Saturday, November 25, 2017

finding beauty...

Have you heard of the Prosperity Gospel? From what I gather, it's a belief that God wants us to be happy, to prosper... It comes from a verse in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 29:11), "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare & not for evil, to give you a future & a hope." Seems simple enough. It's a belief that God wants us to have physical well being as well as wealth and/or success. So, if you buy into this, & you live life the best you know how, fully believing God is leading you, what happens when you stumble across hardships, hardships which derail your success?  Perhaps a family member becomes seriously ill, a cherished relationship fails, someone cheats you, & the list goes on... & on...

These things (called hardships & LIFE) happen everyday to people. They are earth shattering to the people who experience them. If they believe in the Prosperity Gospel, then what accounts for the closed door? I believe God does want good things for me, but I don't believe that's his chief concern. Ultimately, if I have a relationship with Him (His son), I will have something far deeper & more meaningful than health & wealth on this earth. If I believe in the Prosperity Gospel, I have set myself up for depression & possibly even disbelief in God. In John 16:33, Jesus said,"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

It's a given, TROUBLE will be a part of my life. It's just a matter of when, how much, what will it look like, how long will it last, is there an end in sight? So my question is this, "How do I find  BEAUTY in my TROUBLES?" Life keeps happening whether I like my troubles or not. They are not what I would choose, but I have a BIG choice in how I choose to face them. Do my troubles mean that God has forsaken me? No! If it weren't for Him, I wouldn't be whole. I wouldn't be thriving in a broken world filled with daily evil & so much sorrow. If I walk around believing that God wants only good for me, then how can I reconcile not just my own troubles, but the troubles of the ones I love, & the troubles of this world? I cannot just cover my eyes & pretend everything is okay. It's not. It never has been in my lifetime, & until I rest in Heaven, everything will not be okay for me. That's a truth.

So, if God wants Health & Wealth for me, but bad things still happen, how do I make sense of this? I whole heartedly believe that God cares about every detail of my life. He has shown that to me over & over. I believe that bad things happen because we live in a broken world. When I pray, I believe God hears my prayer, but His answer may not look at all how I expected it to look. That too has happened over & over in my life. I can honestly say, I have been shaped by my troubles & learned far more from them than my mountaintop highs in life. I love the mountaintops, but they are not what makes me who I am. No, it's those darned old troubles that nag at me daily that keep me close to God & make me Susie.

I believe that God is far more interested in the refining of my heart & fitting me for Heaven than He is in giving me Health & Wealth on this earth. Health & Wealth are temporary as are the things of this earthly life. The lessons learned & the beauty found in our troubles is eternal. Looking for the BEAUTY in the hardship is challenging, but it's fulfilling & far more meaningful than the things that make our life easier. If you are reading this, & you believe in the Prosperity Gospel, I mean no offense to you. It just doesn't work for me. My physical well being & total contentment will come in Heaven. Until then, I will look to God for my sustenance. Finding the Beauty is beautiful.




Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Many whom I deeply respect...

Today, I pick up this blog & write a few words. I know people whom I deeply respect & even admire may stumble across this post & read it. Some of them have had a great impact on my life & have helped me formulate some of my own beliefs. I realize that many of them may disagree with what I write & may even judge me. It's possible they will think I have abandoned my faith or made up my own Bible, at the very least, misinterpreted the words of the Bible. Truth is... my faith has never been deeper. My life has never been more dependent on the Lord for each hour of each day. He is the air that I breathe. Without Him, I am nothing.

As you read my words, please realize that what I write is nothing more than my words, my thoughts, on an ugly subject. I am by no means a Bible scholar. Tho' I have followed the Lord for a lifetime, I must admit that my relationship with Him is based more on my heart than my intelligence. I believe that a lifetime of following the Lord has allowed me to grasp Christ's message, but as I said, not so much in an intellectual way. That isn't to say I have no Biblical knowledge but to say that at this time in my life, I am unable to express my knowledge & articulate it in a way that would be acceptable to those who are scholarly.

I welcome the opinions of my readers but ask that you express them in a way which is respectful of me & more importantly, the people for whom this blog is written. Over the last 7 years of my life, I have experienced one trauma after another. I actually am able to thank God for my horrors. Not because I am a super human being, but because thru them God has shaped my heart for Him. In Him, I have found my wholeness, my strength, my conviction, my courage, my ability to laugh & carry on even when  my heart has been overcome with deep sadness & no reassurance of the future or what it holds. I have learned that no one is immune to anything. My story is not written the way I planned it. I am not inviting more trauma into my life. I am only thanking God for what I have thus far experienced. I am quite sure there is more to come because that is life.

As I heard about the Nashville Statement, I think my mouth dropped open. As I researched, my heart broke for the LGBT population. I could only see Christ meeting each of them at the well & embracing them. I believe in "God is Love" as is written in the Bible. Christ did not shun people, He loved them. He met them where they were & ministered to them. I do not have the insight of Christ to judge another soul, therefore I believe it is my responsibility to love each soul that comes into my life.

I am well aware of the Bible verses which were used to make the conclusions expressed by the Nashville Statement, & I am well aware of the repeating message of the Bible from Genesis thru Revelations. I don't understand each verse of the Bible, so I will just have to wait for the other side of Heaven to see the whole picture. I am okay with that. I am NOT God. I believe that the repeating theme of the Bible trumps picking apart individual verses & taking them out of context. I believe that the message which permeates throughout the whole Bible speaks so much louder than the verses picked out to shun & hurt this quite loving community of people. I believe the Bible must be looked at as a whole.

What is this message of which I speak? It is a message of, "God is Love." It is a message of God going to extreme lengths to draw each soul unto Him. It is a message of His patience with our sorry souls & His forgiveness. Christ did not walk the earth failing to love anyone whose heart was open to Him or would one day soften. Christ was all about healing the hurting. He fed them. He prayed for them. He touched them. He loved them. He died for them. His message was simple.

I have never been a believer of labels. Each soul is a human being before he/she is anything else.
Each soul is an imperfect human being. It is not my right or place to judge. I don't have the whole picture of the life of another or of God's plan. I only know we are created to love Him & to love others as ourselves. Some will say that you judge the fruits of a person, not the person, & therefore justify their judgement. I have trouble judging my own fruits let alone the fruits of another whose shoes I have not worn for a day. I shutter to call this population the LGBT population because I am so against labels. Rather, I prefer to say that they are imperfect human beings just as I am & are all  human beings. They deserve to be loved. They have souls, & I believe each human being is worthy of being used by God. They are worthy of sitting in a pew, being a part of the community we call Church, & being used by God.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Things you never knew...

The past few months have been unexpectedly beautiful. I always get a bit stressed out as the day of The Race for The Cure approaches. It took place on May 13th, so we are that much closer to next year's Race. I pressure myself to raise as much money as I can because I am passionate about research. Research, I believe is our only path to a cure for this deadly disease. I am not being overtly dramatic. This disease has taken 2 of my friends & is currently metastatic in 5 friends.

It most often seems to have no rhyme or reason. It finds a home in healthy bodies & most often in bodies that bear NO family history than do. It seems to attack the younger woman more & more, but this may just be my perspective. The younger the person, I think the more aggressive the treatment. Some forms of breast cancer are more deadly than others. Research is proving new facts every day. Susan G. Komen is connected to most of the advancements made in breast cancer  research, diagnosis, & treatment.

For the Survivor, The Race for The Cure serves as inspiration. Participating in The Race with fellow  Survivors decked out in pink tees is meaningful. The camaraderie says, "I can do this. Look at all the other Survivors who are doing this." The  support of family & friends gives the Survivor a lift which will not be felt on the medical side of this disease. When your loved one helps fund your team or shows up to walk this race with you, words cannot express how the heart is impacted.

It seems that the impact of any kindness expressed toward a Survivor is multiplied thousand fold. These kindnesses actually serve to carry the Survivor through her most vulnerable moments. I don't know quite why, but breast cancer can take a healthy person & reduce her to a raw state of vulnerability in the blink of an eye. In these most tender moments, kindness has a magical effect.

One of my magical moments came the Thursday before this year's race. A friend took his jar full of coins into Komen to support my team. For some reason, the meaning of this act of kindness put a smile on my face & across my heart that I could not hide. It made me laugh out loud because he cared this much! Even now, when I ponder this beautiful moment, I smile. Who knew?






Thursday, April 13, 2017

highly personal

One day I was out riding my bike on the trails in Washington. It was a warm summer day in August. I liked to go in the morning before the sun got too hot. The wind was blowing through my coarse head of hair affectionately referred to as "Brillo pad" by my husband. I loved the trail, & I loved the exercise. Midlife had hit, & I was trying to get in shape. Riding my bike 10 miles a day made me feel good about myself. I felt as though I was truly shaping up, & I was thankful I was doing something to help myself.

The winds of change had drifted our way, but we were clueless. We had just taken a trip on a ship, a cruise ship on which our soon-to-be son-in-law played his trumpet. We were empty nesters now, & it seemed as though we would enjoy our new stage in life. We were helping our middle daughter plan her December wedding. Our youngest was getting ready to return to College. I remember thinking about a few changes I had noticed on my left side. It happened on that cruise ship. The thing is... those changes didn't stay. I figured everything was fine. I didn't give it much thought. I did not notice the lump under my arm. I think I didn't realize that when a woman does a self exam, she needs to check her underarm area.

I was diligent about my monthly self exams (even though I didn't know to check my underarm areas). I was diligent about my mammograms even though they caused me immense anxiety, & frankly, I hated them. Just 7 months earlier, I'd had a clean mammogram. The thought never went through my mind that my life was hanging in the balance. I remember looking in the bathroom mirror & noticing a discoloration. This change stuck in my mind, but the discoloration went away just as it had done on the cruise ship. Hmmm... weird.

FAST FORWARD 1 YEAR:  I am finishing up a year's worth of treatment. My hair is just growing back in. It looks like salt & pepper. Will it be curly like it was before, or will it be straight? I have survived not having hair. I have even decided hair is highly overrated. Getting ready each morning is much simpler without hair, & hats are stylish. I don't really look like myself. I haven't ridden my bike in a year, & I no longer feel very feminine.  My life is so far from normal, I don't know if I were to run smack dab into my old self if I would recognize her.

For 365 days, I awakened each morning with a deep heaviness of heart. I would wake up, lay in my bed, & realize my heart was sad. Each morning I realized why I was sad. "Oh yeah," it would come back to me. "I have cancer." I am afraid. I think I must have PTSD. I feel as if this curse will never leave me. I am filled with turmoil, & I don't know what to do. I never miss a doctor appointment, but I dread each of them. "What strange words will be thrown at me today?" It's all so over my head, yet so many decisions must be made. My family weighed in, but ultimately, I am the patient. I have to make the decisions. How am I to know what to do? I can't even speak the doctor's language. It is foreign to me.

5 YEARS, 8 MONTHS LATER:  I am preparing for my 6th Race for The Cure as a Survivor. I am trying to reach my goal which I fear I have set too high. Too high for what? Not too high for Susan G. Komen. Because of her research, I live. I have grandchildren, none of which were even a thought when my lump was found. None of them would I know if not for Susan G. Komen.  I have made new friends that I didn't know before my biopsy, but some of them are no longer with us. I would never have known them if not for Susan G. Komen.  My faith is bigger than the day I was diagnosed. I would not have lived long enough to know this new depth of faith if not for Susan G. Komen.

TODAY: I am changed. I don't ride my bike 10 miles a day. My hair is soft & curly. My weight has been up & down like a pogo stick. I take 27 pills a day. I attend a support group. I go to counseling. I love my friends (old & new). My grandkids bring me unspeakable joy. I am stronger in some ways & weaker in others. I still have anxiety. I try to live in the moment. I try to live each day to the full. I celebrate life. I cry when I lose my Survivor friends. I am raising money for the 6th year in a row. My goal is $10,000. Currently, I am in third place. Last year, Team Sweet Potatas came in second. 2 years in a row before that, it came in first. The farther I get from my diagnosis, the harder it is to raise money. I don't care if my team comes in first or last, but I do care about my cause. I care about research. I care about a cure.














Monday, April 10, 2017

One hair away...

Some of you noticed my post yesterday on Facebook and contributed to my cause. Words are not enough to thank you. As I said in my post, to be brutally honest, it was a terribly sad weekend. Actually, it's been a terribly sad month for my circle of friends known as Survivors. We have a special bond. It's unexplainable but oh so strong. Some things are unsaid but understood. We share that lump in our throat feeling. That's the best way I know to describe it.

When one of us hurts, I think we all hurt. When a person is newly diagnosed, we mourn. When cancer metastasizes, we cry. We know we are all one hair away from a new diagnosis ourselves, & when one of us hears her name called, it's like serving time, taking a turn, paying dues… only it's fighting for life. None of us can predict the outcome, & with a diagnosis comes overwhelming decisions which must be made. These decisions are not about what I'd like to have for dinner or which dress I should wear to the banquet. No these decisions are, "Should I proceed with treatment? What about immunotherapy? What should I tell my children?"

These decisions are difficult. No amount of preparation in the world allows you to be ready to face such cruelty. You instantly have an electrical current running through your body. Those dreaded words which have haunted you over & over suddenly, strangely become your new reality. You've already fought it once or twice, so here's to one more fight. Here's to surgery; here's to chemo. Here's to a deep lump in your throat, & one very heavy heart. "Why me? Why not me?"

As Survivors, we do our best to encourage one another, but sometimes we don't even know what to say or do. We are helpless to help another soul. We are broken for them, but we are as clueless as the rest of the world as to how to meet their devastating needs. We can make a meal, offer words of encouragement which seem so inadequate. We can send flowers, or sit with the patient during treatment. We are limited because we can't make their world right. We know how wrong it is, but we cannot make it right. It's unfair. It's unpredictable. It's rotten.

If we have faith in God above, we pray. With or without faith, we worry. With faith, we may feel more at peace with our eternity, but still, we leave behind our loved ones. We just don't know what to do about that. It's seems so unfathomable, so cruel, yet it's not up to us. It is out of our control. Yet we feel we must take measures to ensure the future of our children. Will our husbands remarry? Many of them do. Will our children be well cared for, loved, by their new parent? Someone else will step into my place & do the things that I was supposed to do. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Oh such mixed emotions!

As the sun goes down, we quietly lay our head upon our pillow. Tears stain our cheeks, but it is dark so no one can see. We feel so alone, even if the person in our bed is snoring. We feel so alone even if we are cared for & loved beyond measure. Even if we know our spouse would not trade us for the world, we feel alone. Our survivor friends keep us in touch with reality, but they cannot ease our emotional pain or heal our sick bodies. No, they can hold our hand & pray, but they are as helpless as we, and they are one hair away.







Thursday, April 6, 2017

not a ticket to a cake walk...

Sometimes I hesitate to write a blog & even talk myself out of it. Why? Because my blogs have been known to cause my loved ones too much pain. When I speak of the atrocities of cancer, they think I am suffering. I have suffered in the past from the pangs of cancer, but now I write as a voice for future patients, newly diagnosed cancer patients, & for those with recurrence. Yes, an aggressive case of cancer sticks with you for a lifetime, the scars remain, some mental gymnastics continue to be necessary, & there are always a few scares along the way, but for the most part, I am healed in body & mind (minus my other health issues, Lol).

It has taken time, counseling, friendship, healing, & faith to get to this point, & I realize it could all be snatched out from under me in the blink of an eye, but for today, I am well (both physically & emotionally). Early on, my middle daughter wrote out the words of an old church hymn for me... "Heart of mine own heart, Whatever befall, Still be my vision, O Ruler of all." These are the last 2 lines of "Be Thou My Vision" that my young adult daughter had the wisdom to find in the heart of my crisis. I found these words online. I found them written on a plaque. I displayed them where I could always see them. I wrote them in my mind & in my heart, & I clung to them for dear life.

When a friend or loved one hurts (for whatever reason), I pray for their healing, & I also pray that they will be mindful of God's presence. People generally want a miracle. Who wouldn't? Who really wants to live with the life long fear & impact of cancer? No one. However, I maintain there are worse things that could happen in life: a child being kidnapped, being gassed to death in Syria, & atrocities such as those. Perspective matters.

I believe God's presence in my life is greater than any miracle. His presence can & will sustain me through any nightmare. I may stand in the storms of life, but with God, I will stand. That does not mean my long prayed for miracle will come. It doesn't mean I won't suffer, or even die. It just means that whatever  befalls, I will not be alone. It means that if I am taken from this earth, I will be where I am meant to be at long last in Heaven.

God's presence isn't a ticket to a cake walk or an escape from the "things" in life that cause sheer anguish. No, His presence is His grace along with His Holy Spirit (Comforter, Counselor, etc). It means I am not alone whatever befalls, & it keeps my eyes open to more than myself. It keeps God as my Vision, & I believe it reminds me that others are suffering too. Even as I suffer, I need to pray for them & be of comfort. This world is not about lil ol' me. I couldn't be more thankful!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

I cry.

I am writing this blog for all the sweet friends & family I have lost to cancer, any kind of cancer. People talk about how cancer is the small "c," & Christ is the big "C." Ultimately, I believe that will always be true. The reality remains, however, that cancer is a powerful beast! It's a monster, a predator, a thief in the night that preys upon unsuspecting souls. I know I am using strong words, but frankly, I don't have strong enough words to describe cancer.

It disrupted my life unsuspectingly 6 years ago this coming summer. I think perhaps I was at one of the happiest & healthiest times of my life. I was riding my bike 10 miles a day. We had just taken a cruise to see my son in law play his trumpet on the big ship. My middle daughter was planning her wedding. Life was good.

Suddenly, one Sunday night, a lump was discovered which would alter everything about my life. Thing is, I had no idea the changes it would bring. Yes, I am still alive! Yes, I am grateful more than I have words to express. BUT, in the last (almost) six years, I have watched too many kind souls die from cancer. I have been robbed of much myself, but at the same time, I have been blessed abundantly with more than I could ever imagine. I can only thank God for that!

So... here's to my dad (tho' it's been 22 years, such a deep loss even now), my mom (had cancer among other health issues), Chauncey, Elizabeth, Brenda, Cybil Sue, Linda, & so many others. You see, the outlook of cancer is bleak. Yes, great strides are being made, but at the same time, people are still dying from cancer. If the DNA of cancer can be tracked, why are people still dying?

I do not have a medical brain.  Maybe you have the answer to my question. My only HOPE is in the big "C" (Christ) & in research. If I understand correctly, the new budget proposal cuts funding for cancer research dramatically. The National Institutes of Health budget will be reduced by $6 billion. I cry for our country & the people who stand to be hurt by this budget (not just today's cancer survivors, but future cancer survivors too).

NO ONE is IMMUNE to CANCER!  I have mentioned those who have passed, but I cannot ignore the young women who fight for their lives. Also, those who are BrCa positive & fear not only for their own lives but the lives of their precious offspring. There is my beloved & brilliant friend who just had a double mastectomy & a hysterectomy. She's only in her 30's! There's my vibrant friend whose metastatic cancer has returned with a vengeance!

Here's what goes on inside a cancer support group I attend, a group which usually has about 15 members present but the # & the faces vary from month to month: fear of lumps, fear of surgeries, marriage issues, fear of children losing their mama, children losing their mama, lack of symmetry, death, recurrence of cancer, return of metastatic cancer, lymphedema, chemo brain, loss of femininity, low self esteem, loss of hair, fear of the unknown, PET scans regularly, tears, laughter, faith, heartache, support...

It is my belief that if you find a way to support cancer, you are helping all cancers. Research is research. A breakthrough for one cancer can lead to a breakthrough for all cancers. I realize I am almost 6 years out. Yay me! Yay me for every day I have lived in the moment not being robbed of my joy! However, my odds do not improve, my life will never go back to 10 mile bike rides, & chemo has done a number on my brain & my neuromuscular disease. Please realize cancer does not define me, but it has stripped me of more than I am able to explain in this blog. Daily, I cannot escape its ruins.

So... I beg of you, please in the name of Chauncey, Elizabeth, Brenda, Cybil Sue, Linda & so many others, give to TEAM SWEET POTATAS! In the name of those who suffer now (Shelly, Jaq, young women having prophylactic surgeries, Diane, Bilinda, Ann & many more.) In the name of those who will be diagnosed tomorrow; they just don't know it. In the name of the budget proposal, please give & give generously. TEAM SWEET POTATAS needs your help but more importantly, people with names & lives need your help!