Monday, April 27, 2015

Noodles & Co

Today my friend & I had a date. We sat in my car at my favorite ice-cream place eating soft pretzels with cheese, drinking cokes on crushed ice, & of course, we had some dessert. We laughed, & we laughed. We had that mentality…"What's said in this car, stays in this car!" I swear, it was the best medicine ever. The sun was shining. Life was good for those moments.

I also spent time today with a loved one who is being accepted into a clinical trial. 3 friends arrived at her house at the same time (not intentionally). Together we cried. We held hands. We prayed. It was beautiful in such a sad way. We hugged. We said our good-byes. The good news came much later in the day. She was accepted.

This evening, I dined with 2 new friends from a ministry called "Hello Gorgeous." As we sat eating our Noodles & Co, we all 3 had a feeling that our meeting up was a God sort of thing. This non profit reaches out to cancer patients. I feel my heart is being lead in a similar fashion. I'm not exactly sure how that fleshes out, but none the less, I bear a burden for cancer patients. I have a desire to be a comfort.

This weekend, I will be speaking at a women's' retreat. There may only be 15 people in my little room, but it's a BIG step for little me. I'm sharing my story. It's a story called "from Ashes to Beauty." It's a story about laying your heart aches at the feet of Jesus & asking Him to turn your ashes into beauty. It never ceases to amaze me how God takes the ugly & somehow makes beauty come from it. In the midst of the suffering, it's hard to find beauty.

I believe that's where trust comes in. Sometimes our heartaches are so big, we can't see past the moment. That's when I pray… "God, I don't know what to do. Please somehow, take my ashes, & make them beautiful." It doesn't always happen overnight. No, not even occasionally. It's like paying your dues. You have to learn the life lesson sometimes before you get a glimpse of anything beautiful. Sometimes, it may not even be your lesson to learn; you are just a part of the story (a chess piece if you will).

So when my eyes are clouded with tears for a loved one, a dear friend, or even myself, that's when I say this little prayer. I save it for when I've tried everything I know to do. It's my last resort, but maybe it should be my first. Its my giving up in a way, or maybe put in a better way, my letting go. It's my realization that on my own I am powerless. On my own, I can do little to make a difference in this big world & even my own little life.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Birthday to me!

It's not like me to publicly wish myself a happy birthday. But…let's be honest. Once you have cancer, a birthday is never the same. Instead of regretting getting older, you are thankful that you are getting older. I never see my grandchildren (both born since my diagnosis) that I don't feel this twinge of thankfulness that I get to see them, to hold them, smell them, admire their cuteness, hear of their antics, & watch my daughters mother them.

When a friend has a heart ache, I am thankful that I am still here to comfort them, to pray for them, & to walk this journey called life with them. Having lost a dear friend recently to cancer & having 3 friends walking this journey at a much more advanced stage than my own diagnosis, I thank God that I can pray for their comfort. I thank God that I can raise support for our cause. I wonder, why God why me? Why am I the one who gets to be alive & bubbling over with life?

Life is so full of meaning, & I thank cancer for that. Yes… cancer has robbed me of much (especially my brains), but it has given me much that is immeasurable. I cannot measure the depth of my faith. I cannot measure the sheer joy I feel just because I am here to witness some very special moments in the lives of my loved ones. I cannot measure the changes that have evolved in me since my diagnosis.

Each change in itself is not positive. Some are rather negative. But… when you add up the sum total of the whole impact, I hope it's for the better. No, it's not easy. As each cancer patient is unique, I am a unique case too. I suffer things others don't & vice versa. I am fearfully & wonderfully made. Just ask my Creator.

This year my birthday feels a bit out of place to me. I don't exactly know why, but I miss my friend, Elizabeth, who now resides in Heaven. She shared my birthday. I often think of her. I picture her happy & healed. I wonder what she is doing. I miss her. Life just doesn't seem quite right without her. This evening I attended a gathering in her honor. It was bittersweet.

I associate my birthday with The Race for The Cure. It's Springtime. It's my birthday. It's Race for The Cure. It's Mother's Day, and I am here to breathe them all in. I am here to participate in life, to live it to the full. I am here to be an advocate for my cause. I am here to soak up sunshine, pet my fur babies, snuggle my grandchildren. Yes…I am here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Long ago, as a young adult mother, I remember one of my favorite preachers saying something that has stuck with me for a life time. Honestly, his words scared me. I had grown up with a mentality that if you do right, everything will be alright. It's true that great peace comes in doing the right thing, but doing right does not make everything alright.

If it did, some of the situations we as humans find ourselves in, would never happen. For instance, you can be driving along the highway following all of the Rules of The Road, only to be sideswiped, & ultimately end up in the median (air bags imploded). You can live your life with kindness, but it does not mean others will be kind to you. You can raise your children with certain hopes, but in the end, it's really up to them.

You can live your life with faith, a faith that is real, a faith that stands up to the hardships of life, but it doesn't make you immune to tragedy. Today, I write about a dear friend. She has the deepest faith of anyone I know. In all of her suffering, she gives the glory to God, & still, she trusts in Him. She, too, is a Breast Cancer Survivor. In fact, she was originally diagnosed a year before me, & she reached out to me with comfort.

Her journey with this dreadful disease is somewhere between its 4th & 5th year. She's asked for prayer that her insurance company will cover a new chemo recently FDA approved in February. It is thought to be the drug of choice for her battle.  She admirably rests in His plan for her life & will keep praying for His protection & provision. "He knows best" (her words). In the meantime, she suffers from lymphedema, nausea, an infection, a high fever, & the lengthy list goes on…

In her view is an upcoming wedding for her beloved daughter. I am sure she has other hopes & dreams as well. Another college graduation, potentially more weddings, & maybe some grandchildren. I can only imagine the things she hopes to be here to see as her young adult children transform into full fledged adults.

She has weathered the storm (again & again). She is a Tornado Survivor too. In fact, at the time of the storm, she was borrowing my wig, affectionately named "Wiggie." She ("Wiggie") was found after the storm & returned to my dear friend. However, her condition was so bad, my friend couldn't bear to return her to me. No worries, I never planned on wearing "Wiggie" again.

So… I say all this to say what my pastor said long ago. No one is immune to tragedy. It doesn't matter if you are kind. If you have all your ducks in a row, if you've written your will, or if you have a deep faith. Yes…those things matter, but they do not protect you from cancer. Even the nicest, most faithful person suffers the journey.

I ask you, please pray for her. She is Brenda Vannette. She is faithful (oh so faithful). Yet… she suffers. Please give generously to this year's Race for The Cure. It's her 30th anniversary. That's right, The Race for The Cure is 30 years old this year. You don't have to give to my team; it all goes to the same cause. The reason I beg? Because research saves lives, & no one is immune.