Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why me, God?

It's that time of year again. Yes… I am grateful to be alive, another year older, none the wiser, but simply enjoying life to the full! Each day, whether it's a good day or a bad day (which are few), I am thankful just to be here. When my children call me with a concern, I may not have the answer, but still I am here. When I fall flat on my face, & my husband picks me up off the floor, I may be crying, but I am here.

My house may have blown away in November, but I can only be thankful I was here to walk through the rubble hand in hand with my husband. Imagine if he had walked alone? A year ago today, 2 little people in my life had not been born. Yes…God has given me 2 of the sweetest little beings to adore & love each day. Why me, God? Thank you.

God allowed me to be by my mother's bedside for nine days before she passed into Heaven. I wasn't with her when she slipped away, but I got to witness such miraculous moments of healing within her. I got to share so many precious moments. I got to hold her hand, wipe her brow, & whisper sweet nothings in her ear. Why me, God? Thank you.

I believe God has given me a journey that sometimes frightens me. Sometimes I freak myself out. I am not sure why He chose me for this journey, this gift. I only know I am supposed to share it. I don't always understand that either, but I like being transparent. Sometimes I have to face things I'd rather not think about. Sometimes I am haunted by my fears.

Sometimes I hurt. That's kind of a new thing. Long term effects of chemo plus other issues are doing a number on me. Since the tornado, I've had to add a few meds. I don't know if I like that, but I have to sleep. My faith is deep, but still I fight anxiety. Oh how I wish it would leave me alone. No… it's my constant companion.

Recently, I stepped into the most caring facility I have ever known. It has a STAR program for Cancer Survivors. I have never had so many professionals treat me with such compassion & concern. They have evaluated me from head to toe. I don't think they can fix me from top to bottom, but they are helping  me. They are equipped to deal with many issues faced by Cancer Survivors. It's IPMR. Why me, God? Thank you.

Tomorrow, I celebrate another birthday. I have a loving husband who dotes on me. We came home from a wonderful marriage retreat, & that very night, I fell. As he helped me up, we had no idea, I would be in for another round of healing. He has waited on me in a way that's new to both of us. I can't quite put it into words. I feel bad that he has to care for me so much. At the same time, I am both humbled & honored. Why me, God? Thank you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I just can't fully wrap my head around it.

For as long as I've lived, for as long as I can remember, I  have heard about Him. For as long as I've heard about Him, I believe I've known Him. I was young, & it seemed natural to invite Him into my life. I was only 3. I know… really little. But the words of a particular song had meaning to my small ears. When I was 10 (only in 4th grade), I wore a ring for Him. It signified that He was a part of my life. My understanding had grown, yet there was still so much more to know…

As I reached adolescence,  I took another step on this journey. It wasn't just obedience; I was all in. My family was there, even my Girl Scout leader. I was surprised. After all, it was a Easter Sunday. Again, this step just seemed like the natural thing to do. As time elapsed, & I grew into my teen years, I always tried to think about this relationship. It had a grip on  my heart, a deep impact. I was different than some of my friends, but it didn't seem to matter. We loved each other no matter what.

When I attended college, I allowed Him to rule my life, I didn't always get it right, but I sure tried. In fact, I fell short on so many occasions, I became very frustrated with myself. Why did I continue to repeat the same mistakes? Hadn't I learned anything during my high school years? When I met my husband, I was only 14. He knew where I stood. I knew where he stood. When we got married, we wanted this relationship to be a part of our marriage. Together, we continued to mess "it" up. We tried, but we just didn't always get it.

As my daughters turned into young women, something awful happened. We were faced with my mortality. We weren't ready for this? Who ever is? So… I remembered the simple, the true, the beginning. I went back to age 3, & I heard the song again. I sat in my living room so tortured with despair, & I cried out. I used one of His many names, my favorite name for Him, Jesus. This time I heard His voice, a one word answer…grace. Yes, I remembered,"His grace is sufficient for me."

Suddenly words began to have new meaning. But even now, after all the places my journey has taken me, I still cannot comprehend this one thing. It's what we celebrate today, Good Friday. How can it be Good? I don't get it, but that's not what I can't wrap my head around. I will never, as long as I live, fully "get" Jesus dying on the cross for me. He gave His life for my ridiculous sins, for all the things, I just cannot get right.

He suffered beyond recognition. What are my sins worth to me? How dare I hurt Him? He has resided in my heart for 49 years. He has directed my life. He's never forsaken me, never betrayed me, never done anything but give me peace. He's held me in the worst of times. He's comforted my soul when no one else could. He's stood behind me (I was wrapped in His arms), as I awaited bad news. He's forgiven my ridiculous ways. He's loved me in spite of myself. His still small voice is the sweetest voice I know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I thank the "little c"

What does a smile mean? It means so much. I believe it is an indicator when its genuine of how a person feels. When a person loses their smile, I believe it's a sign that things are not well. That is what cancer does to people. As the little c & it's treatments beat a person down, they lose their smile. I believe this condition comes & goes with perseverance, unwanted news, treatment after treatment, & reality. The wearing down of ones body (at any age) is never easy. We all age naturally, & sometimes even that is hard...

But for the person with cancer, it's a different picture. Life becomes living between appointments. I am only speaking for myself here (just my truth). When appointments come at 6 month intervals, you begin to breathe & maybe even take back your false sense of security, maybe even put your cancer on the back burner. Not easy to do. Some people are better at it than others. Sometimes, in the midst of joy, it's even possible to forget about it. Other peoples' needs & heartaches provide distraction.

But… when it comes down to it, this journey takes so much strength, courage, & hope. When you are first diagnosed (at least in my case), you don't fully "get" the meaning of these words. You might wear a tee shirt or a wristband that displays these words, but honestly, you are in such a daze, you cannot even comprehend what these words will mean a few months, a year, & even farther down the road.

As with any illness, cancer survivors bond with other cancer survivors. With this bond comes strength & understanding. Encouragement & camaraderie result. You now have a whole team rooting for you. The sad part is, you watch each other suffer, & you now have more friends with cancer than you do without. It's painful to see your sisters suffer. It's painful to see them lose their physical strength. It's helpless. It's mean. It's cruel. It's heartless. It's a reminder. It's reality. It hurts.

Yesterday, I walked into the Susan G. Komen Memorial Affiliate, & joy swept through my soul. For me, it's a place of refuge. A dear friend always hugs me. My favorite color, Pink, is always there. I saw the design for this year's Race for The Cure tee shirt. I got so excited. I'm counting the days til mine arrives in the mail. I literally cannot wait! This place represents hope for me. It gives me courage. It saved my life (at least for now). When I was diagnosed 2&1/2 years ago, I was told I wouldn't last long if I did nothing… I couldn't even say the little c, the word cancer, for months after my diagnosis. I believe my smile was gone. Words cannot describe the devastation.

The Big C, Christ, is my ultimate refuge. He restores my smile. He soothes my soul. His grace is sufficient for me. Through the little c, I have learned true reliance on the Big C. I am indebted to the little c for that. I am indebted to the little c for the friends I have made. I thank the little c for a perspective I needed. I thank the little c for teaching me the meaning of strength, courage, hope, & perseverance. Through the  little c, the Big C has refined my heart.

As The Race for The Cure approaches, I beg you to get involved. It's May 10th. For some it represents words like hope, strength, courage... It's touching. It always puts a lump in my throat. Long before my diagnosis, it had that effect on me. It's a deep sea of pink.The emotion of the day is overwhelming. The meaning of the loved ones who come along side me by walking or donating touches me in an unexplainable way. It makes my smile inevitable. The donation represents HOPE. HOPE for those who walk this unwanted journey in the future. HOPE for me, & maybe HOPE you.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

a weekend to remember...

This week end something really special happened. My husband & I attended a Weekend to Remember. For those who don't know, it's a marriage conference. We only went because my husband needed to go for work. It's not normally something we would  do. I wasn't in the mood for it. I don't know why; I just didn't feel like going. As I was driving there to meet my husband, it occurred to me that it probably was no coincidence we were going to this conference. So… I thought to myself, I should try to hear every word of truth spoken, & get the most out of it.

As we set up his booth for work, I shared my insights. He nodded his head as if he had the same thoughts too. As every conference goes, much information was shared. Sometimes, an overload of feeling results (fatigue & all), but that was not the case this weekend. The info was invaluable, & the speakers delivered the goods with authenticity, humility, truth, & humor. We laughed throughout the weekend, took notes, filled in the blanks, & most importantly connected.

I don't like to dwell on my hardships, but I don't think it's good to minimize our troubles either. The last 4 years have been filled with loss & hardship. They've also been filled with blessing after blessing. In all honesty, I think the stress & loss of the last 4 years has taken its toll on both of us. That's kind of a no brainer. When I think of what we've endured & had to adjust to, I'm truly amazed we've done as well as we have. I'm not patting our own backs, I'm just saying that if 4 years ago, someone told me the path our lives would take, I think I might have crawled in a hole & hid. It would have been unbearable for me to face.

Through it all, my faith has deepened. That is my greatest treasure on this journey. I think as any marriage faces the unpredictable, it suffers. Our heartaches were real, & sometimes, we had trouble coping. Looking back, we cried tears, we got angry, we laughed, we hung in there, we felt numb… yeah, pretty much every emotion possible. To say the least, we didn't always respond in the most honorable way. We didn't always put the other person first. Sometimes, we just didn't know what to do. 

My husband experienced panic attacks. I've had to increase my anxiety medicine. I am going to so much physical therapy, I can barely keep up. We have reached out to our doctors for help. We have sought counseling. We have fought to hold on to our sanity, & sometimes we lose it. Our journey continues (hardships & all). But… this weekend, we renewed our vows. We wrote each other a love letter. We said words that were long overdue. We forgave. We restored. We giggled. We talked & talked some more. We are still talking...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It doesn't go away...

I feel a need to explain something that's been on my mind. I've said it many times. I've blogged about it  & posted about it a few times on Facebook. As anyone who follows my blog knows, I am a breast cancer survivor & now a tornado survivor. What I'm writing is very personal, & I don't expect others to agree with me (even if they are in a similar predicament). So… I hope I haven't offended anyone with my thoughts & words. I'm not putting my feelings on others. I'm merely stating how I feel.

Every now & then, something comes to mind, & I realize I didn't account for a certain loss from the tornado. Usually, it's something replaceable. Sometimes, it's not. A few days ago, I realized my most precious loss, my mother's diary from her teen years. She was sixteen and giddy. Oh how I miss her.  It was a treasure. I used to read her entries & chuckle aloud. I marveled at the person I never knew in that way.

The other day, I ran across a question. It asked who I'd like to sit with for an hour on a bench if I could choose anyone I wanted (dead or alive). My first & only thought was my mother. She is so dear to me. At first, I thought I chose her because I wanted her to tell me about Heaven. That is true, but today I realized there was more to my wish. It's hard to put into words.

I would love to spend an hour with her on a specific bench that resides in my hometown on the shores of Lake Michigan in honor of my Dad.  I would like to see her healed. I would like to spend an hour with her seeing her in her Heavenly state. She would have no anxiety. She would be able to walk, to play the piano, & paint beautiful pictures. She would be able to think clearly, & she would have the perspective of living on earth & now in Heaven. She would be able to share her new perspective with  me. I long for that.

It's strange how the loss of my health, my mama, & my home are all tied up together. What I'm trying to say is this…My home blew away with pretty much everything I owned (even my mother's diary). However, living with cancer is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The lasting effects of the chemo, the surgery, the radiation are still to be determined. They are definitely taking their toll both physically & emotionally.

My losses from the tornado are immense but temporary. Not all of them are replaceable. I am not making light of it when I personally say I'd rather lose my home than have cancer. I'm just being honest. I'm also explaining why Race for The Cure is so important to me. I've walked through a lot of difficulty in the past 4 years. So have many others. I wouldn't trade my cancer in because of the depth of faith it has given me. But… I must make it clear, it is the hardest thing I've ever done. It doesn't go away.