Saturday, June 30, 2012

I didn't see it coming...

Today I was remembering a sermon I heard from Pastor Deveraux Hubbard about 5 years ago. He affirmed something I already new but couldn't put into words. He said that when we serve, we serve without discrimination & without guarantee.  At the time, I was a youth leader, & his words had great meaning for me. Sometimes when we serve, we pick & choose who it is we'd like to help, & we expect something in return.

I think it is enough just to know that anything of eternal value never comes back void. When we step up to help someone, the outcome should not be our measure of success, rather the seeds that have been planted. God does the miracle. We just provide the heart, the hands, & the feet. Today is one of the happiest days I've had since my diagnosis.

I didn't see it coming... We took a little seven year old boy to VBS, & at the end, he asked Jesus into his heart. I am sure that he doesn't completely understand what he just did, anymore than an adult fully comprehends Christ. This side of Heaven, I don't think we will ever understand the "whole picture."

Childlike faith, I believe is the most pure, & it is the kind of faith God wants us to have. If only we all could believe with the simplicity of a child, no strings attached. Every stone does not have to be turned. A seven year old child can just believe.

I know that this child will have difficulties in life (as does every child). This world is a tough place to live, & the older I get, the more aware I become of how broken it is.  Today, in his unaware childlike state, he made the best decision of his life. Will it stick? My pastor says that if a person comes to Christ with a sincere heart, it's forever, even when we doubt. This comforts me.

I wish I could stop thinking about cancer.

I've decided to continue my blog privately for now. Blogging out my thoughts is so enjoyable to me. I don't know why... it just is. I also have a goal to reach 365 blogs. Maybe someday, I will make this into a devotional. I don't know. I want to keep a record of the first year of my life with the shocking news of breast cancer. Part of my reason for taking a break was to give my immediate family a rest from reading my entries. They've said nothing to make me think they need a break. I just feel it's a constant reminder to them & could be tiring. If/when I resume in August, I will probably publish the private ones too.

I am going to see a counselor on Monday. I am actually excited about having a cancer counselor talk to me & help me understand the stages of grieving I am experiencing. My frame of mind is good (though I do still have waves of anxiety). I've gone 4 nights now without sleep medication. I'm not sleeping a full night, but I am sleeping. My confidence in my ability to sleep without medicine is returning. I didn't think it would ever be possible.

As I said in my last blog...I wish I could stop thinking about cancer. That is one thing I hope the counselor can help me conquer or perhaps adjust my expectations. I've been so barraged since the day I was diagnosed, it's hard not to think about all the details. Then... there's that gnawing fear of uncertainty, wondering if/when the cancer will return. How will it return? How will I suffer? Will I see my grandchildren? Will my family be okay without me? These are the kinds of thoughts that constantly run through my head.

Lately, God has given me a wonderful opportunity (right in my own community) to love on someone in need of love. I have committed myself to this situation as I can sense that God has ordained it & orchestrated the aligning of certain details so that I would be given this opportunity. It's good diversion from my cancer thoughts. It's actually healing.

I am excited to be living again. Though I have had some lesser health issues lately, I feel as though my body is still very susceptible to infection. Next week we hope to be swimming in the ocean, & I hope to have 10 days without health issues. That would be Heaven.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I need to tell you that I am taking the month of July off. We are going to be visiting our families & doing other things. I think it's time to take a little break, & if God leads, I'll resume sometime in August. Thanks to all of you who have taken time to read my blog & to encourage me as I walk this journey...

Over the next month, I will be reliving some pretty traumatic memories that began on August 14th. I will also be making some terrific new memories with our families. I'd like to say that almost a year into this journey that it has gotten easier. Truth is, it hasn't.

We are in the midst of trying to regain some sense of normalcy, & it is hard because little reminders are ever-present. I am thankful for my team of doctors & nurses who have become a vital part of my life. My family has been my diversion, my comfort, & my joy. I have 2 wonderful son-in-laws that care for me as if I were their mother.

My friends are sticking with me, & I am grateful. Sometimes our entertainment is going to my appointments. In fact, they have turned my appointments into outings! I am blessed by each & every one of them. I really don't know what I would do without their beautiful faces in my life. They have laughed with me & cried with me. They've done all sorts of crazy things & brightened every day.

Some ridiculous things have happened this year. I never saw this journey being my journey until the night my husband kissed me good night, placed his hand on my heart, & said, "What's this?" That's how simple it was. The beginning of this journey. You'd think by now I would no longer be in shock.

As I've pointed out many times, this journey is full of unexpected twists, turns, bumps, & treasures. Even 10 months down the road, we are still learning new things about my diagnosis. We remain as befuddled as ever, but at least we are befuddled together. Clinging to each other is essential but sometimes difficult. It's easy to build a wall to protect the one you love. It never works.

In all honesty, my faith has stood the test. I had one hopeless day, & that was the day my daughter left for South Africa. I was sick, depressed, & reacting to going off my pain medicine. I did not feel like myself, & I certainly did not act like myself. I knew there had to be brighter days ahead. There are.

I try to not take life too seriously, to enjoy an ice-cream sundae now & then, & to spend time loving Otis & Bella, my 2 beloved pets. They also brighten each day. I purposely spend time with the ones I love because they are what get me through each day. Laughing at their silly jokes is the best medicine of all.

I try to fill my head & heart with thoughts & people who are nurturing. It's a daily battle not to dwell on my uncertainties. I've not yet learned not to think about cancer. I hope some day it will not occupy so many of my thoughts.  I really don't want it too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


So... here's my new deal. My Oncologist told me it's time to stop my sleep medication. That was about the last thing I wanted to hear (other than bad news, of course).   As a result, I'm not sleeping so well. Why is it that sleeplessness & cancer go together? Before my diagnosis, I slept like a baby most every night. It's probably due to a few factors. Sleeplessness is a part of having cancer. It just is. Some of the medicines cause insomnia. Lastly, heightened anxiety can also cause sleeplessness.

My nurse daughter has encouraged me to just relax & know that sleep will eventually come. Last night, I actually slept for 4 hours. So much better than the night before. I have a plan, & I am excited about it. I am going to use my wakeful hours to read. In my middle age, I have come to enjoy books. This was never the case in my younger years. I find it hard to put a good book down, & I believe it is a healthy, restful way to pass the quiet hours of the night.

My first read (off of sleep medication) is actually a book for men, The Breast Cancer Husband. I wish I would have read this book months ago because I learned so much about my new self & my emotional reactions over the past year. I recommend this book for all married couples going through breast cancer. It is written by a breast cancer husband (that is a man married to a woman on this unwanted journey). I found it both entertaining & insightful. It also helped me see what my help mate is going through with me. I would hate to be in his helpless & confusing shoes.

This book says that it is important to look back in life. It's important to process what we have been through so that we can move on to a new place. Sometimes looking back is exhausting & seems to  reopen our wounds. I also think it goes against our nature. If we could just sweep things under a rug & forget about the pain, that surely would be easier, wouldn't it? Not really cause it doesn't work. My past experience tells me that if we try to ignore our past, it will seep out of us like steam in a boiling pot on the stove.

I have also found that in looking back, the lessons we learn enable us to help others. Most importantly, we realize that it is our trials that truly shape our character. We become who we are through the rough stuff, not through the easy times. Nobody wants difficulty, but the treasures found on the path are worth  the misery.  Some of my lessons have been hard pills to swallow. Honestly, I haven't liked everything I've learned about myself. On a journey like this, you meet a person in the mirror that you never knew. She's you, but she's been tweaked.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


In less then 2 weeks, I have seen 5 doctors.  Suffice it to say... I've had to buck up & face the music. No escape. I've asked several questions. I've found comfort & encouragement. I've experienced aloofness, disconnection, & downright grumpiness. I have 2 doctors that have taken time to truly understand what makes me tick, & they are my best alliance. They are consistent. They seem to care about my overall well being. They "get" my anxiety & factor it into the whole picture.

If I haven't learned anything else on this journey, I've learned that doctors are human beings. This is both good & bad. In some cases, they seem to see themselves as more.  In other cases, it just makes me realize that they, too, are entitled to less than pretty moments. The hardship being: sometimes their unpretty moments coincide with my long awaited for appointment. If I catch them when they are off, I leave their office empty (even with good news).

Sometimes, I just need help sorting through information, & that seems to be a nuisance. I try to be an organized patient. I think about my appointments before I go. I take time to write down my questions. I try not to waste their time. I try to be positive & thankful. All that being said, I still can walk out of their office feeling sad or empty. Maybe it's just me...

So heres what I know: I have some liver enzymes that are slightly elevated. This seems to be a recurrent problem, so I need a little extra monitoring. I have a wisdom tooth that needs to be pulled. Yikes! I need a colonoscopy in the next year or so. Again, yikes! My tumor marker test was normal. Yay! My blood counts are good. Double yay! My OB exam was all normal. Relief! My skin is remarkably healing from radiation. Nothing short of a miracle. My arm that had the lymph node dissection is bothering me less & less. I never thought I'd be able to say that.

My energy level is amazing me. My sleeping is still an issue. My friends are the best. My family is irreplaceable. My faith is intact. I need to start exercising. I love having things to look forward to. I enjoy simple things. As for the outcome of all my appointments, whether the doctor was having a less than pretty moment or not, I am thankful for overall good news. The things that are a bit off are manageable. As for the uncertainties of this rotten disease recurring, for now, I am back where I belong, trusting in God for His overall goodness.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I would never do that.

Self-righteousness is a condition with which I believe many Christians have been afflicted. Being self-righteous is seeing life through your own eyes. It's when you look at someone else & think or even say... I would never do that. I never knew I suffered from this condition until my brother explained it to me. I was an older teen at the time. I don't even remember what prompted me to have those thoughts. I had no idea that being self-righteous could be so simply defined.

I am so glad my brother pointed it out to me & taught me how to guard against this ugly trap. I don't always get it right, but at least I am  usually aware when I fail, & I try not to make it a daily practice. I think the old adage is true... You never really know what another man's life is like until you walk in his shoes. What gives us the right to condemn another person? After all, are we without sin ourselves?

It is my opinion that if you really want to have an impact on another person's life, you must first love that person.  Build a friendship, & meet the person on their level. It's not about you; it's about sharing Christ's love. It's not about what you think of the person's life style. It's not about the fact that you would never do that. Most people don't end up in sad circumstances by choice. Frequently, traumatic events in the past made an impact or paved the way.

Are we without sin ourselves? Of course, we are not. Our sins may be less obvious, but none the less, just as potent. The damage we do through our own heart, mind, & words can be deadly. Sometimes we  justify what we do or how we react without pausing to consider the other person's reasons for  the path he has taken. I believe we need to leave the convicting to God & just be His vehicle. We need to be His hands & feet, not His Holy Spirit.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Back from the dead...

I feel as thought I have spent this last year like a bear in hibernation. It's so exciting waking up & catching up on the lives of loved ones. It's fun being out & about & running into friends. It's wonderful to to be able to answer peoples' question,"How are you?" with "So much better!" It's unreal to be able to enjoy a whole day without fatigue.

I spent most of today outside people watching, one of my favorite past times. I assisted a friend with a book sale & loved getting to know her more. We sat outside at the local pharmacy & enjoyed the people coming & going. In between customers, we visited. We ate Clif bars, drank cold drinks, & shared our lives. I love making a new friend.

This evening we (my husband & I) went to a baseball game complete with fireworks & a concert. It was such a pretty summer night. I got carried away eating a snow cone & Dippin Dots, but enjoyed both immensely.  Many of our friends were at this game, & I loved reconnecting with them. I loved the gentle breeze. I love the smell of summer. It is my favorite time of year.

I told my husband that I feel as though I have been dead for a year, removed from life, & self absorbed. Being intertwined in the lives of others is so. much. more. fun! As I begin to look back over what is soon to be a year since my diagnosis, I can't help but relive some painful moments. At times I'm still in disbelief... This 50 year old body, heart, & mind has been through a lot together. When one part suffered, so did the other 2.

So... now as my whole self begins to heal, I am overcome with life & joy. Excitement is brewing in my soul like a flower trying to push through the dirt & bloom. I know my days are numbered as are the days of each & every human being. Right now I don't feel compelled to dwell on that but rather to live each day as a gift, to live each day to the full. It's so much more fun than being lifeless.

It's a weird sensation feeling like I've missed out on a year of the lives of my loved ones. It's like time froze as I walked this lonely road. Everyone was cheering me on, yet, I felt alone, removed. It took all the energy I had to lived each day, merely as a couch potato. I had little to offer my loved ones. They cared for me. I could see them, hear them, touch them, talk to them, yet I felt disconnected. It wasn't their fault. It wasn't mine. I think it was post traumatic shock. It was my body protecting itself from feeling too much. It was my body on overload processing its crisis. It was a strange phenomenon. I am grateful to be waking from my nightmare & returning to life.

I need to apologize...

Today I feel a need to apologize for a frequent mistake we Christ followers frequently make... failure to show the God we know.   And no, I did not come up with this on my own. Tony Nolan, a youth evangelist did. However, I am claiming it as the sad truth.

I have recently been privy to 2 stories, true stories, in my own community, where fellow followers of Christ turned people away from the Lord by being judgmental. I really don't know of anything more tragic or heartbreaking. It makes me both sad & angry.

I cannot list the specific details because I don't wish to shine a light on the offenders. Also, casting stones is wrong because I am not without sin. I am sure I have turned others away from the Lord without even knowing it.

Failure to show the God we know... simply means we don't represent the love of our lives in a loving way. I think of how Jesus responded to the woman at the well. He met her where she was & revealed Himself to her. She had been with many men. That wasn't news to Jesus anymore than are my rotten sins news to Him. Zaccheaus, a tax collector who cheated people, sat high in a tree so he could see Jesus pass by. Jesus called out to him & told him to come down from that tree. He was going to his house that very day.

Then there's David. He blows my mind. He committed adultery & then had his mistress' husband murdered. Yet, he is known as a man after God's own heart. Lastly, there is Paul, formerly Saul, known for persecuting Christians. With his name change came a heart change. He gave his life to the Christ he renounced in his earlier days.

So there you have it: a prostitute, a fraud, an adulterer & murderer, & a persecutor of Christians. Yet, all came to love the Lord with all their heart & to be known as some of the "greats" mentioned in the Bible. As we Christ followers cast stones & push souls farther from the Lord, I believe we will one day have to answer for those we kept from coming to Christ. How can a person come to Christ when they are condemned before they take their first step?

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I believe it's important to have a grateful heart. I've always tried to instill that in my children. I believe a grateful heart is reflected in ones' disposition, relationships, demeanor ... Being grateful doesn't mean we will never be sad or hurt. It doesn't mean we are putting on a facade of joyfulness. It just means we don't take our blessings for granted. It effects our perspective, how we treat others, what we say to ourselves... I believe it's also a sign of humility. It requires that we don't live with expectations of entitlement or guarantee. It effects how we love & how we serve.

It's strange, but I have known 2 people recently who have gone to Africa & reported the same observation. They both are amazed at how little the people in Africa have, but their level of contentment soars above that of most Americans. They are the happiest, most joyful people on this earth. So I am told.

So many people in Africa have so little. Many of them live in fear. Children often are raised by their siblings (who are children themselves). Often, grandparents raise their grandchildren. The poverty level is great. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that in spite of all their difficulties, they have genuinely grateful hearts.

I think we Americans have so much to learn from them. Many of us have a roof over our head. We are entitled to an education. We have food, clothing, clean water, medical care, technology, & so much more. I somehow doubt that our fears our on the same level as their fears. Yes... we have our worries, but I'm not sure they are comparable.

Yet, with all that we have, we lack contentment. We want what we don't have. We strive for things that don't matter. We seek fulfillment in things that do not satisfy our souls. I am as guilty as the next person. I am discontent with things about myself. I sometimes live my life spinning my wheels, failing to put my energy in what really matters. Instead, I waste it on foolishness.

Today, I want to take time to count my blessings. My friend told me that she is keeping a gratitude journal. She says it keeps her positive. Taking time to hold on to the good in life is essential to gratefulness. Recognizing that the Lord gives, & the Lord takes away teaches us to hold on loosely to what matters most in our lives, knowing that ultimately, each day is a gift from God.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What do I have to offer?

Tonight we met with some new friends. We are on the same journey, just at different places. As I contemplated this meeting, in all fairness, I had to ask myself... What do I have to offer? I'm about 7 months ahead of her but still in the mending phase. I'd like to think I've settled into my new norm, but honestly, that's not the case.  I still have my daily struggles & side effects which I've complained about far too much.  I'm sure the world has tired of hearing my woes.

Truth is... today was a really fun day! My middle daughter & I sorted through 4 boxes of wedding photos. We giggled & sorted. It was like Cold Stone Creamery. We had 3 piles: Like It, Love It, & Gotta Have it. Upon my husband's suggestion, we added a pile of absolutely not. Her wedding came at a difficult time, or should I say... my cancer came at a difficult time. As she said today, "There is no good time for caner."

Today gave me hope because spending time with her makes me laugh. Laughing is good for the soul. Laughing makes me know that there is joy even in the midst of trials. As I shared with our new friends tonight... cling to anything positive that happens on this journey. Hold onto what is good, whether big or small. Treasures will be found. Daily life will have more meaning. There are 2 kinds of hope. One holds out for things to get better, the other hope is in the Lord. One is uncertain, & the other cannot be stripped out from under us.

We had a beautiful evening. I probably talked way to much, but I instantly felt comfortable with this kind couple. It was easy to answer her questions, but I can only hope my answers eased her mind. I was honest, even when the picture wasn't pretty. I assured her that her picture would have its ups & downs & be her own story. I think she could see that I have reached my lowest of lows on this journey, but still I rest in the palm of God's hand.

I told her that my faith was really all I have to offer. It is my anchor that has brought me through each day. I had to truthfully admit that I lost my hope through a few painful days. I encouraged her to let people pamper her & care for her. I shared with her that kindness had also helped sustain me. I have found new joy in the simple things in my life. I wanted to tell her the journey would get easier, but I'm just not there yet.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Portrait of a Great Man:

He keeps his feet planted firmly on the ground so that his children have room to soar / He holds his arms out wide so that they always have a safe place to land / And even if he doesn't know it at the time, he's the one who teaches them how to fly / Happy Father's Day to a man who makes an incredible difference in the lives of others.

I ran across this card the other day while shopping for a Father's Day card. I love it when I am able to find just the right card for the one I love. My husband is not a perfect man, but he is a great man. As time evolves (which it has a way of doing), I am able to see his impact, his handprint, on them more clearly with each new stage of life. Had our daughters been raised by s single mother, I think of the pieces they would be missing.

I am so inept at certain things in life. For example, if it has to do with numbers or financial understanding, they would be sunk. I am a poor example in this department. I think of all the papers he proofread for them over the years. I love to write, but when it comes to critiquing, I'm too inaccurate. I apparently missed out on some grammar rules. He has taught them all to be good writers. I'm in awe.

Over the years, he's worked hard, even when his job was filled with uncertainties. In his profession, the turn over rate can be high. Bosses, ownership, & formats come & go. He has had to prove himself many times over, & somehow kept his own 2 feet secure. He could have chosen a larger market, but he was willing to stay put for me (& for his girls). Having anxiety, I could never accept moving with grace (just another one of my shortcomings). I guess sacrifice is what I gratefully received.

He's always listened to each of us. That's quite a feat since he has been surrounded by females his whole adult life (even the cat & the dog for many years). I know he has felt outnumbered, but he has never complained or wished for something he didn't have. Many times he's had to think for the 2 of us. I find it hard enough to think for myself, let alone another adult.

One of his abilities I've been most thankful for through the years is how he makes us laugh. He makes us laugh in good times & in bad. When our teenage daughters experienced a tragedy... when a boy hurt their feelings... when they didn't make a play or do well in a competition, he could always cheer them up. Usually he did this by writing them a funny & ridiculous little song about their heartache. Our tears would turn into uncontrollable giggles, & suddenly life could continue.

Over the years we haven't always been on the same page. For one thing, we are man & woman. Secondly, our backgrounds are vastly different. Lastly, we are opposites. Learning to see things through each other's eyes has always been a challenge. Sometimes we get better at this, but we will always remain a mystery to each other. I think that's how it's supposed to be.

We each have our place in our daughter's lives. I am grateful that we've been able to nurture them & raise them together, filling in the gaps for each other. My heart goes out to single parents. I would have failed on my own. Also, our daughters would have been robbed of their Daddy teaching them to fly. His perspective has always been more whole & longterm than mine. I've lived more in the moment.

Recently, when our youngest (our 20 year old) left for South Africa, she & I were both distraught. If it weren't for him, I'm not sure she would be in South Africa now. He had the right words. I had tears. So... away she flew, & now she's soaring. In a few months, she'll  fly home & land temporarily in her safe place. Then... off she'll go again. As for us, I'll be crying, & he'll be hugging her & waving good-bye. He'll be singing her a little rhyme & instilling confidence in her soul.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

in sickness & in health...

Today my high school sweetheart & I celebrated 28 years of marriage. Our anniversary is actually tomorrow, but since it's Father's Day, we celebrated a day early. We met the summer before our freshman year at a carwash. I remember it as if it were yesterday. We immediately connected, but it would be a while before our courting days officially began...

We spent our first year flirting in Freshman Biology. Even thought the class did not get along with me, it was worth it because I got to see him. I sat right behind him. Those were the days when I used to ride my bike by his house, hoping he would be outside shooting hoops. Our first date wasn't until our sophomore year, Homecoming. I had actually turned another guy down, telling him I was waiting for a certain someone to ask me. My best friend had assured me he would.

A few funny things happened that night. He didn't realize he had a price tag on his pant leg, & I was too shy to tell him. We got locked out of our car, no fault of his or mine. The waiters at the restaurant became very irate with our classmates because they did not leave a tip. The best part was when he walked me to the door & kissed me on the cheek. That little kiss sent me to the moon. I ran in the house, threw myself on the couch (formal dress & all), & squealed with uncontrollable joy.

As time went on, he courted me. He became my best friend. He bought me a music box that played "Weekend in New England." For Valentine's Day, he gave me a pretty gold heart locket. We used to go to the beach together. We'd order big sub sandwiches & have our own little picnic. We canoed down the Des Plaines. We fought. We played. We laughed. We cried. We made each other's day, & sometimes we made each other cry.

After 7 years of courtship (minus the year we were apart), we became man & wife. We were young. We were kind of dumb, but we were in love, for sure. We started our family with our first dog (bought with wedding gift money), & 6 months later, we were expecting the first of our 3 precious daughters. As the years went by, we suffered heartaches & celebrated our greatest moments.  Some seasons were really hard, but through it all, we loved each other & cared deeply for one another. Putting the other person first was always our way.

So now, 28 years later... for better, for worse,  for richer, for poorer, in sickness, & in health has  whole new meaning. Even though we've been each other's best friend now for almost 35 years, our life has been turned upside down. Yes, we are walking this road together & that is how it will be. Some days are bleak, but even in our bleakness, we have each other. I wouldn't want to walk this walk with anybody else. I couldn't.

Today started off just a little sad. We stuck with our plan & kept our dinner reservation. Something happened during our time together. Our hearts were touched. We smiled. We laughed. We had the time of our lives. On the way home, I could feel God's presence. He gave me this message: Even though today had it's sorrow, it ended with so much happiness. Hang on for the ride of your life. You will have moments of sorrow, but your joy will exceed anything the 2 of  you have yet to experience. Thank you, God.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I will never be normal (part 2).

I'm not sure, but I think yesterday's blog may have concerned a few caring readers. I stated that I will never be my old self, & that I will never be normal again. My hope is that the reader caught the end of my blog, the part that says God has impressed upon my heart that my worth does not come from the restoration of my body, & neither can my faith depend on it.

Sometimes, I write my blogs  because there might be someone else out there struggling with a similar issue. I have struggled with this issue over the past 10 months, but now, as I blog about it, my  mind & heart have been restored. I don't ever expect my body to be fully restored, & I am thankful that I am finally moving beyond that hope.

As for the loss of normalcy, truthfully, I was never normal. Who is? What is normal? I am at peace with who I am, & I don't think normal has ever been a part of the equation. In fact, as a person who majored in helping people with disabilities & a former youth leader, I seem to revel in peoples' quirks & unique traits. That's putting it mildly; actually, I am drawn to people with difficulties. I always have been.

So... if you are concerned about me seeing myself as different (never to be returned to my old self), rest assured, I am okay. There is much about me that is unique, & I realized that as a young child. I think it is important to embrace the special traits God has gifted us with (whether we would choose them or not). I think our flaws are beautiful. Frequently, God does some of His greatest wonders through our weaknesses.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I will never be normal again.

My husband & I took a walk this evening & cleared our heads. This has been a long week filled with unending doctor appointments. The good news is... I've not been hit with anything unexpected. Tomorrow I see my plastic surgeon & more decisions will have to be made in the near future. However, these are not decisions that could make or break my life. There's no wrong or right. It's just personal.

So... I 've been on the internet looking for pictures of women that have been through this journey. In looking at their outcomes, I've come to a few conclusions. I will never look like I used to, & I will never be normal again. Back when I was facing my surgery decision, I struggled deeply because I could see the writing on the walls.

As always, I would rather deal in reality & know the truth as I make my decisions. Right now, I feel secure enough in the Lord, that I am okay with whatever I decide. My expectations are not particularly high. My frame of mind is such that it doesn't hurt to try, but I don't expect to achieve normalcy. That just isn't going to happen.

I think I did my grieving during the first stage of my treatment, back when I was having chemo & trying to make an overwhelming decision. Since then, I have grieved, but not really over my body as much as over my life. I know that I am a whole person with or without all of myself or myself as I used to be. I also feel as though I have much life ahead of me, & that is where my focus needs to be.

My friend looked at me a few weeks ago & said, "This has affected every facet of your life, hasn't it?" I nodded my head in agreement, & I could only think... if you only knew. Even if I had the words to adequately explain the changes in my life, it would be inappropriate. As I've said before, it's all a mixed bag, & nobody even knows the permanence of some of these changes.

For instance, my neuropathy may or may not improve. My brain may regain its processing abilities, or it may not. The list goes on, & I'm learning to live with the new me. God has impressed upon my heart that my worth does not depend on my old self. It is my honor to walk this walk, trying to reflect Him, regardless of my outcomes, both big & small. My faith cannot depend on the restoration of my body.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's time...

It's late, & I should go to bed. I have so many thoughts running through my head. I am tired but not in the mood to sleep (if that even makes sense). Yesterday, I had one of many doctor appointments this week. I saw my Gastroenterologist, & he was very encouraging. He helped me put some things into perspective which have been on my mind. More than anything, I think he helped me get my mind back into a positive mode.

I know people have been praying for me, & I am grateful. I may not have survived the last month if it weren't for these prayers. The mental anguish of this journey is one of the biggest battles of all. Staying positive is important, but pretending does little to no good. My GI helped me see that I am not just a page of statistics. He said that each case is different (of course), & that the treatments one receives are not just according to statistics. Rather, a good doctor makes a clinical decision based on years of practice & the overall situation of the patient.

He got me back to realizing that because we know my chemo was effective, we have great hope. He didn't deny that we will never really know how many lymph nodes were effected (because I had my chemo before surgery), but he assured me I had very effective treatment. I am in awe that he takes so much time to talk to me & comfort me. I am blessed to have him on my team.

As I blogged a few blogs ago... after I saw my youngest daughter off to South Africa, God impressed upon my heart that the message He gave me for her was also for me. What a realization. It may not seem profound, but to me in my current state of mind, it is everything. He made it clear to me that I am to focus on today & enjoy today. I am not to get ahead of myself but to go back to placing myself in His mighty hand. Yes... it's truly the best place in all the world to be.

So... as my middle daughter told me yesterday. It's time to enjoy, to have a little summer. After all, it is my favorite time of year. Today, I received some beautiful flowers from one of my daughter's best friends & her mother. Oddly enough the note read as follows... To a great summer & many smiles. I believe God is using my daughter & the dear friends who sent me the lovely bouquet to affirm His message to me. It's time to be happy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

He promised to go the distance.

This morning I sit on my couch with random thoughts about everything... This blog is probably going to be as random as my thoughts which seem to be all over the place. Last night, on the evening news, Robin Roberts' sad story was shared. She had announced it earlier in the day on Good Morning America. Due to a reaction to her chemo treatments from her breast cancer 5 years ago, she now has pre leukemia & is in need of more chemo (which will begin immediately), & a bone marrow transplant (her sister will be her donor).

With tears in her eyes, she shared her news. Kleenex was close at hand, & fellow workers sat on each side holding her hands. Pictures of her beautiful sister (her donor) were also shown. Her news is tragic, but since she is young (51), in otherwise good health, & her sister is a good match, she has hope. I hear news like this almost weekly, & it never ceases to break my heart. It also serves as a reminder of my own future & its possibilities.

I didn't know that chemo could actually cause leukemia. I bet I was told & even signed papers stating I understood the possible outcomes, but in my state of shock, I have no recollection. So... hearing this last night is just one more thing to absorb, to add to the list of unknowns. I'm thinking it might be best if I stop keeping this list in my head & just let go. I asked my dear friend, my Angel of Hope (now a 5 year survivor), how she managed to live her life without constantly dwelling on these unknowns.

She smiled, shrugged her shoulders, & said she guessed she had blinders on her eyes. Perhaps that is what I need: blinders. I don't want to shut out the news. I don't want to be uninformed. She's not. So... I guess the trick is to learn how to absorb life without taking everything personally. After all, even with similarities, everyone's story is unique.

If I believe I rest in the palm of God's hand (which I do), then I need to live accordingly. I need to wrap my head & my heart around the fact that nothing will happen to me that hasn't been sifted through God's mighty hand. If He allows it, then it is okay (whether I like it or not). If He allows it, then He will provide me with the grace & strength to walk each day, each moment. He hasn't forsaken me yet, so I know I can count on His ever presentness in my life. After all, He never promised it would be easy, but He does promise to go the distance with me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The greatest gift

God blessed me with the greatest gift of all. I was sitting next to a young woman in church today on her birthday. I believe she has had a heart experience, & God is working in her life. There is nothing quite like sitting next to someone who has a newfound love for & recognition of the Lord. As our Pastor spoke, she & I both heard words that we thought were meant just for us. How can that be?

On top of this, I got to meet her little boy who warmed my heart. He reminded me of how I think his uncle would have acted at this age. His smile was so precious. He took to me & my husband, & I believe an instant bond was formed. He said the cutest things in his own little way. The best part was when he wanted me to take a picture of him kissing his mommy.

The refreshing part of his mommy is this: sitting next to her in the pew, I could sense the Lord at work in her life. She was listening to every word & even responding with soft verbal answers to the pastor's questions. I remember the first time I met her, probably 6 years ago. To say I was an enigma to her, would be putting it mildly & nicely. As for me... I was just absorbing it all, maybe chuckling on the inside as she reacted to me.

So... 6 years later, I have the privilege of sitting with her in church & becoming her friend. A few weeks ago, we were together. I was ill, & she saw to it that my needs were immediately met. She's a good little mother, trying so hard to teach her son right from wrong. She's gracious & caring. She shared her son with me today. She made me very happy.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Don't get ahead of yourself.

This morning my baby  (she's 20 years old) arrived safely in South Africa! She will be working through a ministry to share God's love with orphans and street kids for the next 2 months. Getting her off turned out to be quite an ordeal (for her & me both). Everything I didn't want to happen, happened in the last few hours we spent with her. Needless to say, she takes after me.

As we were in route to the beginning part of her journey, she fell apart. I think months of fear, anxiety, & being stretched were just too much to bear any longer. Her threshold was weakened, & there it all was, laid out before me. I can't say any of it surprised me or that I didn't even see this as a possibility. I did. But still... in the midst of it, I asked God to help me be strong for her. I also asked Him for the right words. I really didn't have the right words as I, myself, had a weakened threshold too...

As always, God provides. He held me together with only a few tears, & I was grateful for the truths He planted in my heart, both for her & for me. His words seemed to calm her heart in her storm. It wasn't until this morning, however, that I realized His words were meant for my journey too. Yesterday I blogged about living with uncertainty. Today I must claim the words given to me for my beloved daughter.

Take one step at a time. Focus on today, & don't get ahead of yourself. Live in the moment of each day, not tomorrow's moment. Wow! What sound advice. This morning, as I received word that she arrived safely in South Africa, I could only be grateful. I am grateful for her safe arrival. I am grateful that she found the courage to take her long awaited trip. I am grateful for what God will do in & through her on this trip. I can't wait to hear.

The last 2 hours I spent with her were truly 2 of the most difficult hours in my life. It was a culmination of so much. The ride home was even worse. Now, almost a week later, I already see evidence of God working in her & through her. I also sense His hand on me. We walk this walk together in life. Our hearts are sometimes ripped from our souls, & the rebound is painful. However, when the quiet comes... the peace is as pretty as a vibrant sunset on a peaceful shore.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I don't know.

One of my besties & I spent the day together today. It was a much needed day as we haven't been able to catch up in over a month. We were having such a nice day, sitting outside eating our lunch, when all of the sudden, my waterworks started to flow. She was asking me about my treatments & what lies ahead for me. I don't really know. I'm not sure I want to know...

I was sharing with her some of my woes, & I think telling her about my last month was too much for me to relive. I'm still tender both physically & emotionally. I did not expect to fall apart today, & doing so was not my intent. Of course, she didn't mind. She said over & over that I never need to apologize for my tears.

I told her how radiation caused me to reevaluate my situation & how hard it was for me to come to grips with the unknown. On my way home today, I decided that perhaps some of my grieving has been delayed because I saw things differently after my radiation. Also, radiation was so hard on me, I felt like part of my spirit died. I lost hope. I'm doing better, but I obviously still have a ways to go.

My youngest is in flight to South Africa. Maybe that caused me to have an emotional day. I don't know. I got to talk to her while she was between flights in Atlanta Airport. She sounded good, & we had a sweet conversation. I found it hard to hang up my phone. She humored me with a kiss over the phone. I don't know why this makes me so happy.

I was also telling my friend how every where I turn, I am reminded of my cancer. On the news this week, 5 things were listed that increase ones rate of recurrence. It's so hard to be watching the news & realizing the reporters are talking about you. I still haven't gotten used to processing news specifically about breast cancer. It's a frequent occurrence.

The best part of today was chillin with my husband. Nothing exciting, just sweet comfort. He asked me about my upcoming appointments & is taking time off to accompany me to some of them (the ones we feel his presence would be beneficial). I was touched by his willingness to rearrange his work schedule for me, & grateful too.

I'm reading a book (as I've mentioned in an earlier blog), & it's about hope. I believe the timeliness of this book in my life is orchestrated by my Heavenly Father. It's not the first time He's placed a book in my hands at just the right moment. The author writes about how God loves us enough to let us doubt Him. She even sites scripture to support her thoughts. I shall close this blog with a quote, "How can we develop courage without being afraid? How can we develop perseverance without being weary? How can we become merciful without being wronged? And how can we come to trust everything to God's steadfast love unless it seems our very lives depend on it?" (June Hunt, Hope for your Heart)

I don't know why I have cancer. I don't know why my cancer's characteristics have to be so grim. However, I am sure cancer has given me the opportunity to develop my courage. It has taught me the meaning of perseverance. I don't feel wronged; I'm just in shock. Lastly, my life does depend on trust, & I believe cancer has given me the ultimate opportunity to grow my trust in God. I don't have to know why. I do need to trust if I wish to persevere & not grow weary. I need to trust so I don't drown in my own pain & sorrow.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lonely but not Alone

If you read this blog, it may be for you, I am not sure. I believe God has laid it on my heart to write this one, so here goes...  If you know me personally or have been following my blog lately, then you know I have been struggling. I believe my state of mind has been a direct result of a combination of circumstances. As I've mentioned recently, a very dear person passed away from complications from leukemia. This makes me so angry at cancer. My sweet daughter who has cared for me over the last month, left sadly for 2 months in S. Africa. This hit me hard. My radiation wounds are healing remarkably. I decided to quit my pain medicine & did so without weaning myself off of it. Lesson learned. In the meantime, I suffered a terrible fever, cold, & an eye issue. All of which are so much better.

My body is starting to recover from its recent assaults. My mind & heart, however, are suffering a bit of anxiety. As I look back on the last month of my life (& even the last 8 months), it's truly no big surprise that I'd be suffering emotionally too. Who wouldn't be? Sometimes, even though I am surrounded by people I love, I feel alone. Even though I am seldom alone, I feel lonely. My family & friends are always a phone call away. They take time to care for me, to listen to my woes, to love me beyond words, yet sometimes I feel so frightened & alone. My husband is a caring husband (& is very near to me both physically & emotionally), so how is it that I could possibly feel alone?

Truth is... no person on this earth can meet another persons' needs. Because we are human, we will always let each other down. It might not be knowingly, but it is a given. It is inevitable. Here's what I believe God wants me to share: It's only in our aloneness, that we fully find Him. If we never bottom out & experience loneliness, we never have the opportunity to turn fully to Him. Because we are human, we will instead turn to other humans in search of comfort.

As I spent hours in radiation over the past month, my lonely soul cried out to God as He was my only source of comfort. I was in excruciating pain & mental anguish. I had to go through with the radiation. After all, my life may depend on it. I had friends & family accompany me (which helped immensely), but only I could receive my treatment. As I prayed through hours of radiation, all I could do was ask God to help me endure it & to make my suffering useful.

When I called on Him, He answered. I instantly sensed His presence, & I know without a doubt, He answered my prayer for endurance. As for making my suffering useful, I believe that is my purpose in sharing this blog. I do believe that when all is stripped away, & it's just Him & me... whether it's on the radiation table or somewhere on my emotional journey, finding Him is the deepest treasure of all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I have a daily conversation in my head: Should I continue blogging? Yes, it's therapeutic for me, but am I beating a dead horse, & would it be better for everyone if I just journaled privately? Selfishly, sometimes I wish I didn't "put it all out there" cause I worry about hurting others' feelings somehow or just being too open, sharing TMI. Then, unselfishly, I go back to the fact that God has convicted me to share this journey, & I just have to trust in Him & let Him use my words to touch the hearts that are meant to be touched. That's all in His hands...

I've had a rough few days, but I've learned that through the rough times come the treasures of life. So... I suppose it makes the rough times all worthwhile (but not any less painful). My most recent lesson learned is this: never go off pain medicine cold turkey. I didn't realize there was a way to do this, so I just did it (in one felt swoop). Consequence:  overflowing tears, hopelessness, chills, nausea, upset stomach. Many of these symptoms I am use to because I live with them daily. However, hopelessness, is not a symptom I've ever experienced to such depth. It scared me.

Because of my other symptoms, I just thought I was still recovering from my radiation, my cold, & my sadness (my daughter leaving for S. Africa & my sweet friend passing away). On the way home from dropping off our youngest who was beginning her travels, I pretty much fell to the bottom of my barrel in every way. I really don't know how my husband deals with his pathetic wife. If he had hair on his head, I think he would have pulled it all out by now. If the shoes were reversed, & I had to watch him in the way he watches me, I would be beside myself. Being a care giver is not for the weak at heart. I don't know how I would weather the storms of seeing my loved one suffer.

Thanks to all who have continued to lift me up in prayer, especially this past month. I could actually feel your prayers on Sunday as I bottomed out & then slowly began to recover. I've also began reading a book my friend gave me, Hope for the Heart. It too is restoring my hope. Lastly, my friend took me for my treatment yesterday & pampered me as only she can do. She knew my heart was hurting, & she listened to my sadness (all day long). The best moment was when the thunder clapped while we were shopping. The power went off for a few seconds, & all kinds of things crashed to the floor on the upper level. I was about 4 feet away from my friend, & I suddenly felt like we were miles apart, separated by darkness.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

maybe I will have more hair...

I am very tired this morning, but I can't sleep. I awakened at 4:30am when the dog needed out, & I think I've been awake ever since. I've watched two I Love Lucy's & thought about my thoughts. Sounds very unproductive, probably the only alternative would have been much needed sleep. I stopped my pain medication yesterday because I think I can manage without it. However, I think my body is reacting to this change similarly to how it reacted to steroids. Not good.

The good news is I can drive again. That helps me feel a bit more independent & able to function. It's a step in returning to life. It's strange... on Friday's news, I watched a feature on The Cancer Center, truly one of my favorite places. I love The Cancer Center because its staff cares for the whole person. The strange part in seeing the news feature was realizing that even though I wasn't a part of that clip, that was me sitting in one of those chairs, receiving treatment. In fact, I will do just that tomorrow.

When I am there, I see all sorts of people with varying forms of cancer. I never know for sure what most of the patients are facing. Some certainly seem more sick than others. As I watched the news, it made me wonder what others think when they see me, & if I see myself in the same light. I think our minds play tricks on us, & we don't always see ourselves realistically. Yesterday, at a wedding, I had the same thoughts...

It takes courage for me to fight this fight, & sometimes the road is lonely, not because I'm alone, but because my feelings are not easily comforted. Yesterday as I was thinking about the courage it takes to go out in public, especially with such short hair, I then had to wonder if it took courage for my family & friends to go out in public with me. My answer was yes. Healing is evident, but it is a slow, painful process.

Finding out that a loved one died of cancer is such a reminder of life's fragile state. Not only do I grieve for this remarkable woman & her family, I also wonder what will befall me. What complications will I have from these severe treatments? I used to think that my Ulcerative Colitis was a serious condition. For me, it now pales in effect to breast cancer. Yes it robbed me of life for a few years, but eventually my quality of life was restored. I am medicated for it, & it frequently effects my daily life, but it is manageable (at least right now).

Today, my baby daughter begins her travels to Africa. I'm in awe of her, but I will miss her more than ever, after all, she's been my personal care giver for the last month. Last night she kissed me goodnight, & my already sad heart strings were stretched & pulled. I am reminded of the words my middle daughter gave me at the beginning of this journey: Heart of mine own heart, whatever befall, Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

I found great comfort in these words in the early days of my journey. I think today is a good day to reclaim them. It's a hard day for me but a day I've known would arrive. I will put her in her Father's care, & pray that we will be reunited in August. I will be counting the days. Maybe I will have more hair when I meet her at the airport gate to welcome her home.Yesterday, my middle daughter  unexpectedly whispered  5 of the most precious & significant words into my ear. She said: I'm glad you're my mom.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

...the cycle of life...

The Lord gives, & the Lord takes away. It's Biblical, & it's true. Sometimes it's too sad to bear. I came home from a beautiful wedding this evening to receive news that a person dear to my heart passed away this morning from complications from leukemia. All I could do was sob. I know I take this news harder than I ever have. I know I'm in a weakened state. I knew she was sick. However, I am in shock.

I am in shock that a horrible disease with treatments worse than the illness itself has claimed another life today, the life of a beautiful woman, an angel. She is a a wife, a mother, a grandmother, & a friend. To my knowledge, she never hurt a flea. I only knew her for her kindness & her love for children. I knew her as a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, & friend. Her family seemed to be her all; that's what mattered to her most.

When my oldest was tiny, I had no family nearby. This sweet woman, who really didn't know me, would lovingly watch my lil firecracker & entertain her with coloring & all sorts of fun. She didn't have grandchildren yet, & so she doted on my curly headed little daughter. When I'd pick my baby girl up, she'd tell me stories of the funny & cute things she did while I was away. To say she was a Godsend doesn't even begin to say how she touched my lonely life.

Today, I believe she went to Heaven, her eternal home where she will be whole. No more tears & no more suffering. No more leukemia. No more treatments. No more waiting for results. No more sickness. How she will be missed by those who loved her! I can only imagine the ache in their hearts, the lumps in their throats, their tears, & yet, their love.

She made a life out of loving them, & the love in their hearts for her surpasses the depth of any words. She made their house a home. She nurtured them. She doted on each of them. She adored them. The only beauty in this is that with each of them, she has left a part of herself which will live on in them. She made their lives beautiful, & because of her, that beauty is eternal.

a tribute to: a dear one

Friday, June 1, 2012


I wish I could shut my mind off. I wish I cold stop thinking about things that are troublesome to me. It seems that everywhere I turn, there is a reminder of my journey or a friend on a similar journey. I have other things bothering me too. I cannot get into the specifics, but suffice it to say, I'd like to have a break from the things that are wearing on me. But... who wouldn't?

I am familiar with positive ways to cope with anxiety. I believe prayer is my best defense, followed by loved ones, & a good book. I doubt that people who live with anxiety can fathom what it would be like to spend just a day without our daily companion. On the same note, I wonder if people who do not have constant anxiety, have any idea what it's like to live daily with this condition.

As I look back on my life, I think I've always had anxiety. I know it started to trouble me more as I reached my preteen years. However, I didn't even know what anxiety was back then, or that I suffered from it. I just knew I suffered. I knew I worried uncontrollably about things that didn't seem to bother other people. I knew I shook uncontrollably at times, but I never knew why. I also knew that fear sometimes paralyzed me.

As an adult, it took a crisis for me to seek help. Too bad I didn't realize help was available many years earlier. One day I became so devastated with the circumstance in my life, I couldn't function. I could only cry. It was on this day (roughly 10 years ago), I reached for the phone & called for help. My beloved doctor prescribed some medication which has added so much quality to my life.

I still have my anxiety, but medicine allows me to function & not be weighed down by everyday life. I know it's helping me immensely with the heavier concerns of my life, but lately the heavier concerns have been pretty heavy. I think my treatments have taken their toll on my tired body, & my reserves are down. I heard on TV yesterday, that drinking hot tea is healthy, not only because of it's medicinal effects, but because we tend to sit & ponder our thoughts while we drink our tea.

As I have tried to incorporate healthy habits into my life, I have been drinking more hot tea. I have also been pondering life, probably too much. I am prone to pondering & seeing how God is present in the orchestration of my life. I love discovering God's almighty hand in my life. It's late now, & I should be shutting my mind off & going to sleep, but I feel the need to ponder. I think I'll have a cup of tea...

rough waters

So... here I am awake in the middle of the night. A coughing spell woke me up, & now I'm wide awake with so many thoughts running through my mind. Yesterday was a good day. I spent time with a friend & just enjoyed her company immensely. I'd forgotten how exciting it is to build a new friendship. When I was a little girl, I loved making new friends. Wherever we went, my mom said I always found a friend. My family camped a lot, & I had lots of opportunities to meet nice people. Sometimes our friendships would go beyond the campground, & our families would meet up or correspond through mail. I do remember one boy, Jimmy, I had a mad crush on him. He was my square dance partner. Our families continued that friendship through root beer floats.

I don't know if it's a testimony to my age or the fact that I've been a permanent fixture on my couch, but I have spent a significant amount of time lately, reminiscing in my mind. I love to catch myself fixated on an old memory & just enjoy replaying it in my mind. Sometimes, I even make a connection to how a particular memory evolved into something meaningful later in my life or see a trait in myself years ago that God has refined or helped me develop. Our Pastor says that who we are today has everything to do with our past. I think it's important to reach back & examine little tidbits from our childhood.

I remember as a teenager what it was like to see my mom sick. Granted, she just had the stomach flu, & it was Thanksgiving. She did get better. But, I remember this terrible lump in my throat. I couldn't stand to see her suffer. I didn't know what to do with myself. She wasn't supposed to be sick (especially on Thanksgiving). It 's obvious to see where I'm going from here, & how it concerns me to see my loved ones watch me suffer. As I've said before, that's a part of this journey I'd like to erase. Fact is, I've since come to realize that through each trial, God is shaping & pruning my beautiful daughters too. I have to trust Him fully on this, especially since so much of it is out of my hands.

I was telling my friend yesterday that as a child I was very fearful. I remembered certain incidences that left permanent imprints on my heart. In fifth grade, I was stalked on a daily basis, & I believe nearly abducted. I ran as fast as I could & then turned around & ran the opposite direction all the way to school. I was petrified, & I can still feel that same fear in my beating heart today. Even as an 11 year old, I knew I was not alone. I know that now, & I am grateful God has seen fit to grow my confidence in Him. That little faith, that faith of a tiny mustard seed, has become my solid anchor through recent times of fear. It has stilled my rough waters & given me courage to face the next day. Anxiety is my daily companion. Faith is my gift. Because of my faith, I can face my anxieties.