Thursday, May 31, 2012


The other side of the coin is a different place to be. I used to be the one who was there for others, & now I'm not.  They are there for me. It's certainly different to be the recipient rather than the giver. This seems to be the case in all of my relationships. I feel as though I do very little for others. I miss the privilege I once had of being there for my loved ones & friends, & even people I hardly knew.

Today, my friend & I ran into someone who called me a celebrity. I was shocked because I've never seen myself in this light. I then had to ponder the fact that my my fame (so to speak) has come through having cancer. Wow! What a way to achieve celebrity status (if that's really the case).  When this journey began, I knew from the start that I hoped God would use my journey to reach others. I'm sure I didn't know what that entailed, & I still don't.  Being known for having cancer is strange because sometimes it is still surreal. I know that seems ridiculous. How could it be surreal when I actually feel the pain both physically & emotionally?

Another odd fact is that I've spent most of my life trying to be a wall flower. When I lead a little girl's group at church, I did all I could to steer clear of being infront of the church. Growing up, I had anxiety, & honestly, my whole body shook when I was nervous or had to do something in the public eye. As a young adult, I found it difficult to even voice my opinion in a Sunday School class. At my husband's work parties, I did my best to blend in with the crowd. The last thing I ever wanted to be was noticed.

When I became a youth leader, God changed all of this. He convicted me with so much passion that I was able to speak up for His calling & do whatever it took to follow through with my convictions. This was a new place for me. It was exciting & fun. I loved being used in this way, & I have very few regrets. I loved hearing from God & seeing Him move. It was my honor to serve in this way. So many days I was in over my head, & He always provided for me. He gave me the words, the help, the ideas, the guts, the worship leader... whatever I needed, He never let me down.

So today as I was talking to my sweet friend who took me to my appointment, I realized that I can still say the same. Specifically, over the last 3 weeks, my needs have been great, & my return, very low. I don't think I've done anything for anyone for 3 whole weeks. I've been in survival mode. I can feel myself edging back to humanity. There is light at the end of my long, dark tunnel. The point is... in my need, God has provided (even before I knew I had a need).

I learned today how He laid it specifically on my friend's heart to help me, long before radiation began. My radiation was delayed 3 long weeks. I now know it was so my youngest daughter could be here to carry me through the hardest days. Again, I am in awe of how much my God cares about my daily needs. Yes... He's allowed me to suffer, but He hasn't left me to do it on my own. He's provided for my every need. When I've cried out to Him, he's answered before the words were even formed on my tongue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Today I had a much needed meltdown. It was a Godsend because it cleansed my head of this terrible cold. I believe there is healing in crying, & I think I was in need of some healing. My tears fell on the shoulder of my youngest daughter. I feel so bad she had to be the recipient, but I have no doubt that she is God's provision for me during this very stressful time.

When I think back to how my radiation was delayed, I can now only be thankful. I don't think I would have survived these last few weeks physically or emotionally without my own personal angel. Today, I finally crumbled, & she calmly drove down the highway as I wept. My words were heartfelt & filled with anguish. Her's were heartfelt too, but filled with comfort.

Sometimes, plummeting to the bottom of your barrel is a good thing, because the only way out, is up. I don't know how long my head will stay out of the barrel, but at least for now, it's peeking over the rim. I am ready for my skin to heal, to stop oozing, & to be able to wear my summer clothes. I am ready to be off pain medicine & to drive again. I am ready to get some exercise. I am ready to feel human.

Friends don't recognize me. I can't help but say it's strange when your friends grasp for a name as they try to figure out who you are. Sometimes, if you are in a hurry, it's convenient. I can go almost anywhere in town unnoticed if I chose. If I don't look people in the eye & smile, they generally don't see me. It's like having a permanent disguise.

People have begun to ask me what is next? Truth is, I have no idea. I don't know of any big plans for monitoring me, but I'm sure I will be examined regularly for a few years & have blood work. I'm forever done with mammograms since I had a double mastectomy. I won't miss them! I have Herceptin treatments through October, & I will take my clinical trial drug & tamoxifen for 5 years. Other than that, I guess it's back to living life, although I don't really know what that will mean. Life has forever changed for me; I will never be the same. My faith has more depth, & my perspective is different. When I look back a year, I shudder at the things that have happened to me. When I look forward a year, I'm paralyzed. Just being honest, it's hard to take the next step.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Uncle Walt

Today, we remember... and I must take time to reflect on the life of a man who impacted my life many times over. I believe he was a part of my life from the day I was born until the day he passed into the glorious gates of Heaven where he truly belongs. He is my beloved Uncle Walt. He served in the Navy, so this being Memorial Day, I thought I'd take a moment to blog about not only my favorite uncle, but one of my favorite people in life.

Uncle Walt brought joy to every occasion. I don't believe he took life (or himself) too seriously, yet at the same time, he had a deep respect for life & others (if that makes sense). He even saved my life a few times as a child. The one instance I will never forget took place on Thanksgiving Day. I'm thinking I was about 16, but I could have been a bit older. For some silly reason (unbeknownst to myself even now), I decided to fling ice-cream on my spoon across the living room. Of all things, it landed right between my dad's eyes.

I was stunned speechless. I think we all were. My dad, of course, was wiping the ice-cream from his brow, deciding how he would handle such humiliation. Uncle Walt saved the day with his laughter. I somehow escaped retribution, & I know I owe it all to Uncle Walt. As a child, I always knew I could look to him to cheer me up. He always had a kind word, a silly little joke, or  knuckle rub for my head. He always cared about what I had to say & reacted in a way which I knew I was heard.

He & my dad were good friends. He was good for my dad. When my dad's temper would boil, Uncle Walt had a way of seeing the humor in whatever the case & would often help him simmer down. They had a brotherly bond, & were always there for each other. He was our family barber. He gave good advice on managing money as he was an accountant. He did the treasury books for many years for his church. He was an active Lion's Club member. He was a faithful man.

He loved his precious wife, my beloved Aunt Betty, & that was always apparent. I think he always made her laugh too. They married young & had 2 beautiful daughters. He was my mom's little brother & her best friend. Just recently, I asked her who her best friend was, & she said her brother, Walter. She adored her little brother, & I don't think she's been the same since he left this earth. A piece of her heart was forever taken that day.

Uncle Walt is missed for many reasons. His joy overflowed. He knew how to connect with people & to read them. He was perceptive & never thought too highly of himself. He was a confident man & that came across in how he treated others, with love & respect. He didn't do things for show but rather because he was gifted in certain areas & could offer his expertise. He had a good sense of what made others tick. Occasionally, he'd take just a little joy in pushing their buttons. However, he knew when to back off, & his timing was everything.

I can't help but smile as I remember him. His presence represented a sense of security & a sense of fun. He enjoyed the simple things in life, mainly his family. I have a feeling he found a special place in each person's heart he knew, as he has mine. I believe his greatest strengths were his sense of humor, his interactions with others, & his love for his family & friends. I am so glad I got to be his niece, to grow up across the street from him, & to have him teach me not to take life (or myself) too seriously.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I look forward...

I've watched so much TV today & sat on my couch so much, I think I will have bed sores to add to my collection of wounds. Not really, but I am in need of fresh air. As for the TV, I've pondered some interesting thoughts today. I watched an interview Oprah did with Carrie Underwood & her husband. He gave her The Purpose Driven Life when they began dating & they worked through it together. He said he loves that book.

I remember starting that book a few years back when it was first published. In truth, I was so busy at the time, I didn't have time to read it. I also didn't question my purpose at that time. I was a youth leader. I felt called to the position, & I loved it. God filled my head with ideas so fast I couldn't keep up with myself, let alone the kids. I didn't really have enough time or energy to ever feel caught up, but I always felt compelled to do whatever it took.

I can't help but marvel at where my life is today in comparison to just a few short years ago. Wow! Will I ever regain the strength, the energy, the drive I once had? I look at my friends now who are healthy, & I am amazed at the things they accomplish in a day. I look at pictures of myself & I wonder who that person is.  I can't believe the scars she bears & what she's been through. I can't believe she's a cancer patient. I can't believe this has happened to her. Sometimes her friends don't even recognize her.

Sometimes I don't know what to make of my situation. I see it wearing on my loved ones, & I'd love to go back in time & proceed without these chapters. However, that is not going to happen. I know I am rounding the bend, getting through treatments & surgery, & I just need some time to heal. However, I've had a few setbacks, & psychologically, I think it's hard for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. These setbacks have darkened my tunnel.

I stand in awe of people who live with a purpose, a purpose to love others. My purpose is still the same, just on a different kind of scale, & a different way of life. I have endured some strange things over the last 9 months. It's changed my view of who I am, not in my heart, & not in my purpose, but possibly in how I will live out my purpose in the months that follow. Right now, I am limited, but I know that won't last forever. I look forward to healing & rebuilding my strength. I look forward to loving others.

I don't like the word intentional.

So begins another day... I went to Prompt Care yesterday afternoon to have my eye looked at. It's red, feels like it has something in it, & burns occasionally. Apparently, it has an irritation that hopefully will respond to drops. If not, I will see an eye doctor. We will go from there...

I wasn't expecting anything more than pink eye.  If you've followed my blog, you know this isn't the first time that my expectations have been met unexpectedly. Keeping things in perspective & my focus on others is essential right now. Becoming self absorbed & having a pity party seems useless. It's nothing we can't take care of, it's just a little more than I had in mind. It adds one more concern to my list & makes me feel like I have another hurdle (though a small one) to cross.

It might seem like I am making too much out of this. However, the fact that I'm already recovering  physically from radiation right now & fighting a serious cold certainly contribute to the overall picture.I have become increasingly aware of how the body, mind, & spirit interconnect & effect one's healing process. It seems that when one part suffers, the other part cannot help but hurt. Our bodies are delicately made, & sometimes we never know what impact one part has on the other.

I don't like the word intentional but I think I have to be intentional right now to face my issues. I must force myself to claim the fact that there are brighter days ahead. I must realize that everyone gets bad colds, & many people have multiple issues (much worse than mine). I need to focus on the fact that radiation is over, & my wounds eventually will heal. Also, I have found that one's body frequently adjusts to new issues. That too takes time. Lastly, I must face the spiritual part of my situation. A nagging thought keeps popping into my brain trying to tell me that all this is because there's something about myself I haven't faced.

If this be the case, I want to search my heart & know what I need to get from this. I don't want to miss something the Lord would have me learn. As my days pass, & my situation moves slowly in & out of its phases, I do have new found empathy for others. As the unexpected continues to catch me off guard & throw my emotions into a tail spin,  I have to go back to the basics & claim them. I know I rest in the palm of God's hand, & nothing can snatch me from His mighty hand.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Today has been a slow Saturday. My daughter went on a very long bike ride, & it's been very quiet in my house (except for Otis' barking for attention). My husband has caught my nasty cold & is resting. I feel there are brighter days ahead, but right now they are slow in coming. I am also very mindful that this is a period of physical healing for my body. It's been ravaged by my treatments, & I believe it now has the blessing of healing (just around the corner).

I've been thinking a lot lately about my Dad. I don't know exactly where this is coming from, but I always enjoy my thoughts of him. He was a rugged man, grew up on a farm, & was kind of self-made. He graduated 8th grade in a small country school. He was first in his class of 3, made up of himself & 2 cousins.  His childhood stories consisted of antics like the time he rode a cow into a barbed wire fence. Not the most brilliant thing he ever did. When he was a young adolescent, he wanted to prove that boys could do things that girls could do, so he cross stitched a robin on a cloth. I now have it framed.

He also had a few sad stories like the time his mother tied him to the kitchen table while she did the farming. I can't go into the details, but it was traumatic. He somehow grew up & became a high school math teacher. He moved & met my mother. She played the piano at the church his landlord attended. Together, they had 3 children; I have 2 big brothers. There weren't many books on parenting back in his day. I really don't know what kind of role models he had in this department. I believe his family had barely the necessities but were hard working.

My dad loved people. He was a servant, & his serving was truly serving (nothing that looked pretty). He did the jobs others wouldn't even consider. His serving received no public recognition, & that was beside the point as far as he was concerned. He was morally a good man, except for his mouth & some of the words that spewed out of it on occasion. As a child, I once made him a detailed list of the words I never wanted to hear come out of his mouth, especially in front of my friends. I told him he would pay me a quarter every time he slipped up. My dad was not a man to be bossed around by his little girl, but for some reason he agreed. I accumulated a lot of quarters, but he got the point & cleaned up his mouth around my little girlfriends.

My dad was a faithful man. He too was hard working. He loved to work in his yard, grow big tomatoes, & water the grass. We camped in the summer & always took long road trips to far off places.  He had a hot temper, but for some reason, he could never bring himself to swat his little girl. He always told me I was special & somehow managed to make me believe it. He tucked me into bed every night with a glass of milk. He checked under my bed regularly to make sure there were no monsters hiding out. He prayed with me every night & assured me that I would not die before I woke, have a bad dream... We went through this ritual for years.

He had a few core beliefs. One of them he repeated often: Do right, be right, & everything will be alright, is all!  For years I believed this motto. In fact, I believed right up until the day he died. And then... I had to question it. This good man, this servant, this faithful husband & loving soul, this once big brawny man who had such zest for life was reduced to a very sickly state. Cancer & its treatments took their toll on his once healthy body. He spent years shaping young lives, protecting the hurting, & serving the elderly. He didn't get everything right, but he did the best he knew. Still... his motto let him down. It served him well most of his life, but in the end, everything wasn't alright. He died too young, & his grandchildren missed out on what would have been one of their deepest joys, one of their anchors in life. He still lives on in me, & I know I have a lot of him in me, & I am so glad he is my Father.

Friday, May 25, 2012

...a few of my favorite things

a cold coke in a can / new jammies from my friend / my soft, pretty, & curious kitty / an ice-cream sundae with  hot fudge & marshmallow topping / my sweet & affectionate Lab with his wagging tail / Gotye on the radio / kindness /a gentle breeze/ time spent with loved ones / flowers / hair without a hat/ mint melt-aways / friendship / cards in the mail/ babies/ sunshine against blue sky / laughter /  hugs  

This morning (as has been my norm lately), I awoke with a need to find relief.  My pain medicine wore off  as I slept, & getting myself moving is both hard & necessary. It's hard because I don't feel good. It's necessary because it's the only way I will feel better. Once I get freshened up, some food in my stomach, & the pain medicine kicks in, I begin to have a new frame of mind. I begin to feel human & even wonder what I can accomplish (laundry, dishwasher, etc.)  My goals are small but worthy & helpful in keeping a home running smoothly.

My sweet friend took my daughter & me a few days ago to get my hair cut & colored. She knew I was feeling a bit inhuman, & I think she made it her goal to help revive my spirit.  At the time, I just went along with it. I don't think I was even capable of comprehending how much it would make me feel rejuvenated. Even though mornings are rough, I can't get over the fact that I now have hair. Yes... it's extremely short, but it's enough. Each day, I get to put a little gel on it & spike it up. I even get to use a bit of hairspray & slightly shape it. And... the best part, no more hats! I can now look up without the brim of my hat shading my view. I can feel the wind blowing on my head. My hair still has a little kick to it. It hasn't lost it's personality.

This beautiful friend of mine; she also did something else for me. She knew I was struggling with what to wear around my house because of the bad sore under my arm. She went to her favorite store & bought me all kinds of pretty feminine pajamas. They are so pretty & so soft. They are an answer to prayer. And the best part... they wrap me in love because my sweet friend cared to pamper me. So as my day started off kind of rocky, I got up & did my usual thing, but when I got to my new lovely pajamas, I basked in the love with which they were given to me. They turned my day around.  It's because of them, I began thinking about my favorite things, all things which are never usually too far from my reach.

written for: Holly

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Normally I would throw my hands up in the air & shout.

Today, a very dear friend took me to radiation, yes... my last radiation. She prayed for me before & during the session. When I came out, we celebrated with smiles & hugs. I laughed because normally I would throw my  hands up in the air & shout "WooHoo", but today, I couldn't do either. I can't shout because I have no voice (from my cold), & I can't throw my hands up because my skin is too sore. We thought about a happy dance, but in all honesty, I have 2 left feet. So... just overflowing with thankfulness would be the best celebration for today. And that, we couldn't stop! It was spontaneous, from the heart, & like a waterfall.

How blessed I was to have a caring friend with me. She sat through another doctor appointment with me. I always love hearing her "take" on what the doctor says. He looked at my awful skin today & marveled at his handiwork. I truly have never seen him smile so big. He raved in his own quiet way how the soreness of my skin was just what he hoped to see. I guess I can only be thankful for my ouchies. As for my friend, she seemed to be fascinated with the joy he found in my pain. He did apologize for hurting me, but I think his joy ran as deep as my pain.

Afterwards, we headed for some lunch. Even though my voice is gone, I didn't want to miss out on conversation with my beautiful friend. I would figure out a way to communicate. I've had some things on my mind, & I really wanted her opinion. Somehow, I managed to get my words out, & through her, I found the peace I was seeking. She validated my feelings, & that's all I needed. Now, I am ready to move on...

So, as my hair grows back in, I rejoice. The curl is even coming back. No more hats! It's time for the body to heal. I have Herceptin treatments to endure through October, but they are pretty mild. So... where do I go from here? Truth is, I don't know. I don't know how to resume life after a cancer diagnosis & 9 months of concentrated treatments. Some moments, I'm still in shock. It's still surreal. This wasn't supposed to happen to me. Apparently, I had that part wrong. It has happened, & I believe I rest more in the palm of God's hand than I ever have. I think I will just take one step at a time, & see where we (He & I) end up.

Dedicated: to Vicki

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How in the world can suffering bring you closer to God?

How in the world can suffering bring you closer to God? It's hard enough for a person who has no relationship with Christ to understand, but I never got it myself until recently. If you ever have the time & the guts, sit down & make a timeline of your life. Plot out the significant events (both good & bad). As you evaluate your life, you will see that you have become who you are through your trying times.

Of course, we would all love to be spared suffering. Usually, that is our prayer. We want to be healed, the sooner the better. We don't want our loved ones to suffer. It is especially unbearable when it is our child, our spouse, our parent, or our sibling. What we do with our suffering makes all the difference in the world. Not too long ago, I realized that we have a choice in how we react to our suffering. I'm sure my suffering has not peaked & that it pales in comparison to others'. I'm also sure I have suffered.

Prior to my journey with cancer, I think I assumed that when we suffer, we do just that... we suffer (& nothing else). As of late, my suffering has an added dimension. I have found that this new dimension is effective in healing every aspect of my being. I've always believed that God is omnipresent (always present). To me, this means... I always have access to Him. What I didn't fully understand was being utterly alone, in pain, overcome with sad thoughts, & turning fully to Him, not because He is my only resort, but because He is my choice.

I don't mean to scare anyone who reads my blog that will one day have radiation. What's happened to me, happens. It's not abnormal for radiation, but it is not the norm either. I think my stars had to be properly aligned (if you know what I mean). It's the result of the angles of the radiation, the closeness of the rays skimming across my skin, the susceptibility of my skin to the rays, the location of my tumor, etc. I know many people who have endured radiation with much less ado than myself.

10 years ago, I began a journey with Ulcerative Colitis. It's onset was traumatic & extremely painful. Back then, I suffered differently. I prayed for healing. Even though Paul & other writers of the Bible wrote about suffering with gratefulness, I never understood & could never bring myself to ask
God "to bring the rain." I grasped that God was with me as I suffered, but I was unable to fathom the part that He actually blessed us in & through our suffering.

I'll be honest... I'm still not selfless enough to ask God to cause me to suffer so I can grow closer to Him. I think that takes maturity I don't possess. However, I can deeply thank God for my suffering, & what He has taken time to personally reveal to me. I am grateful for this new depth in my relationship with Him & the truths I can claim. Tomorrow, when I lie down on the radiation table one last time, I hope I will begin my last treatment with thankfulness...

As the technicians add one last insult to my burned & blistered skin... as I stretch my arm out & stinging pain runs through my wound & permeates the surrounding area... as they roll my body to position me, & tell me not to tense my sore arm... as I lie alone on a hard table with my head turned to one side stripped of my gown on the other side... as my airway closes from my sore throat, & my nose is stuffed... as my wound drips with ooze... as they remind me to air it out (which is all I do when I am home)... as I close this door, I hope I will keep close the treasures God has given me.

when the daughter becomes the mom...

I haven't blogged for a few days because I've been sick. Yesterday, I spiked a fever over 103 & was down for the count. Cooling wet rags, pain relievers, & slushies. I just sat on my couch & faded in & out of my surroundings. My fever is down; it broke in the middle of the night. My throat is sore & doesn't look so good. I will see a doctor this afternoon. Need to rule out strep.

My underarm wound is continuing to deepen in color. It's not pretty & will take some time to heal. Nothing seems to help, no relief from gel packs, creams, or the like. Pain reliever is a necessity & lots of air. Tomorrow is my last radiation & for that I am grateful. I have learned so much from this segment of my journey. Good can come from the worst, & God will see you through each moment. I've spent a lot of time alone with Him on the radiation table, & I love Him more with each new wave of pain.

My baby daughter is leaving for South Africa in a little over a week. I have never felt closer to her, & I will miss her. However, I am at peace because I believe she is doing what God would have her do, & I am in awe of her. I will pray for her daily as she will be gone for 2 long months. I will anxiously await seeing her beautiful eyes when she returns & hearing of the impact of this amazing opportunity. I know she will fall deeply in love with the children she serves.

God has given me this sweet month with her. I believe He orchestrated the timing of her stay at home to provide for my needs during radiation. I feel bad she has to be sucked into my "mess", but I cannot help but be grateful for how she has cared for me during this very trying time. I remember when I became the mother to my mom. It was a strange feeling. It was when my dad was sick, & she needed help. She was a bit older than I am now.

Well... now the tables have turned, & my baby daughter has gracefully stepped in to "mother" me. She's been my chauffeur (as driving on pain medication is not a good idea). She's accompanied me to countless appointments, sat with me, & been my second pair of ears. Her advice is sound, better than my own. She has tenderly navigated making me feel whole again. Tears come to my eyes as this is such a vulnerable area (the loss of ones femininity & no longer feeling human). Last night she made an ice-cream run because that was the only thing that sounded good to me. She has watched movies with me (while I slept), & awakened me to take pain medication. She's also grocery shopped & cooked our meals. All this, she's done with a loving heart. I don't know what I expected, but I never knew how she would touch my heart.

Monday, May 21, 2012

making sense of it all...

This morning's Daily Bible verse's commentary: It is the pain that we suffer in this life that uniquely qualifies us to speak to others (David Whitehead). He is talking about the Apostle Paul & how his suffering equipped him to minister to others. In truth, many ministries grow out of sorrow. Sometimes the only good that seems to come from suffering is how God uses it to minister to others.

As I was positioned on the radiation bed this morning, I recalled my early morning devotion. I have only 3 days left. However, the pain will increase for a week from the finish, & the skin will continue it's break down. I feel like a knife is permanently embedded under my arm. Last night, I didn't think I could bear another day.

I got home from my weekend, & suddenly my pain reached a new level. I didn't think I would be able to sleep or undergo any more treatments. To my surprise, I did sleep (all night). When I awoke, the pain was still there, but I think my body had adjusted to it. A new thought entered my head: Even though the pain worsens every day, I am one day closer to healing. 

I am ready for the countdown. The boost (a 4 day treatment) actually takes longer than my previous treatments. For some strange reason, I had it in my head it would take less time. Stretching out my arm hurts. Being repositioned hurts. Having wet rags placed over my wound hurts. Nothing helps, except, perhaps... the pain medicine takes the edge off.

I went quickly to prayer as the radiation begun... Dear God,  If you can use my pain, please do. If I must hurt so that someone else might be reached for you, I will. If somehow this pain & suffering qualifies me to speak to others, give me the words. If the uncertainty of my circumstances makes me a vessel, then I can do this.

That's all I've got. I'm still shocked that this is my story. If I just live it out & don't dwell on the fact that it's me, I do better. When I come face to face with the fact that I have breast cancer & consider the details of my treatment, especially now, I scare myself. I don't know why I can't seem to move past the surreality of it all. People all around me are hurting. Why not me?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

cinnamon toast & Ninja Turtles

Reminiscing has its value. I spent a few hours today with my beloved mom sharing memories from the past. My oldest daughter said it best, "This has been quite entertaining." Honestly, I wish the day could have lasted twice as long. My mom is 82 now. Hearing her spontaneously crack a joke & laugh like there is no tomorrow warms my heart.

I loved having my daughters hear her take on life. She was a sweet grandma to them growing up. They affectionately called her Nana. She would have given her right arm for them. She buttered them countless pieces of cinnamon toast. She was always on their side. I'm surprised she didn't wear a hole in the highway coming to see them in their special events when they were little.

She always took time to get to know their passions. She learned all the Ninja Turtle's names. She lovingly came to babysit when needed. Fixing their hair was not her strength, but that didn't keep her from trying. When they misbehaved & fought, she pretended not to notice. I don't know how she didn't lose her mind when we came to visit.

She's the one they called when they lost a tooth. Birthdays & Christmases were extra special because of her. She always knew their report card grades & loved reading them bedtime stories. When they needed to interview someone for a history lesson, she got the honor. She secretly cried for them when they broke up with their boyfriends. When they were sick or in surgery, she was a phone call away.

The best thing she gave them was her affection, her undivided attention. From the day they were born, she loved them & bonded with them. She taught me how to care for them. She gave us all the gift of spontaneity & laughter. Today, as we reminisced, I couldn't help but treasure every word she spoke, every chuckle she shared, every sparkle of her eyes. I felt like today was a bonus day, a day for my daughters to see my mother's character, to see what makes her tick. I thank God for today & for every day spent with this precious soul.

nothing short of a miracle...

Life is a choice, & it doesn't stop for one person. The sun sets & rises, & until Christ comes,  I believe this is how it will be. The choice is in how we react to our circumstances. Sometimes they are not what we would chose, but still life goes on...

This past week has been a true mix of highs & lows. The highs definitely revolve around my loved ones (both family & friends). The lows are a result of physical pain caused by an oozing sore in my left armpit. Each day it grows in intensity & perimeter. Surely, it will soon reverse.

Each day I have a choice: to get up off my couch, find the most comfortable thing I can wear, & join my loved ones in living life. It's simple: if I stay on my couch, my pain engulfs me. If I take pain medicine & celebrate life by living it, the pain comes & goes. And so it goes... with my emotions.

Taking the focus off me, makes my joy overflow. It's so much better than my alternative! Yesterday, I joined my loved ones in The Color Run. I didn't actively participate, but I was the self appointed photographer. Pictures are my passion, & I had a blast.  What a celebration of color, of beauty, of life!

At one point I stood behind a young man with an amazing tattoo on his shoulder, Each moment is an experience. Such words could not be more fitting for The Color Run & for my life. As I said in a recent blog, I have become just the opposite of my earlier years. I used to think I needed my stars aligned to be able to enjoy life. I don't really think my stars will ever truly be aligned in this earthly life, but I thank God, He's enabled me to enjoy each moment regardless of my circumstances. For me... that's growth & nothing short of a miracle.

Friday, May 18, 2012

another soul...

I just found out that another soul, a very dear one at that, is on this awful journey. His fight began in February. I ran into his wife today, & she shared their sad news. I felt like my words were empty...

Of course his specifics are different, but his similarities are all too familiar. His wife is his helpmate, & she is in it for the long haul. She's studied up on this vicious disease, & she is going to fight back on his behalf with all her heart. His sons are on board too, doing all they can to accompany their beloved parents on this walk of life with so many uncertainties.

If you've followed my blog, you know I get angry at cancer every time I hear it is claiming another person's life. I don't necessarily mean taking his/her life, but definitely causing it to swerve off the intended path. Suddenly, plans come to a screeching halt. The victim is hit in the face time & again with cold wet rags. The info is overwhelming. It's surreal. There is no escape.

The details are too painful to hear. It is this pain that causes the experience to be surreal. The patient has to go into a mode of self protection to be able to process the news. It's too painful to hear that you have a disease that knows no bounds. It is seemingly random at times. No one is immune to it, not even the person who succumbed to yearly screenings & tried to live a healthy life.

Further tests & treatments begin ASAP. Sometimes needed scans are denied. The health team looks at the whole puzzle, at least as many of the pieces that are present. Decisions are made without a crystal ball. Some of them turn out to be in the patient's best interest; some of them don't. We only have today. There are no guarantees.

So... another precious family has been stripped of their security. Their rug has been pulled right out from under them. They are knee deep in treatments. In the blink of an eye, life has changed, never  to return to its normal state. The patient fights the fight. His family fights the fight.

My only words: Remember God has the whole picture. He holds each of you in the palm of His hand. He knows what's best. We don't.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

read between the lines

Sometimes one has to read  between the lines to find God's presence. This week has been a tough week. As we headed to the zoo on Sunday, I was so grateful to do something fun on a beautiful day (partly because I knew this week would have its difficulties). It used to be hard for me to enjoy anything in life when I knew trouble was on the horizon. I am just the opposite now. I cherish each precious moment regardless of what's next.

I've found that time spent with loved ones is the best medicine of all. Laughter is priceless & good for the soul. Being with loved ones takes my mind off my troubles & fills my heart with warmth. Last night, 2 of my daughter's friends came to visit me. I've known them since they were tiny, & an hour spent with them was pure joy. I loved hearing their summer plans & what they like best about school. Truly, I'm honored that they took time for me.

Last night, one of my dear friends went in search of a little hand size fan because she thought it would help dry out my wound. She delivered it late at night & brought me a cherry coke today & sat for an hour. She always makes me laugh. In fact, I recently envisioned the 2 of us on the front of a Hallmark card in our elderly years. Yes, quite a sight! As she left, I shared my deepest thoughts with her, & she gave me her best for the moment. I felt like she was God's provision.

I have a new friend, someone I've become very close to in a short amount of time. She took me to my radiation today, accompanied me to my doctor visit, & then treated me to some new foods for lunch. Yes... I believe she is God's provision too. It's hard to go to radiation knowing it's going to increase your pain. It's like entering a torture chamber. However, knowing my new friend was taking me somehow made it okay. Hearing her insights & knowing that she perceived things as I did was affirming.

I have been given tomorrow off. The area under my arm will no longer be radiated. I will receive my boost (5 more treatments). I've been assured I've gotten enough to do the job. I can only trust as I have found this whole process confusing from the start. My wound will take some time to heal, 2 to 3 weeks, & I think it will get worse before it gets better. As I've said before, when you factor in pain & fear, it changes your outlook, not for the better.

As I review the past few days, my sorrow is diminished by my friends. They have been my earthly comfort. They have eased my burdens & calmed my fears. They have provided diversion from my misery. I believe they are God's provision along with my youngest daughter who has stood by my side since she's been home. As I prayed my way through today's radiation, I felt God saying...I am here with you as you suffer. I will not leave you. I needed His presence, & it made everything okay.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

pain & fear

Three, two, one... finish! That's the number of sessions left in my full blown radiation treatments. I may have an additional five (called a boost), but that depends on my skin & the doctor's decision. Yesterday was a particularly hard day for me. Pain & fear describe it in the nutshell. Pain from the terrible sore under my arm & fear that it was becoming infected. It is literally a weeping wound, & causing me to weep. Even though my survivor friends were spared this agony, I kind of sensed from the beginning that it would be my lot. I think in his own sweet way, the radiologist oncologist tried to prepare me. It's not like I haven't been spared other difficulties my friends have faced. I have been spared much. Cancer is sort of a mixed bag of treatments & side effects; a medical roulette if you will.

The good news is that with each day, I am closer to being done. The bad news is that with each day, my skin is further insulted, & it will be probably 3 to 4 weeks before it recovers. So... I think I must switch gears to endure the pain & get to the end. This afternoon, I took my first heavy duty pain medication since my surgery. So far, no ill effects. Pain medication scares me. It frequently makes me ill. If that turns out to be the case, I would rather endure the pain than feel ill.

As for my activity level, it has taken me back to my couch & being a potato. My main goal is to get air to my wound. At least I am comforted in my own home by the company of my animals. It's been a Godsend to have my youngest daughter home for a month. She makes me smile & is very caring. It's amazing how pain & fear work together to beat down both your physical & emotional state.

Today's daily Bible verse again seems tailor made to my circumstances: "And the God of all  grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you & make you strong, firm  & steadfast." (1Peter 5:10)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Ouch! This radiation is literally burning a hole under my arm. It's so red & sore & somewhat scary looking! I have at least 4 more treatments to go, possibly with a boost (which means an additional 5). I am determined to do ALL of them! I want the peace of knowing, I did my part, everything I could possibly do.

Once you receive a diagnosis, you backtrack. You wonder what you would do differently in your life if you had a do over. What were my vices, & how did they contribute to my cancer? Yes, it's water under the bridge, & you don't have a do over. It is what it is.... but still, you just can't help but wonder. I have a few things that haunt me.

I remember on our vacation last July (a month before my diagnosis) noticing a slight change that should have triggered me to see a doctor. However, I simply never thought anything of it. I also remember something more significant, but it immediately went away. It was a color change. Since it quickly returned to normal, I figured it was nothing. This happened sometime between my vacation & my diagnosis. I know I was in my own bathroom, looking in my own mirror.

As I've mentioned before, my husband actually found my lump. He kissed me good night & laid his hand on my heart. He knew what he felt wasn't there the day before. At least... it wasn't palpable. I'm sure of that. However, it recently occurred to me that there was another lump I should have felt, the one under my arm, that now bears a burning hole from radiation. It is the spot where I believe my swollen & cancerous lymph node resided. Why didn't I notice that?

Also, in truth, I was an artificial sweetener addict. I drank an embarrassing amount of diet soda, & I annoyingly chewed an embarrassing amount of sugarless gum. Since my diagnosis, I have let go of both of these addictions. We'll never know if there is a connection between these ridiculous habits & my cancer. However, research shows that even though there is no proven connection, the excess artificial sweetened could have fostered the growth of my fast growing cancer. I will never know.

To state the obvious: if I had a do over, I would have taken note of my few clues, & I would not have overindulged in my vices. Yes... it's too late for that! But maybe, my ignorance can help another soul. And there is one last  little issue concerning a choice I made in the order of how I did things. If I had known one thing, I might have done things a little bit differently which would have allowed me to reap the full benefits of a major treatment. Again, too late.

It is what it is... & I'm truly okay with that. If God can use my story to bring one soul closer to His presence, if another life can be saved because of something I have suffered, I'm good with that. If one person takes a brief moment to notice something they've missed & seek help, I'm grateful. If one person gives up a vice to save their own life, I'm relieved. Simply put, if one person ponders their eternal value, & gives their life to Christ, I'm humbled to trade my earthy life for his eternal life.

Monday, May 14, 2012

sad. sad. sad.

Today is filled with sadness. I was at The Cancer Center this morning getting my Herceptin treatment when I ran into a longtime friend. Her mother is on a difficult road, & it breaks my heart. When my oldest was little, she & her mother babysat for me & filled in as I had no family in the area. They doted on my children & bought them pink bunny Easter baskets & other sweet things. They were such a blessing to me at a vulnerable time in my life. I don't think this family is capable of anything but kindness.

As I was leaving, I ran into a dear friend whose father is now on a difficult journey. Again, my heart breaks. The diagnosis is fresh, & the uncertainties great. So much to process. So many decisions. I remember that awful feeling, like your heart has literally had a piece ripped from it. The ache is indescribable, & it doesn't go away.

I think having cancer sometimes makes hearing other's diagnoses even harder to bear. You know the walk all too well. You are still run down & going through your own difficulties, & the memories are so fresh. You feel helpless again. It makes you angry again at this terrible disease. The treatments are as bad, if not worse than the illness. Living with the unknown is one of the hardest parts of this journey. Being terrorized by a foreign growth in you own body is your new reality. The only way out is to trust in the hope which comes from Christ alone.

I know that cancer cannot shatter your hope. Some days that's all you have. It cannot take away your faith. It has deepened mine. It does not lessen your love. Mine has grown. It cannot destroy your friendships, but it can strain them. It cannot conquer your spirit, but it can take you to the bottom of your barrel. It can make your perspective more eternal. It can make you realize that your home on earth is temporary.

I am heartbroken for my dear friends. I am angry at cancer. I am beside myself with grief. I feel helpless. I will lift these precious souls up daily in prayer. I will think about them often. I will shed tears for them & their loved ones. My hope for myself & my loved ones is not so much in being healed this side of Heaven. My hope is in the Lord, in Him alone. Heaven is my only guarantee in life, & it is only because He is my Savior.

I cannot count on a cure. I cannot count on healing. Only because I have trusted in Christ do I know that one day, I will have no more suffering, no more tears. My life on this earth is a mere vapor, but my soul is eternal, & one day.... my fears, my worries, my tears, my suffering, my sin, my heartache will be no more. There is an end to this misery, & if we trust in Christ, we can count on it.

He gets a bit snarly at times...

Yesterday, Mother's Day, was a very special day. We went to church, & our beloved pastor used my blog as part of his sermon. I found it very humbling & felt so honored (all at the same time). It was my blog called Privileged that he quoted. I believe each blog is a gift from God, tho' sometimes I think my lameness gets in the way & shows a little too much. I believe God forgives me for that.

After church, we used a gift card from my bestie & went to lunch at TGIF. I ordered one thing & was sure I ordered something else. However, what I actually ate couldn't have been any better! I just never cease to be amazed at how my brain is seemingly missing pieces. Then... on the spur of the moment, we drove for an hour & a half to a zoo in the country. This zoo, kind of like the zookeeper's very big back yard, allows visitors to hold baby tigers when they are under 12 weeks old, the prime time being 6-10 weeks, I believe.

The weather was gorgeous, & the cub was feisty! My baby daughter (who's 20 now) was a bit skiddish. I myself had to wonder at my own stupidity. I'm not sure my interacting with a wild animal was the intelligent thing to do with a compromised immune system. However, this cub had a natural attraction to me, & I wasn't about to miss this precious moment of opportunity. So... as Simon (the cub) pounced on my back & wrapped his paws around my neck, I could only laugh. As he bit my ankle (he did NOT break the skin), I squealed with delight. We fed him a bottle, & I mustered up the strength to hold this 25 pound kitty.

He had beautiful fur, & his markings were exquisite. My instincts were to cuddle up my face next to his (like I do with Bella) & squeeze him tight with a sweet bear hug. However, that is off limits! He, like all cats, gets to call the shots. He gets a bit snarly at times, & is in the stage of development (as his eyesight becomes keen), where he stalks his prey. One of the visitors was wearing sandals that intrigued the cub, & he removed them from her feet & wanted to play with them. She put them back on, & he wouldn't leave her feet alone. I think I would have remained barefoot. You were only allowed to pet him with an open palm from the neck down in the proper direction of his fur (from neck to tail). Other methods roughed the kitty up & made him a bit unruly. I'm not sure the cat was enjoying all of this interaction. He reminded me of a young schoolboy humoring his mother, being forced to wear a tie, mind his manners, & of course, no belching allowed. It was hard on the poor cat (to say the least).

As we left the scene, I felt like I'd had the experience of a lifetime. It was pretty adventurous for me (with or without cancer). The whole ordeal was a bit bizarre, unnatural because the creature was meant to be in the wild. He's been raised in a home, but as the zookeeper said, he still has his wild instincts. That's the part that made it an adventure! It reminded me of the old saying..."You can take the boy off the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy." Well... this side of Heaven, I don't think you can take the wild out of the cub.

One day, when there is a new Heaven on earth, I believe the wild will be gone from the cub. The lion & the lamb will lie down together, & the animals will be loving & peaceful as they were meant to be (before our world was cursed). Yes... I believe Heaven will be full of beautiful animals, with fluffy soft fur, pretty markings, etc. I also believe, I will be able to cuddle up next to them, & give them that sweet big bear hug that's meant to be (for the animal lover in me). It will NOT be off limits because all of Heaven will be in harmony. No more tears, no more suffering, no more wild. Just peace & beauty overflowing!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

He opened my eyes (part 2)

This blog is difficult for me to write this morning because it involves me sharing something extremely personal: pain. I don't like to share about my pain. I don't know why; I just don't like asking people to feel sorry for me. It's very personal, & it's hard for me. It just is...

Yesterday was a beautiful day, filled with enough emotion to last a life time. I did The Race with my family & friends, & as I mentioned in an earlier blog, my heart was overflowing with gratitude. The Race occurred at a well orchestrated time in my journey. I have about 2 more weeks of radiation. It's been one of the most difficult segments of my journey, but the countdown is on. However, the pain is increasing. Last night when I went to bed, I felt as though my body was going to go into shock from the burning pain in my left underarm caused by the radiation. My skin is red & raw. Right now this painful area is about the size of a silver dollar. Each day, it grows in size & deepens in color.

It's in a difficult area to soothe because nothing stays in place very well. I have some cool gel packs which bring relief for short periods of time. Pain reliever is supposed to take the edge off; it's debatable. Pain is no stranger to me. It has been a part of my life for the last 10 years (when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis). I just try not to dwell on it. However, I know it's symptoms, & I know my boiling point.

Last night I went to sleep with tears in my eyes. I had cool gel packs on my skin. My husband rubbed my head as he prayed for me. I was beaten. He awakened me early this morning from a night mare & told me I was okay. In my dream I was being attacked, & I was thankful to have my loving husband rescue me from my horrors. As he went back to sleep, I began to remember my dream...

A friend from my childhood (a retired police officer) had come to exercise at a health club. On the way down the hall, he told me twice he didn't know why he was there, but he just knew he was supposed to come. As we were walking through some doors, a man was hiding in the doorway & began attacking me.  My friend (the retired police officer) was there for a reason, to protect me. God put him there to protect me.

I mulled this over in my head. I believe God wants me to know that He is protecting me, even through my pain. I am overcome once again that I worship a God who cares enough to send me a special dream. As this message began to permeate my very being, yet another tailor made treasure came my way. I read my Daily Bible Verse: "Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul & body with grief" (Psalm 31:9).

David Whitehead, who authors the commentary wrote the following: The Psalmist reminds us to be fully aware of the things that are going on in our soul. To try to act like we are happy when we are filled with pain is not only unhealthy... it's unbiblical! Don't let the pressure of optimism force you to deny your pain.; the Bible calls us to confront our feelings, then take those feelings to Jesus. When we are honest with ourselves, we are in the place to be honest with God.

He opened my eyes. (part 1)

I never put much stock in my dreams. For one thing, I seldom remember them, & they are usually somewhat ridiculous. However, my view of the worth of my dreams changed when I read a book by Mary Beth Chapman. In the forward, Beth Moore writes about a dream God gave her concerning Mary Beth Chapman & the death of her sweet little daughter who lost her precious life in a terrible accident.

Beth Moore called Mary Beth, & when the 2 were finally able to connect, Beth shared the contents of her dream. Indeed, it was specifically meant to be shared with her dear friend. It was powerful & healing. It also contained a message for Mary Beth concerning the next step in her journey as she grieved the loss of her 5 year old baby daughter. It was, in fact, an answer to Mary Beth's prayers.

At the time, I had a dear friend who was suffering more that I have ever suffered. She was scheduled to have surgery at Mayos for almost 100 tumors in her jaw. Because her jaw had been radiated a few years earlier, the tumors were expected to be sticky & hard to remove, not to mention the fact that they were located in a very tenuous spot. So when I awoke from my dream early one morning, I knew God was sending me to lay hands on my sweet friend & pray for her.

She allowed me to do this.  I'd never really been a part of such an experience, but I knew I needed to do what I thought God was asking me to do. As I prayed for her, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, without a doubt. I'm able to recognize His presence, & I knew He reached through me to touch my sick friend. Very humbling.

The next day we talked & wondered what God had done. Of course, we hoped for complete healing, but she knew she was walking a journey ordained by God. I wasn't "there" yet in my faith. I wanted her to be healed & spared her pain. As she thought about her situation, she came to the realization that during our prayer time, God had removed the stickiness from her tumors. She would still need the tedious surgery, but the tumors would be removable. That proved to be the case.

She had a message for me also, I believe it was a God given message. She wanted me to know that she would be okay whatever her outcome. At this place in my spiritual growth, I was stunned. I felt so humbled that God had a message for me in all of this. He wanted me to begin to understand the treasures found in suffering. Through my suffering friend, He opened my eyes.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My. Pretty. Pink. Day.

If I didn't take time to blog about today, I would let myself down. As I think most of my world knows, today was The Race for The Cure. What an emotional day! I think my heart subconsciously numbed itself to enable me to get through it all. As I stood amongst so many survivors, I was deeply touched. Some looked healthy. Some cried. Some looked like cancer patients. We were all in pink, my favorite color.

I stood with a new friend that I met at Pray for The Cure. She saw me on the sidelines & invited me to join her in the Survivor's Walk. I wasn't teary this morning. In fact, I held together quite well & was overwhelmed with thankfulness. I felt uplifted by my team. I gave them each a wristband that says "No One Walks Alone. I wish that were true for everyone. 

The irony of this day is this: in the past, I walked This Race with a lump in my throat for all of The Survivors. Today, I did not have a lump in my throat. I just felt honored. When I saw my fellow survivors crying, I felt so sad for them. I wondered if their tears were just heartfelt emotion from such a meaningful day. Perhaps they were suffering emotionally or physically. It's possible they had received new bad news, or maybe even lost a loved one recently to this terrible disease. Maybe they learned their own days were numbered.

Having my loved ones come out for my cause is both humbling & touching. Some of my team members I've grown closer too since my journey began. Others, I've known for a life time. There were a few that were with me in spirit but unable to make today's Race. Most of my team mates asked me how I was doing. My answer is "better than I expected." That is the truth.

However, as the day begins to fade, so do I. My underarm is raw & getting worse. I am so tired I hurt. I've even had a few tears tonight. Strange how my emotions decided to creep up on me as the sun decided to set. Still... I am better than I expected. A friend stopped by with beautiful flowers this afternoon, just to say she was thinking about me.

She asked me if I was going to be okay. I think she was asking me about my prognosis. I think back to how many times I've wondered this about other people in my shoes. I wish I had the answer. I don't. Spiritually, I am in good health. Physically, I am getting through radiation. Emotionally, I am more stable than I've been since my diagnosis. I am at peace. But... when you hurt physically, it has a way of wearing you down emotionally. Being tired also contributes.

I can only speculate about today's tears, both those of my fellow survivors & my own. Here's my take: I think today's tears reflect a very tiring journey that takes immense emotional strength. It takes physical endurance. It involves being degraded. It requires Hope, yet surrendering is also necessary. It's a fight for a life, with no guarantee. It's a wearing journey that doesn't seem to go away, at least not yet. It's a journey I wanted to hide at first but soon realized that charade was impossible. Cancer gives you a platform. You lose your hair. Others care & know they themselves are not immune. It is my cross to bear, & I must bear it with dignity that comes only from Christ.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I felt like a winner.

Last night I attended Pray for The Cure. It was a beautiful service that somehow encompassed every aspect of this terrible disease. It began with precious young girls from The South Side Mission performing. Each pretty girl had a bright pink flower in her hair. They danced to a Whitney Houston song. It set the mood for the service.

We prayed for a cure but that almost seemed secondary to our other prayers. We lifted up our caregivers, our doctors, research, technicians, nurses, ... My own breast surgeon sat behind me. She spoke about the grieving stages a person diagnosed with breast cancer experiences. Honestly, I think I went through each stage in my own way, but yes, I have grieved. She also prayed for the survivors. I was truly touched by her presence, her words, & mostly her prayer.

Toward the end of the service, we honored those we remember that have passed, those who fought the fight & now rest in peace with no more suffering. The survivors were given an opportunity to share how having breast cancer has effected their faith. This was an open microphone time, an opportunity for the survivors to share. About 7 or 8 women shared, some of them even thanking God for their journey. I had to say that having breast cancer has added a new dimension & depth to my faith. I thank God for that. I think gratitude was a part of every woman's heart who shared, possibly every woman's' heart who was present.

Lastly, each survivor was called to the front of the sanctuary according to the number of years they have survived. I believe the prize went to a survivor of 31 years. I was at the very bottom of the list, followed by one woman who has only been diagnosed for 2 months. We formed a horseshoe around the pews, held hands, & sang a beautiful song, written especially for this yearly occasion.

As we sang, I felt a certain connection with these fellow survivors, very powerful & unexpected. As I stood hand in hand with my comrades, I watched my husband singing with tears in his eyes. My heart melted. At the end of the song, as we were still all holding hands, we raised our hands. I felt like a winner. My gratitude was overflowing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Today I am writing about prayer. I have prayed more in my life in the last month than I think I ever have. Sad to say, that it has taken radiation to add this privilege to my life. I've always been a prayer warrior, but I haven't been one to spend a concentrated amount of time on my knees in prayer. I kind of converse all day long with God, wherever I am, whenever needed.

Radiation has been one of the most unpleasant parts of my journey. I started off scared to death because I once again had my security ripped out from under me. Once I recovered from that, I just plain don't like it.  In all honesty, I feel lonely there, & it takes all the restraint I have. I believe this has been good for me to experience this combination of loneliness & feeling degraded while at the same time being challenged. It causes me to lean on God, because it's just Him & me for 25 minutes Monday through Friday, except for when the techs scurry in & out like quiet little mice. They are adjusting my body, placing wet rags on me, & changing a plate that has to do with my radiation.

Today I had a new tech who told me to relax my arm. I did, & she told me to relax it again. I had to apologize because that is as relaxed as that arm gets. I really think she thought I was purposely not complying. If these techs did not whisper as they scurried in & out, I would't even know they were attending to me. I have to look away from them, & I have no feeling in my body. They draw on me with markers & do all sorts of things. I can only surrender.

So... I spend my time in prayer. I go through the alphabet, & then when I get to "z", I pray for certain situations in my life. I have come to treasure this time of prayer. It certainly takes away from my emotional pain & my physical pain. This evening I am going to a prayer service called "Pray for The Cure." One of my nurses invited me, & I think it will be as meaningful as The Race itself. Without prayer, I don't know where my sense of peace would be.

Since I was a  young child, I have daily prayed that I would grow to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, & strength. As a teenager, I prayed daily (in addition to my childhood prayer) that my boyfriend (who is now my husband) would love me at least 1/2 as much as I loved him. As an adult, every time my husband & I fought, I prayed that God would help him see things my way. I finally stopped praying this prayer because God never failed to make me see things through my husband's eyes.

Now, as a middle aged adult, I try to pray God's will both for my loved ones & myself. I don't pretend anymore to know what's best for anyone. Only God does. I just try to surrender to His will & put myself & my loved ones in His care. I wish I would have caught onto this in my earlier years. Instead of asking God for my will, for what I thought was best, I wish I would have just prayed for His will.

In the past, He didn't always answer my prayers in the way I hoped. For instance, I would have liked for my dad to have been healed from cancer this side of Heaven. When he fell & became brain injured, I would have loved for God to spare him  relearning the basics of life & having to grieve the death of his parents all over again because he didn't remember they were no longer living. When my dad began to recover from his head injury, I thought God would surely spare him of cancer, but He didn't.

As my children have grown, I've often asked God to spare them suffering. Sometimes my prayers were answered accordingly, but sometimes, I think God had a different answer. It might not have been what I'd hoped for, but only God has the whole picture. Sometimes, I believe suffering grows the human heart, & we reap other blessings tenfold because we have suffered. As I go to Pray for The Cure tonight, I will be praying with all my heart. I believe this is within God's will. I also know that my life is so much deeper because God has blessed me with suffering.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cancer isn't fair.

Last night began the blistering of my skin due to radiation. My first blister is about as big as a nickel, & I am told it's only going to get worse from here on out. How much worse? "We don't know, but we will give you pain medication." Hmmnnnn.... not sure I'm in need of that yet. The one good thing about radiation in my case is this: once it starts to get bad, you are on the countdown. 8 more full sessions & hopefully 5 lesser sessions called a booster.

After that, we went for pedis (my girls & I). It was one of those days where I had to come home & remove the design. Not quite what I was hoping for. My fingernails are still tearing off like paper & for some reason, this bothers me. Not only do they feel funny, some of them are extremely short. Combined with neuropathy, I'm frequently aware of their abnormal presence.

Radiation is zapping my energy. I've always been a person with a lot of get-up-&-go, but I'm finding that I have to take it easy if I want peace of mind. My youngest is home for a month & has offered to cook dinner every night because she wants to learn to cook. Her timing couldn't be better, & for that, I feel very blessed, not too mention the fact that she seems to be a natural.

I have a big week end ahead of me with Pray for The Cure, a dear friend's wedding, & The Race for The Cure. I'm hoping/praying my body will hold up to attend all 3 events (as they are all very important to me). It's so nice to have my baby daughter home for a month. Then, she's off to South Africa for 2 months to work in an orphanage. I will miss her & pray for her everyday.

My oldest was saying yesterday that cancer isn't fair. I said I agree, but I still feel my life is so full & enriched, I can only be grateful. She smiled & told me I was special. I'm secretly glad she thinks so, but I know my joy comes from God. I believe He wants others to notice my joy in spite of my circumstances. I'm no more special than anyone else. Also, I know others who have it much worse than I do.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"dirt & worms"

2 of my daughters & I visited one of my long-time favorites today, The Ice-Cream Shack in Sunnyland. I had a special treat, a pepsi with shaved ice. I know I'm unique, but shaved ice is something I love. One daughter had a Puppy Chow Wizard & the other, a cookie dough sundae. Sadly, we didn't have our dogs. They would have ordered doggie sundaes, complete with dog biscuits. It's a beautiful day, so we sat outside & enjoyed our deliciousness.

The Ice-Cream Shack has been a part of my family's lives for years. We've joyfully celebrated many of our accomplishments there. It was the perfect place to take small children. They could run & play in the grass while we sat & chatted. As their ice-cream dripped down their chins, their smiles always made our celebration the best. I remember a stage when  "dirt & worms" was the only thing that would do. Over time, we graduated to other things like turtle sundaes & fancy wizards. Their cheese fries have always been the best in town, but for me... it's the pretzel with cheese.

My husband & I (& our pooch) have a standing date there on Sunday nights when the weather is good. Our dog even recognizes the words "Ice-Cream Shack" & begins drooling at the very sound of his favorite phrase. One of us has to sit with him while the other orders, as his exuberance is too much. We also have to let him eat his doggie sundae first, if we hope to be able to taste our own treats.

As we savor the taste of our desserts, we reminisce about the past, how we used to go there after swim meets & how the kids used to run races around the big tree. It's a place to build relationship, a place to relax & enjoy, a lil get-a-way for a tasty snack. A few weeks ago, the owner asked me if they could take donations in my honor for The Race for The Cure. I was stunned to think that someone would do that for me.

Yesterday, she put out a can with my picture on it & is accepting donations for my team, for my cause. As I've said from the start, this journey has treasures to be found along the way. Some of the young adults that work there are my former youth (from my youth leader days). The owners & the young workers have agreed to wear pink in my honor on Saturday. I couldn't be more honored. My favorite place is wearing pink for me & celebrating my life, honoring my cause.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Much Ado...

Before I had breast cancer, I noticed that it got its fair share of attention. I didn't really like all of the attention it received because it made me uncomfortable. And... what about all of the other cancers which are just as worthy? It seemed like much ado about one particular cancer.

I always tried to do the right thing, I never missed my yearly mammogram. I participated in The Race for The Cure most of my adult life, though it was really too much for me emotionally. I took my 3 little girls each year & even a group of women & girls from my church. Each year I walked, & each year it was more than I could bear. Seeing all of those pink hats, women of all ages, & imagining the horror of such a cancer.

One of Susan G. Komen's slogans is Imagine Life without Breast Cancer. Before, I couldn't imagine life with breast cancer. Now the tables have turned, & I cannot imagine my life without it. I remember those days, but I know I will never get back to them. Reality. Sometime's it's a hard slap in the face. However, I wouldn't trade my life.

Today's devotion was about embracing our trials & not trying to find Heaven on earth. I think I have spent most of my life doing just that. I like peace, & I'm always trying to find it. Truth is, turmoil & difficulties grow us into deeper people. I never realized it was unhealthy to constantly seek peace & avoid hardships.  We won't experience Heaven on earth. Heaven is an eternal promise that follows death if we know Christ.

So let's face it... breast cancer is in the spotlight, especially the week before The Race. As my tables have turned, so has my thinking. Both men & women fall prey to this terrible disease. The worst for me is seeing women fight the fight when their children are young. I was at a school play over the weekend, & I knew 2 other women who are also on this journey. Currently, 1 in 8 women will fight this fight (at some level).

I was 49. I was riding my bike 10 miles a day. I was working out at Curves. I was trying to maintain my weight. I had no family history. Discovering a lump & finding out it was an aggressive cancer was not even in my field of vision. As my story unraveled, so did my nightmare. I think I remained in shock for 7 months. Finding out it was in my lymph nodes was traumatic. Every grueling detail was horrific.

The research on this disease benefits other cancers. Breast cancer metastasizes into bone, lungs, liver, & the brain. It sometimes correlates with ovarian cancer. Much has been learned about cancer through the BRCA1 & 2 research. New studies are being done all the time. Great strides are being made, & still, I am effected.

No one is immune to cancer. We can do our part, but still end up on this journey. So yes... it's much ado.  But this ado is about saving lives. Once you are the recipient of a disease with such awareness, your tables turn, every detail of your life is effected (at least temporarily if not permanently). You begin a journey with an unknown end. You fight for your life & imagine a world without breast cancer because the pain of seeing history repeat itself is too much.


This week is National Nurses Week. It has new & special meaning to me for 2 reasons. The first being my beautiful middle daughter officially became a nurse this year. The second being the many kind & compassionate nurses that have become a part of my life over the last 9 months. Here's what I've learned about nurses this year:

#1   The best nurses feel called to be nurses.
#2   When a good nurse leaves her job, she is missed.
#3   The best ones explain in simple terms what they are about to do to you.
#4   The caring ones don't hesitate to hug you (if they can).
#5   Some of them even pray for you.
#6   They will go an extra mile for you.
#7   Some of them cry for you.
#8   They all have worries of their own.
#9   Their jobs can be stressful.
#10  They are not immune to your illness.
#11  Sometimes they bear the wrath of the doctor, the patient, & the family.
#12  Their shift can be long & exhausting.
#13  They are the hands & feet of the doctor.
#14  They care.
#15  Sometimes their tasks are unpleasant; that's putting it mildly.
#16  They are perceptive.
#17  They are human beings.
#18  Their jobs can be thankless.
#19  They comfort those who suffer.
#20  They give practical advice.
#21  They have servant's hearts.
#22  They put themselves in the patients' shoes.
#23  They expect nothing in return.
#24  If asked a question, they find an answer.
#25  Often they have chosen their profession because they have suffered or
           loved someone who has suffered.

Nursie:  My term of affection for my sweet daughter who is a nurse. I love you, Haley, & I am in awe of what you do. My life has been so enriched by my nurses.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pretty. Pink. Shirt.

We went to our baby's college today & loaded up her stuff. I went, but I did not help. I sat. She is going to visit a friend this weekend, so she will not officially be home for a few more days. We sat outside in the sun for a little while, & I think my arms began to sunburn. She will be home for a month, & that always makes me happy! Saying good-bye to your friends is sad. Many of them are traveling abroad. She is going to South Africa.

This evening I am tired but in a good frame of mind. We stopped for some Chicago style pizza on our way home & had a little custard, 2 of my favorite things. Little dates with my husband bring me back to our courting days & being a teen. I love those memories & cherish every moment we have. I feel as though we are both taking more time along the road of life to stop & smell the roses. I love stopping to breathe in the moment & savor the joy.

I love this weather. When we got home, I sat on our back deck & visited with our neighbors. She too is a Survivor, & has expressed so much care/love for me over the last 9 months. She told me today that part of this journey is sharing with others. I wholeheartedly agree with her & hope to do just that. I feel  that God has recently impressed upon my heart that others need to see my joy in spite of my circumstances. I feel He has given me a license to be happy so that others might notice & wonder.

Race for The Cure is one week from tomorrow. I am so excited, I can hardly wait! I just hope I will have the energy to participate after one more week of radiation & some of its side effects. The Race needs both participants & donations. I was studying the Susan G. Komen website & realized that their research has possibly saved my life. They are responsible for BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 testing ( looking at DNA to see if a person's cancer is hereditary),  Her2 treatment for fast-growing cancers, & treatment for hormone dependent cancers. I have benefited from all of this research. My cancer is Her2 positive & hormone dependent. I've had my DNA tested, & thankfully, I am not BRCA positive.

All of these terms seemed foreign to me the day of my diagnosis. In the arms of Susan G. Komen, I was told so many things. I was terrified. My mind couldn't track. I could only cry. It was surreal. The doctor at the Breast Center was very concerned, & I knew my life was on the line. We had to act fast. In a whirlwind, I received one test after another & was shuffled off to a breast surgeon & an oncologist. The horror of it all will always remain fresh in my memory. Just thinking about it elicits a sick feeling throughout my body. Just the memory accelerates the beating of my heart.

So... as next Saturday approaches, I feel I owe Susan G. Komen my life. I am honored to wear my pretty pink shirt & my Survior's cap. I have a team with a silly name. I have bracelets for my team mates. They say, "No one fights alone." I wish everyone on this journey had a team. The comfort of my family & friends, their prayers, their encouragement, their tears... without them, I would not have the spirit I have. That, in itself, is a life saving!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

President Obama & I have something in common.

The sun came out today on more than one count.  As I mentioned yesterday, my dear friend who is also fighting cancer is in the hospital with complications. I went to see her & was so relieved to see her feeling better. She has been on my mind, & I have been grieved for her. We talked about the horrors of our disease & how the side effects of the treatments are as bed if not worse than the disease. She asked me what the big mark on my neckline was, & she laughed her beautiful laugh when I told her it was the state of Illinois. Every day, I get marked at radiation, & it looks like the state of Illinois. I have no idea what it really is...

This morning, I said good-bye to the nurse who has cared for me the most at radiation. She has taken time to warm the wet rags that are daily laid upon my skin. She ties my gown for me everyday since my neuropathy hinders my dexterity (especially when I can't see what I'm doing). Every day, she asks me how I'm feeling, what my plans are. And... she remembers my answers. When I forget to put my arms above my head or follow the drill, she gently reminds me. She will be missed as she begins her new life. She was my ray of sunshine.

My daughter & I took her puppy on a short walk. The dog's personality is as darling as his looks. We went to lunch at the restaurant where her husband works, & he was our waiter. The salad I ordered was incredible & the service was the best! After that, we bummed around the mall & laughed at our own silly jokes. Spending time with her always brightens my day & makes me laugh. She is my nurse, but the best medicine of all is her funny personality.

I showed her my hair. She says it's intense. I think it looks just like President Obama's. We have the same doo. I will be very happy when I have bangs again. I do not know what to do about my new color & its intensity. God certainly has a sense of humor. It is shiny, soft, & silver. I look more like my mother every day. Only difference, she wears it better with her sparkly blue eyes.

Last night as I followed my husband up to bed, I laughed so hard I cried. It was just another silly joke, but it felt so good to laugh uncontrollably. Today, every time I thought about it, I chuckled in my own head. It's good to be enjoying life in spite of today's circumstances. It's good to feel light hearted & silly again. I don't know exactly why my joy is overflowing, but it feels good to be happy. It reminds me of a time not so long ago.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

no stats

Today a dear friend asked me what I would like to change with my life. Honestly, I was a little caught off guard. I guess the obvious answer would be that I could go back to July & never have this diagnosis. One of my dear survivor friends is fighting this battle & in the hospital right now with complications. My heart is heavy for her. Another friend is trying to help her father. He's just begun with Hospice Care. His health is declining, & the weight on his shoulders seems so heavy.

This evening as we ate dinner, I was catching my husband up on my sorrows. Cancer is an awful disease, & I wish my sweet friends could be spared their suffering. I have actually come to a peaceful spot that has lasted about 2 weeks. That's a record for the last 9 months. My emotions seem a bit more stable. I don't know why other than the fact that my joy is based on the truth, & I don't believe it will be stripped away from me as it was when I began radiation.

Yes, I'm sure I will crash again, especially if I receive unexpected news, but for now, I know my prognosis, & I simply believe I am in God's hands. I've always felt His loving arms around me, but my reality has caused me some pain. When I met my radiology oncologist, I lost my hope. I realized that my hope was not based on trusting God, but on some statistics & a diagnosis I misunderstood. The truth was hard to hear, but now I am so thankful I know the truth. It has allowed me to trust in God & not in my prognosis.

The main thing my radiology oncologist taught me was that we don't really have statistics for my case. I had my chemo first (adjuvant) before surgery, & we will never know if it was in more than one lymph node. Also, because adjuvant chemo therapy is a fairly new order of treatment, there really aren't finished studies available. I told my friend today that I think I am better off not knowing exactly where I stand. It's easier to place my trust in my Heavenly Father than in statistics. After all, He's bigger than the stats & has the real say. I no longer have a prognosis that can be ripped out from under me.

So... I've spent the day processing my friend's question. I'm so glad she asked me this question because it's made me realize something I didn't know... I love my life, & I love where this cancer has placed me in relationship to God. This leg of my journey has been very trying. I've had to limit my final vice, caffeine, in hopes of preventing lymphedema. Lying on a radiation table for 25 minutes each day takes restraint. I pray through it, but it never fails, I get an itch I can't scratch. I love my doctor because he was honest with me. I have suffered emotionally through all of this, but I can already sense growth in my suffering.

If I could undo my cancer to spare my family, I would. But, since I cannot, I am going to trust in God that through my suffering, He will build their faith as He has mine. If I could take this cup from them, I would. Lastly, there is a well known list of things that cancer cannot take from a person. Lately, I have been overcome with joy because I have realized that cancer cannot strip me of my love for people. I have not lost my compassion for others, & for that, I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

my little godson & his mama

13 out of 33 completed. 20 more to go. The countdown is on. Each day gets me one day closer to the end of radiation. Yesterday I was accompanied by 2 of my favorite people, my dear friend and her precious little boy, my godson. He's 2. He brought 2 of his favorite companions, Percy & James. He played choo choo while I had radiation. He brightened up the whole place. The nurses were unaccustomed to hearing his sweet giggles & his choo choo sounds. This lil guy prays for me daily, & when my name was called for radiation, he looked up at his mama & asked, "Susie sick?"

We had to wonder what he understands at his innocent young age. He came into my life when he was adopted (about a year & 1/2 ago). His mother (my husband's radio co host) bestowed perhaps the greatest honor on me I have ever known. She asked us to be his godparents. We didn't have to think; we just responded with a resounding "yes." Loving this little boy has been one of my greatest joys. His personality is heartwarming. He's a very loving little boy with a heart that overflows with joy. Like every small child, each day is a new adventure.

His Mama may be my husband's cohort, but to me she is an answer to prayer. I say this for many reasons. She is the perfect match for his personality, like a daughter but without any family baggage. I liked her from the start. Not only is she talented, she has a mind which is filled with so many amazing facts. She thinks about things Ive never pondered. She accepts others without question. She cooks amazing dishes with ingredients I didn't know were edible. She loves her precious gift from God, her little boy, more than life.

When she asked me to be his godmother, I was at a low point in my life. We were almost empty nesters, & I was leaving my position as a youth leader, something I loved doing. I was experiencing a double loss, & I wasn't quite sure how I would fill my time. This little boy not only occupied some of my time, he occupied space in my heart that would heal some of my wounds. Being his godmother was God's way of letting me know I still mattered. Because of this precious little child, I had reason to love. Loving him, being his godmother, has been one of my greatest blessings. Yesterday, as he accompanied me to my treatment, I felt like I was the happiest person on the hospital grounds.