I’m Not Ready

Today I will go visit a friend who has rapidly declined with Stage IV breast cancer. She beat it for so long (I want to say more than 10 years) and metastasized last year. “Oh ya, we’ve got this” she told me when I asked her about it.

“We’ve got this”

A sister in Christ, a sister in cancer. We.

For the second time in less than a year, I will go say goodbye to a woman who said, “We’ll beat this together.”

…and then there was one…

Am I next?

Or am I the poster child for living until my 90’s? Both of my grandmothers are still alive at 96 and 94…I come from good stock.

Of course, the am I next thinking is only fear based. I have no indication of recurrence, I’m in the best physical shape of my adult life (round is a shape).

Fear Is a Liar
Songwriters: Jason Ingram / Zach Williams / Jonathan Lindley Smith
When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough
Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar
When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change
Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Oh, let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Oh, fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

So today, I cast my fear in the fire. I will go say goodbye to my friend. I will pray with her; I’ll tell her “Don’t worry, I’ll take it from here.” I’ll thank her for her love and support when I was sick. I’ll tell her how happy I am that she get’s to go home.

And that’s what I’ll do. I’ll take this fight from here. I’ll continue to beat this monster while serving God, whom works everything for good. What that looks like today is going to visit my friend.

 

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Poverty

I share a lot about my financial situation. Then I have a conversation about air fresheners and I realize that I need to keep sharing it because people just truly don’t understand and I know some of them really want to.

I borrowed a car from friends to take my trip to Mayo clinic this week. There was an air freshener in the car that I absolutely fell in love with.  And even though it’s only $3.00, I’ll never splurge on that for myself.

Not only that I’d be short $3.00 for paying my rent; here’s where that $3 could be better spent:

  • Buying one of the boys a couple pairs of socks (they’re boys, this is an ongoing need).
  • Most of the cost of sharpening the youngest boy’s skates ($5.00)
  • A pair of pants of clearance for my oldest kid (found his last pair for $1 at Walmart)
  • Any of the bills I shuffle each month to pay (internet and utilities…both behind and on the verge of being disconnected).
  • Enough gas to get to work for a day or my kids to their activities.
  • Trying to rebuild my emergency fund.
  • Put it towards any of the other bills I have.

So it’s not just that $3 is a big deal, it’s everything that is already not being covered that adds up and $3 might as well be $3 million. It’s not that the air freshener is out of line, it’s just so far down the line that it doesn’t even get an honorable mention.

Seriously.

And now, my long term subbing job is finished and I have no guaranteed income after my final paycheck on the 15th of this month. And I don’t have a husband with a steady job or a boyfriend who pays the bills, or a savings account to cover my butt, or a family that can cover me for more than a couple hundred dollars. The child support I receive is barely enough to make a dent. And in 30 days my rent will be due again.

And it sucks.

I was given money from friends for the Mayo trip…and it’s gone, and I’m counting pennies to make sure I can pay the rent on Monday because I feel like I was stupid with the funds I got. I spent too much on the hotel (which was necessary but I could have stayed someplace much less expensive), I ate too often (Two meals a day) and too much (soup AND salad, that’s too much). I should have just slept on a basement recliner, I should have declined to sit down and eat and just grabbed a sandwich. I should not have bought that second cup of coffee to keep me awake on the drive home.

The enemy is so loud; and he has friends. And those friends tell me I should be working 10-12 hour days, and if I truly wanted to work I could. And that $3.00 really isn’t that big of a deal.

When I received the gift of money I was so thrilled and was planning on having left over funds to pay a few things that I haven’t been able to. Instead of paying those things first, I kept it, not knowing how long I would be at Mayo. I only ended up spending one night, and it’s all gone.

And rent is due Monday, my cell phone is due Monday, and I’m truly thankful for everything that has gotten me this far…and angry that I still need more. I’m sad that I am where I am financially.

The financial insecurity is unlike any other.

And it’s one of the reasons I always do Mayo on my own.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed having a friend with me on this trip, it’s not reality. It’s not my reality. My reality is sleeping in my vehicle or on a basement recliner, it’s not stopping to eat, or just buying cereal and eating that for every meal. It’s staying at the clinic even when I have 4 hours between appointments because leaving costs money (doing things I wouldn’t normally do).

The best part of this trip was that my friend was great as far as getting through the marathon day. She took the time to understand everything going on before we went so I didn’t have to educate her on the go. Having to ‘babysit’ other people and their ability (or inability) to process information on the go is why I have never had any desire to take people with me. Thankfully we got all good news so there was none of the real tough stuff.

I’m definitely going back to going on my own though. It’s too emotionally exhausting to bring somebody with me, even when it’s a good fit and good news. Medical trips are a whole other world for me. There is a distinct disconnect from daily life just to get through the trip and I never want those two worlds to become one.

And in 3 weeks I have the privilege of returning to Mayo to see if they can fix my arm that hurts and causes muscle spasms that is the likely cause of headaches I deal with daily…and another opportunity to reach out and ask for help.

I sure don’t feel all that lucky when I have to reach out, but I sure feel blessed when the request is honored.
Lord,
Thank You father, I’m so tired. I’m thankful for tired, because it means I’m still here to be tired. It means I have to opportunity to glorify Your name for another season.
But it’s exhausting Lord and I’m trying so hard to be light in a very dark place for so many. I’m trying to be Your poster child for AMAZING grace and mercy. I’m not sure why I got picked for this job; please help me Father to remain humble enough to ask for help, and secure enough to hear Your love over the enemy.
Amen

Speechless

In 92 days I will skate my second marathon.

In that time, 10, 396 mothers, daughters, sisters, best friends, grandmothers, aunts, granddaughters, and cousins will die of Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) in the USA. JUST THE USA…

~~~~~~~
Well, this is not how this post was gonna go. I mathed (as Katie calls it) the numbers to make a point.

Then I re-mathed…and again, and texted Katie, and recalculated…

Holy shit.

I still have this pit in my stomach that feels like I’m going to puke.

For the first time in I don’t know how long, those numbers scare me.

It’s not like I didn’t know that 113 people die every day of MBC…but to put a number on a time line like that made my heart sick.

We are raising money for MBC research and a local charity…and suddenly it’s not enough. Suddenly, I feel useless and unworthy. I cannot save 10, 396 people.

But maybe I can save one.

Maybe, I can save two little boys from having to say goodbye to their single mom…a daughter from losing the one person she can count on to tell her like it is…a friend from the reality she has prayed against from day one…a mother from losing her favorite daughter…a sister…an aunt…a cousin…a grandma…

Maybe, I can be the voice for those I can’t save…the ones who are too sick to shout…those too busy trying a new drug, and another new one, and another experimental treatment…

I will be posting fundraising links in the coming days. Please join me in supporting those who are fighting for every breath, every step, every hockey practice, every bowling league, every football throw, every inline skate…for me and my friends. Shout with me for those who are dying for a cure.

My heart is so broken right now, and I’m throwing star fish back into the ocean…I can’t save them all, but I can save one at a time…I can raise one dollar at a time.

I CAN make a difference.

Will you help? Will you join me?

This Funk

Yesterday one of my co-workers (an elderly man) asked if I was feeling ok; he said I didn’t look well. I explained that I was just stressed out…holiday stress I explained.

While I have some holiday stress, the truth is I hate my job.

I LOVE being with the kids and seeing them everyday; the atmosphere with my coworkers though leaves much to be desired. The gossip runs rampant, the two-faced conversations at nearly every turn, the manager threatens termination to at least one coworker – to everybody BUT that coworker (but has yet to sit down with them and discuss what she sees as issues) it’s disgusting and sad.

As much talking as goes on, you’d think communication is top notch. You’d be wrong. People who have been there for years get yelled at for not doing things they didn’t even know they were supposed to be doing.

I’ve never been given a job description or list of duties. I’m lucky to be able to work on the fly and learn as I go and read between the lines and see work that needs to be done. However, when I get reprimanded in front of students, staff, and coworkers for not doing something I don’t even know I’m supposed to do…no thanks.

I had only been there a month when my work partner had the day off. Our duties are nearly identical…but not quite. Well, I’ve never done her job and am busy enough doing my job that I have no idea what she’s doing when I’m not watching her. Anyway…so a sub comes in and half way through serving, I get yelled at by the kitchen manager for not doing something that was my partner’s job. I explained that I didn’t know I was supposed to do that…I had never seen who did that particular job. She told me, “Well, she better tell you what her job is then.”

Well, that’s fine and dandy…but then you complain that we are working together and wasting time. It would be so simple to have individual job duties lists for each member of the staff. There is so little variation in our daily tasks, that each job should have a job description if nothing else, for subs and new staff.

So every morning, I wake up in this funk and it sucks.

I pray for my work situation, for each of the people I work with and for. I pray for the spirit of grace and mercy as I know each of us is fighting our own personal battle outside the workplace.

Then I pray for my kids, and their needs and wants.

Then after all the kids get on the bus, I go skating for an hour. I do laps, squats between the blue lines, one foot between the blue lines, power turns, lunge-crossovers, circles, and some quick skates.

My time on the ice is magic. I work my butt off most days. Some days are just for conversation and leisurely skating. I’ve already noticed my skating improving and my stamina increasing.

When I had cancer, I would sometimes spend 8 hours at chemo and then run to the rink to coach hockey practice. Luckily, I didn’t have visitors at chemo so I was able to sleep all day…if I slept all day I had enough energy to be on the ice for 45 minutes. Once I was on the ice though, you’d never know where I had spent the day. Except for being bald, you probably wouldn’t even know I had cancer. I loved that 45 minutes. We got to forget about cancer completely…45 minutes at a time.

I need to find a way to completely forget about work. I took this position at the other school for more hours. I needed the extra hours as I was tired of not being able to pay the bills. Now at least they are paid…but it’s at such a high personal cost.

This morning, there is no open skating. I’m going to take the time to take care of myself for a little while…an extra long shower, a power breakfast and then go pick up cat litter I’ve been meaning to get all week.

Life is good. I’m just in a rut.

Dear Father in Heaven;

Grant me peace through this season. We both know I took this job for reasons other than money…to be able to shine Your light into darkness. Keep my feet grounded and my head in the game as the time passes.
I knew going in that this would be a challenge. Help me to not jump ship when the going gets tough. I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge, keep my feet firmly planted in Your light and truth.
Cover my workplace in peace and prosperity for all.

Amen

When I am Quiet

When I am quiet (I know, it’s not often…bare with me). When I am quiet and focus on the sacrificial life I have led; putting others before myself; doing things I’d rather not when I know it is for God’s glory; I’m at peace.

Sure, I still have crappy days (you know…like earlier this week) I also have days where I look at my bank account and it holds $100.00 more than it should. This has happened on more than one occasion and I have no explanation for it; apparently God just shows up at my bank and deposits $100 a few times a year. Always at exactly the right time, always when I am desperately desperate.

There are just no words for when things like that happen in my life.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, four days after my first chemotherapy treatment my car died. It had gotten me to Rochester several times (384 miles one way) plus over 1000 miles back and forth to Fargo jus since the end of October. It had led a good life.

The following day, I received a call from the local Chrysler/Dodge dealership. The voicemail was a salesperson asking me to call him as soon as I could. Great, I thought, he knows my car broke and thinks I can buy a new one.

When I returned his call, fully prepared to tell him I had exactly zero dollars and thanks but no thanks; I was brought to tears. Somebody had heard about my vehicle and had paid for a 2003 Dodge Caravan on my behalf with the only stipulation that it be anonymous.

I’m still driving that van, and the local paper even did a story on me and he boys and our situation and our Secret Santa. It’s got over 230,000 miles on it and leaks oil bad enough that I never need an oil change…I just add fresh stuff and change the filter now and then.

I’ve been stressing over finances for some time, especially with both boys having their birthday’s come up, Christmas, plus finding out their dad was not going to help pay for hockey after already committing to the season.

My very next paycheck, I had miscalculated…I had anticipated 10 less hours than I actually worked so my paycheck was bigger than I expected. When I looked in my bank account, there was the extra $100.

So as I am recalculating and figuring, I plan for the young one’s birthday party…waterpark with two friends. I always give him an option, more friends, less fun or less friends and more fun.

After understanding God’s got this and I make the plans…two friends offer me Buy one-Get one coupons for the waterpark that they can’t use! So…I’m letting the older boy also bring two friends and having his party as well (his birthday is three weeks after his brother). Today I went and bought them both new Nerf guns as the ones they have are over three years old and have served their purpose well.

When I take the time to sit down and count all my blessings, the other noise in my life goes silent. There is nothing as great as God. He promises to take care of His children.

Tomorrow, my tiny miracle will turn 10…what an awesome kid! To celebrate his birthday we are headed to hockey to play his first game of the year at 11:00 am and then watch one of his friends that is coming play his game (starting at 1pm). Then we are all headed to the waterpark for an afternoon/evening of super fun!

Today, we took 30 cupcakes to school to share with his class. Tomorrow we are bringing 15 cupcakes to hockey for his team, plus picking up a cake for the party. If this kid is not sugared up by then, nothing will do it!

Tonight though, we are headed to a Jr A hockey game (our local team is 18-0 and he has not missed a home game yet). I am so thankful for the gift of season tickets; this would never happen if not for them.

Lord,

Thank You for the reminders of how great You are and how Your love is everywhere. Those reminders are sometimes quiet as a butterfly and sometimes they are a splash of cold water on a sleeping teenager. Without those reminders, I don’t know where I’d be. The enemy is loud and you are gentle. Thank you Father.
As the winter months set in, continue to bring us peace as well as strength to weather any storm.
You love is greater, Your love is stronger, Your love…is all I need.

Amen

I Don’t Wanna

I don’t wanna write today that Beth Caldwell passed away last night. I don’t want to write that her husband held her as she died. I don’t want to write that her children were with her as she took her last breath.

But it happened and my heart sank.

I had a feeling yesterday was going to be the day. I even stopped at Katie’s and said I wanted to find out from her…she has been following Beth’s story as well. Really though, I didn’t want to hear it from anybody. I didn’t want to face it.

I think back to something I wrote on my CaringBridge while I was sick…it was about my own mortality. I was writing about the dreams I have for my kids and all I wish for them to know, and be, and accomplish. I wrote that for them to be the people they are meant to be may actually mean I have to not be here and how hard of a reality that was.

That is Beth’s family’s reality. That her death is a part of God’s plan for who her children become. Will they also be advocates for the unheard and unseen? Will they champion her cause…their cause.

As I fell asleep last night, I prayed for The Hubs, The Boy, and The Girl; the nicknames she used on her blog for her family. I prayed for their peace; for God’s grace and mercy to cover them.

And then I cried; for me.

Today, my heart hurts; and I’m just going to let it. I’m going to let it be hurt and heal…it seems to know the routine. Today I am also going to just be held…by God.

This weekend it’s just me and the little one home. Big Brother is going deer hunting with Dad and won’t be home until Sunday evening. I have a feeling it will be a lot of open hockey and chilling. His birthday is in a few weeks and we have to make a plan for that. My “non-viable pregnancy” (when I first got pregnant), my “Inevitable abortion” (at 12 weeks 2 days gestation with I had a partial abruption with ruptured membranes), my preemie…he’s gonna be ten this year.

Lord,

I am so grateful that my baby’s story is a yearly reminder that You perform miracles all around us and people love to hear his story. We love to share it. I am so thankful for all you have provided.
As I get through today and the weekend with Beth’s family on my heart, I ask for comfort for them. I ask that you give them the space, time, and opportunity to feel Your love.
And God, thank you for holding my close and keeping me secure.

Amen

Every Time

A few weeks ago, I had found a lump on the edge of my reconstructed breast. It feels like a cooked grain of rice. Naturally my first thought was swollen lymph node. They aren’t common in that area; but not unheard of.

Within a few days I went to my Nurse Practitioner and he ordered an ultrasound. I love that he gets every concern is worth his time…he never makes me feel like I shouldn’t be wasting his time. Ever. That’s important to me.

Tomorrow I am scheduled for my annual screening mammogram on my favorite breast (you know, the one that HASN’T tried killing me). Unfortunately, I’m hearing a lot of, “Well, you should have just let them take both, I would have.”

Well…here’s the thing.

When it’s your turn, you go ahead and choose that. I didn’t, for my own reasons. And I’m gracious with saying, “Well, after talking with several specialists at the time, this was the best course for me.” Because I get it.

When I first heard I had cancer. I thought I would just chop them both off and be on my merry way. What I didn’t even know I didn’t know was (and still is) astounding.

It’s hard enough for women who feel like they have to give up their womanhood when they loose their breasts, but for others whom have not had the experience to make judgement on their decisions is a slap in the face.

I didn’t give up my womanhood…although many women struggle with their physical body after all that cancer puts them through; I’m quite fond of mine. I love that I have a scar that runs from hip to hip. I think it’s neat that I have my same bellybutton but in a new location. I’ve come to adore the flap on my left breast as a unique part of me. I truly enjoyed being bald and often wonder if I should go back to that because it was so awesome. As I consider that I am currently out of conditioner and using the shampoo one of the boys picked out…bald sounds pretty good.

But I digress…(as usual)

The day before my scheduled mammogram, I start bleeding. Now, at 43 this is normal for most women. For somebody who has been in menopause for the previous 2.5 years…not so much.

I called my friend as I was emailing my Mayo Clinic Doctors.

Then we began to discuss how busy satan has been throughout October in my life. Every time I think everything is fine, something pops up that makes me wonder. First, I switched jobs and that made me wonder about my role in both locations. Then I found the lump, which turned out to be nothing, and now this. Like COME.ON.ALREADY.

When I discussed the lump though, I wasn’t afraid. I said I had already heard, “You have cancer” once. Thankfully those words can never be heard again for the first time. I already know what to do if I ever hear them again.

Being treated with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and targeted therapy and then  healed by God, I still must remember that 1 in 8 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis. I may still be 1 in 8 at another point. I no longer consider myself at a higher risk of cancer as a survivor; just back in the pool with everybody else…I’m just lucky enough to have some preventative meds in my toolbox. So maybe I’m not 1 in 8 anymore. Maybe I’m 1 in 25.

So this light bleeding, extremely out of left field today and oddly…not overly concerning after the initial shock. I’ve emailed my doctors and will figure out the next step when they contact me tomorrow. Between now and then, it’s not my concern. It is all in God’s hands.

So as busy as satan has been this month, it’s nearly comical. He has no authority in my life and sees the good works I do. He puts thoughts in my head and pulls triggers that I thought had been deactivated years ago.

Sometimes, I just need that reminder, that satan has ZERO authority over my life and every piece of it is in God’s care and control. He works everything for good…so whatever attack brought upon me by the enemy…I’m ok. It will be used to deepen my faith and trust in God, not to question Him.

Lord,

I am fully expecting a clear scan tomorrow so I can continue to serve the children I work around and the other staff members I encounter on a daily basis. I know You are the designer of all things; I also know that you want your children to ask for their deepest desires. I ask you for a clean bill of health.
I pray that you bring a mate that will bless our lives in ways we cannot even imagine. I pray that he comes soon so we can start our forever together. I pray for a long, healthy life with him and my children.
Thank you Father for giving me an opportunity to shout Your Grace and Mercy from the rooftops through this journey and for giving me the patience and understanding to make the most of everyday here on earth.
Lord, I ask that You cover my city with love, that You bring healing to my hometown, and that people open their hearts to Your goodness.
I pray all of this in Your Son’s Holy Name;

Amen