Yep, I’m giving up books for Lent. No, I’m not halting my reading challenge or anything crazy like that. And I’m certainly not giving up writing. This is a specific sacrifice, one that hits me fairly hard after the last year. Beware: there are potential TMI moments in this post.
For each of the 40 days of Lent, I’m giving away one of the books from my children’s book collection. But yes, I’m saying I’m giving them up, because what I’m sacrificing is what those books represent. I’ve collected children’s books since I was a teenager, and have shelves full of picture books, mid-grade treasures, and of course, amazing YA novels. Some of these I keep because they are stories that I read again and again, tales that have had a huge impact on my writing and that inspire me to craft my own novels. Many I read to my nieces and nephews, who have now outgrown picture books. But I know that part of why I have collected these over the years was in the hopes of passing on to my own children the same love of reading that my parents instilled in me when I was young.
I’ve always wanted to be a mom,and my husband and I had hoped to have a big family. But for years, I’ve battled fertility issues. A year and a half ago, I had a miscarriage. It was the only time we ever conceived. Then last summer, my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
For those who don’t know, the only way presently to diagnose testicular cancer is to actually remove the testicle and biopsy it after it’s been removed. Since Josh’s first surgery was done on an emergency basis, we didn’t have time to discuss fertility preservation until after his diagnosis. The cost for cryobanking is high, not covered by insurance even for cancer patients, and most agencies who provide financial assistance in these cases require that no treatments be started which could reduce fertility–including surgeries. The timetable the doctors wanted to follow didn’t give us time to save up or raise funds to cover the costs, and the hospital requires prepayment for all fertility preservation services with no exceptions. We had to make the tough choice to go ahead with Josh’s second surgery without banking, because stopping the cancer from spreading was the most important thing.
So now you all know why I was absent from blogging for so long. I spent about two months just helping my husband recuperate from surgeries. Then there were all the tests and meetings with doctors. His tumor was atypical, and he has all the risk factors for recurrence. After much back and forth, we made the decision–approved by two of his three oncologists–to forgo any chemotherapy or radiation treatment at this time, opting for observation only. This means we’re on the five-year cycle of appointments, monitoring him closely for any signs of the cancer’s return.
It’s been frightening, but we’re hopeful that he’s beating this. It just came at a price, far greater than the financial costs. We had to accept that we will never be able to have children of our own, and the high cost of battling cancer pretty much puts adoption out of reach as well.
A few weeks ago, my employer announced that all of our locations are going to be collecting children’s books to donate to local youth programs in the weeks leading up to March 2nd, Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day. I knew I wanted to contribute, but only this morning decided that this is what my Lenten sacrifice will be. I am going to give one book from my collection for each of the 40 days of Lent. I will still keep some favorites, ones that I enjoy as an adult and some that I want to share with my godchildren, who are still young enough to enjoy them. But I plan to purge most of my collection, using this sacrifice as a means of finding acceptance of everything that has happened this past year. It’s a new way of finding healing through story–this time, remembering that endings are just as important as beginnings.