Meet the Ballantine's
The beautiful thing about our lives is that we have the ability to allow moments, events, stories, almost everything to be a testimony. Testimonies do not have to typically be life changing events, either for us or those affected by it, they can simply be a happening, a happening that shows just how faithful God is, in everything. Our testimony as a family was induced by a series of events, but is something different to, I believe, the typical understanding of a testimony. So often we associate the word testimony with physical healing, or something tangible. Our testimony incorporates that, but also something that cannot be overlooked; the testimony of relationship despite all else. Our testimony highlights something of God’s incredible grace in maintaining family; the reflection of His covenant relationship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus. Our testimony is our family.
Our mother, Kim, was diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia during the week of her 40th birthday. This condition induced fits of laryngospasms, the closing of the vocal chords, which stopped her breathing as a result of coughing fits. In order to stop her frequent coughing spells, her vocal chords were botoxed open, preventing the sporadic closing of her air passage. The combination of the botox and the spasmodic dysphonia, however, resulted in the loss of her voice. Eventually the botox stopped working, and she had to have a surgery in which permanent titanium spacers were put in between her vocal chords in an attempt to ensure a gap in between her chords for air to pass through. This too eventually stopped working, and she had to have a trachea put in. This was all over the space of six years, throughout which she had no voice.
Towards the end of the sixth year, our family had finally begun to establish some kind of normal; we were all fluent in sign language and the language of unconditional love. We had learned to read one another so well, we could communicate without actively doing so. We were safe as a unit. Our normal was rudely interrupted with the diagnosis of stage one breast cancer. My mom, after surviving countless trips to hospitals, trial-and-error medical treatment, and in general just a tough road, was now faced with the disease that had killed her mother a few years prior.
Miraculously, the disease that we were all so afraid of, actually came as a well-disguised blessing. She immediately started with chemotherapy, and later had a double mastectomy. Strangely, through each treatment, her voice began to come back, initially as a whisper, and gradually growing in strength. What we had not known was that the cancerous growth had released paraneoplastic proteins which had attacked the vocal chords, larynx and thyroid, resulting in the loss of her voice and ability to control her breathing. Through a disease that steals so much, slowly things were actually being restored; her voice, her laugh, something of her person.
The road of cancer was not an easy one for the family and has definitely not been without it’s tough moments, but the result of it has been something truly beautiful. Our mother has been in remission for 7 years, but is still on maintenance chemotherapy. We as a family have learned so much from this journey, and we truly wouldn’t have changed the road that we have walked. Trauma has the ability to rip families apart, but it can also cement people in a way that cannot happen besides through the grace of God and an active choice; that being to fight for love and relationship.
We do not take away from the severity of what happened to us, nor do we detract from the road that other people have walked, and the results of those. What we can say, however, is that making the decision to be fully present, and to love despite the potential of loss, has produced rewards that far outweigh the cost of this road. God is faithful in holding us together when we cling to Him, and it is purely by His grace that we can stand the way that we are; definitely changed and not without the scars, but closer and more whole than we have ever been. This is our story….