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One year ago today my family embarked on an adventure. We didn’t know it was an adventure when it started. It was not one we chose. It was hard. It was scary. It was painful.

The day after my parents celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary, my dad went into the hospital to have back surgery. The “plan” was that he would be out and back home within a few days to start recovery. In my time on this earth, I have learned that things rarely go exactly as we plan, but we were all about to learn how just drastically things can deviate from the “plan” we had created.

What ensued was one complication after another. Medical complications…Dad’s body was not responding to certain drugs or too many drugs administered. Physical complications…unexplained pain and other symptoms were being added to the list of things to treat him for. Psychological complications…Dad started having post surgery delirium, which is a sort of temporary dementia, that had him hallucinating and convinced things were happening that weren’t real. This led to him being diagnosed with post concussion syndrome; we were told he would likely experience this again if he had future surgeries.

As the days turned into weeks in the hospital, we all took turns staying with Dad so he would feel safe when he woke up from the little sleep he was actually getting. There were texts and emails and phone calls between me, my mom, and my brother and sister daily.

We cried, we planned, and we prayed. We realized that sometimes our plan is not “THE PLAN,” and we learned to love our way through it all. Love my dad when he was accusing us of things he thought were happening due to medication. Love my mom by making sure she had rest, giving her a break, and offering her a shoulder to hold and cry on when she was afraid. Love each of us kids who took turns and shifts at the hospital while some took turns getting things done at the house or staying on top of bills from Dad’s business.

We did that for over a month. The hard, the scary, and the painful.

Then there was hope. Mid-May came and Dad was stable and released to go home. We were overjoyed. We were closer as a family. We were relieved and grateful.

We didn’t know we weren’t finished with “THE PLAN.”

As healing at home went on, there were a few hiccups. A few falls that would jolt us all into the panic we had gotten used to living in.

Then in June there was a crack that Mom and Dad heard as he got into bed one night. The ambulance came and took him off to the hospital. They did XRays, and CT scans to see if he had broken his hip. (There were more complications and violations with those tests, but that is for another post.) They did blood tests and discovered that his PSA level was extremely high. An indication of prostate cancer.

Soon, it was confirmed: Dad had cancer. Now doctors had to figure out how far it had progressed. So they called in an oncologist, who decided to do a bone biopsy.

My parents left the hospital the next day. Mom and Dad were told they’d hear the biopsy results in a few days and that would tell us if it had spread at all through his body. They waited.

Then, they received the call in mid-June of 2015, confirming that Dad’s cancer had spread to his bones. Doctors would have to do more tests to determine what areas of the body were affected.

My parents sat with each other, with this news, for days before telling us. Probably in shock. How could this be? What does this mean?

On Friday, June 19th, after arriving home from dinner with friends to celebrate Jackson’s birthday, my dad called. My mom was on the phone too, and they were both quiet even after we told them about our earlier celebration.

“I have cancer” my dad said. Calmly, clearly, and lovingly.

These words have so much power. And I can still feel them the same way today, with tears down my face, as I did that night. I wrote about what transpired over the next 48 hours in this post if you haven’t read it.

That Sunday we went to visit my parents for Father’s day and my mom was pretty quiet. We assumed she was stressed and trying to hold it together, but as soon as she started talking her words were jumbled. After her trying to get out the words to say that this had started the night before after a major headache we new immediately she need to get to the hospital. I can still remember my sister and I looking at each other giving each other the non verbal cues to take action. I got my mom to the hospital and within what seemed like too short a time they told us that indeed she had suffered a stroke.

My mom and I were laughing while she was talking to the doctor, partially because her speech was so jumbled and she was saying some pretty funny things, but partially because of our discomfort. It was hard to believe this was happening.

The thing is, that weekend 2 words that had not been talked about in my family were all of a sudden trying to take over. Those words are simple to say. “Stroke.” “Cancer.” What I wanted to say at that moment was “this sucks” and then I wanted to kick and scream. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t really talk negatively, but I can wholeheartedly say that both a STROKE and CANCER SUCK!!!

But, what I have also learned over the last year is that both a stroke and cancer DON’T suck.

WHAT???!!!

The power is wherever you see it. And what I have seen in my family over the last year is LOVE. Being faced with something so harsh… there is always an invitation there. You can go drown in it and let it rule over you. OR you can LOVE YOUR WAY THROUGH IT.

We chose LOVE.

Once we chose LOVE, we realized that we were STRONG. Together, united, and standing in LOVE, we are strong. What I saw very soon was that this was “THE PLAN” all along: bringing us back together in LOVE.

We had grown up with LOVE as our foundation. To the best of their ability, my parents loved us and they taught us to love each other.

Love runs deep through our roots.

Kaelyn Benham Year of Love

This past 12 months have proven that we do that well as a family. We LOVE each other well. So today, one year from the day this adventure began, we are a closer, more connected, and more loving family than we had ever been before. We have all connected to ourselves, to each other, and to God in ways we had never done before. We know we will be there for each other and we will help each other and we will learn and grow together!

And isn’t that what we all want?

A family that is connected, loving, and growing together. A family that really shows up for each other, even when it hurts or is uncomfortable. A family that recognized that LOVE is stronger than any circumstance. A family that will learn and grow and cry and laugh together.

We had love before sickness, but the Lord shined His Light on it and made it BRIGHTER through the sickness. Isn’t that always what He does?

I know “THE PLAN” is always LOVE.

Some might say that this was the year of sickness for my family, but I disagree.

This has been the year of LOVE.