again would like to reiterate that if there is ever anything intelligible or meaningful coming out of my mouth while I’m in front of people… all credit goes to the Lord. NONE of it is because of me, and that’s for real:) They listened so well and left me walking away with an encouraged heart. Thanks ladies for your questions, your feedback, and your powerful prayers.

I was also blessed to be able to meet an incredible vibrant 18 year old named Liz who is dying of Leukemia. She just recently stopped all treatment and is actually in the process of completing her bucket list.. as inspired by the movie. Wow, what a girl. It was such an inspiration to spend time with a young lady who truly embraces life the way I strive to… even in the end where she has every reason to get mad, grumpy, or show the pain that is so obviously hiding underneath the surface. She just shines. I am so inspired! We spent over two hours with her and her mom at her house and just talked about everything. The fun thing about talking with another person who has cancer, and with our mom’s who have walked every step with us… is that anything goes. We just lay it down, and laugh and cry through it all. There’s not a thought regarding cancer that doesn’t goes through all our minds… it’s always a relief to just talk about it. I was thankful for Liz’s realness. I loved that she is such a strong girl, but not afraid to cry. I love that in her last days/weeks/months Liz is not wasting one moment of the time she’s been given to touch the lives of other people. And she does that by example. She’s living out her last days with a courage and a strength and a joy that I can only pray for. And I will:) Thank you Liz for being a living breathing example of Christ’s non-circumstantial joy.

We made our way through Montana and had a huge surprise waiting for us. My uncle’s friend, Al Blain who owns a company called Billings Flying Service, offered to give me and some of my family a private helicoptor ride to his favorite fishing hole.. inaccessible by foot! So we went, all 7 of us.. my uncle, cousin, brother, mom, Al and his son… and we had a BLAST!!! I got to sit up front with Al and chat with him over the headphones the whole way. He even let me fly the helicopter by myself once! Brave man:) It was only for a few seconds but I felt very powerful having my own set of controllers, and to actually use them:) So Al flew us into this amazing towering and narrow canyon (I’m going to post pictures so you can all enjoy it too) and proceeded to land it in what looked like an impossible place, to enjoy some true blue wild authentic Montana fishing. I got to fly fish for real, you know doing the whole “river runs through it” thing with the 10 and 2 whip:). Pretty amazing!  Thank you uncle Cobey and Al for dynamite fishing instructions. Brad Pitt has nothing on you! I caught plenty of fish, although because no one ever goes back there, I guess we didn’t have much of a challenge because the fish bite just about anything:) But I still felt proud!!!:) Thank you, thank you,  thank you Al for an incredible unforgettable memory. Your generous heart blessed me and my family so much. I will remember that trip for the rest of my life.

The rest of the Montana trip included things like playing in the river with my cousins, bbq’s, floating the Madison, riding/flying through the Montana hills at sunset in Uncle Cobey’s Corvette, watching the pig races (yes you bet on pigs – hilarious!!), playing Volleyball with my cousins Carter and Clancy, fun times staying at Jesse and Kristin’s house. It was an unforgettable trip with unforgettable people. Thank you Lord for the blessings you give me. I just… I have not words for all the things I am thankful for.

I look around me and all I see are blessings. Number one… I have the Lord as my Savior and because of Him I have eternal life with all my brothers and sisters in Christ in Heaven. Seriously okay, nothing can top that:) But then I have the extra blessings: I live in a beautiful house with an amazing roommate, I feel healthy (only slight fatigue and minimal headaches), I had another clean MRI in August, I have a full head of CURLY HAIR, yes it’s true! I have the best family in the world, I couldn’t ask for better friends. I can drive, I can eat, I can travel, I can work out, I can do so many things that only a year ago… were all put into question. In fact it was a year ago today that I went to  the doctor for my headaches and recently blurry vision. Brain surgery to remove my 6 cm tumor followed within a couple weeks. News of malignancy and radiation treatment in Seattle followed not long after that.  I just can’t believe that was all a year ago! Praise the Lord for how he makes life new. My life is NOT the same as it was a year ago. I have been stripped of all strength, all pride, all independence, all perspectives, and totally rebuilt into something fresh. I like to think this is a continual process. I think that we all need to get stripped of these things one time or maybe a thousand times to truly understand our unshakable reliance on the Lord as we live in this hurting and diseased world, looking forward to the day we truly get to come home. The fun part is…we don’t have to just sit and wait. Even if life gets hard, even if we become sick, even if it feels like our life as we know it has completely crumbled away… we don’t have to just sit and wait for life to be over or life to get better.  We don’t,  in fact we CAN’T,  just throw in the towel and give up. We are ALIVE for a reason. You, I… we could be dead, but we’re not!  For whatever reason God still has us alive and kicking on this earth, and who are we to throw that away?!  You and I are living TODAY.  There will never be another today or another right now.  How EXCITING is that??  On the flip side of this is, I’ve also had to ask myself the question….Is there anything that is taking up time, or WASTING my “today”, and my “right now”, so that I am not being honoring of the time I’ve been given.  Some of it comes naturally because it now just feels like a waste of time (preoccupation with finances, how people view me, shallow conversation, unhelpful relationships, etc) but sometimes it takes a robustful (is that a word?:) conviction of the Lord to open my eyes:)  This is a lesson I learn in new ways every day and I plan on continuing as long as God gives me the grace to walk on this earth. My life is the Lord’s and every breath I breathe is because he has allowed it. If you want to pray for me, pray that I continue to see life with this perspective and that I do it with an unspeakable joy that just shines out of me in a Liz type fashion. I will pray this for you as well.  May God give you a heart to value life’s precious gifts and joy to boldly walk through trials as we keep our eyes fixed on our eternal home.  God bless you all. Hope to see you in person or talk to you soon:)

Big Hugs, Much Love,

Update Forty-Five

Dear Friends,

This is the one year anniversary of the start of the brain tumor year.  One year ago I was driving to Portland to go to Christina’s first appointment.  I was wanting to make sure an MRI of her brain was ordered.  (I strongly suspected a brain tumor, though I had no idea what kind or how complex an issue it was.)  I spent time with the Lord a few days earlier saying yes to whatever this journey held.

It could be nothing.
It could be an easily treatable condition.
It could be something to be operated on.
It could need radiation or chemo.
It could be inoperable.
It could mean an early death.
It could mean that I would be planning a memorial service for my beautiful daughter.

I said Yes to God on all statements.

I had spent 2 years saying yes to God on many difficult occasions, some which seemed impossible.  One thing I know for sure–God is able to walk me through anything and He is enough and more than enough for me.

A year ago on Labor Day–Christina, Linsey, Mandy, and Robbie were playing a wild game of basketball when I arrived.  I wanted to grab Christina, protect her, and say STOP–you probably have a brain tumor–but I didn’t want to ruin a good time.  Later I talked to both Christina and Linsey about the possibility of a brain tumor.  Christina had already considered it.  Linsey was not happy about considering it.  What a strange journey we were about to enter.

Thank you, Lord, for walking every step of the way with us.  You have walked with us through the valley of the shadow of death and we fear no evil because you are with us.  Thank you that Christina is alive, radiant, and miraculously has a full head of very curly hair.  I have no idea what her future on this earth is but I trust You.  No matter what I face, I have learned that you are faithful–very faithful.  Amen.

Christina has had 3 clear MRI’s and a lifetime of those would be a wonderful gift.  Ninety percent of these tumors recur (fairly quickly).  Perhaps Christina is part of the ten percent that live on.  She will certainly continue to live life with purpose and joy and courage no matter what comes her way.

Christina says that the best thing about facing your worst fears, is that you become fearless.

I have enclosed some pictures of the hair journey.  Last doctor’s visit, Dr. Chamberlin could hardly believe all the hair.  I continue to wonder that if God can call hair follicles to life, he can do amazing things on the inside of her head:)

Christina will be updating her website and posting some great pictures (including a very special helicopter trip in Montana.)


Thank you for your love.

Much love to you all,
Jo Dee Ahmann