Sunday, November 23, 2014

Where's My Trust?

I’m learning that even though cancer treatment is finished, the journey is still filled with new adventures. Although I’m tired of the 70 mile drive to Tulsa for appointments - especially my every-six-week port flush - it’s a great opportunity to think, worship, and pray. I was even thinking about what to post next on my blog. I’m sure God was smiling laughing knowing what was ahead.

As I was waiting for the nurse to come flush my port, I wondered why she was on the phone and looking up something on the computer. It was just a port flush... no doctor visit, no lab orders... so what was the confusion???

She finished on the phone and started setting up for the flush then said, “Did you know that Dr. McHam is gone?” WHAT! “He moved to Nebraska.” WHAT!! “Who moves to Nebraska in the winter?” WHAT!!!

I was totally stunned. I had just seen him last month to get my biopsy results. He didn’t say anything. I didn’t receive a letter or any kind of notice. I felt a little bit betrayed and abandoned. I even had to fight back tears. We just had a typical doctor/patient relationship, but he was my CANCER doctor!

On the bright side, I’m finished with treatment. 

But still...

And his Nurse Practitioner is still there. I see her every-other visit, and I like her. 

But still...

I was totally caught off guard by the news that my doctor was gone... and also caught off guard by how it affected me.

Here’s where I think God was smiling laughing. I started making the connection with how my reaction showed where I seemed to have placed my trust. Yes, I need to have confidence in my doctor and trust his treatment plan. But... he’s just a person. And we all know that people fail and disappoint. I will have another doctor. And who knows, he may be even better!

Ultimately, where am I placing my trust? I choose to trust in God my Savior! In fact, on the drive to my appointment, I caught the words to Christ Alone, Cornerstone:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly TRUST in Jesus' Name

And then the following morning my daughter posted this verse on Facebook:

Those who know your name will TRUST in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
~Psalm 9:10

Doctors move, people fail and disappoint... even betray and abandon, but God NEVER forsakes those who seek Him. AMEN!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

This is Not Our Home

And I'm so glad. There's a lot of heartache in this life, and I'm incredibly thankful this isn't all there is for us.

In just the past few months, cancer seems to be everywhere - even in the headlines. Maybe it's because I've been touched by cancer that I'm more sensitive when others face that awful diagnosis... or maybe there's a rise in cancer rates... Regardless, I have family, friends, and friends with family members currently battling multiple myeloma, metastatic bone cancer, two with inoperable brain tumors, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, two with lung cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and three internet friends I'm following on FB with leukemia, a rare lymphoma, and Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

I'm so thankful Jesus is preparing a place for us... for eternity! A place with NO MORE CANCER, illness, or disease.

No more death.

No more mourning.

No more crying.

No more pain.

Revelation 21:4 is an AWESOME PROMISE!!!

I'll admit, the thought of heaven used to scare me. I kind of like things that are familiar, comfortable, and predictable. Well... cancer changed all of that. Nothing about it is any of those three things! But thankfully, it has given me a longing for heaven where we will see Jesus face to face and praise Him forever!

In the news this week, a young woman with a terminal brain tumor decided to "die with dignity" and ended her life before the cancer took over her body. While I totally understand not wanting to suffer the effects of the disease, I don't agree that her way is how one dies with dignity! No one wants to suffer... or have their loved ones watch them suffer... and I've struggled with "what if" while going through my journey... but Jesus tells us in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have OVERCOME the world." Praise God this is not our home!

I want to share the following encouragement from a friend. 
To all of my friends battling cancer,
I do not know.  I do not know the pain you endure. I do not know the tears you must cry.  I do not know the fear that creeps on your heart. I do not know the boiling anger you battle. I do not know the questions you never have answered. I do not know the feeling of harsh chemicals in my body. I do not know the kind of conversations you have with your children. I do not know the days you feel alone. I do not know the way you cherish each breath. I do not know the feeling of counting each mile to the hospital. I just do not know.
But I know you and I am thankful. Thankful that you don't give up. Thankful for your resolve to win your battle. Thankful for the depth of humility you have in allowing others to help. Thankful you exemplify there is more to life than outward beauty and physical comfort. Thankful for your servants heart, painfully accepting your fight is not just about you. Thankful you lean on a strength not your own. Thankful you fight for one more day to tell someone that you love them.
I know that you are the one I will tell my children about when I am teaching them endurance, patience, humility, life, love, hope and faith.

You are the one I will hold up as the definition of dignity.

God bless you. Praying for you and I love you all.

Till He returns or calls me home - 
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Light the Night Walk 2014

We are so excited to have raised $2,024.50 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with a matching gift still pending. THANK YOU to everyone who donated to TEAM TERRI. Words can't express how meaningful it is to have the support of family and friends after being on the receiving end of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's research and patient programs. Our lives will never be the same, and now we will always be an advocate for LLS and its mission to CURE blood cancer!

Here are snapshots of our evening...
 
TEAM TERRI
SURVIVOR shirt
Walking for me, my father-in-law, and a friend
He's walking for me :)
Selfie
Gold = In Memory
Red = Supporters / Caregivers
White = SURVIVORS
Lighting the Night as we walk
My sweet family

Trying to line dance at the end
Pre-Walk Fun and two honorary team members

 From the fullness of His grace we have all received 
one blessing after another.
~John 1:16

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Happy! Happy! Happy!

Finally, biopsy results. We woke up Friday to a downpour of rain - which made for a stressful drive to Tulsa. I had the song by Building 429 "We Won't Be Shaken" going through my head, so that's what I posted as my Facebook status. While driving, we commented on how the words fit the weather - through fire or pouring rain...

My oncologist wasn't sure what all my surgeon had done, so there was a little bit of confusion. Hellooooo, why am I here? Anyway, after he tracked down the pathology report, he came back in the room and said it's all good! HALLELUJAH!!! He wasn't worried about anything and even moved my 3 month checks to every 4 months. Of course, if I notice any changes, I need to see him right away. Otherwise I'll have another CT scan (of my chest, abdomen, AND neck) in 4 months!!!

Because we've been so emotionally drained, we've actually had more Happy Tears than Happy Dances. We celebrated with some friends for dinner and then watched God's Not Dead. So good! Our family definitely wants to proclaim that GOD'S NOT DEAD!!! God is good all the time! All the time, God is good! And my tears let loose at church today during every song we sang. I have so much more to be thankful for than a clear biopsy report!

In some ways I'm happy to never think of cancer again... at least not for the next 4 months (well, except for my scheduled port flushes). However, I realize cancer is now part of my story, part of my purpose, and something that keeps me sweetly dependent on God. 

Jessika shared with me parts of a devotion she read the night before getting my biopsy results. 

You get closest to Jesus in the tough times, 
not the good times.

Don't panic when the waves come; 
just see them as something 
you've got to ride on and go through 
in order to find the good part of life.

I love that she shared with me... and I love how she read just the right devotion at just the right time.







Thursday, October 9, 2014

More Waiting...

Last Friday I had the CT scan done of my neck. Thankfully it was normal...especially after realizing my last scan did not include my neck...and I've also had pain on the left side of my neck for several months but figured it was fine since my last CT scan showed no suspicious findings. When I found out my neck hadn't been scanned earlier, I started freaking out that I had a big alien tumor growing in my neck causing the pain. Talk about relief to hear the scan was pretty much normal and that mild cervical spondylosis - a fancy term for arthritis - explains the pain!!!

The lymph node that I can feel measures 1 cm - which is the high end of normal and the low end of enlarged. My surgeon decided to do a needle biopsy... even though it's right next to my carotid artery and proved to be a little tricky. 


Dr. Bruns totally rocks, and I watched the whole thing on the ultra sound monitor!


I felt like I had been karate chopped in the neck and was very glad for the weekend. Then we began our wait... for a week... 7 days... 168 hours... Plus we've waited over 2 weeks since my original appointment and over a month since I noticed the lymph node. No stress - HA!

I had been doing pretty well with being patient and easy-going about the wait, but yesterday showed that deep down I may be a bit anxious. Actually, it's been a hard week for all of us, and we all show it in different ways - meltdowns, tears, not sleeping, being irritable, etc. Sometimes the littlest thing will hit like a brick wall, and you can't keep going without a time out and a deep breath.

God is faithful and has used our family and friends to encourage us with Scripture, kind words, thoughtful gifts, and prayer. And just watching the news each day shows us how blessed we are, even if we are a little stressed. So we wait one more day... and trust God... and build more character!

Isn't it neat how a passage of Scripture you've read over and over is suddenly just the right verse at just the right time? That happened at Bible study this week with 2 Timothy 4:17. It's a great reminder that God is with us and giving us strength. He is using us to glorify Him through our journey and will ultimately rescue us! God is good!!!

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth.
~ 2 Timothy 4:17

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THAT Tree

I want to be THAT tree... the tree described in Jeremiah 17:8.

I've used Jeremiah 17:7 as my mantra during PET scans and other freak out moments on my cancer journey.


But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in Him.

It was just recently that I paid attention to verse 8.

He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

I want to be THAT tree...
...planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream - the stream of living water. I need to be in God's Word, studying, memorizing, applying it to my life. I need to be growing in my relationship with the One who blesses me!

I want to be THAT tree...

...that does not fear when heat comes - when I find a lymph node, while I wait for a CT scan and biopsy, and especially while I wait for results.

I want to be THAT tree...

...with leaves that are always green - peace in the storm and strength in the trial.

I want to be THAT tree...

...with no worries - Besides, who by worrying can add a single hour to his life (Matthew 6:27)?

I want to be THAT tree...

always bearing fruit - showing evidence of God working in me. 


...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 1:6 


Linked to:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Great Book

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but I signed up to do a book review! I received the book with the understanding that I need to post a review on my blog and on another site - like Goodreads, Amazon, etc. So, here goes...

Holley Gerth is a new name to me, which is ironic because she's from my neck of the woods, and we have some common friends. Her blog is crazy encouraging, so I was excited to receive her newest book. I was even more excited to see it was based on the Psalms. If you've followed my journey here on my blog or on Facebook, you know I love the Psalms. This is the perfect book for me!



Holley has taken the whole book of Psalms and pulled out 52 encouraging truths. It is ideally set up to study one truth a week: read the devotion, focus on the couple of verses highlighted, and then use the space at the end of each truth to write what my heart is saying to God and what my heart is hearing from God. Each devotion is also short enough to be used daily. I'm ready to go through the book without a time limit (for this review) and savor each truth weekly while MEMORIZING the verses. 

Plus it's the cutest gift-sized book - easy to carry in my purse and pretty sitting out on my desk. Now I want a polka dot coffee cup to match!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord;
Praise the Lord.
 Psalm 150:6

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Same Song, Second Verse

I sure hope we're not warming up for the second verse. 

Almost three weeks ago I noticed a lymph node on the left side of my neck. It was new, and it didn't have a matching lymph node on the right side (I like symmetry). I was on antibiotics at the time for something else and waited to see if maybe the lymph node was related. It didn't go away. Thankfully, I had a regular 3 month appointment already scheduled with my oncologist for blood work, port flush, etc.

My doctor could feel it, too. He wasn't overly concerned - but is being cautious. He said it was probably too small to get an accurate read from a PET scan and that if I hadn't already had cancer, he wouldn't think anything of it. But since I have, he ordered a CT scan of my neck and scheduled an appointment with my surgeon for biopsy.

I know the greatest chance of relapse with my aggressive lymphoma is in the first two years. It's been less than 15 months since I finished treatment. I also know it relapses in about 1/3 of patients.

I know chances are good (hmmm, maybe not the best word) that my indolent lymphoma will relapse, especially since it's not even considered curable.

And so I've tried to prepare myself that I will probably deal with cancer again... and that I'll be okay with it.

However, on our way to my appointment, I decided I do NOT want to keep singing that song! 

But it's not really about me, is it? It's about God using me for HIS GLORY!!!

I think I'll go back and start at the beginning of my blog so I can be reminded (in writing) of how God was...and is...with us every step of the way!

My soul finds rest in God alone; 
my salvation comes from him.  
He alone is my rock and my salvation; 
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

~ Psalm 62:1-2

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting Out of My Funk

Do you ever find yourself in a funk and don't really know why? That's where I am right now... and have been for a couple of weeks. I've thought about some possibilities:

Are we still adjusting to our growing pains? Maybe

Could it be hormonal from my chemo-induced menopause? Possibly

Am I concerned about my blood work and check up with my oncologist at the end of the month? Probably

Am I stressed about finances with two kids in college, two kids needing braces, and upcoming medical bills? Of course

Have I neglected quiet time with God? Definitely

So, what am I going to do about my funk? A friend added me to a Facebook group called Journaling Bible Community. Wow! It's a whole new concept (at least to me) of studying the Word and worshiping God using art, doodles, and writing ON, yes, ON the pages of your Bible. WHAT! Drawing in my Bible???

If you google Journaling Bible, you will be amazed at what people are adding to the pages of their Bibles and journals. I've seen some incredible artwork! Well, I'm not an artist (which is why I love stamping), but I'm intrigued by the whole process. It has already helped me stay focused on God's Word - one verse at a time.

My first project was Romans 12:12 in a Life Application Bible that I snagged for FREE. The margins are not as big as in a journaling or note taking Bible, but it's a great place to start. Plus I've always wanted a Life Application Bible!

I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to projects like this. Not that I do anything perfect, but I might NOT do something if I think I won't do it just right. Plus I'm married to a graphic artist, so no pressure - HA! Anyway, I started with ink and stamps on a separate piece of paper that I could tape in the Bible over the commentary part. It lifts up to show my journaling on the back about how this verse is meaningful to me. I won't say how many times I started over...




This is helping me memorize verses AND where they are found. I stamped a hand print and made notes to mark the verses I used about the hand of God (here). It's helping me think outside the box as far as making notes and/or pictures in my Bible. I'm more visual than auditory, so this method of study and expression fits me. It's a form of worship to God as well as calming to me. 

So to get out of my funk, I'm focusing on the theme verse for in the GAP - Psalm 29:11.

The Lord gives STRENGTH to His people;
The Lord blesses His people with PEACE.

It's easy for me to use this verse to encourage others, and now I have a visual for me. I didn't worry about my lack of artistic abilities. I used colors that are meaningful to me (lime and purple are lymphoma awareness colors) and had fun trying freehand letters! And the whole time I was working on it, I was focusing on God's promise. 

It's not a competition on who illustrates the best.

It's not about how many "likes" one of my pictures receives.

It's not about me. 
 
That's how I get out of my funk - FOCUS ON GOD!



Monday, September 1, 2014

Why I Walk...

There's always confusion and mixed feelings when it comes to fundraising. I hate asking for money, and people want to know where their money is going. So, let me explain...

TEAM TERRI's participation in the Light the Night Walk is NOT a fundraiser for us personally. All proceeds from the Light the Night Walk go to the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to help advance their mission:  to CURE leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Here's a graphic showing how funds are used by LLS.



As a blood cancer patient, LLS has personally been a benefit to me through:

Educational Materials


LLS has materials for each specific type of blood cancer. It's been my "go-to" place for information on my two types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In fact, it's where I learned my Stage 3 diagnosis didn't necessarily mean the same as other Stage 3 cancers. Whew! The internet can be a scary place when looking up cancer. LLS is a reputable source with helpful information for my specific type of cancer. They also offer seminars (on-line and locally), forums, and on-line chats and webinars.

Co-Pay Assistance Program


I was able to qualify for the Co-Pay Assistance Program that reimburses me for co-pays during treatment and follow-up. It also reimburses part of my insurance premiums. That has been a huge help considering we drove over 2000 miles for appointments, scans, and chemo last year... not to mention paying for those appointments, scans, and chemo :)


Government Advocacy


LLS has an advocacy group that works on behalf of cancer patients from the local to national level. They make it easy for others to be involved by providing links with e-mails already composed ready for us to hit send.

Light the Night Walk


The Light the Night Walk is a special evening that honors patients and survivors, caregivers, and those who have lost their battle to blood cancer. Our family represents all three groups - me as a survivor (white lantern), my family as excellent caregivers (red lantern), and in memory of my husband's grandmother who passed away from lymphoma before targeted therapies were developed (gold lantern). This year we're also walking in honor of my father-in-law who was recently diagnosed with multiple myleoma. The walk is very personal for our family!

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH


I love the truth of this picture...




The outcome of my therapy may have been totally different if not for the development of Rituxan - a targeted therapy that has been available for only 20 years. Without funding, there is no research. Without research, there aren't as many survival stories. In fact, 40 years ago, there was only a 3% chance of surviving childhood leukemia. Today, 90% of children with leukemia survive! Amazing!

So... that's why we participate in the Light the Night Walk and give to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We'd love for you to support TEAM TERRI as we walk to the end of blood cancer.

  • You can join our team and raise funds with us here.
  • You can donate to our team here.
  • You can order coffee from Just Love Coffee where a portion of proceeds goes to TEAM TERRI here.  


Thank you for your support!


DISCLAIMER: It is my understanding that LLS only uses medical waste for embryonic stem cell research. I have contacted LLS and am waiting on an official statement. I will post a follow-up.

UPDATE FROM LLS: "Currently, no LLS-­‐funded researcher is studying human embryonic stem (ES) cells." 

Please contact me for a copy of the letter. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Growing Pains

Growing pains are just that... painful. In the middle of them, it's hard to recognize that without the pain, there is no growth. In the middle of them, it's just plain hard!

Jenifer and Jayce

After taking our second daughter to college this past weekend, I realized our family is in a season of growing pains. The youngest is starting Jr. High (no way)... one is in high school ('nuff said)... one is just starting college (sniff)... and the oldest who is trying to make it on her own (sigh). And that's just the kids! As parents, we get to experience ALL of their growing pains as well as our own! 

I've never been an athlete, but since going through cancer and recovering from chemo, I have come to believe the motto "no pain, no gain." 

Without the pain of treatment, you can't have healing. 

Without the pain of exercise, you can't regain your strength. 

Without the pain of training, you can't run a 5K (yes, this non-athlete has completed three 5K runs... since cancer)!

But more importantly, without the pain of heartbreak, you can't experience the tender hand of God putting the pieces back together.

That's what I pray my kids will experience during their times of growing pains - the tender hand of God that...

  • is mighty and majestic in power - Exodus 15:6; I Kings 8:42
  • covers us - Exodus 33:22
  • upholds us - Psalm 37:24; 63:8
  • guides us - Psalm 139:10
  • satisfies our desires - Psalm 145:16
  • holds our right hand - Isaiah 41:13
  • laid the foundation of the earth - Isaiah 48:13
  • has us engraved on the palm - Isaiah 49:16
  • keeps us secure - John 10:28


So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
~ Isaiah 41:10 

linked to:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Joy in the Facts of Life


After my fourth visit to my family doctor for crazy things this summer, I was thinking about how much fun I've had in spite of the craziness and trips to the clinic. I'm sure my doctor just rolls her eyes when she sees my name on her schedule!

While it's almost a joke that I need a protective bubble, I'm thankful for the ability to be active. Last year after chemo, I kind of skipped the summer while trying to get my energy back. This year I'm getting out (which for me could be a risk all on its own) and enjoying life!

I've had the opportunity to marvel at God's awesome creation while riding a beautiful horse...
- even though I cracked two ribs while cinching the saddle.

I've been spending time with my husband, kids, and friends playing disc golf while enjoying the outdoors...
- even though I've had poison ivy...on my face...neck and arm, 9 tick bites, and a gajillion other bug bites.

I've been able to take the dog on walks and spend time praying and thinking...
- even though we got tripped up and I fell and fractured my wrist.

Although I'm not exactly sure how I ended up with shingles... on my face... I know I was enjoying my life!

My kids sometimes joke about "The Williams Curse" when things go wrong. I just tell them we're making memories! It may not always be easy, but it's always more fun to find joy in those crazy mishaps. Besides, if we could find joy in our cancer journey, then we can surely find joy in the little inconveniences of an active summer. After all, the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10b). Each day is the day the Lord has made, so let's rejoice (Psalm 118:24).

I'll gladly take the good and take the bad; I'll take them both, and there you have the facts of life (everyone sing...) - my blessed life!

Buddy feels bad about my wrist!

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
~ Habakkuk 3:18



linked to:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Because He Lives...

Do you remember that hymn?

I couldn't tell you the last time I sang it, or even heard it, before we sang it at church this week. It brought back so many memories... as well as a few tears. It reminded me of my home church where I grew up from age 3 until I got married. In fact, my mom is still a part of that church. It brought to mind so many friends who have done life with us... teaching me about Jesus, letting me babysit their kids, witnessing my baptism and my wedding, loving on us when my dad passed away, still loving on my mom, and praying me through this past year. Sweet memories of sweet people.

And I had tears for the simple, yet powerful message of the hymn.

Because He lives... I can face tomorrow
Because He lives... All fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives

Jesus has conquered death, and because of that I can sing the last verse with confidence.

And then one day I'll cross the river;
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then as death gives way to vict'ry,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives.

I now think in terms of before and after cancer. Before cancer, I glossed over those words with no real meaning. I knew they were true, but it was more like reading a fairy tale that had a happy ending. After cancer and being faced with my own mortality, I LOVE THESE WORDS! One day all the hardships of this earth will be traded in for meeting Jesus face to face! 




linked to holleygerth.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Perspective

Okay, so my last post was little depressing. I'm fine and haven't been committed yet - HA! 

This week at Bible study, some things came together and gave me a new perspective... A way to embrace my triggers and emotions...

Just so you know, these kinds of things ALWAYS sound better in my head. I don't seem to be able to type my thoughts like I'm actually thinking them!

My Bible study group is going through Beth Moore's Law of Love - a study of Deuteronomy. The key verse is Deuteronomy 6:23: "and He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in and give us the land that He swore to give to our fathers."

He brought us out... to bring us in...

After the first week of study, I immediately thought about how God brought me out of cancer! But what is He bringing me in to... So, that's on my mind as we go through the study.

This week's session focused on Chapter 8 - comparing the terrifying wilderness to the Promised Land... the good land... and all the reminders for the people to REMEMBER and NEVER FORGET what the Lord had done for them. Our Promised Land of the New Testament is Jesus Christ. And just like the Promised Land of the Old Testament was a GOOD and productive land (Deut 8:7-10), our life in Jesus should be GOOD and productive.

Consider these verses...

2 Timothy 3:17 - so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work

Colossians 1:10 - bearing fruit in every good work

I Timothy 6:18 - to be rich in good works

I Timothy 1:18 - fight the good fight

Romans 12:21 - overcome evil with good

Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

It all started making sense. The cancer "triggers" - like learning my father-in-law has just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma - are reminders of how God has blessed me. And remembering how He has brought me out motivates me to encourage and pray for others in a similar wilderness. 

I need to live right here... and right now... and never forget. 


Linked to: holleygerth.com


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Keeping it Real

Warning: This blog post is acting as my therapy session, so read at your own risk... I just want to "keep it real" in my journey. I'm learning that even though treatment may be finished, the journey is far from over.

I'm kind of an emotional mess right now. The physical part of my cancer was relatively short and painless; however, the emotional part is hard and long-lasting. I've never thought I needed counseling before, but being able to talk with others who have experienced cancer is so helpful. I guess like anything, until you've lived it...

I'm thrilled that my one-year follow up was good news. Yet in the back of my mind I worry a little about if/when it won't be good news. My doctor said the cancer could come back anywhere - so it may not be a noticeable (at least to my mom) swollen lymph node. Every ache and pain puts me on edge. I've been known to ignore things hoping they'd go away, but now I need to find a balance between panic over every little thing and ignoring every little thing.

I think I'm also dealing with survivor's guilt. That's such a weird concept. Why would I feel guilty for surviving? Do I wish I was dealing with the bad? I don't think that's it exactly, I think it's just a deeper feeling of empathy having a first-hand idea of what someone else is going through. And it hurts.

It hurts watching my friends go through the pain and sadness on the one year anniversary of their son's short and awful battle with liver cancer...and his funeral...

It hurts knowing my friend who finished treatment for breast cancer last year is now dealing with Stage 4 metastatic bone cancer...

It hurts knowing my 17 y/o friend is fighting against a growing tumor on her spine with little to no treatment options...

It hurts knowing a 1 y/o baby at church was just diagnosed with cancer...

It hurts knowing my friend is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and survivor's guilt from her own cancer experience...

It hurts...

It hurts in a way I've never experienced before. I can't even really sort out the emotions. So if you see me with tears, you'll know why.

I'm so thankful for my friends and family who are supporting me and letting me be a blubbering idiot at times. And I'm extremely thankful I serve a God who has overcome the world and gives us peace!



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

No Suspicious Findings

Those three words may not mean much on their own, but in relation to a CT scan report after having cancer, they are AWESOME words!!! My one year follow up CT scan shows no lymphadenopathy and NO SUSPICIOUS FINDINGS! Praise God!

My doctor said I'm doing great and my blood work is perfect. I go back in 6 weeks to get my port flushed and then 6 weeks after that (3 months) for blood work and follow up. She said the best thing I can do right now is exercise. So... maybe if I put that on my blog, it will help me stay accountable!

However, I've had some issues with exercise... like two cracked ribs in May after cinching a saddle on a horse. No, I didn't even fall off the horse or anything heroic like that. My x-ray showed some arthritic changes and weakness, so I had a bone scan. I'm considered osteopenic and started on Prolia injections. Just by product of chemo and forced menopause. Good grief.

We have a disc golf course that starts across the road from us, so we've been playing 2-3 times a week. A few weeks ago while helping Daryl look for his disc in the woods, I unknowingly got into poison ivy. I ended up with it on my forehead, left cheek, neck, and shoulder, and my right arm. Not pretty - especially when it started swelling in between my eyes! I finally went to the doctor and got a steroid shot and Prednisone. I was really trying to avoid all that, I mean I survived cancer, so surely I could survive poison ivy. Oh well. At least now I know what poison ivy looks like!

And there are so many ticks and chiggers... 

So my plan is to exercise and eat healthy, rejoice in "no suspicious findings," and pray for others waiting for those same words!












Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scan Time

Wow! It's been a year since I finished chemo and had a CT scan that showed "excellent results." There are days it seems like forever ago - and there are days it seems like yesterday. This journey is definitely more emotional than physical.

So, today was my one year follow up CT scan (six months since the last scan). It all kind of seems routine now... drive 73 miles to Tulsa, drink the barium stuff, get the IV dye that causes the weirdest sensation (those who have had it know exactly what I mean), take a breath and hold, breathe, repeat a few times, drive 73 miles home. Mostly the scan is relaxing, and I just close my eyes and spend some time praying.

Of course I'm praying for a clear scan! But I also pray that God will be glorified. I'm aware that my follicular lymphoma is not curable and may flare up again. I also know that God is God, God is good, and God is faithful.

Now we wait until next week to get the results from my oncologist, do blood work, and have my port flushed. Until then, I'm relying on God's promises and putting my trust in Him.


My daughter Jordyn took the photo, I added the verse.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ahhh... the Weekend...

I love Saturdays. I love to sleep in and just be at home after working all week. It seems like forever since I've had a weekend like that. Today was my kind of Saturday. And I was very productive - I fed the animals (see A Puppy, Bunny, and Chickens... Oh My!), mowed our yard while my husband and son took care of our neighbors' yard, got caught up on laundry, did some baking, organized my craft area, and finally got to stamp some cards. It was a perfect kind of busy!


It's not that today was anything so special, but it had the feel of a weekend before cancer. IT FELT GOOD!!!




Sunday, June 8, 2014

Another Milestone!

Yesterday, daughter #2 graduated from high school. I am a blessed mom - not just because Jenifer graduated, but because I was there to watch her! During her junior year when I was diagnosed with cancer, we didn't know what life would look like. There were times we weren't sure if her own stress level and anxiety would cooperate with the schedule and homework load of a highschooler - not to mention my own chemo, scans, and appointments. We are praising God that we all made it to witness her graduation! What a special day!!!


Jenifer - Class of 2014



I know God has great things planned for my daughter. I'm so thankful to be alive to watch her journey. Hug your family, invest in your kids, relax, and enjoy the ride. You never know when the next detour will shake up your life. Live each day to the fullest and be filled with the joy of the Lord!!!


My Precious Family


You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
~ Psalm 16:11

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Not to Say...

Lately I've seen several articles about "What Not to Say..." and decided to play along with What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient. I don't intend for this post to be accusatory - instead I hope it's helpful. Sometimes you don't think about what is or isn't encouraging until you've been on the receiving end of a comment that is... or isn't...




So... here are a few things I would suggest NOT saying to a cancer patient...


I had a friend with cancer. She died. 

Really??? I've just been diagnosed with cancer and you're telling me about a friend who DIED? For the record, that is NOT encouraging!!! I'm already scared - as well as my family. We don't need reminded of what might happen. Instead, tell me you're praying for me. Those are the most encouraging words EVER!


My friend was so sick during chemo.

See above! 


Are you okay?

This is actually a question that irritated my kids. No, they're not okay. Their mom has cancer, has no hair, and is getting chemo. They don't even understand what is happening and have no idea how/when it's going to end. Instead, tell them you're praying for them and for their mom. Like stated above, those are the most encouraging words EVER! 

One thing that was an encouragement for me and my family was the Barnabas box my friends and co-workers put together for me. Read about how my kids were blessed by it HERE. 


Did you hear that asparagus (or whatever latest fad) is supposed to cure cancer?

My reply back to that would be (in my head, of course): And have you had cancer that was healed just from eating asparagus? I'm not against alternative treatments, but a newly diagnosed cancer patient is so overwhelmed that anything not already tried and true is too scary. Yes, asparagus is scarier than chemo! At least chemo has success stories - REAL success stories.

I have to be able to trust my team of doctors. Encourage me as I follow my treatment plan.


Unsolicited hair advice.

Until you've gone through losing your hair, wearing headbands, scarves, or wigs, and experienced the awkward growing out stage, don't give hair advice. For me, taking the step to quit wearing my wig was terrifying. So, whatever stage of hair I'm at, just tell me it looks good - HA!


And maybe the most annoying thing to say to a cancer patient is...

COMPLAINING!

I care about what's going on with other people, but when their hang nail is the hot topic of the day while I'm immunosuppressed, eating Gas-X like candy, and using Germ-X like lotion, it's a bit extremely annoying. And when someone is complaining about a bad hair day when I have no hair...

Just be considerate. Although I may not complain or let you know every little thing I'm going through, it doesn't always mean everything is going great. Let's help each other keep things in perspective.

I think that pretty much covers my "What Not to Say..." list. Just like in any situation, be considerate and encouraging. Sometimes just thinking before speaking will make all the difference. If you don't know what to say, ask a question. It shows you're interested and lets the cancer patient lead the conversation.

And if you're afraid you might say the wrong thing...which is always forgivable... you can write a note that simply says (because sometimes less is more):

Thinking about you! 

When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need - words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.
 ~ Ephesians 4:29 (New Century Version)

 





Friday, May 16, 2014

in the GAP

Since cancer is now a personal reality for me, I am drawn to others in similar circumstances. Sometimes I really struggle with what I should do to help... especially my friends who are on their own cancer journey. Almost a year after my diagnosis, a 16 year old friend was diagnosed with an inoperable type of brain cancer. And this isn't her first fight with cancer. I feel so helpless, but I know the most important thing I can do for Amber is pray. 

I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.
- Ezekiel 22:30


I may be totally off in my interpretation of this verse, but when I read it, it hit me that I have a wonderful opportunity to stand in the gap for others. I am so appreciative of those who have prayed for me during my cancer journey, and it's my honor to pray for others dealing with the dreaded "C". 

Over the next few months I began thinking about what I could/should be doing with my cancer experience, my desire to be an encouragement to other cancer patients, and my heart for God. One of my daughters painted this canvas for my birthday. She suggested I should do something that combines my card-making hobby with my desire to stand in the gap for others.


After some google searches, I discovered there are several ministries called "stand in the gap" or "standing in the gap" - I didn't want to use the same name. So I shortened it to in the gap... and then it hit me that the G-A-P could stand for God's Amazing Peace! I actually pray that for people - that they will be filled with God's amazing peace!!! It's settled. I'm making an organized effort to pray for and send cards to those going through tough times. I'm not exactly sure how it will all play out yet, but I'm at least starting it. My amazing husband created a Facebook cover photo and profile picture with the official name - in the GAP!


I'd love for you to check out the Facebook page here, "like" it, and share it. If you know someone going through a tough time, let me know through the contact me information at the top of my blog or a private message through Facebook. I'll post the prayer request on the Facebook page (with permission), send a card, and pray!

Let's make a community of prayer and encouragement so others can experience God's Amazing Peace!!!

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
~ Psalm 29:11