12: Aly’s Fight
About the Guest
Josh and Aly were enjoying life in the early years of marriage. God was good and life was good. But when Aly was diagnosed with breast cancer they began a journey that would show them that God is good even when life is not.
12: Aly’s Fight
Josh: The moment is when Aly answered the phone and I could see her—I mean she just—obviously, somebody’s countenance totally changes when their doctor is not telling them the test is negative—when he says it’s positive for cancer. That’s the moment you’re talking about a 26-year-old and 24-year-old and things got very serious very fast.
Aly: And it was right in the middle of breast cancer awareness month which was also really hard too. Because it was like everywhere I looked was something pink, and people celebrating, and the last thing I wanted to do in that moment was to celebrate.
Kim: From the FamilyLife podcast network, this is Unfavorable Odds. I’m Kim Anthony.
Unfavorable Odds is all about finding hope and help in those seasons of life when things get pretty difficult. Jesus has promised us that whenever we walk through those dark tough times, He’s always going to be with us. We’ll never have to do it alone. So on each episode of this podcast, we’ll be talking with people who have learned how—in those very difficult times—to draw their strength from Jesus.
Have you ever taken the time to design a great plan? Then, when it comes time to execute that plan, nothing goes as expected. That was what happened with Josh and Aly Taylor—but instead of their plans falling apart, they were actually falling in place. Aly and Josh Taylor have written a book called Aly’s Fight. I had a wonderful conversation with them about Aly’s battle with stage 3 breast cancer, their struggles with infertility, and how they discovered that God had a plan for them that was much, much greater than their own.
What were those early years of marriage like?
Josh: They were awesome. We lived in a—right when we got married—I had taken a job in Dothan, Alabama. We lived in an apartment. To tell you the size—we lived in an apartment that one day we were hugging in a doorway and we fell backwards through the doorway. We fell from our bathroom through our bedroom and into the living room. [Laughter] And I could have put my arm out and been in the kitchen.
Aly: This has nothing to do with this but it’s a funny visual. So what he’s talking about—there was a cord that was plugged in that we were just hugging—standing up hugging—and I started walking backwards and the back of my legs hit this cord. Literally, we both trust fell with no one to catch us.
Kim: Oh goodness. [Crash sound]
Aly: It was like we did a trust fall. [Laughter]
But yes, those first—I guess, really, the first five years of marriage were the best. I think we heard so many things about the first year of marriage is hard. For us, we had things, but we were just having a blast. We would just wake up and be like “Oh my goodness, I get to wake up to you.” It was simple. It was fun. I was in college. Josh was working. Just figuring out all your little kinks and enjoying life.
Josh: It wasn’t perfect from the standpoint of we didn’t have a bunch of money. We got married in July. By August, I’d been offered another job to come back in town, so we moved back into one of my rent houses. Within two years I lost a job. I was let go from my job while Aly’s in college. I decided to go back to school. The whole time we’re still doing real estate—building houses so it’s not like—
Aly: It wasn’t like it was perfect.
Josh: —it’s not like we had a pile of money to make life easy. The truth is we were 21 to 25 at that point and for what we knew this seemed incredible. What else would I want to be doing? Yes it was great—but the truth is we were kids—we didn’t know any better. It was awesome.
Aly: Naïve—but in the best way possible. So those first few years we look back on with such fond memories.
Kim: Well let’s go back to that date—that special date—that was a marker in your life—October 17, 2011.
Josh: Obviously, the moment is when Aly answered the phone and I could see her—I mean she just—obviously somebody’s countenance totally changes when their doctor is not telling them the test is negative—when he says it’s positive for cancer. At that moment we knew the gravity of it and the fact that Aly’s life was in the balance. We did not know the gravity of it even what we came to know from our parents because they had a better perspective of what was about to unfold.
Josh: It was truly a moment—we tell people life truly stopped. You can look at our calendars. Aly’s a planner and you can look at her calendar and from that day forward there was no meetings planned. There was no counseling sessions. There was no classes written down. For everything we could, it just stopped. Obviously, it became about getting Aly healed.
Kim: I want to take you back just a little bit before that date. You’re living this incredible life as newlyweds. You’re enjoying each other. Life is great and you want to add to your family.
Kim: Describe for me just that process—the thought process—of starting a family. What did that mean to you? Walk me through some of the things you experienced going up to that date.
Josh: We said pretty early we wanted to have kids and thought it would be incredible to have kids, but we also were really looking forward to just living with each other. We had grown up—obviously—not being married so the time you look forward to getting married and all the good things about that, and we were having a ball being married.
But I would say somewhere in that—I would say three and a half to four year mark—for us, I would assume we started having more conversations and then, Aly will tell it but the summer before—that summer is when—I guess probably in May or June is when we probably had the conversation—when we both felt it kind of switch to, “Okay, we’re ready to start having kids.”
Aly: I was about to start my PhD program and I wanted to be a mom from the time I can remember. He’s wanted to be a dad. We knew we wanted to be parents from since we got married, but we did want to have some time together—it just felt like the timing was right and not because life circumstances was perfect.
Josh had actually just resigned from his job. We were in the middle of building a house. We both sat and prayed and felt like it was time to start our family. From the outside looking in, I think somebody would be like “How does this make sense? You’re about to start a PhD program.” We were living with his parents at the time, building a house. He had just resigned from a job that made no sense to anyone else because it was a wonderful coaching job and he’d had a really successful season before.
But we just felt the Lord say it was time. So we started that process—thought we would get pregnant immediately and that didn’t happen. Because people always asked me “How did you find out you had breast cancer?” I was 24 and people think “Did you do a self-exam?” It’s not like that is routine at that age. The best thing I could say is I guess did kind of do a self-exam without meaning to. I thought I was pregnant, and I looked online—I went to Google—you know that’s where you go when you have any need of medical advice—so I typed in symptoms of pregnancy and it listed all the symptoms and on one of the symptoms it said sore breasts.
When I was in the shower one night, I was convincing myself I was pregnant and then just through that process felt a little something. That’s when I got out of the shower and had Josh feel it. He really didn’t feel like it was anything but we both just said, “Let’s just go get it checked out.” I had a friend whose mom was diagnosed with breast cancer so we were like “Okay, let’s just get it checked out.” We thought “Let’s get it checked out and then we can get back on our plan of having a baby,”—but obviously that did not happen.
Kim: So when you were at the doctors, how did they tell you?
Josh: It was kind of a bad—kind of an interesting deal in the fact that he was convinced it wasn’t anything to start. After the surgery, he walks in—Aly’s still in recovery—and tells us “Hey, it’s nothing. I’ve seen a hundred of these.” By its texture, all the things I guess he would look at, it’s still nothing. We’re going to send it off though because that’s what you have to do. In all reality we were going into the weekend being told it’s not at all.
That Sunday I told Aly, “Let’s go down for prayer.” So we went down for prayer at our church. Then Monday, still being told it was nothing but you’re waiting to get that confirmation or that phone call. When he called—Al tells it—you’re expecting a nurse to call if it’s nothing. Obviously, when she picked up the phone and it was our doctor, it got very serious very fast. Then the next day, obviously sitting with him, he gave us even more information as to how serious he thought it was.
Aly: I think it’s obviously hard to receive that news anytime you receive it—but we had gone with some fear—then had been completely relieved. We had somebody tell us, “We think it is nothing, but let’s do a biopsy.” They do the biopsy and I wake up from surgery and he’s like, “It’s nothing honey.” So my guard was down—I was relieved. Even said how much different this weekend would feel if it was something scary.
So my husband and I were actually sanding baseboards at the house that we were building. As we were sanding the baseboards, we were talking about it being the baby’s room because at the time I was trying to get pregnant and we said this would be the perfect place for the baby’s room. We even went through how we would tell our parents we were pregnant, and we were just talking about all of that when the phone rang, and it was like 5:00 pm.
At that point, I thought maybe they forgot to call and tell me since they had already told me everything was fine. “Okay, maybe they’ll call tomorrow.” But then I got a phone call right at 5:00 pm—and it was my doctor. Like Josh said I think I thought, “a nurse is supposed to call me.” He told me, “Aly, we’re so shocked but you have breast cancer.” I remember thinking—I remember being in complete shock and just falling to the floor in the room and pretty much hanging up the phone and trying to tell Josh what he said but not really comprehending everything.
Later I found out that they had found out that morning that I had breast cancer through the biopsy results but were just trying to double check and triple check because they were all so sure I didn’t have cancer.
Not only did I have cancer but at that point they just knew it was very, very aggressive. So I think they were all so shocked—how could something not look like cancer—us just have told her nothing was cancer—and now we’re having to call to tell her, “Yes, it is—and it’s really aggressive and we need to get you in immediately.” So it was just a complete whirlwind.
Kim: How long was it before you received the diagnosis that you knew what type of treatment you would have?
Aly: I was diagnosed on October 17th and then on October 27th—so I guess 10 days from the time I was diagnosed and finally given a treatment plan—when my cancer was staged—when I got into MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. Yes, the longest 10 days of my life.
Kim: So what happened during those 10 days? How did you process it with your husband?
Aly: Honestly, it was a lot of silence. You would think that we would have processed and gone through a million different things but when you go through something like this, you learn a lot about yourself. As much as I wanted to—I’m a planner—I’m a researcher—but with this kind of thing when I researched anything, all it did was bring in fear. So we decided to say, “Okay, yes these are the facts. We’re not denying the facts, but we’re just going to pray and we’re going to wait.”
Those 10 days we were praying. They were hope filled—feeling like we’ll get to MD Anderson and they’ll tell us it’s not as serious as it could be, even though we were hearing all these terrible things. We just thought, “Okay, these people specialize in cancer. We’ll get there. Hopefully, we’ll hear it’s something small—easy to deal with.” So that was really our hope and prayer until we got there.
Kim: Josh, I want to make sure I catch what you were thinking when Aly hung up the phone after being told that she has breast cancer.
Josh: Well, she immediately sat in the corner of the house we were building—in this room—and started trying to tell me what it was and could not really tell me. Just said, “He said I do”—I think is what she said. I did comfort her in that moment, but I wanted to hear what—make sure I understood—what he said. So I called right back and he confirmed that that’s what it was and that we needed to come in the next day.
In truth, I think looking back, I had no idea what to expect. I just knew it was not good and the truth is probably, our naivety kind of helped us but also hurt. In some of those moments we didn’t have a picture of what could happen or the process or that it could be two years—five years. We had no—at that point, it’s very immediate. “Okay what do we do next? You’re telling me we can’t meet until tomorrow at 3:00. What do you expect us to do for the next 24 hours?”
I remember going to bed that night and I didn’t know if—when Aly woke up the next day—if she’d look different. Like would she—you don’t know. Obviously, looking back, she’s not going to look different. She’s going to walk the same. She’s going to talk the same. But I can tell you from my level of understanding, we go to bed that night and I tell you that’s what was crossing my mind is, “So when we wake up, has she already lost her hair? When we wake up—" You just start putting pictures in for whatever you know if it.
Aly: —of cancer; yes.
Josh: That’s what you’re doing and you’re just wondering—until you get more information—you’re just trying to figure out what’s happening.
Kim: I asked Aly this question, but I also want to pose it to you. And that was: What was your mental process for those 10 days while you waited to see the oncologist?
Josh: I think it was very different than Aly. I think I operate this way. Once I establish somebody or something as the authority on something or who we should follow, I will go with that. I don’t really do a lot of back and forth. I’m not going to go and try to undo somebody’s thought. In those moments, ten days is a long time when somebody’s told they have breast cancer and you feel like you should treat it right now—right now—right now! So we did a bunch of stuff.
We attempted to go to different doctors. We attempted to whatever and my mental piece of that was I was a part of it for those first couple of days. Like, “Okay, let’s see what else we can do.” We’ll see what else we can do. I remember we were in Baton Rouge. We were at a doctor’s office and they wanted to get a PET scan—it was either PET scan or something—and our town had it but they didn’t have one available for us that day in Baton Rouge.
So I called one of our doctors up here that we are friends with. I just said “Dr. Borders, this is what it is. Can you get us in?” He took a second but then he said “Josh, are you—my understanding is you guys are going to Houston in like two days”—or whatever it was, and I said “Yes.” He just said, “Josh, you are about to have to decide—Do you want to go chasing an answer you like—or do you believe MD Anderson is where you are supposed to be?”
In the end, what he was telling me was, “Josh, this is two days. You’ve got to get behind something.” In that, he was just saying, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I’ll get her a scan today. I’ll pull any string.” But in the same breath, a mentor—a man you look up to with wisdom—is saying, “Josh, you’re going to the best place in the country in two days. Hold on—get to Houston—and then call me if you need me to do anything.”
It was a big turning point for me, I’ll say, because it kind of reinforced the idea of once God speaks to us, I think we’re very quick to bail out if it doesn’t start going like we want—at either the speed or the conclusion we think or hope in our mind it’s supposed to be. I think—had we not done that—we probably could have made some different decisions in those first week or two. I think that was totally a God moment that in a two-minute phone call—a doctor, that’s a buddy—just says, “Josh,”—in essence—“just stick with it.”
Aly: —trust the process.
Josh: You’re going to have to pick a plan and work that plan. Because you will want to jump left and right, left and right—this doctor to that doctor—and it just wouldn’t have worked. God might have still healed Aly, but it would have been way worse—the process of it.
Kim: So now you’re at MD Anderson. What was it like walking through those doors?
Josh: For anybody that hasn’t been to MD Anderson, it is its own city. Every building is massive. What you’re hit with is—the moment you drive on campus—is how many people are hurting. You quickly get a picture—we’re not the only ones having a really bad day today. There are a bunch of people most likely having way worse days than we’re having today.
Josh: But it was—it probably was another moment of how real life had become for us.
Aly: Yes; and I’ve talked with other cancer survivors that saying you have cancer is a hard thing to even say. Even once you’ve been diagnosed, it’s so hard to say “I have cancer”—or it’s hard to even know how to describe yourself. Do you say I’m a cancer patient? Do you say I’m a cancer survivor, but you still have cancer? There’s all these wordings.
It was that peace walking into a “cancer hospital”, but then walking in to all these people here are sick. A lot of people look really sick. It was that feeling of like, “I’m one of these people.” Even though I believed my end of the story would be good, it was the reality of “Wow! That’s me.”
Then the fear. Am I going to look like that? Am I going to feel like that? A lot of people sleeping. A lot of people cold. All the things that obviously, now I understand because I’ve slept many appointments and had a warm—at MD Anderson, they have these little—it’s like a refrigerator but it’s like a heating refrigerator that they keep all blankets in. So they give heated blankets to everybody. That was me. I didn’t care what I looked like. I just wanted to be warm and wanted to sleep.
But when your there and you’re not in treatment yet, it’s like “Whoa, this could be me,” and “This is me,” but also trying to keep hopeful. It was definitely sobering.
Kim: When you met with the oncologist, what was the news?
Aly: Initially, it was, “This is very serious”, and they wanted me to have every scan imaginable. So the day was filled with MRI’s and cat scans and bone scans and mammograms and everything under the sun. But at that point we were still really hopeful that this was something small. They had thrown out the idea that it could be stage one—which would be a lower stage cancer and that possibly we maybe even already got it all with the lumpectomy that my other doctor did.
But everything really changed when I had a breast ultrasound. So they did an ultrasound underneath my arm and saw some enlarged lymph nodes. I was back there by myself and a doctor came in and said “Hey, we need to go ahead and do a needle biopsy right now.” I was like “right now?” I thought I was going back there to do a routine scan. I was back there by myself. She said, “Yes, we’re just going to go ahead and do it right now. It may be just an infection from your lumpectomy, but we just want to make sure.”
So right then and there a lady came in and had a needle and did the biopsy and they said, “Hey, can we get your husband to come back here.” It was just like I wasn’t prepared for it. I said, “Yes.” A lot of people like to have people when they come back for results. So Josh came in there. I told him everything that happened. He was like “What? You had a needle biopsy?” It was all—we had no idea that that was about to happen.
He sat there with me and then a radiologist came in and just said “I’m so sorry but we just tested that under the microscope and saw that you have cancer in your lymph nodes.” I didn’t know it at the time—of course—we were devastated because we thought it had all been contained. We were hopeful that we had gotten it all out in that one lumpectomy.
Then 30 minutes later we’re sitting with our oncologist and she says I’m diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. It immediately went from stage one or possibly stage zero to stage three. So any hope we had for something easy or non-aggressive—it was all kind of thrown out the window in that ultrasound.
Josh: When we went to MD Anderson, we were initially told by the doctor—not that he was for sure this is what they do but he thought Aly may just have a mastectomy, then radiation, and then you get on with it. Needless to say, within 24 hours of being at MD Anderson, it drastically changed even for what we could tell. Not just the results but what they were saying—in that they were talking about preserving fertility and chemo, then a mastectomy, then radiation. Then, very quickly—probably within 48 hours—we got this picture of something we thought might be 3 months and we’re hearing years.
Josh: And at 26 you hear people talking about years in advance and your thinking “What are you talking about years?” You’re still very short term at 26. [Laughter]
Josh: To think in the future—you’re not gifted in that yet. So when they started talking about years of treatment, we’re just kind of like—I will say that’s probably when it set in.
Obviously, Aly had it because she was told she was physically sick. It probably got more real at that point when I started hearing the length of time. Because obviously, we have different roles in that but for Aly it was probably more immediate. For me, I had fear but then being at MD Anderson probably—with new information from a doctor—probably solidified things. Not only gave me an education, but it solidified what we were about to undertake.
Kim: The way you found that you had a lump in your breast was because you thought you were pregnant.
Kim: And now you’re hearing from doctors that you need to start thinking about preserving fertility. Were you able to go that route?
Aly: No. We were really hopeful when we got there. They had said if by some chance you have to do chemotherapy, they would really recommend doing that which is normally like a two week hold up on starting chemo. They really recommended it with the type of chemo that they might give me because it would have a really high likelihood of affecting my fertility. So we actually—when we learned I had to have chemo—we went out to the waiting room and talked with our parents about it. We all prayed and were in favor of it. We said, “You know what, let’s do this.” They would harvest my eggs for later use and all.
So we went back in to go deliver this news to my oncologist to say, “Yes, hook us up with the fertility doctor.” Before we can even get it out of our mouths, she said “You guys, before you even tell me your decision”—she said, “I have to tell you another test that came back.” We were like another test what other test have we taken.
She said they had taken those cells they had removed from my biopsy just hours before—retested them—and on a scale of 1 to 100 of aggression of the cancer it was at a 98. She said we didn’t have the time to wait the two weeks to preserve the fertility. That was obviously if we wanted to—she would have done it—but she was looking at us saying you don’t have time to preserve your fertility.
So, you’re right, it was—I find this trying to get pregnant and then we have this little glimmer of hope—okay, I can preserve my fertility to maybe have children after treatment and then—now that’s totally off the table. That was just a huge moment of not only the reality of the aggression of my cancer, but too—us having to trust God completely for the future of our family without any hope that we did something to preserve or help. We knew if we were going to have kids it was going to be Him.
Kim: What was your treatment?
Aly: I underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy which lasted about 6 months. Then after that I had a double mastectomy and then after that I had 30 rounds of radiation treatments—that was for 6 weeks was the timetable. Then after that I had several reconstructive surgeries.
Kim: Talk about what it was like for you when you realized that you would need to have a double mastectomy and—Josh, I want to hear from you as well—the thoughts that went on in your mind to know that your body would be altered.
Aly: Yes, I think for me I was so ready to be well that I was ready to do whatever it took. My main concern was just how he would see me. I thought, “Okay, I can get okay with a new body” as I’ve talked with other women who really struggled with it in a way that I didn’t because it was more of an identity thing for them. The main thing I struggled with was if by some chance I’m able to have children one day, I’d want to be able to breast feed. That was my main struggle.
Outside of that it was how would he see me. I’m 24 years old. He’s been married five years and then to be married to someone with no breasts and how that would affect our relationship or just him finding me attractive—that was my main concern—but really early on he put a lot of those fears to rest for me.
Josh: One night—I think we were sitting one night, and Aly just said, “What will you—Will you be okay?”—whatever. There’s a bunch of moments you’ll find out when you’re around about our story a lot of—God gave me in particular a lot more wisdom than I actually had on my own. [Laughter] What I’m about to tell you I said is purely the Holy Spirit in asking God to give me wisdom far beyond my years and anything I could ever understand on my own—preface it with that.
So Aly just said, “Josh, what will you think after this?” and I just said “Baby,” I said “the truth is—" and I believe it and I meant it—I said, “That is only going to give us tangible proof of what the devil tried to do and God stopped.”
It’s not great. You would wish for other reminders, but we have very real reminders of how tangible Satan can be—but then again, how powerful God is. Clearly, He must have thought we needed reminders. That’s all. I looked at Al and said, “I think I’ll find you more beautiful than ever because I’ll look at you and know that’s how much God loves you.” He literally reached down and said, “This is not happening to Aly.” I meant it then and that was truly the Holy Spirit.
Let me say, Aly has been stunning since day one. She is stunning and it’s a lot of testament to her that it was never an issue for her. It was about living. It had nothing to do with breasts—which, let that give you guys a picture is that’s who I was married to. That’s what I saw. I didn’t know what I saw as a 17-year-old but that’s what I saw. I couldn’t have told you that. That it was this woman who loved God way more than how she looked.
Or this woman that would—like I could name a hundred things but when I look back and people say well what did you see in her? At 17, I didn’t know that’s what I saw but that’s what it was. That’s what makes her so different, so early—and still does today. It’s incredible to live with somebody like that, but it’s also very sobering because it gives you a picture of where you need to go. [Laughter]
Aly: Oh, that’s not true.
Josh: But yes, that’s what it was. I meant it but that was the Holy Spirit stepping in and saying “Josh, I’m going to give you some words to say right now. They’re only going to become more true every day from here on.”
Kim: Aly, what did you think when Josh said those words to you?
Aly: That’s all I needed to hear. I think Josh was so right and I think anybody who’s been diagnosed with something potentially life altering or terminal—I didn’t care how I would look. I just wanted to be here. I just wanted to live. I mean yes, of course, on the back end you want to feel like a woman. You want to feel beautiful, but when your life has been threatened, there’s just so many things you don’t care about.
When he said that, I knew he truly meant it. There’s a difference when you feel like someone’s saying something to just make you feel better. It just put a new picture of it for me of like—and a challenge to me—every time I look in the mirror, I have something to look at that reminds me of God healing me or what God did—whereas a lot of people don’t have that in front of their face every day.
To truly believe and know that like that was a gift to us—that every day we can say, “Okay, this is tangible evidence.” A lot of people have a scar or something that reminds them of something God did—and to us it’s just a huge reminder of His faithfulness.
Kim: That’s a great perspective. Now during your treatment for breast cancer, there were some ups and downs. In your book, you talk about how there were times when you were having a lot of difficulty—a lot of pain and Josh, you were walking with her right alongside her and at some point—you began to have some what-ifs. What if things work out the way we want? What if they don’t? How did you handle that as a couple?
Josh: I think in real estate or whatever I was doing in life my ability to see—in essence build something backwards to go to the end of what you know—when you’re going to buy a house or build a house, it really is beneficial for me to be able to see the end and come backwards to see the possible problems. What would I do? What’s the worst-case scenario? And if you can handle the worst-case scenario, then you go do the deal.
Well in essence what I was doing with Al was the same thing. I would say, “Well if that doesn’t, then we’ll just do blank. Well if that doesn’t, then we’ll just do blank.” I’m sure she wanted to just clobber me a couple of times. [Laughter] One night I said that. It was probably a couple of weeks—no, it was the week of your mastectomy.
Aly: I’d just had my mastectomy.
Josh: I said “Well baby, if that test comes back and it’s not—you’re not totally cancer free—” I’m sure I said something, “and we’ll do blank.” We’re laying there in our bed. I think I’m this great husband.
Aly: You are.
Josh: All of a sudden, she says “Josh, I don’t need a plan B. I need you to believe I’m healed.”
Josh: Well I’m just like, “Well thanks a lot!” In that moment you’re hit with your own kind of hypocrisy—your own—like, I’ve seen God reach down and do all this up to this point. We’re five months in at this point. Why would I not believe God is going to step in and do this too? It did—it kind of took my breath away but from that point—all I’ll say is I totally changed—there were no “Plan Bs.” We had one plan—and that was that God was going to reach down—and had already reached down—and healed Aly.
At that point we started—what we would say is, “you have to be okay to be hurt.” It’s okay for me to say—to fully believe in healing and then to set myself up for exposure. Being I believe Aly’s going to be healed. I believe Aly’s going to be healed. I believe God’s going to come through. I believe God’s going to come through and this is how and then it not happen—that doesn’t mean I don’t love God. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t love me. That just means His timing is not what I—He’s going to do it another way. I think that was a huge lesson for me.
Aly: His “what-ifs” are the backup plans even though it came from such a loving place. He’s wanting to take care of me. He’s wanting to think through. All I was needing was someone to be all in with me. Let’s say we went to that doctor’s appointment and I wasn’t cancer free, God would be with us then. He would pick us up. He would hold our hands. He would have another plan. But I didn’t want to not do our part which is believing. God says to believe.
I felt like when Josh was doing all the “what-ifs” and back up plans, he wasn’t believing. So I just had to be very straight with him in that moment and say, “You’re not believing. I need you to believe.” It was very quiet. He didn’t say, “Okay, I’m going to believe.” I don’t think we talked the rest of that night. But a clear shift in him happened where it was positive, it was Scripture, praying and us just saying okay this appointment when we would go in to get our pathology results was going to be good. There was no negative. There was no “what-if”. It was just this is going to be a good day.
Kim: Tell me about that day.
Aly: Well, that was the best day of our lives. We walked in. We sat down with the nurse and we waited for our oncologist and she walked in with another doctor. In our history with doctors, when a doctor walked in with another doctor, it was normally not good news. So when she walked in with the other doctor, at first, my heart kind of sank. She said, “Are you ready for your results?” and we said “Yes, are they good?” She said “No, they’re not good, but they’re perfect! We immediately just broke down.
She explained that the man she brought in with her was my pharmacist who wrote all of my scripts for my chemotherapy and she wanted to have him in there to see a success patient. So we just bawled and cried and praised God.
Josh: Oh, we were embarrassing.
Aly: Oh, we were. We don’t remember one thing she said. She left the room. I mean we were like—I’m sure people in the hallway thought “What is going on in there?” But we didn’t care. I didn’t care. I wanted to shout from the rooftops. So that was April 30, 2012. The best day of our lives.
Josh: That was great.
Kim: Best day ever. So you have just been diagnosed cancer free. Now, do you just go on life as usual? Does everything get back to normal?
Josh: Yes, it just kicks right into normal. [Laughter]
Aly: Sarcasm, can you tell? That was a really hard thing. I think that was such a goal: cancer free—healed. I thought once I’m healed—cancer free, life is going to be amazing. How could life not be amazing? I’m healthy. You know all the things you took for granted before cancer—and on so many levels that was the truth. It was such a hope filled life, but it was—there was an aftermath of cancer that we weren’t prepared for with different fears and pains.
Of course, I’d just had my mastectomy—still having effects of chemotherapy treatments—still undergoing radiation. So I was still undergoing a lot of pain. I had to go back every three months and then doctors told me to come back or let them know if I felt anything odd. Well, of course, everything felt odd and especially when you’re being hyper aware. Even though I was cancer free, the type of cancer I had had a really high likelihood of recurring within the first two years.
So those first two years after cancer free are really scary for people with my type of cancer. I had a lot of people that I knew who had recurrences. So it was a time that I thought was going to be so joy filled—and while I had that at times—it was a time of a lot of fear and battles that were so much more spiritual. You know in the cancer battle, fighting it was a physical battle. Obviously, it was a mental battle as well, but the aftermath was so much more of a spiritual battle—a lot of attacks in my mind and my body.
Kim: As I was reading your book and you were talking about the aftermath and the fears that you had that cancer would return, I was taken back to 2014 when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and then after surgery was diagnosed cancer free and she would call me and talk with me about her fears—about not being able to say the “C” word—about wondering if this ache or pain is the cancer returning, and I didn’t fully understand the devastation she was going through. I didn’t know how to help her.
I did the best I could, but how do you walk with someone that is experiencing the aftermath of cancer and going through some of the things that you went through? What do you say to them? How do you come alongside them in that?
Aly: There isn’t a perfect thing to say or a perfect thing to do. I think just listening because a lot of times that I would feel so frustrated. It is a lonely battle because people don’t understand unless you’ve been through it and even if you’ve been through it, people don’t understand your exact emotion.
But I think a lot of people felt that way when I would tell them my fears. That they would say “I don’t understand,” or they felt like they couldn’t offer me anything and that wasn’t true. Yes, I felt lonely and felt like I was kind of all by myself, but I think just people listening—people praying. The best thing people could do for me was to pray and just listen and hold my hand and not think that my fears were crazy or in my head.
You know people that would encourage me to go get a scan or go get a test because that was a big battle for me because I thought “Okay, if I go get this scan is it me not believing that God’s healed me.” Then I’m relying on a scan or a test. Those people just shooting me straight to say “Aly, you have a pain; go get it checked out.” That’s okay. It doesn’t’ mean that your faith is weak. It just means that your proactive and you want to take precautions but also, I think people just listening and being there.
Josh: For me, you’re sitting with a friend that has cancer and trying to talk to them. They know that they know that they know you do not understand it. So to almost act like you can understand—the reality is they don’t want you to understand. I didn’t want my dad to be able to—in theory—console or first-hand mentor me, because the only way he could have done that is if his mom or my mom had had cancer. Well, the reality is I don’t want that for my mom.
There are other in men in our life that were able to step in that their wives had cancer and do things my dad couldn’t have done, and chances are there are other ladies in your mom’s life that could step in. The truth is I think what the people are wanting either the first hand the person who has cancer or the spouse, the caregiver—they’re really just wanting—I think, at the core—to not be forgotten. Like, we’re not forgetting that you have cancer and we’re not forgetting that you had cancer.
I cannot understand anything you’re going through, but I will do anything I have to do to let you know you’re not alone. I love you. I’m praying on whatever level I can pray. But it’s like going up to somebody with an amputated leg and saying I understand—you do not—you have two legs! They’re going to laugh at you. They’re going to say, “I’m glad you can’t understand this.”
Josh: I think what we experienced was we prayed none of our friends could feel what we felt. They did everything they could possibly do by loving us—by loving us in their way. We had friends that were mentors because they had had cancer. We had friends that were friends by mowing our grass. Friends that were friends by praying over us being parents. Friends that were friends like they did their part—
Aly: The body of Christ.
Josh: —and were cool to know they really couldn’t understand the darkness. The reality is it’s darkness. Somebody diagnosed with cancer is looking darkness in the face. I think that’s the truth is we wouldn’t wish it. So a shorter answer for a long answer is I think you just look somebody in the face and say I know you’re hurting and I’m going to love you like crazy. You’re at the top of my—I’m praying for you every day and then you just keep reminding them you’re praying for them.
Josh: It’s to know you’re not forgotten, I think, would be the number one thing.
Kim: Thank you. I appreciate you sharing that. It’s very helpful, very helpful. Now with cancer behind you, you both still want to have children.
Kim: So what next?
Aly: What next? Well those two years were huge because of the recurrence rates. So our doctor said don’t even think about kids for two years. Let’s get you cancer free for two years. So that was a crazy two years, but we made it and we went for our two year check up and we had all scans done and I was completely cancer free.
It was another miracle that I remained cancer free and our doctors said, “Okay if you guys want to have children—Are you still wanting to have children?” Of course, we said yes. I think she thought “Oh, these naïve kids. Does she know what treatment she underwent?” But she still was supportive and had seen some cases where perhaps people weren’t as affected by the drugs as they might be.
So we said, “Okay, let’s try to have a baby.” We started trying—several months—the ups and downs of hope and finding out you’re not pregnant. Finally, we went to a fertility specialist. Through that he said that it looked like my eggs had been severely damaged from chemo. It was kind of like our worst fears had come to pass—but that we still had some hope.
He said, “Let’s do an IVF”—which would be a thing where he actually could retrieve my eggs and look at them—and do the IVF process to see. That would be—really—my best chance of getting pregnant. So we did it. That even was a crazy road because we were advised to stop the process because there weren’t any eggs growing and things like that. We said, “Let’s just go ahead and follow it through.” So we did to find out I didn’t get pregnant.
Josh: One of the reasons—We were coming back from the doctor when he had told us to not. He in essence said, “You might should just stop for the money.” The second half of IVF is a tester for women and men. It can wear you out physically—just the shots and the whole process.
The unique thing about that was in coming through cancer, with IVF we could finish it and if it didn’t work, we could know we put that to bed. We did everything we could. We exhausted what we felt God was telling us to do as our next step. So when that was done—I think the other thing we saw is once that was done—if it didn’t take, it told us what the next options were. To make it very clean for you to move on. I think that’s why we went ahead and looked at him and said, “We’re going to finish this. If God wants to have kids this way, this is how he’ll do it. If not,”—
Aly: “We’ll do it another way.” Yes.
Josh: “—then we’ll know.” But to finish the process.
Aly: So we did. Then after we met with him and he said Aly—basically, he was hoping through looking at my eggs and then IVF maybe he was wrong. So the fact that I didn’t get pregnant just showed him that all my eggs had been damaged. They were able to retrieve two eggs which someone my age should be like twenty plus. So to only be able to retrieve two and then those eggs not be able to result in pregnancy showed him that I was in menopause. So he said the only way I could get pregnant was through an egg donation.
Kim: So you’re how old now?
Aly: At that point, I was 27.
Josh: You had just turned 27.
Kim: So 27 and your doctor is telling you that you’re at menopause.
Aly: Yes, yes and that I was perfectly capable of carrying a baby, but I couldn’t make a baby because I didn’t have eggs that were healthy. So we thought about that. They had semi matched us with an egg donor. We talked about that but then just both said, “No, let’s pray a little bit more about this.” Soon after that—and of course we went through a lot of confusion and devastation. We so believed that the Lord had protected my womb, but we did like Josh said we knew however God was going to give us kids was the way He was going to give us kids and we had to be open to it.
We very quickly began feeling led to adoption after we learned that I couldn’t get pregnant. From then on, once we finally surrendered our plan to the Lord’s, we became so excited about adoption and really felt silly that we didn’t start there. I think we both felt like why did we go through—I mean I think looking back it was the process we had to go through. But now having gone through the adoption process it’s like, “Why did we not start there?” Because it’s just so amazing.
Kim: Aly, you write about this emotion you had. You call it adoption pregnancy.
Aly: Yes, yes.
Kim: [Laughter] Describe what that is.
Aly: Adoption pregnancy is whenever you decide to adopt, and you have no clue when your baby’s coming to you. But you are preparing emotionally—physically at home. Basically, you are pregnant because at any point you could get a call and you have a baby in your house. So you experience all the things someone experiences when they’re pregnant except I feel like even on steroids because you don’t have the control. Even though when you’re pregnant you really don’t have control over the baby you’re growing.
But just knowing that your baby is out there in another person’s body and praying for that baby—not knowing where your baby is—who they’ll be—who’s carrying them. It’s just adoption pregnancy is exciting and scary and it could be short. It could be a day. It could be two years. For us it was a really short process thankfully, but a pretty cool one.
Kim: Tell me a little bit about that process.
Aly: Well, once we decided to adopt, we had decided on an agency here in our hometown and but we said before we officially sign up with them we got an email actually from an attorney in Florida about a birth mom. Josh came home from hunting one day. He’s a big deer hunter and he walked in the door and I said, “Josh I know this sounds crazy, but you’ve got to look at this email.”
As we read it together what really struck us was it was about a birth mom that was looking for parents for her baby, and it said all the qualifications she wanted for the parents. It was like she had described Josh and I. I sat Josh down and said this sounds like me. It was everything from ages to interest to the tiniest things. I feel like we should apply for this.
The way this attorney did it was you just sent in an application about yourself—the type of home you would provide for a baby. So we said let’s just send this in. Let’s see what happens. We waited a weeks’ time planning on going with a different agency in just a few weeks, but then we got a phone call saying that this birth mom chose us out of 22 couples. That was in December of 2014 and our baby was due in March of 2015. So you talk about adoption pregnancy, we call that our three-month adoption pregnancy.
Kim: Josh, how were you feeling about the process? I ask because I see you sitting there just shaking your head. What’s going on?
Josh: I think one of the things—I laugh because we don’t get to tell our whole story. Even stuff that’s in the book but some’s not is—we’ve talked about how much of our life set us up to be able to deal with and make decisions in the middle of an adoption process. So that moment of when Aly’s describing we looked at it and yes, it seemed like she described us to a “T”—still we know that that means there’s probably some other people that think so too.
And there’s a lot of times in life you immediately will start to think “Well, they won’t pick me. I won’t get that thing. I won’t get this job. I won’t—" and you immediately start discrediting what God has already done in you or designed in you. So even for us, I know in that moment it wasn’t that flippant—but it was in the fact that we said, “No, we’ll just send that in and see what happens.” We know our answer is yes if she asked. Like, if that woman walked up right now and said, “Will you adopt this little baby?” The answer is “Yes,” no problem.
That—for us—is kind of how we make that decision of, “Yes, we’re going to apply.” We apply full knowing that there will be a lot of people that have interest in this same case. That’s what you’re seeing me kind of process through in my mind because I remember those days in the apartment—I remember us sending it off—I remember that conversation about all of it and the unknown. The unknown of what is it? How do you? What happens? Like what do you?
Once again, we’re about to agree to something we don’t even know what it’s going to look like. So it was incredible. It got really interesting really fast. [Laughter]
One of the big moments for me—and I don’t know if I read it or I don’t remember what it was—where I got this from—maybe, just the Holy Spirit dropped it on me again.
Aly: Yes, I think you came home from hunting and you were crying, and you were telling me what you felt like the Lord told you.
Josh: There we go.
Aly: That’s what happened.
Josh: I was sitting there—I knew it and it registered because that was something Aly was saying earlier—I thought how many people are so private about their adoptions or about pregnancies. Well I don’t want to tell anybody because I’m only six weeks. Why? Because we would argue the moment of conception, that’s a baby. That’s a life. That’s a human.
For us it was the—kind of what I thought was, “We can’t shield ourselves from the possibility of not being the parents of this little girl just because it’s an adoption.” There are women that get pregnant every day and lose children—have stillbirths. They don’t get guarded from pain either. Why should we—going this other route—we shouldn’t guard ourselves from the hurt but also not get to experience the fun—to get to be around town and people here—in our case particular—people knew we were trying to get pregnant.
What we were about to cheat ourselves of—if we told nobody—was 90 days of almost daily have people that we would see around town go, “I heard you guys got—“ “I heard she picked you. That is incredible!” “We cannot wait to see that little—" We would have missed 90 days of people not only congratulating us but other people seeing that God used their prayers to manifest His will in our lives or this little girl’s life.
So there’s a bunch of ways—in that moment when I’m shaking my head—I’m thinking “My goodness, that is—" it’s again such a picture. We as humans, I think we have been conditioned to think, “I don’t want to be embarrassed.” “I don’t want people to see me hurt.” “I don’t want to be let down.” “I don’t want to need anybody”—and maybe, more than anything, “I don’t want to need God.”
Because anytime we put ourselves out there—our hope, our dreams, our wants, our desires—we also open ourselves up to that not happening—which is embarrassing. It leaves us in a state of vulnerability. Currently people are of the mind, “We can do it ourselves.” That goes totally against everything in the Bible. Reality is you can’t do it yourself.
Aly: That’s what you came in and said though. What he came in and said was that he felt like he wasn’t letting me experience the joy of this adoption because he wanted to protect me—or wanted to protect us. It was that same thing of that conversation of me looking at him back when we had cancer. Like we’ve got to believe. It’s putting your faith in something.
I didn’t realize that until we came home that day and told me that he had not been allowing himself to get as excited. So when he came home and said “Aly, I want you to be excited. I don’t want you to feel guarded to say something around me. I want us to tell people. I want us to have a gender reveal. I want us to have a baby shower.” All the things you wonder, “should I do?” with adoption—but it was like this releasing me too—of like, feeling free.
We can be excited and if—at the end of this it doesn’t work out—God will pick us up. We’ll be okay but protecting ourselves really wasn’t even protecting ourselves—that’s even a guise—you’re not allowing yourself to experience a joy that otherwise you would.
To answer your question—what was the adoption process like? It was crazy and it was scary—lots of ups and downs—but we loved it. We embraced it. We were so excited about it but then we—actually, our birth mom was in Florida. So I took maternity leave early to be down there because she was showing signs of labor and we were so nervous about missing the birth. She was going to allow us to be in the room when—it was a baby girl—when the girl was born. We didn’t want to miss it, so I said “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and go down there.”
We had friends that allowed us to stay in a condo down there. I mean the Lord worked everything out. Then Josh is able to come down there and on March 12th we got a phone call that the birth mom’s water had broken. We rushed like crazy people to the hospital and got to be in there whenever she was born. Obviously, it was one of the most incredible moments.
Kim: Tell me her name.
Aly: Genevieve, yes.
Kim: Genevieve, your first born.
Aly: Our first born, Genevieve Rose Taylor. Yes, she is incredible. But that moment that she was handed to us, all we say is, it was the first moment that cancer kind of made sense. Because I think when people would say, “Cancer is going to make sense. It makes you a better person.” You know in the moment you’re like, “I want to punch you in the face right now.” [Laughter] Cancer—how could this ever be good? But I realized had I not gone through cancer; I don’t know if I would have ever had her.
Or if would ever—and I know the Lord could have done it in a different way. He’s God but it just was such a beautiful picture of the beauty from ashes and that instant connection that we felt with her was just incredible.
Josh: One of the things that really bothers me at times people say—is they say, “Well I wouldn’t know what I know now if I hadn’t done that.” A lot of times they’re referencing sin. You’re referencing a story of like, “Well if I hadn’t of lived like that, I wouldn’t know what I know now.” I haven’t found anywhere in the Bible where that’s a good thing—where it’s like that’s how He wanted you to learn. I think what Aly’s referencing there is—if Aly had not had cancer, God would have had another plan.
Josh: But thank goodness that as a part of that part of the plan, He also had this other part named Genevieve. If we were going to have cancer, what He gave us next made cancer make total and complete sense, and almost sound like a heck of a deal.
Josh: I think that’s what we say. When we look back on that, that’s the moments when we say we want a God sized vision. We want Your plan—not ours—because it’s clearly so much better than anything we could dream up. I think that’s the times when you do say there is clearly a purpose in what God’s doing and where’ve we been—a moment of growth as opposed to referencing—romanticizing, what we say—romanticizing sin. It’s a big difference.
Kim: After you adopted Genevieve, were you content with just one child?
Aly: Yes, we were so content. I think I always envisioned myself with a lot—with several kids, but after she was born—
Josh: You almost just said a lot.
Aly: Well, what’s different with several and a lot?
Josh: You started to say a lot and you’re like several. [Laughter]
Aly: He’s the one that always wants more kids so that’s why he’s saying that.
Josh: I do get to go work during the day though too.
Kim: This is true.
Aly: Yes, we were totally content after she was born. We were so in love with her. God had healed me of cancer. He did a miracle with her. We almost had a failed adoption with her and just knowing that she was with us and she was ours. It was as if our family was complete. People would ask us, “Are you wanting to have more kids?” and we were just like, “I don’t even know. I don’t even care.” We’re just so thankful to have her—for me to be healthy. We felt like it may just be the three of us and we were completely good with that.
Josh: We were blown away, I think, from two sides. A—that it actually happened, and we have this beautiful little girl that is Genevieve Rose Taylor. But the flip side is the trust that God—way back when decided that Josh and Aly Taylor—for whatever reason—He was going to entrust this little girl to us—which is an overwhelming theory. If you have an accurate picture of yourself and God, you go, “You mean You let me be a part of Your plan. Like, You love us this much that we get to be a part.”
I think of both sides of that we were in heaven. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Aly—like Aly said—Aly’s healed. We’re able to be back home. We have a little girl. We were just—we were back on cloud nine just living like it’s nothing. We thought—we were good with it as it was because it was huge. There was no moment of settling. We thought we won the lottery.
Kim: Yes. I mean that is exciting after all you had gone through. But there were still people who loved you who were praying that you would have and bear your own child.
Aly: Yes. Oh, yes. There was one lady, in particular, when we spoke or shared our story in Mobile, one time, and I was talking about infertility. I was talking about our adoption and she came up to me and she said, “Aly, I want to take a burden from you.” I was like “What do you mean a burden from me?” I’d never had somebody come up and say, “Hey, I want to take a burden from you.”
She said I want you to start praying that you’ll get pregnant. I remember telling her “Listen, I’m good. I don’t need to get pregnant anymore. God’s directed our family to adoption. We’re good.” She said “Okay.” Well she said, “I want to take this from you.” She said “I believe God’s going to give you a baby in your womb” whatever. But at the time I was like “Wonderful. Great. But we’re good. Adoption is like the best thing ever if you don’t know.”
One thing that taught me was—one, I was so taken aback how, I guess, straightforward she was. But how powerful it was of saying “I want to take a burden from you. Like I’m going to pray for this for you until I see it come to pass.” That was something I was really encouraged by. Like whose burdens am I bearing and who—there are some people that are just tired of praying for something and they need someone else to say, “I’ve got this.”
She said that but what I didn’t know was there were several other people doing the same thing. Even though—for us—we had prayed and believed God had protected my womb. But once we learned medically that that wasn’t the case, did we believe God could still do it? Absolutely, but I think we were so in love with adoption and we so felt like this was the way the Lord was going to grow our family that we kind of just stopped even thinking about that. But yes, there were a lot—a lot of people—that had kept praying.
Kim: And the Lord would throw a little surprise your way. Tell me about that.
Josh: December of that year I come home from work and Aly tells me to sit on the couch. Little did I know, she had had a really interesting morning.
Aly: Whole day.
Josh: I thought I’d just been to work. Little did I know, she’d had 10 hours of incredible that was about to be dumped on me.
Aly: Yes, so I—Genevieve was nine months old. I woke up not feeling well. I’d had an infection in my arm which is one of the side effects I deal with from breast cancer treatment called Lymphedema. So I’d had an infection in my arm and some of the side effects of that are flu like symptoms. So I’d been feeling awful, but I just chalked it up to my lymphedema.
That morning I exercised. I had one old paper pregnancy test from years ago when on Amazon I bought them like in bulk when I was trying to get pregnant. I felt silly for even taking a preg—it was like a crazy thing. I opened a drawer. I’m like “Oh, I don’t feel good. Would this be crazy to take a pregnancy test?” It was more like “I have one left. Let’s just go ahead and use it up.” I forgot about it.
Came back to it a couple of hours later to see it had two lines. I literally dug in the trash can because I thought “What is two lines?” Because I mean it was like a—it wasn’t even one that said pregnant. I mean it was so cheap. So I dug in the trash and I was like, “No way.”
Honestly, I would love to say my first reaction was excitement, but I was really confused. I thought, “How is this even real?” I text my OB/GYN. You would think someone would text back “Yay! Congratulations.” Instead she said, “Can you come in today?” That’s all it said. It wasn’t like, “Oh my gracious” or, “This is so exciting.” So I said “Yes.”
I still wasn’t even excited at that point. I went into work that morning. I told one of my coworkers that I was leaving. I did tell her what had happened. Josh laughs because she was the first person that knew anything. So I told her to come and man my station at work—got my bloodwork done—got a call back that said I was pregnant. From everything she could tell, everything was completely normal.
I mean she had walked the infertility road with us—knew the fertility specialist—so she was very cautiously optimistic. She was excited but I think she was thinking there’s probably a good chance that something may be wrong. But when Josh got home that day, I had him sit on the couch. I read to him Psalm 128 which is a passage that we really stood on. It says—it says— [Laughter] You tell them—
Josh: Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine. Your children will be like vigorous young olive shoots as they sit around your table. This is God’s promise for those who fear the Lord.
Aly: That was what I had him read out loud. He still—as he was reading was thinking “Where are you going with this?” Then on the next sheet of paper it said, “I’m pregnant” and it said “No, I’m not kidding.” Like, “This is not a joke.” Not that I would ever play that terrible joke, but I think he would be thinking like, “What?” It wasn’t like doctors told us this was improbable—like, this was impossible. We just had an incredible moment—got to share it with family and friends.
Every ultrasound and every appointment, everything was perfectly normal. We found out I was carrying another little baby girl. That Genevieve was going to be a big sister to a little sister. Yes, we thought the family of three was what it was going to be, but God had other plans and we were thrilled.
Kim: Now, Josh, I have to get your reaction to this note that your wife hands you.
Josh: When she tells me to sit down and I’m sitting there with Genevieve and she gives me this paper and I open it and I see Psalm 128. I look at her, I said, “This is not funny because if this is—” Because that verse was just so clear. I remember looking at her saying “If you’re joking, this is bad. Don’t do this.” She said, “I’m not.” I kept reading and I was a blubbering mess. [Laughter] I mean just mess.
The other part is I didn’t know if she had applied for an adoption and I didn’t know it. I didn’t know if she was pregnant. I said, “You’re pregnant?” She said, “Yes, I’m pregnant.” I was like, “This is incredible.” [Laughter] Obviously, we’d been doing our part to get pregnant. We just didn’t think there was any chance of it. So in that moment you’re running all kinds of things through your mind like, “What is—we’re pregnant but we’ve been like adoption pregnant before. Which pregnant are we?”
Kim: Wow. Wow. So you’re pregnant. God has literally performed a miracle. He’s opened your womb to pregnancy. God—the God we serve is a God of abundance, right?
Kim: So He’s like you know what I got another surprise for you.
Aly: Yes, more. [Laughter]
Kim: There’s more.
Aly: There’s more. [Laughter]
Kim: Tell me about it.
Aly: So about a month after I found out I was pregnant, we received a phone call from the attorney from our first adoption. Well, Josh actually received a phone call from the attorney. I received a phone call from the birth grandmother of our daughter Genevieve. She was just calling to check in. She had heard I was pregnant. Of course, they knew the miracle this was.
At the end of the conversation, she told me that her daughter was pregnant again which is our oldest daughter’s birth mom. At first, I wanted to say congratulations. Our ultimate hope and prayer for her is that she’d be able to have children of her own someday and be able—be in a place to raise them. But I quickly learned that her daughter still wasn’t in a place to be able to take care of a baby.
So she said, “I know this is crazy because I know you’re pregnant and you have a nine-month-old and everything else, but would you guys consider adopting this baby as well?” I immediately wanted to say yes, but I know people think that that’s crazy. “You had a nine-month-old and you were pregnant, and you wanted to say yes?” But we were so in love with Genevieve the thought of having another one of her or even just being able to have kids when at one point you were told you wouldn’t, but I knew I had to talk with Josh.
We talked. We prayed. We called her back and said, “Yes, let’s do it.” Now at that point, we didn’t know the due date. Although it really didn’t even matter to us. As time went on, we learned that we were due just three weeks apart. So the baby I was carrying was due beginning to mid-August and then the baby our birth mom was carrying was due at the end of August.
She had moved from Florida to Kentucky. It was crazy but we learned that we were having another baby girl. So the baby our birth mom was carrying was a little girl, and kind of the next big thing we had to decide was—how am I going to be at the birth of the baby in Kentucky and also give birth to the baby that’s in my belly? That’s whenever we got a phone call from TLC about being on a tv show. So yes, you talk about abundance and crazy. We thought the story ended at Genevieve and I’m cured of cancer. It’s like it just kept growing and getting bigger and bigger.
Kim: So as you’re processing the fact that you’re carrying your own child and then you’re about to have another child though adoption, the timing—it’s very close. How do you work that out?
Aly: We learned that our due dates were so close together. I couldn’t fathom missing the birth of the baby we were adopting. Obviously, I knew I wouldn’t miss the birth of the baby I was carrying because it’s my body. But we went back and forth what if I have the baby first—and then us traveling with a newborn to Kentucky—or what if the birth mom has that baby first and me traveling pregnant? We finally just prayed—thought—talked with some friends. We have some friends that said, “Hey, if you guys want to go to Kentucky, you can borrow our RV.” They have a big motorhome.
After talking, thinking, and praying, we said let’s see if I can actually give birth in Kentucky which a lot of people thought was crazy. But actually called a midwife there—found a place that would take me on at 36 weeks pregnant. So we loaded up in a motorhome at 36 weeks pregnant, with Genevieve and everything else we would need for babies, and pulled up to an RV park in Louisville, Kentucky and stayed there. As we pulled up the TV crews were there. TLC was capturing this all on a TV show called Rattled.
Kim: You have cameras for TLC taping for the show—you’re pregnant—the birth mother’s pregnant, how did it all work out?
Josh: Pretty early the reason—the only way we agreed to do it was if the show was about us and our experience in it. It wasn’t going to involve the adoption piece. Because that’s not so much what we were going to let them have. So we just—pretty early we knew that was the only way we’d do it is that they would be hearing our story and what God was doing. Then Aly having Vera and then it was an unknown about the adopt—we were very clear with them. You don’t know what’s going to happen with the other thing. But you also aren’t going to get anything about that. So we just—
Aly: —kept it private.
Josh: We pulled up to that campsite. That was the first time we saw the camera crew and it really—for our end—what it involved was telling our story about seven times for them to get it. Then they just—they followed us around—
Aly: Just hung out.
Josh: —for a month, in essence, as we waited. They were there—I mean one of our—at this point—one of our friends is a producer on the show. We were going to go to her wedding in August. When somebody sees that much of your life—that many big moments, there’s simply a connection that is hard to describe to somebody. I would say that going back on any part of our story from the moment we find out Aly’s diagnosed and the good will we had with men to the moment we are picked to be Genevieve’s parents good will the things that were laid in place for that to happen.
At every step what I would say is the same thing that gets us to Louisville because financially it made no sense for me to be able to leave and do all of that. It simply is God’s favor and God will fund what He favors. You’re just not going to know how he does it, but He does. He’s wildly faithful about that.
What I would say about the show for us was it was just an opportunity to do what we were already doing which was telling people the story of God healing Aly and then our children. That’s why we agreed to do it. Without once again knowing the full scope of it. We just believed God would guard us—guard our children, and certainly through the process we feel like He did.
Aly: But they were there, yes, for some crazy moments. So the big moment was Vera. There was the baby I was carrying. Lydia is the name we picked for the baby that the birth mom was carrying. So I was nervous about having my birth on national television, but also excited to have the moment captured—documented.
We went into the hospital. It was a crazy kind of birthing experience. I had an allergic reaction. I was able to give birth naturally which was a huge goal of mine. We were thrilled to be able to do that but having her was such and incredible moment. Josh always says that seeing me—someone who was at one point told might not have life—actually give life.
You know it’s such a parallel on so many levels of like what God can do from something that may be lifeless—or you think there’s no hope. Not only can you be given hope and feel life but then you can give life and give hope.
Having Vera was just an incredible moment—full circle moment. Then 11 days later, we get a phone call that birth mom is in labor. So we rush to the hospital—are able to be there for that birth and that was such an incredible moment.
Kim: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over these years of ups and downs?
Aly: Ups and downs, I would say they’re going to come. I think we live our lives trying to stay on the ups and minimize the downs, right? Nobody wants to go through the valleys. We all want to be on the mountaintops. That’s not only setting yourself up for failure but it’s just unrealistic. I think I’ve learned to just know the downs are coming. That is just part of life.
God says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart Jesus has overcome the world.” Instead of just hoping that I don’t have the downs—to just ride them out in hope and in faith and in joy—to not just think, “Do I just try to avoid?”—I don’t avoid the lows anymore. Instead, just when they come like, “God, what are You teaching me? How are You wanting this to make me better?” and stay focused there, rather than getting so low. Like what He’s doing in this, how can I choose joy in this?
Kim: That’s great. Josh, what’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned going through these ups and downs?
Josh: God is that big of a deal and I am really not that big of a deal. I think we—not I think and the Bible’s clear—we are drastically misled in how much control or are we big enough to get in the way of God’s will. Yes, you can sin. Yes, you can—the Bible’s clear some of the greatest men on the planet—given the most wisdom there’s ever been—they did sin. In the end, God’s will will happen.
I think for me, as a man—one of the things I was learning at 27, it looked a lot different than it does today. But if my heart is turned toward God every day and that’s what I set my sight on, then my relationship with Aly towards God, and then leading my kids toward that—everything else is going to be okay. It may not make sense today, but the idea—we take a level of ownership and responsibility that we’re just not due, frankly. What I’m responsible for is to pursue God and to know Him way more than I would a human—but in the same practical steps.
You only do that through time. You do that through talking, but also listening. Then to know that God will carry out His will in all my actions. That it’s not this up and down. God doesn’t work in up and down—in and out—good and bad. It is you put your faith in Me daily—minute by minute—these things will happen. I think the only time men get sideways—women get sideways—is when you actually think you could get in the way of God carrying out His will.
Think of how crazy that is. He’s put it all in motion. He’s been here before and nothing’s a surprise to Him—no thought, no action, no activity—good or bad—wrong or right. It only becomes more clear to me in these last few months and years is that God is just a really, really, really big deal. We’re just not. I think we’ve been fed a bucket of lies that we’re in control of something. We’re simply not. That doesn’t mean you become apathetic and you don’t care, and you say, “Oh, what’s going to happens going to happen.” But you mean God’s going to let me be a part of His plan. Like really? Like, that I get to be active?
For me, that’s probably been at each stage become more clear and looked really different, but I would say that same vein of that I am not the one that’s going to heal Aly. I’m not the one that’s going to get us pregnant. I’m not the one that’s going to solve a business problem. I’m not. I don’t have that kind of wisdom or insight. I think for men, that’s a bear. That’s a bear to fight is what I would say. For me that’s something He was doing and is still doing today.
Kim: As I think back on Josh and Aly’s journey as such a young couple, I see how they’ve been through the valleys of cancer and permanent infertility. Then they’ve experienced the mountaintops of miracles. The miracle of adoption and the miracle pregnancy—and whether we’re on the mountaintop or in the valley, God’s desire is not for us to be alone, He’s there with us. He’s there for us. He’ll never leave us nor forsake us. Of that, we can be sure.
Thanks for listening. If you’d like more information about Josh and Aly Taylor or about their book, Aly’s Fight, check out our show notes on the Unfavorable Odds page at FamilyLife.com/podcasts.
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Next time on Unfavorable Odds:
Casey: And I remember getting so real and so raw with God. Maybe a normal person would say I’m sorry for being a lousy husband or lousy politician. I don’t know whatever. For me it’s I’m sorry for stabbing that guy and for tying these people up and for stabbing the other guy.
Casey Diaz, next time.
I’m Kim Anthony. Thanks for listening to this episode of Unfavorable Odds.
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