Tuesday, February 28, 2012

a priceless treasure

What is an earthen vessel? In the world of art, it's a piece of pottery or stoneware. In the Bible, it's our body.  "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God & not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Another version refers to the earthen vessel as a jar of clay and the excellence of power as all-surpassing power. I confess, I like both versions. Reading 2 translations sometimes enhances meaning for me.

My first quest was to wrap my mind around "the excellence of power." When I read a different translation, it affirmed my hunch. We are talking about God's glory, His all-surpassing power, His excellence, etc. So... if my body is a jar of clay or an earthen vessel, through something I have no power over, it contains a treasure. That treasure that resides in my body is priceless. Picture a diamond, a perfect diamond, glistening in the sun as it's discovered in the earth, in the mud, say... in Africa. I can only imagine the joy of finding such a gem... wiping off the dirt, & seeing a future, hope, money, perhaps a life, a rescue.

My earthen vessel isn't so pretty. It's got some issues to say the least. It's been ravaged by chemo & bears a few scars that attest to the fact that a price has been paid in hopes of saving a life. I wear a hat or a wig. I stew about which one looks the best for the day. How ridiculous! My fingernails look so bad I wince at the sight of them.  I am in the process of being reconstructed. All in all, I just don't feel too pretty!

So... here's my thinking... the greater the toll the cancer & it's treatments take on my body, the greater the opportunity for others to see my treasure. If it weren't for cancer, my treasure would not be as noticeable. Cancer & it's treatment have opened up new avenues in life for me. My life has become very simple for now. My part in this journey is to let my body heal. Obey the doctors' orders.  Be an open book; so others can see my treasure, & it won't be mistakably accredited  to me.

Monday, February 27, 2012


I have to say... I am baffled by this journey. My emotions just don't seem to stabilize. I've always been an incredibly sensitive person, but I'm afraid my sensitivity gage has reached an all new high. Yes it's true, it could be the side effects of my medications; it could be all I've endured. Maybe it's the unknowns. Perhaps it's the curves that continue to come my way. Possibly it's the loss of me, & I am grieving, or maybe my loved ones grieve. Watching the toll this disease takes on my loved ones remains the hardest part of this journey. I can deal with my own suffering, but I'd prefer it not have to affect the ones I love.

Sometimes I come face to face with things that break my heart (as a result of my health). Of course, I'm only human, & I'm no psychologist. Now & then, I find my self totally befuddled, thinking..."I really don't have an answer for what just slapped me in the face." As I travel these unknown territories, I seek comfort in the only place I can actually be completely comforted, God's arms.

I have a new pink Bible. It is so pretty, & it has devotions in it just for women walking in my footsteps. The leather cover is soft, & the pages are smooth. In this Bible, I seek comfort. I read letters written by other women who are broken in the same way I am shattered. I look up scriptures, & I find comfort. I read words like, "Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live." Psalm 116:2

I remember when my mother-in-law was passing into Heaven.  Her most earthly comfort seemed to be her precious daughter. When her daughter leaned over her bed & whispered sweetness  into her heart, my mother-in-law turned to her like a flower towards the sun. I remember reading a scripture about the shepherd & the sheep. I never realized until recently that the sheep learned to recognize their shepherd's voice. I felt affirmed in knowing that I can hear my Father's voice. He wants to comfort me. Today, I realize He not only wants to comfort me, He has His ear turned to me. My mother-in-law gave me the perfect picture as she turned toward her daughter in her last days on earth. God's ear is turned toward me, waiting for me to cry on His shoulder.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

a hole in our heart...

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have a burden for people who don't have a relationship with Him. He is the peace in my life, & frankly, without Him, my life is void. As I said in my last blog, I am a lover of people. I want others to know Christ. If you don't know Christ, & you are reading my blog, I hope you will stick with me. The last thing I ever want to do is "shove Christ" down someone's throat. After all, I had a choice, & that is how I believe God intended it.

What keeps people from Christ? I believe the biggest reason people shy away from Christ is to protect themselves from Christians. I am going so far as to say, "If it weren't for Christians, there would be more of them." Ghandi put it another way... He said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ." The truth in his statement has proven itself many times over in my life.

So what is this propaganda about "a relationship" not a religion?  I dislike the use of Christian "buzz words" that frequently serve to raise the hairs on a person's back that might not walk in this circle. They do very little to bring a person closer to Christ. So... my challenge is this: How do I talk about the essence of my heart when the very words I use can be offensive? Even the fact that I have this desire can be offensive.

fact: We are created with a hole in our heart that can only be satisfied with Christ. I believe this with all my being. Have you ever gone looking for happiness, found your treasure, & realized your happiness was only temporary? Emptiness was still lurking around the corner & waiting to reside in your heart. Perhaps you have achieved a goal, one that you thought would bring you respect, only to find that your goal was accomplished, you received your pat on the back, & the aching of your heart returned. Maybe you thought you needed more friends or a partner in life, only to find that people can't fill your needs either. They always let you down eventually. The result: relentless heartache.

So what does this "relationship" with Christ look like? Why do people keep saying it's not about religion? Religion is about rules. It's about legalism. It's about being judged by others, maybe dressing a certain way, giving up your vices, cleaning up your life, maybe even letting go of yourself (who you think you are or that image you are tirelessly trying to portray).

A "relationship" is simple. All it requires is trust, taking one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. It requires asking Christ to live in your heart. If your desire is for real, things will change. A journey with Christ is life changing from the inside out. Yes... as Christians, we stumble & fall. We even keep others from coming to Christ because we just can't get it right.

It says in the Bible that with the faith of a mustard seed, nothing is impossible. God can move mountains. If you have been hurt or disgusted by the Christians in your life, please realize that they are just as much a mess as you, maybe even more. As humans, we are incapable of getting it right. I believe Ghandi's observation couldn't be more accurate. However, his conclusion makes my heart ache.


Trait:  a distinguishing quality of ones personal nature

I'm a people lover. I love to meet meet new people. I love friendship. I love to sit in a mall or an airport & people watch. When I go to a football or basketball game, I see very little of the sport. I see the people. I love watching people interact, especially when children are in the picture.  I find family dynamics fascinating. 

I enjoy looking at families & seeing what traits pass from one generation to the next. From the moment a baby is born, we begin wondering who the little bundle looks like. As the child grows, his traits sometimes change. A person's traits are a mixed bag of surprises. These surprises include facial features, body types, mannerisms, temperament, intelligence, strengths, weaknesses, just about everything that makes a person who he is. 

It's fun to see what traits siblings have in common. What traits are inborn? What traits are learned? As an adult, I love connecting with my adult cousins. It never ceases to amaze me when a common trait shows itself. My favorite trait is humor. When I realize we find the same things funny, it tickles me. When I see we have the same sense of compassion, I am moved.

I even enjoy considering the traits of my Lab. What traits does he have in common with our first Lab, "Dolly?" They are both couch dwellers. They are 2 of the most loving creatures I have ever known. They both love to be loved. They both have a mind of their own. Both of them cannot resist the temptation to snatch bread off the table or a plate. 

Traits define a person. I believe we can acquire traits: like honesty, hard-working, kindness,  just to name a few. If we own traits we dislike, I think we can work to eliminate some of them. Perhaps we inherited or developed a few we despise. Maybe it's our temper, a propensity to worry,  a desire to be needed, low self-esteem, the list continues...

I believe God gives us a blue print to craft in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control. Crafting these traits, praying for them, & diligently desiring them can take a life time. They don't just happen overnight, & we are not born owning all of them. If we all truly claimed them as our own, if these traits radiated from our core, the world would be a different world.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lesser of 2 Evils

When you are a cancer patient, you begin to understand that there are 2 evils: one being your cancer, & the other your treatment. Once you receive your diagnosis & begin to learn your treatment options, you have a choice. Die from the cancer or go with the treatment. If you live through the side effects, perhaps you'll be a survivor.

When your side effects are presented to you, it's like watching one of those TV commercials for a new medication on the market. Once you hear all of the side effects, you look at your spouse & say, "Why in the world would anyone take that drug?"  BUT... when you are a cancer patient, if you look at your doctor and say, "I'm not sure I want to do that."  The answer is, "You will not live long if you don't. Believe me... this drug has saved so many lives. Never mind that it may cause another form of cancer."

These side effects have different levels of toxicity. The list ranges from headaches, itching, neuropathy, flu like symptoms, blood clots, cancer, to death. It sometimes takes me a few days to process new information. Sometimes I grieve my loss and wonder how on earth my treatment could be as bad if not worse than my illness. In fact, I didn't feel sick until I began treatment. My cancer was a silent killer.

Today I went to see the plastic surgeon, & he ended up performing an unexpected in office surgery on me. All the while, my husband watched, & I took the opportunity to chat with my beloved doctor. He sewed me back up, & I was as good as new, my new normal that is...  I thanked him, & we left his office feeling blessed to have another issue hopefully resolved.

Today I have a feeling that I have not yet experienced on this journey. I can't believe it, & I am almost afraid to say it. Perhaps it won't last. I told my friend about it on the phone, & she said I should claim it for today. So... that is what I am going to do....

I am thanking God for this journey. I am not just thanking Him; I am feeling it. I have met truly amazing people that I am only beginning to know. I have been placed in a spot I would otherwise never know. I have not spent one day alone on this journey; I've felt God's presence from the moment fear ran through every fiber of my being. I am learning to depend on Him in a whole new way. I am walking a new journey with my family & friends. Maybe God will use me to touch others. That would be a perk.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Friendship has been heavily on my mind lately. I think it's occupied my thinking because my cancer has deprived me of my friends. As I've insinuated in earlier blogs, my couch has become my closest friend.  I am kidding about that.... but seriously, I do miss my friends. Sometimes, you don't realize what you have until you lose it. I have always valued my friends & taken time for them. I've even been accused of putting them ahead of my family. Sometimes, they become family, & it is hard to distinguish a friend from family. They all are my "loved ones."

Just for fun, I looked up friendship on Wikipedia, & I love what I found:

Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:
.  The tendency to desire what is best for the other
.  Sympathy & empathy
.  Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth
.  Mutual understanding & compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
.  Enjoyment of each other's company
.  Trust in one another
.  The ability to be oneself, express one's feelings, & make mistakes without fear of judgement 

To any of my friends who are checking out my blog, I want to thank you for being here for me. Truthfully, I began this blog for my 3 daughters. I want them to have a piece of me when My Heavenly Father chooses to take me home. Secondly, I like to live my life as an open book, hoping/praying that others may see Christ in me & want Him. Lastly, this blog is for my "loved ones" so that you may know my footsteps when I can't muster up the strength to tell you verbally.

So... if you are checking out my blog (for whatever reason), I pray that in some seemingly insignificant way, it will bring you one small step forward in His presence.

This blog is dedicated to my friends. I love you...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Early this morning I couldn't sleep. Having trouble sleeping has become routine in my life. Fighting sleep is agonizing to me. I prefer to just get up & put my mind to use. This morning I browsed through the CaringBridge Journal of a new friend I met the other day. She has documented much of her journey as a breast cancer patient so she won't forget her feelings. If you have breast cancer, you know that the mind is effected. I did a little research & discovered that breast cancer patients who receive chemo actually have larger spaces of inactivity in their brain. That explains so much!

As I was looking through her CaringBridge sight, I couldn't help but notice her mentioning my absurdities, only they were hers. When you are newly diagnosed, you are hit with an overwhelming overload of life-changing information. You are in shock. You are numb. You are horrified. All at the same time!

As the days pass, & you force yourself to put one foot in front of the other; it is surreal. You feel as though you are looking in on someone else. You look in the mirror & wonder if that reflection is yours. You know the feelings inside of that person, but you are no longer sure if others do. You know that person has the same heart & soul she's always had, but something has changed. Words can't really do it justice.

You have frantically researched your own case even though your doctors & loved ones advised you NOT  to do that. You have been bombarded with so many terms. Problem is... they are foreign to you, & they seem absurd! You are faced with processing all of this information because your life is at stake. However, you are so behind! You've been totally caught off guard, & you have no choice but to get yourself up to speed quickly if you hope to understand this new language & participate in your own health decisions.

For days, I couldn't even converse with friends. All I could do was melt. One absurdity after another kept coming my way, & it hasn't stopped. Words are added to your vocabulary like Her2nu+, invasive ductal carcinoma, hormone receptive, Herceptin, chemo, radiation, tamoxifen, reconstruction, implants, drains, & the list continues... These are big words with big meaning! Strange things begin to happen.

For me, the changes began with my fear. It didn't even take a day for meltdowns to begin. I was facing an unprecedented level of anxiety in my life. Watching my family suffer for me was the most touching & the hardest. Their sense of security was immediately ripped out from under their feet. Next on the list: my hair. The Oncologist said, "Shave it off! Get rid of it." So I did. I bought a wig & some hats. One of my most difficult tasks has been regulating my body temperature. Hair makes a difference!

My most difficult decision was deciding on my own surgery. I chose to do straight up whatever gave me the best odds (regardless if it was seemingly insignificant).  WAITING has never been my gift. I have spent more time WAITING in the last few months than I have in my lifetime. I have always feared results, even more than the procedure. The UNKNOWN disrupts my peace.

My daughter asked me yesterday how I was doing. My response... I just have to continue to do what will straight up be the best for my outcome. Never mind that my fingernails are turning strange colors & inevitably falling off from the chemo. Never mind that the skin on my left side may delay my radiation (that I was recently told  I will now likely need). Originally I was told radiation would be unlikely if I had a mastectomy. Minor detail, I guess.

Never mind that my emotions are up & down like a roller coaster. I am fragile, & it takes very little to spiral into a meltdown. My prognosis (for all I've been through) Is HOPEFUL! I am so disturbed by the fights of others I meet on this journey. I cry for them. I grieve for them. If they have young children & their life hangs more in the balance than mine, I  would trade places with them if I could.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Second Home

Today I am at The Illinois Cancer Center having a Herceptin treatment, something I will be doing every 3 weeks for the next 7 months. Herceptin is prescribed because my cancer is HER2/neu+ ( fast growing). You would think I would just want this chapter of my life closed, to be forever done with The Illinois Cancer Center. However, the opposite is true.

Before I came to The Illinois Cancer Center, I feared it. When I used to drive past it (long before it would save my life), I would see the sign The Illinois Cancer Center,  and I would think, "What an awful name for a place that helps people." I always hated the word CANCER, & I certainly never wanted it to take up permanent residence in my life.

The first time I came here was to meet one of my new doctors, my oncologist. That's another person I never wanted in my life, an oncologist. When I was newly diagnosed, I couldn't even tell people I had cancer. I did every thing I could to avoid that word. I used phrases like when I became ill & when I got sick. Facing this disease is the hardest thing I've ever been called to do.

So... today as I sit here peacefully receiving my treatment, I can't help but reminisce in my head. I have been through 6 chemo therapy treatments, a double mastectomy, a lymph node dissection, & several other procedures/tests. There really is no end in sight, maybe a few small respites. The Illinois Cancer Center is a part of my life.

In addition to my treatments/tests/procedures, I have experienced remarkable "things" in this house of fear.  I have an Oncologist who hugs me. She remembers my sorrows & even cares enough to ask specifically about each concern. I have listened to other patients sharing my hardships. They have the same issues but still find joy in life. I have 2 nurses that call me by name & never pass without a hug.  "Sam," "Lucy," "Max," & "Chief" are my new friends. These therapy dogs  have cheered me  through my treatments. I have cried there & been comforted.

I no longer hate the word CANCER. I don't fear The Illinois Cancer Center, in fact I see it as my safe haven.  I know that even though I would not choose to be a cancer patient, I will find compassion,  strength, & inspiration there.  I find treatment & HOPE in this place that once caused me to cringe as I looked from afar.  My life has been enriched because my fear has been stripped away by kindness.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Almost Grown Up...

I have a boy we took under our wing. He became a part of our lives when he was 12. Now, almost 7 years later, he brought his girlfriend home to meet his loved ones. I haven't had much company lately, so I must admit... this was a big deal for me! I got up early this morning because this boy usually arrives ahead of schedule.

At just the right moment, they pulled up & parked in front of my home. I could feel my heart overjoyed... how exciting! My son-in-law answered the door & in came 2 delightful young people, both so kind & happy! I was honored to meet her! She has a smile that lights up the room, & a heart that is contagious. So full of life, they have a future to embrace.

We visited for an hour or so, & I could sense that my husband was enjoying this moment as much as I. We laughed & talked & laughed some more. It was like a vacation from my life. He had more loved ones to visit, so before long, they were hugging us good-bye & heading for the next stop.

As I sat on my couch thinking about my boy, I was overcome with joy. He is doing well in college, making good decisions. He is involved in meaningful activities. I see his confidence growing. His faith, I can only admire. His life is a testimony. The blessings of caring for him far out weigh anything I have given.  For some unknown reason, God has put this young man in our lives, & I am grateful!

words, words, words...

The Bible tells us that what fills the heart comes out of the mouth. Yikes! I wish I could take back some of the things that have come out of my mouth. Words are like tooth paste squeezed out of the tube. Once those words are out, they cannot be shoved back in the tube. You can try to use a tooth pick, & ever so delicately refill the tube, but that doesn't work either. Trust me... I've tried!

Last night I had one of those regretful moments. I was having a conversation with a loved one, & spouted off at the mouth (as I call it). I went upstairs like a puppy with his tail between his legs. Now, all I could do was apologize. There was no taking back those hurtful words. Truth is... as I lay in bed mulling this over, I realized that I took liberties. I said things that may not even be the truth. I am no psychologist! Just because I thought them, doesn't make them the truth.

To my loved one... all I can say now is, I am sorry. Please forgive me & realize I was out of line. If I could delete those words from your head, I would. If I could have a do over, I would bridle my tongue. More importantly, after searching my heart, I won't even think those thoughts anymore because they are not valid. Because I now realize they have no worth, I won't be repeating them. I am sorry.

What makes this worse: you have been here for me through thick & thin. You have done things for me that you shouldn't have to do. You have listened to my heart over the last few months & cried my tears. Now... I have hurt you beyond words with my words. You even said, "Now I know how you really feel."

Here's how I really feel: I love you. I am in awe of what you do with your life. I could never do what you do. I don't have the mind, the courage, the strength, or the nerves. I see such a loving heart & a good example. Every day of your life has been a blessing in my life. You teach me to see things from a different side. You are willing to do whatever it takes to help me grow deeper. You make me laugh. I wouldn't trade you for anyone or anything. I love you.


Being the couch potato that I currently am, I watched Whitney Houston's whole funeral... about 4 hours, I think. If it hadn't been for my present state, I probably would never have sat glued to my TV that long for anything. That being said... I am so glad I did.

I saw Whitney perform  many years ago; I probably only had one child at the time. To be honest, I came away disappointed. She seemed like a such a DIVA that night, & frankly, that overshadowed her performance for me. Instead of taking away what a beautiful person she was or the great talent she possessed, all I could think of was how unattractive her diva like qualities made her.

Looking back now... so many years later, I see what I missed because I was judgemental. I looked up judgemental in the urban dictionary. Being judgemental is a way of making ones self feel better, by hurting others, usually based on close-mindedness. I couldn't agree more. As I processed the precious details of Whitney's funeral, I began to see what I missed...

We don't really know yet what caused Whitney's death. The autopsy will show, but for her loved ones, I'm not sure it matters... Whatever the cause, she was loved. Her loved ones know she suffered beyond words, but they can attest to the fact that with each ordeal, she went back to her Lord & Savior. She always packed her tattered Bible in her suitcase & apparently knew its words well. Her sister-in-law  said that with each struggle, Whitney said, "However the Lord fixes me, I will be satisfied." I want to live those words myself.

Not that long ago, I struggled with forgiving someone who had hurt me deeper than I knew possible. I didn't see this story ending the way it did, & my heart was shattered. It affected every fiber of my being, &  moving on was new territory for me. I wanted to forgive, but I couldn't forget. Every time the situation entered my mind, I felt physically ill. I said I'd forgiven, but I didn't trust myself. After all, the mere thoughts of the situation still made me wretch inside.

After a year of fighting my unforgiveness, I went to see my Pastor. I shared as much of "my mess" as I could, & I asked him how I could forgive. I knew  if I couldn't forgive, I would be held in bondage by this situation. I didn't want to live the rest of my life with bitterness in my heart. I wanted healing. The Pastor told me that we do not forgive on our own. Every time we are haunted, we go back to our Lord & Savior, & He will give us the grace to forgive. Wow! I was on the right track, but I was trying to do it on my own. I didn't know I needed a Savior (who died for my sins) to help me forgive. That was a profound moment for me.

So... as I look at Whitney's life now, I see a much deeper tormented side of her. I see a person who loved Jesus & needed Him with every fiber of her being. Every time she was haunted, she pulled out her tattered Bible & turned back to the Lord. My heart grieves for her.  None of us are any better than Whitney. We all need a Savior. Our struggles may not be the same, & they may not be on the front of every tabloid. However, our world is broken; our hurts are deep, & without Christ, I don't know how to breathe.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Trade Off

I look at a recent picture my daughter took. I feel as though I am fading. I don't really look like my precancerous self anymore. In fact, I'm not sure I am her. So much has changed in my life. It, of course, begins with the hair, the most noticeable change. Then there are other changes too. Some are less severe than others, & some are not fit to be mentioned in a blog.

I have spent a great deal of time on my couch since I began treatment. Chemo wasn't so bad; it just took the wind out of my sails. Physically, I went from riding my bike 10 miles a day, walking my beloved pooch, & going to Curves, to not being able to carry my purse up the stairwell. Sometimes when I reached the top, my heart was pounding. One day, I felt like my hips would break. They didn't.

Physical changes don't bother me too much. Some are more visible than others. Hair loss is obvious. How it changes your look! My fingernails scare me. 3 of them look as if they were slammed in my car door. Neuropathy is a constant companion. Sometimes my extremities are numb, tingle, & hurt all at the same time. How can this be? As for my reconstruction, I can live with that.

As for my heart, it is the same heart. I love just as I have always loved. However, I believe I have been temporarily stripped of my ability to love others as I used to. Being homebound & residing daily on my couch, limits my opportunities to put my love in motion. It will be awhile before I regain this privilege.

Then there is my mind... my thought processes, how I see the world, how I cope with my ever fading self.  My perspective is different. It's definitely in a new place, much more eternal. I actually like this perspective. It has its way of sifting through your priorities & allowing you to focus only on what you have to handle.

Relationships:  Some have faded, some have struggled, some have deepened. New ones have formed. I miss my friends & the joys we shared. I feel as though I have been snatched from this planet for a while, &  their lives continue. That's necessary. This journey I am on doesn't always include them. Words cannot describe what is going on inside of me.  If I could formulate it, I would.

My faith is in tact. It's holding up, & remains the one part of this journey I would never trade. So... when my hair grows back, & my body regains its strength, will my life come back? Will I be the precancerous picture of myself with the mind that lives in the recent photo that was taken?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

a new bond

Last night I made a new friend on FB.  I met her through a mutual friend. She sent me a beautiful message. She said that though we have the bond of breast cancer, we have an even greater bond, Christ. As always, this message came at just the right moment.  My eyes filled with tears, & I sat there in disbelief. I had to ponder these words. What wonderful words!

Breast cancer is a strong bond. When you meet someone on life's journey, & she has already taken your fork in the road, you have an instant bond. The specifics of your journey may differ, but so many of the emotions are the same. The fears are no longer imagined; they are real. You share an understanding that doesn't really need words. It's a knowing...

I had already looked at this new friend's FB pictures & read some of her blogs. I had heard some sweet things about her from our mutual friend. She is much younger than I am & has small children. She is walking a walk much more difficult than mine. From the beginning of my journey, I always thanked God for allowing me to raise my children without this cloud over my head.  I have nothing but admiration for her.

I am convinced the more difficult your walk, the closer you cling to Christ (if you know Him). I have to agree with my friend, our bond in Christ is so much greater than the strong bond we naturally have in fighting our fight. Without Christ, we would both be unable to live our daily lives with peace. Having Christ doesn't mean we don't have fears & that trials don't come our way which temporarily uproot our peace.

Having a relationship with Jesus Christ means that as we flail, as we cry, as our world is uprooted, as we face our unknowns, He will give us His grace to get through each second. We are never alone. We can cry out to Him while we face treatment, as our hairs fall out of our heads (or even begin to grow). We can cry out to Him when we are hurting, when we regret our own words, when we feel alone or forsaken.

Whatever we face, his grace gives us the strength for each moment. My friend & I can attest to this because we are on our journey, facing each day delicately, not knowing how many more we will have. But... we do know that God knows, & that is enough.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Yesterday was a sweet day. A friend/neighbor had just brought me home made candies & sat for a short visit. As she said her good-byes, I looked at the clock & realized I had two minutes left to call the doctor. I had a pending question on my mind. A question I wanted an answer to so I could address my further treatment plan.

I wish I had not picked up my phone & pressed CALL.  Prior to that moment I was thinking that I had the perfect day. My oldest came to spend the morning with me & brought with her a beautiful display of Valentine goodies. We laughed & shared sweet memories. My husband came home with heart shaped pizza & mushy card. He knows what  touches my heart. Flowers were unexpectedly delivered from a family I adore. The bouquet was complete with sparkly hearts. My niece sent me a "Surrounded by Love" angel, chocolates, & blessed me with a card that filled my eyes with tears. I just couldn't imagine a happier heart at that moment...

Then it happened. My world was shattered. The doctor refused to answer my question until my next visit. "But... wait... I need this information for the doctor I see first. " The reply..."Then have his office call me." The bottom line (according to me)... It doesn't matter that it is my life we are talking about, & I have just been removed from the equation. It doesn't matter that I have anxiety & have to wait for my next appointment. It doesn't matter that my mind will wander into unknown territory that is unhealthy for any mind. Nothing matters. Nothing I can say will achieve anything positive to help me find my answer. My words (at best) only stand to hurt me. I need to thank the nurse and say good-bye. So I did.

I called my oldest daughter & began to fall apart. I couldn't imagine what this response meant, & again I was helpless. I hated myself for casting a cloud on my daughter's Valentine's Day. My husband got up from his nap, & you could see the hurt in his eyes as he listened. I ate my heart shaped pizza feeling numb. He didn't even eat.

Slowly the truth began to seep in... This is our life. We have been through worse, & together, we will get through this bump. Maybe the doctor just wants to be able to look me in the eye & explain my options (to be sure I understand)?  Maybe it's her policy not to discuss such "things" over the phone?  Maybe she is in fact being kind?

My decision: #1  to hold onto my good news
                      #2  to realize this part of my life will never go away
                      #3  it's okay because it keeps me close to God

As the day came to a close, I knew our hearts were already beginning to mend. My middle daughter came home with a beautiful heart shaped cookie. Her timing was precious. The 3 of us ate the whole thing all the while remarking over it's deliciousness. Joy began to creep back into my heart.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To My Valentine...

Dear Valentine,

We met when we were only kids, 13 & 14. You caught my eye the first time I saw you (at a car wash). I remember going home with a giggle in my heart. I couldn't wait to see you again!  The next thing I knew... we ended up in Biology together. I sat right behind you. Even though the class was hard for me, it was okay, because you were there. I would get to see you, & my whole being would light up.

As Homecoming approached our Sophomore year, I hoped you would ask me to the dance. My best friend assured me you would. So... when somebody else asked me, I simply said, "I'm sorry I cannot go with you, I am waiting for someone else to ask me."  Finally, you asked me. When the keys got locked in the car that night, it was okay, because you were there.

The summer after our Senior year, you gave me a promise ring. You even wrote me a poem, "With this ring, I thee love."  I loved that ring, & more importantly, I loved you. But... what did I do?  I broke your heart. I broke up with you. It was not okay, but I was confused. I thought I knew what I needed. How wrong I was.

Several months later, we reconnected at my brother's wedding. I caught the bouquet; you caught the garter.  I had to ask, "Was this fate?" I wrote you a letter. My tears dripped onto the notebook paper. I invited you back into my life.  I promised that I meant my words & was sorry for taking you for granted.

With tears in your eyes, you had promised me you would wait for me. I was almost annoyed. I didn't want you to wait for me. I told you NOT to wait for me. But, you did! You welcomed me back with open arms, complete forgiveness, & plans for a future. My life would be okay, because you were there.

Soon we were married & had our first dog. I had a tough job. I was scared, but it was okay, because you were there. When I came home crying every night, you listened, & when I couldn't do it anymore, you said it was okay.  We had 3 daughters. Life was full. You worked long hours. We made mistakes. We celebrated small joys. My Dad got sick. I got sick. Our daughter had major surgery. We had 3 teenagers.  But it was okay, you were there.

Recently, you walked our second daughter down the aisle. This time, I was really sick. I wore a wig. I had 2 more chemo treatments to complete. The New Year would bring surgery. Uncertainties filled the air. We heard the words, "for richer, for poorer, in sickness, & in health..." Almost 30 years later, these words had new meaning.

During this illness, I have realized that if the shoes were reversed, I would not be okay. Without your presence, I am not okay. You have had to face the last 6 months, not knowing if your sweetheart would be there. That is not okay. I am thanking God for being the recipient of a miracle, simply, because we are not okay without each other.

Love,  Susie

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love is...

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always perseveres." 1Corinthians 13:1-7

Perhaps one of the most quoted & loved chapters of the Bible. Quoted at my wedding & my daughter's. Words to be memorized & followed. Words to live by... These words are not often disputed. This scripture passage provides us with a pure definition of love, not an easy one to imitate.

What does the imitation of this scripture look like in my life?  My college daughter calling me everyday to check on me. My son-in-law doing my laundry. My daughter bathing me & changing my dressings. My husband piercing his ear for my fight. My dog snuggling up next to me. People I don't even know praying for me. My son-in-law posting meaningful pics on my wall. My friend checking up on me through a text. My godson making a picture out of cupcake holders for me. Our Pastor being there for my surgery. Kind words spoken at just the right time. People dying their hair pink & getting pink feathers for my fight. My daughter getting a pink ribbon tattoo in my honor. I cannot even begin to tell you how this scripture has been demonstrated in my life.

Scripture says we are to love each other & that others will know us by our love. I hope that as others look into my life, they will see a picture of this scripture. I believe it is what makes the Christian life most attractive. Also, it's Valentine's Day, & I just couldn't help but saying what's on my mind.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Unexpected news!

It's been quite a week! I have missed my blogging, & I feel I have some significant things to tell you...

In an earlier blog, I wrote that I suffer from anxiety, my daily companion. In the past, when I came out of a medical procedure, I was always fearful & wimpy, usually crying. Last Monday, I awakened from a long & dreaded surgery in a completely peaceful state. The moment the nurse looked in my face & said "Wake up, Susie, you are in recovery," I felt connected completely to God. I was overcome with gratitude to be alive & not in immense pain.

Now, almost a week out of surgery, I look back at the past few months & rethink my expectations. My world has been full of uncertainties. I have learned to numb myself to get through unwanted procedures & to receive test results. My life has had more unpleasant experiences & unwanted tests since my diagnosis last August than I can count in my lifetime.

When faced with a  difficult appointment, I go to God, & ask Him, "How am I going to get through this?" The answer that always comes back to me is GRACE. I am convinced that God's grace can get you through anything, no matter how horrible. How does this work? For me, it begins with the asking (the admitting of fear). Next, I hear His voice reassuring me that His grace is sufficient. I have no trouble accepting His answer once I hear it. Then... I know, it's surrender, stop fearing & fighting, & just go with it, just trust.

So that has been my prayer these last few months... to trust Him, & not to fight His will for me. One puzzle I couldn't put together was if my life would glorify Him more in living or in dying. We all want a miracle, don't we? (for ourselves or for our loved ones)  From our point of view, a miracle glorifies God. We reach the bottom of our barrel, & God shows Himself as He heals us. That is the healing that occurs this side of Heaven that is tangible. Others can see it.

What about the healing that occurs in the lives of the person & his/her loved ones who are not physically healed in this life? As we all know, sometimes people don't receive the answers they request. They pray for physical healing but instead receive the grace to get them through their journey. I have come to peace with this being God's answer to my journey. I prayed that whatever the outcome, He would be glorified.

Yesterday... my unexpected results came by telephone. I was expecting the cancer to be in significantly more lymph nodes & possibly worse. For every 3 lymph nodes added to the count, your prognosis worsens. I was ready for this. We would deal with whatever news we got & continue this journey leaning on God & on each other. My results were not what I expected. There was no cancer found in any lymph nodes. 10 out of 10 were clean, no cancer. The tumor had shrunk from 1/2 dollar size to a spec of sand. I couldn't even process all of this good news! In the hospital, I celebrated the preliminaries in the middle of the night with a pepsi & a bag of chips, basking in my thankfulness. Now what do I do? I'm asking God that question. "Please, God, use me & let my life draw others closer to you."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This I know...

Today is Sunday morning, the day before my big, scary surgery. A few people have dared to look into my eyes & ask me how I am doing. I try not to dwell on it because sometimes it causes my heart to race. It's easy to let your fears get out of hand at a time like this. But... then I realize, some of my loved ones truly want to know. So... this blog is for my loved one who really want to know.

My emotions come & go. People (some I am close to, & others take me by surprise) have gone out of their way to express their heartfelt love for me.  I am so NOT alone on this journey. That makes a difference. If I could actually know & count the prayers that are being said on my behalf, I would be both humbled & overwhelmed!

I am not as concerned about the lymph node count as I was, because I know God is bigger than the number that is found. I just feel sorry for my husband having to be the one to process it first & tell me.
I know tomorrow will be such a long day for my family, & I wish I could be there to comfort them. It breaks my heart just thinking about it.

A dear friend told me I will awake from surgery feeling as though an elephant is resting on my chest. I am so glad she told me this. Otherwise, I think I might have thought I was dying. I don't look forward to the first few days after surgery because I don't know how I will react to the pain. I am hoping the pain medication will work for me.

Sometimes my mind even wanders to the future. First of all, will I make it through surgery? What if something goes wrong, & I don't wake up? Secondly (after I reassure myself I will awake), comes the grave question of what will the future hold? Will this cancer return? If so, where? How will I live my life with this uncertainty? Am I capable of living with joy knowing I will be be monitored until eternity?

I can only know that God's grace will be sufficient for each day. This I know & have experienced prior to this journey. I can count on it. I know that as Jesus carried His cross, God's grace took each step with Him. He knows my path & will walk it with me. Even when my family is not near, God never leaves me. This I know...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The joy of holding a grudge...

Have you ever had the joy of holding onto a grudge? It's quite satisfying. Most importantly, a grudge helps us feel better about ourselves. If we've been wronged, we have every right to be angry, hurt, or hardened.

Our grudges can result from small offenses to heavy duty hurt. They can be the result of something that was said behind our backs or to our face. Maybe someone doesn't agree with us or has hurt someone we love. Maybe we've been judged, rightly so or wrongly. Perhaps a promise has been broken, or we bought into a lie. We may have been excluded from a group of friends or betrayed by our loved ones. Whatever the case, we are scarred.

We do have a choice. We can hold onto that grudge that seems so justified or we can FORGIVE. We've been taught that we should forgive, but it certainly goes against our human nature. It does say in the Bible that we will be forgiven as we forgive others. How is forgiveness a choice when we are hurt beyond our imaginations?

Truth is... UNFORGIVENESS holds us in bondage to the person we cannot forgive. It fills our heart with bitterness & ties us to the one that scarred us. When we can't forgive, we can't have peace. We cannot truly move on & function wholly. We are robbed of our joy.

Sometimes forgiveness takes time & diligence.  No matter how hard we try, we continue to be haunted by our hurt. It is not within us to forgive on our own. We try & we try, but we can't seem to make our forgiveness last. I am thankful that when this happens to me, I can ask God to get the job done.  He can empower my heart to let go & heal. On my own, the possible is impossible.

Precious moments...

If this journey has taught me nothing else, it has given me opportunity to savor the moment. As a young adult, if I had something troubling me, I could not see past my worries to enjoy the present moment. I knew this was not the right way to live, but I honestly couldn't help myself. Little did I know that one day, I would find myself on an unresolvable journey.

Here are the moments I like to savor : a conversation with a loved one, nuzzling in my dog's neck (breathing in his doggie smell & feeling his softness on my face), going to bed at night with my husband & feeling safe in the crook of his arm, eating a milk chocolate malt ball & letting it melt in my mouth, basking in the sunshine on the beach, hearing God's still small voice, seeing a pretty pink rose, laughing at my husband's silly jokes, looking into my daughters' faces, seeing my son-in-laws love my daughters, reflecting on my childhood memories, watching a teen come to Christ...

All of these moments bring me joy that enables me to escape my difficult journey. When I take time to contemplate these treasures, I find myself in a quiet place  filled with indescribable contentment.  I have learned to savor these precious moments & to realize they are my mountaintops. These moments are not once-in-a-life time; they are close at hand. They come & go, & I don't have to travel to the ends of the earth to find them. They live in my heart, in my mind, & they continue to happen every day of my life.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A little pink

Today has been a very emotional day for me. My countdown to surgery is on... Monday morning early, just 3 days away. Every time I think about it, my heart begins to race. I try to focus on other things like what is going on in my daughter's lives, how cute my little Godson is, & how thankful I am for my beautiful friends.

Here is a list of some of the kindness I have received in the last few months: meaningful cards with beautiful words of encouragement, a handmade quilt, a devotion, pajamas, flowers, phone calls, a prayer shawl, a Christmas stocking, delicious meals, inspiring stories, & prayers beyond my ability to count.  I have been treated to lunch. I have been hugged more than I can say. People have taken time to share the kindest words I've ever heard.

Today, I went to my husband's place of work to receive prayer. All of his coworkers placed their hands on me & said the sweetest prayers. They brought tears to my eyes. Even my little Godson had his precious hand on me. I felt so comforted, cared for, & uplifted.

All of the women that work with my husband honored me by getting a pink streak of permanent dye in their hair or a pink feather. If I had hair, I would have joined in the fun!  Then my husband did the most loving thing he could have done. He did something he didn't want to do.  I might even say he did the unthinkable. He got his ear pierced with a pink earring.

I have asked him to do this for years. He has resisted for many reasons. I understood but still continued to badger him throughout our marriage. Today, in honor of my fight & JUST because he loves me, he got his ear pierced. I have no words to describe the meaning of his act of love. It makes me love him all the more. How is that even possible?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Photoshopping It

Long before there was photoshop, my mother photoshopped. I distinctly remember a picture she regretted because she thought it enlarged her waist line.  She  took a fine point sharpie & colored a centimeter or so off her middle. She was quite happy with the results.

Isn't this what we do in life? We let people get a glimpse of what we want them to see. We protect our image & don't let the world see who we really are. As a result, barriers are built, & we sometimes never break through the walls.

Why do we do this? I believe it's because we fear rejection. People are judgmental & love to "put their 2 cents in". We pay a big price for being ourselves. It hurts, & we begin to photoshop just another little piece out of our picture.

Sometimes, in our journey through life, somebody takes time to reinforce our fragile spirit, & we begin to see the picture God designed for us. We realize that rather than photoshopping our self portraits, maybe we should let God help us paint our picture. After all, he longs for us to prosper & has the original blueprint for our life.

Our Rescue

The other day I blogged about "A Faith that Stands." As I was in the car today, I thought about an important detail I left out of the picture. I wrote about Satan falling from Heaven & entering The Garden of Eden. I talked about how God gives us a choice, our love for Him is not robotic or forced.

I am thankful God gives us a choice. Have you ever tried to force anything on anyone?  It usually backfires. As a young child, I realized that I couldn't make someone like me. Growing up, I realized that I couldn't force my values on other teenagers.  As a mother, I experienced the importance of letting my children come to certain conclusions on their own. Even my dog doesn't like to be forced to do something against his will. It just isn't loving to force our wills, our ways, our thinking on other people. The result is resentment.

So what detail did I forget? God's redemptive plan. Yes, God allowed Satan to enter the world because He knows that true love comes from the heart. If we didn't live under this curse that God allowed, if our lives were always peaceful & tidy, then... of course, we'd have little trouble believing that God is good. We would have no roadblocks, no heartache, no suffering,  & ... probably no depth. Our faith would not mean much.

When God allowed Satan to enter our world, He did the most loving thing He could do. He gave us a choice.  He already had a plan from the very beginning (even before His fallen angel was created). His redemptive plan, His son, was with Him from the very beginning. He is for the least of these, for the most powerful,  & for everyone in between.

What is a redemptive plan? It's a rescue, a deliverance, a repurchase (as of something sold). In short, God had a plan from the start, so that every human being had an escape, the ability to find peace in a broken world, a way to spend eternity with Him. He created His only son for that purpose. If that's not love, what is?