Saturday, November 9, 2019

A New Journey

I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Ductal Carcinoma in my right breast on January 11th, started chemotherapy on February 12th, had surgery on July 15th, and radiation began on August 29th. As of October 29th, I have completed my last treatment for cancer. Every treatment has come with several side effects that caused pain and fatigue. Weeks of treatment followed by weeks of recovery. It has been a very long year of fighting and by God's grace, I have won the battle.

From the beginning, I knew that my life would never be the same, so I wanted to be changed for the better on the other side of this journey. As I take the time to look back, I can see change, growth, and insights into parts of myself that I had never known before.

I have a new appreciation for my family and friends. They supported me in prayer, encouragement, sacrifice, acts of kindness, and love. They took the time to send cards, texts, and food. They made trips to visit me, researched ways to help me, and gave gifts of love. I am blessed beyond measure.

Some of the unknowns, in the beginning, were a bit scary. I didn't know what my hair would look like when it grew back but I am pleased that it has given me a slight resemblance to my daddy.

I have always considered myself "daddy's little girl" and today, at 50 years old, married, with children; I am still his little girl in my heart. I have always been impressed by his physical strength, but it is his strong love for God that I admire the most. 

I suppose all "daddy's girls" have a special daddy-shaped-place in their hearts that no one else can fill. Daddy is always the one we hope will be the proudest of us. We look for his character qualities in the man we want to marry, which I am happy to say that I found.

I am definitely a daddy's girl, but for a while, I looked like my brother. My mom said that when we were born we were like twins 5 years apart. We both weighed 8lbs 13oz, 21in long, and looked exactly alike. Now, 45 years later...poof...twinkies again!

This has been an amazing journey that has come to an end, but oddly enough, I find myself on a new road. What will life be like when the recovery is over. I will no longer be sick, in treatment, fatigued, in pain, or being lifted in prayer. 

I have been through the Refiner's fire. When I rise up from the ashes and shake off the soot, who will emerge?

I am looking forward to walking this new road, exploring the new sights, and experiencing a new life on this journey to the other side of cancer. 

I want to thank everyone who has prayed for me and walked with me through this year. I am so grateful for you and blessed to have you in my life. I love you all.  

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Character Counts

Radiation treatments have become quite painful. The radiation burn on my skin has caused open wounds and much discomfort. The striking pain through my breast is almost constant. It causes a great deal of distraction - from my thinking process to staying on task. I often find things half-done around the house and have trouble finding words to complete my thoughts.

I have completed 27 treatments on a large area from the center of my chest to under my right arm. I have 2 more treatments that cover this large area, then 7 treatments that will focus on the tumor area only. It is nice to be almost done, but exhausting at the same time. There are so many things that I want to do but I have become so tired and the pain adds to that.

I wanted to go to Rachel's band competition today in Bixby but I am unable to make it. I am so proud of the entire Grove High School Band. They won second place last week in Oolagah. They have a grueling schedule: workout and rehearsal every morning at 7am, Tuesday evening, and Friday afternoon; followed by Friday night football game where they might not get home until after midnight, then they are back early Saturday mornings for all-day competitions. Not to mention the fact that they began all-day rehearsals three weeks before school started.

These young men and women are devoted, determined, and disciplined. They listen to instruction from their directors and show them respect. They know the rules and follow them. They work hard and do their very best even when they are exhausted, even when people get up and leave for concessions during their show, even when it seems no one is listening. They are true to themselves and sacrifice for the whole of the team.

I don't know most of them, but their character is seen at every ball game, homecoming coronation, parade, bonfire, competition, concert, rehearsal, and individual encounter. They are an inspiration to the rest of us (or at least they are to me).

Even if people don't know me, do they see my devotion, determination, and discipline to God? Do they see the character of Christ in me? Does my life display that I follow God's instruction and respect Him? These are scary questions to ask but also scary not to know because the character I display counts for eternity.

So, next time you are at a game don't think of the band as the background music to your conversation. Take the time to give them a big cheer, ask the announcers to turn off the speaker music when they are playing, postpone your snack run to watch them perform, and let them know you appreciate their hard work because they deserve our respect and our character counts too.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Prone to Wander

This week is the fourth of eight weeks of radiation treatments. It has been a long journey but with only five more weeks to go, I can say that there is a light at the end of this cancer tunnel after all. It is brighter today than it was on January 11th when I received my diagnosis.

It's been a long year, and through it all, God has taught me a great deal. I am thankful for the lessons I have learned, and the ones He is continuing to teach me. I can say that it was much easier to hear Him when the responsibilities of life were not constantly ringing in my ear.

While I was taking chemo there was a great deal of illness and fatigue that came with the treatments. I willingly let go of most of the household responsibilities and daily errands. I spent my days resting and caring for myself; all of me, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was constantly seeking the Lord and listening for His voice.

There were weeks I could hardly wait to tell you all what God had taught me. I knew that cancer was going to change my life and I wanted to be better on the other side of this trial than when I began it. The more time I spent with Him the hungrier I was to learn and grow.

But then, as I started feeling better and able to do more, there was so much that screamed for my attention. The little things that piled up while I was down, running my kids to and from school, and extracurricular activities, then soon the everyday chores around the house.

My time with Him became less and I can totally relate to the old hymn: "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above."

Why I ask, am I so prone to wander from the God that I so dearly love? Do I wander from my husband? Do I wander from my kids? If I evaluate my life honestly, I can say, yes I wander from them as well. Doing for those I love can take me from those I love. Busyness has robbed me of my time with all of those that I love.

Time is a valuable commodity and spending it wisely with those I love is a lesson God has continued to remind me of over and over again. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get it! Maybe it just becomes a matter of getting it sooner than I did before.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

But God

Hello everyone! It has been a while since I have gotten to talk to you all. I'm in my second week of radiation, I have 6 more weeks to go. I was told to expect sunburn-like sensitivity in the area being treated and fatigue. I am beginning to feel both but for now, all is going well.

I have been working overtime canning jams and jellies to sell at NEO Community Garden upcoming Fall Fest on Sept. 28th. I am selling them as a fundraiser for my daughter's band trip to Disney World where they will march in the Disney parade.

I am not a professional canner by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoy making them but it can get very frustrating when they don't set or don't seal. I am ashamed to admit how many times I have had to remake batches of product.

I will say that canning is NOT like cooking at all. I am always finding recipes for things to cook, but I will often leave out things I don't like or don't have on hand. I substitute all the time, but with canning, you MUST follow the recipe AND instructions. 

I am always looking for what the Lord may want to teach me in every situation and I was reminded of a challenging conversation with Janie on the Woman to Woman broadcast where we discussed how easily we can get caught up "doing God's will - our way". 

I can find myself saying, "But God!" I know! I know! That phrase is very popular these days as a way to give praise for God's intervention. However, I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "But MOM!" from my kids and they are never praising me...LOL! Just like adults, they have their own ideas about how they want to do things or what they think will work better.

I know that I have said, "But God!" in objection many times in my life in an effort to change His decision or request. It has never made anything better to try to excuse my behavior with "But God knows my heart", or with "But God loves me anyway".

I have learned the hard way that my own ideas about how I want to do things just doesn't work; for canning or otherwise. So, there are strict rules for canning so the product will set and seal properly. God has strict rules for us so that we can be protected and preserved.

It takes discipline to follow instruction and leave my own thoughts and opinions out of the equation. As a parent, I have rules for my kids that I expect them to follow. The same is true for me as God's child; He expects me to follow His rules and instruction.

There are scriptures that are hard sayings; "But God" should never be my response. His rules are not in place to hurt me. His great love of the cross is proof of it.

I love God's tender way of teaching me valuable lessons in everyday situations. Sometimes it takes me a while to get it "But God" is gracious and long-suffering. So, now I'm following the recipe and making great progress on the jams and jellies and I gained a little wisdom along the way. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The School of Life

It has been a good recovery from surgery so far. My right arm has hurt the worst from the removal of the lymph node. The lumpectomy took a little longer than expected because the tumor was completely gone so the goal was to retrieve the clip that was placed on the tumor during the biopsy. A large amount of tissue was removed and sent in for testing along with the lymph node.

The pathology report from those specimens has come back with negative results for cancer! I can do nothing but praise God for His mighty works. He has been so good to me through this entire process. He has worked through the hands of the doctors and nurses, through the hands of my friends and family, and through the hands of total strangers.

My mom and sister were here to help me with my physical needs during the hardest part of my recovery. There is something humbling about allowing others to come alongside you and do the things that you would normally do yourself, but I can't imagine what I would have done without them.

They live so far away we don't often get to do things together. We took advantage of the time to have some fun. They brought apples from Dad's apple tree and we (I couldn't do much) canned apple pie filling and apple peel jelly. We made apple cobbler and blackberry cobbler from my blackberries. Of course, some may not call that fun, but we had a blast. One night we had a PJ party, I think that is always considered fun. We watched some old classic movies and did a lot of talking and laughing.

These are all precious moments that I will treasure forever. Cancer, as hard as it is, has been the catalyst that has ignited friendships, prompted family visits, and forced me to move outside myself. I started this blog long before I was diagnosed with cancer, but I didn't feel comfortable sharing some of the things that God was teaching me.

I figured my training was kindergarten in comparison to others. But what I have learned is that no lesson is above or below grade. We can all learn from each other but the teacher is God Himself. He is the only one that can tell us how to apply each lesson to our own lives.

We all have things we face that are just as traumatic as a cancer diagnosis. It may not be as life-threatening, but it can be just as traumatic. The school of life can bring hard knocks. Therefore, every situation can have a benefit to our own character growth and help us gain wisdom for the next phase of life. Situations become lessons learned and testimonies to share with others that could help them on their journey.

It is humbling to expose some of the things God teaches me but I remind myself that "pride comes before the fall" Proverbs 16:18. No one benefits from a life that pretends to have it all together and everything figured out. The school of life continues forever.