Monday, October 29, 2012


Recently, we were eating in one of my favorite restaurants. The cook/owner came out to say hi to us. She is such a sweet & joyful person, even when her heart is broken. Her husband has cancer. It has returned. Nothing they can do.

Still... she smiled. Still... she counted her blessings. She thanked God for any good she could find in her sorrow. She took time to tell us how God had recently blessed them with a sweet vacation, just the 2 of them. She took time to tell us that her boy was home from being stationed in a dangerous country in the Middle East. She took time to tell us that her husband was proud of her.

I love this woman, & her sorrow breaks my heart. She & her beloved husband have gone from fight to surrender. Strange how a prognosis can immediately alter your plans. One day you are waiting. Then, with one phone call, your waiting ends. Your question has been answered. As you hang up, without even a moment's processing, you begin planning your remaining days. Whew... It's both mind boggling & heart shattering. It's the moment you've dreamed about, so why is it so surreal? Why is your heart palpitating? You've role played this scenario in your mind 100's of times, yet you feel stunned.

There's perhaps a slight relief that occurs in knowing. Living with such emotional toil is hard. You wonder how your demise will come. How will you suffer? How will your family hold you? What effect  will your decline have on them? Will they continue to stand by you? Is that fair to them?

Reality:  There's nothing fair about cancer. It seems to come out of nowhere & haphazardly chooses its journey. Once you join this club, you see life differently. Even though you might be thankful for the treasures found on this journey, you still could never wish it on anyone. You might be thankful for how you've weathered this storm, & even have confidence that God has you in the palm of His hand. But... you still wouldn't wish this journey on another soul.

Today, my dear friend said she just couldn't buy being thankful for this journey. It seems crazy, doesn't it? It's unheard of  to think that the treasures found along the way could outweigh the suffering. It just doesn't make sense. And... if that's true, then why does it seem like you would die if you ever have to see your loved ones walk this same journey?

I asked my cancer counselor about this. She said that it's another part of you dying to yourself. I heard her words, & I cringed. Sometimes the truth hurts. It's unbearable. Today, a friend escaped the "c" word. A month ago, another friend escaped the little "c." Tomorrow, a friend awaits her phone call. The cycle is seemingly endless. I modeled in a fashion show last Friday where many of the women were on their second or third round of this dreadful disease. Many of them had daughters, sisters, mothers who fought the fight. It's unthinkable!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I would never have applied for membership.

It's been a whirlwind around here. People & events are coming & going so fast, I can't catch my breath. There's so much I could blog about, but I think I will stick to one subject, The Pink Promise Celebration. Last Friday, I took part in this event as a model. I was stepping way out of my box in modeling an outfit, but felt I should do it for the cause. Honestly, I'm still befuddled as to why I was asked.

I picked up my beautiful friend, Elizabeth, & we headed for the hotel to get all dolled up & dressed. This event was a fund raiser for Susan G. Komen. I've never participated in anything like this, but it was so meaningful. As each model hit the runway, her survivor story was read. As the emcee finished the model's story, she walked the runway. During her strut, the emcee described her outfit. Upbeat music was playing, & we were instructed to "do our thing."

The problem for me was... I have no thing. I have no rhythm & very little coordination. Walking that runway in front of 400 people took some courage for me. Other models made it look easy. For me, it was anything but easy. However, I have spent this past year repeatedly stepping out of my box, & this was another opportunity to do just that. I managed not to focus on my shortcomings too much until it was time for me to step up to the runway. Thank Goodness the volunteer gave me a few pointers just before my name was called.

I don't quite know how to describe what I was feeling as I stood before 400 people while my story was read. I remember the best part was seeing my family & friends just off to the side of the runway. Their faces comforted me. Many of them were teary eyed as Elizabeth's story preceded mine. She received a well deserved standing ovation. I even had tears in my eyes as I approached the runway, so honored to follow her. I treasured each moment I spent with her that day.

As I listened to my fellow survivors' stories & spent time with them in the dressing room, I received many small treasures (as I always do on this journey). The most frequently occurring common thread I noticed was that cancer never comes at a good time.  Their stories had similarities, but each had it's own unique twist. Each survivor (without a doubt) remembers the day her lump was discovered. She remembers where she was, how it was found, & the horror that followed. All of these women had lives that were put on hold for a year while they received surgery, treatment, & possibly radiation.

It seems to me that the surgeries & treatments varied as much as the discoveries of our lumps. As we connected with each other & shared our stories, I realized that we had a few other common threads. Loved ones got us through our journey. Friends & family were essential. Faith is a stronghold which enabled us to walk this walk & remain whole. These women were kind & caring. It was uplifting to spend the morning with them. I felt so honored to walk the same runway & follow in their footsteps. As the event ended, my husband & I headed for the car, I felt so happy. My family & friends were so good to me. Their presence made me feel honored.

I've made new friends on this journey... They are my beloved treasures. When a friend (new or old) walks alongside you & holds your hand, it makes all the difference in the world. Whether that friend is your husband, your daughter, your best friend, or your new friend... the difference they make in your life is indescribable. I feel as though I've joined a new club. I can't say I would ever have applied for membership, but I am truly happy to be initiated. My survivor friends have become a precious part of my life. At The Pink Promise Celebration, I felt such a strong connection to so many people, both new friends & old. My blessings overflow.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why not today?

This morning my day began with fear. I was on my way to The Cancer Center to have lab work. My liver enzymes are monitored on a monthly basis because they are elevated. As I buckled up, I knew I had to face my latest fear. I had discovered a new lump. Of course, this caused me to think about the fact that I could be sent for a scan. As my fears began to mount, I realized that the only answer was to put myself back in the palm of God's hand. My only choice is trusting Him that "all things will work for good" because I love Him.

Just before I backed out of my driveway, I ran across a card in my purse that I had picked up about a month ago at The Cancer Center. When I stuck it in my purse, I figured I would bless someone with it at just the right moment. Little did I know, the blessing was for me. It said...Do not be afraid for I am with you. It was adorned with pretty pink roses (my favorite).

I meditated on those words as I drove to The Cancer Center. My Oncologist was so nice to work me in right away. She examined me & assured me it was just part of my reconstruction. She was so kind & confident. I breathed my sigh of relief & thanked God. I thanked her for her kindness & headed for the lobby to wait out the rain storm.

Several hours later, I received a phone call from The Cancer Center telling me my labs were okay (the same, but stable). I don't have to have them taken again for 3 months. Wow! I wasn't expecting that. I am thankful. Sometimes, I don't understand why things are okay, & other times, things are not okay.

Why was my lump cancerous a year ago, & today, no worries? It all seems so random. Why me? Why not me? Why today? Why not today? I thank God for good news. I am grateful. I hate more than anything to put my family through any more agony. However, I still thank God for that awful day a year ago because it's brought so much depth to my life.

This journey is hard. It seems my life can unravel almost instantaneously. Sometimes, I feel as though I am tip toeing on a high rope. I feel so vulnerable. Sometimes, I don't feel so good. 2 doctors & my beloved counselor at The Cancer Center have told me that's normal. It could take a year after treatment to fully recover.

I have trouble gaging my activity level. I love picking up the pace, but it seems I have new limits. My counselor pointed out to me that "full throttle" is probably too much at this point. My personal goal has been to return to the pace I used to keep. Now I'm second guessing the worthiness of that goal. I'm slowing my pace & trying to find a sweet spot.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's all of 3 words...

It seems like a long time since I've blogged. Life has picked up its pace a little too much lately. Lots of meaningful things have been happening in my life, & it's hard work to sort through all of it (at least some of it). As most of my fb friends know, I went to a benefit yesterday for my hero, Elizabeth. I knew it would be touching, & it was. I believe it turned out to be just what she hoped it would be... children having fun!

As I watch Elizabeth on her journey, walk my own journey, & watch others suffer disease & hardship, I have come to realize that really only 2 things matter in life: faith & relationship. Recently, I was convicted about the fact that God never intended us to walk life on our own or with Him alone. He very much yearns for a relationship with us. His presence in our lives is the greatest need we have. Second to that is our relationship with people.

I believe we are created with a need for both faith & relationship. Occasionally, someone will ask me what they can do for a friend who is newly diagnosed with a serious illness. My reply is simple. It's all of 3 words: Just be there. It's okay if you don't know what to say or do. Just be there. Just hold your loved one up & walk hand in hand.

As I've said before, God's presence is greater than any miracle. It sustains & gets us through the impossible. I believe people are the hands & feet of Jesus. They serve as our tangible hug from God. People are limited in what they can do. They may not be able to change a thing, but just in walking our walk with us, they are doing something more impactful than they may ever know.

As I hugged Elizabeth yesterday, she said she felt loved. Her face was glowing, & she looked loved (both by her Heavenly Father & her loved ones). Yesterday, she was surrounded with tangible love, enough love to last through eternity. Even on her journey, she loves her life. Even in her suffering, she musters up the strength to let her light shine.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I must blog about my friend, my hero, Elizabeth Grant. Her benefit is only 5 days away. It's called Hope Skip & Jump. She named it herself because she wishes for all children to have happy childhood memories. She has "a deep passion to see to it that children can keep their innocence -- especially when one of their parents or caregivers is suffering or has passed on from cancer."

You see... I met Elizabeth during one of my early treatments. We have a mutual friend, & I was familiar with her story. However, meeting her changed my life. I know without a doubt that God put her in my life to teach me how to walk this Journey Nobody Would Choose. All my life I have feared breast cancer. It ranked 4th on my list of greatest fears, only to be topped by such atrocities as having your child kidnapped or become terminally ill.

When I received my diagnosis a little over a year ago, I had so much to process. One thought that continually haunted me was whether or not I would learn to live life joyfully (even with my uncertainties). I worried that if I survived my treatments, I would not regain my joy. I felt as if I had a new dark cloud residing over my head that would never lift.

I will always remember the day I met Elizabeth, truly beautiful inside & out. She hugged me & told me that my cancer would likely be just a chapter in my life even though her's was so. much. more. She didn't want me to be afraid. Jesus had sustained her, & He would surely sustain me. As she walked away, my husband & I were blown away by her faith.

My conclusion:  A faith so deep can only come from such a difficult journey. Her faith, her Jesus, was getting her through her heart wrenching story. You see, she has Stage IV Cancer. What began as breast cancer has metastasized to her bones, her brain, & recently her liver. She has 2 young children and a husband (not to mention her parents, her 3 sisters, & a multitude of friends).

Elizabeth faces everyday with joy & a mission to prepare her children for when she is no longer physically present in their sweet lives. I am in awe of her. I don't think she feels sorry for herself. She has embraced her journey, & she wants others to see her Jesus, to know Him. She has taught me to embrace my journey, even not knowing my outcome.

She has firsthand shown me what a life focused on Jesus looks like. She has taught me not to fear, but to live. She has shown me what it looks like to daily put yourself in the palm of God's hand, the safest place to be. I have learned not to be haunted by my uncertainties but to claim my eternal security in Christ. I love Elizabeth Grant for so many reasons. She will forever be my hero.

I wish I was still there with him.

Everyone needs a get away now & then. We headed to Galena, Il over the weekend to spend a little time together, just the 2 of us. The forecast was frightening, & we considered canceling. However, I'll be having surgery in a few weeks, & we thought we better take advantage of our opportunity. So glad we did!

It was a warm misty rain as we walked the quaint streets of Galena (a first for both of us). So many shops, so many choices, what to do, what to do... We settled on "Fried Green Tomatoes," which offered the most picturesque setting of all. And, we ate fried green tomatoes, a delicacy to be sure.

We walked the streets & ducked in & out of the many little shops. Of course, my husband did a bit of people watching while I checked out the goods. However, he did enjoy the Gourmet Shops & a few fancy samples along the way. My cheat of the day was double fudge ice-cream, a good cheat, no regrets.

After checking in at our hotel & catching our breath, we headed back to the streets to find some dinner. I picked the spot, "Durty Gurts." We were lured in by her sign which said we couldn't use her stoolah if we didn't pay any moolah. I'm not quite sure why that amused us, but it did.

We slept in this morning. My husband ordered the sweetheart package which allowed us to take our time. Back to the streets of Galena we went to say good-bye. But, before we headed home, we ate a little brunch, bought a few goodies, & sipped some hot cocoa. The temp was dropping, & it hit the spot.

Highlight: one on one time with each other. I'll be honest. I love to be doted on by my husband, & I felt doted on the whole get away. This was our private celebration of my end of treatment. I felt very loved. We stretched out our magical weekend when we got home by sharing our Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Caramel Apples we bought just before we left. Mine was Peanut Butter. His was English Toffee. Delicious doesn't even begin to describe such delectables.

It's good to be loved, & it's good to spend time with the one you love. Having a little get away allows you to focus on each other, to see if you've been missing anything in the business of life. Our get away was spent in a leisurely fashion. We spent a lot of time looking into each other's eyes & hearing what the other one had to say. My only regret... I wish I was still there with him.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Irony

Recently, I had the honor of helping with a special event. Early on... I was greeted by someone I hadn't seen in a long time with probably the most heartfelt hug I've ever had. It made me so happy, I could have cried. This young person has a disability which makes it difficult to interact socially with others. As this person helped me with my tasks, I began thinking about one of my earliest callings in life, helping those with disabilities.

I had so many thoughts bombarding my head, I could barely keep up with them. I started having flashbacks about people I have known through the years who were born with disabilities. I was thinking of this young person who was so lovingly & willingly helping me. This person was totally tuned into my needs, instinctively knowing that I wasn't quite up to my duties.

I think God was trying to tell me something, & I didn't want to miss it. I knew I was onto something profound, I just couldn't quite put it all together. As I was driving home, my mind kept gravitating towards this helping heart. This person who prayed for me through my illness. He rejoiced in seeing me back on my feet. He looked out for me & lifted heavy things for me.

I was thinking... How is it that this person (with his disabilities) tuned into me & cared for me? Others were there checking in on me, but he was serving me. Others asked me if I needed anything, but he didn't ask, he just did. I was marveling at the irony in all of this.

As human beings, we are so judgmental. We constantly label people & treat them accordingly. We make it our business to know what label explains their quirks. Our expectations are even gaged by the labels we give them. I believe God was trying to pound into my head & my heart the wrongness of such judgements & treatments. 

I heard His still small voice saying... Look at people with disabilities first as people. The label is secondary, & it doesn't define them. Hmmnnn.... am I guilty? I feel as though I've spent a good portion of my life caring for people with disabilities. I've advocated for them, & I've included them. Is it possible that I didn't see them as people first? Is it possible that I saw their disability before their person?

As I admit this, I feel so ashamed. How could I not see the person first? I don't even have an answer for this. I'm thankful that God is cleaning my heart and helping me see the wretchedness in my own life. I want my heart to be refined. I want to see people as people. I don't want to label anyone. I want to see them through the eyes of Jesus, in the same way He sees them. Now I must ask... What else am I unaware of in my own heart? Please God... break my heart for what breaks yours. Create in me a clean heart.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sometimes I feel guilty...

For 25 years, my family attended a church in which we were very active. We loved our little church & gave our hearts, our souls, & our lives in service. Sundays were anything but restful, but what we did, we did in the name of the Lord. Sunday was the most important day of my week (as a youth leader). I spent my whole week planning for Sunday evening. I figured the kids who came were giving me an opportunity to impact their lives. It wasn't about me. It was about God. It was about teenagers.

As I've said before, this 8 year period of my life (next to raising 3 daughters), was the most fulfilling time of my life. It was exhausting. I was always on call, & I never knew what was coming my way. Prior to this calling, I didn't even know that I liked teens or that I could speak into a microphone. God truly calls the unqualified & qualifies the called. That's the beauty of it all, & the way in which His glory shines fully.

In time, through some sad events & life changes, God saw fit to call me out of this ministry & even to a new church home. One of the hardest things we ever did was leave this church. After all, we'd raised our children there & attended for 25 years. It seemed unbelievable to me that this was happening. Even now, it baffles me.

Fast forward 4 years... it took us a year to find a church. Once we attended our new church home, we never felt a need to look any farther. Just as we planted ourselves there & began to make a few friends, I was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, our church life, along with every part of our lives, came to a screeching halt. We had hopes to serve, but they would be put on hold.

So... finally, we are ready to serve again. It doesn't seem like we are doing much compared to the first 25 years of our marriage. Sundays are different now. They are peaceful, nourishing, & loving. We feel uplifted when we leave church. We never leave without a treasure, a thought to ponder, to make us deeper, more thoughtful human beings. Sometimes I even feel guilty for the joy I find in this church.

People are not judged in this church. In fact, they belong even before they become a member. This church reaches beyond its walls into the community, but at the same time, it loves on its congregation. The Bible stresses that the way we treat each other is significant because others notice. I marvel at the truth in this reality. We have 4 pastors from 4 different backgrounds that truly love each other.

Over the past year, even through irregular attendance due to illness, this church somehow found a way to minister to me. It might have been in simple ways, but I felt so prayed for & loved. My service seems so small, none the less, it feels beautiful. To be able to greet people, help a friend, lead a small group... It's a privilege & an honor.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Simple things mean the most. This week I got to be "Grandma" to a little third grade girl who's Grandma lives out of town. Wow! What an honor! I had big shoes to fill. It was Grandparents Day at her school. I arrived a little early in case the parking lot was full. It was. I waited in the foyer with all of the other Grandparents, allowing the classroom teachers time to take attendance & such.

After a few moments, we were permitted to find our Grandchild's classroom. I found mine with ease & was greeted by the sweetest, cutest face in the whole school. She was so happy to see her "fill-in Grandma." I couldn't have been more excited myself. She gives the best hugs in the school too!

I sat by her desk, & we enjoyed a big, fat cinnamon roll & some slushy apple juice. Delish! First, she interviewed me about my life. I loved the questions about how things have evolved over the years. She seemed genuinely shocked when I told her my generation didn't have computers or cell phones. I loved the look of surprise on her face.

We played a few games, just the 2 of us. She showed me around her classroom & introduced me to her beloved teacher. We went to the gym for pictures. My favorite part was the picture we drew together. She loved my artwork; I could only laugh. She didn't understand that my art skills stopped right about 3rd grade. I guess that's how she could honestly think I had any talent. She drew herself & me. I drew the dog & the cat. She colored in the sky with a pretty sunshine. I got the grass & the rainbow. Teamwork at its best!

The time passed quickly, & soon it was time for me to go. I hugged my little sweetie good-bye. It truly was the highlight of my week. I saw a few friends from the past. They were shocked I was a grandparent. I explained that I was just filling in, but that I could easily be a Grandma. I loved the simplicity of the morning. It was just a meaningful time spent together doing simple things. I think I've found my calling.

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's too much!

Today begins Breast Cancer Awareness month. In recognition, I've had my nails painted a bright pink, displaying a sparkly ribbon on each thumbnail. This morning I met with 2 survivor friends for breakfast. We were caught totally off guard when a woman anonymously payed our bill & even left money for the tip. I felt so honored. She told the hostess she just wanted to do it because we are survivors.

I'm sure some people get tired of hearing about breast cancer. It sure does get a lot of hype. In the beginning of my journey, I felt guilty because breast cancer receives more attention than any other cancer. However, after walking this journey now just a little over a year, I sense an urgency to find a cure for this dreaded disease. It catches you by surprise & overtakes your life. 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer.

No one is immune to this terrible disease. It has a foreign language all its own. It's a mixed bag of treatments & side effects. Will it come back with a vengeance, or will it be just a chapter in your life? Everything about it seems so random to the patient. Yes...  statistics seem to be available for every possible scenario, but the bottom line is There are no guarantees.

You have choices, & you have to choose what brings you the most peace. Never mind if your doctor tells you No one else would do what you have decided to do. You must educate yourself, learn the foreign language, & become your own advocate. Depending on your diagnosis, you may be seeing 4 or 5 different doctors. If you don't keep everything coordinated, important decisions will slip through the cracks.

In 19 days, I will be attending a benefit for a dear friend. She is fighting for her life. She has 2 young children. Her cancer came back with a vengeance & now resides in her bones, her brain, & her liver. In spite of her almost constant pain, she chooses joy. She wants her children to have a childhood with memories apart from their mama suffering from cancer. My heart breaks for them. Seeing their mama suffer is unbearable. It's too much! She is my hero.  When I was newly diagnosed, she wanted me to know that it would likely just be a chapter in my life (unlike her own).

So... for her... I will recognize this month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. I will do all I can for this cause. 1 in 8 is too many effected lives. I've sat in small crowds many times this past year, knowing there were at least 3 survivors present. Seeing all the pink at Race for The Cure is sobering. It's heart wrenching. It's overwhelming. It's too much!