Welcome Back

Thanks everybody for being patient while God took care of a few things.

This will be a very short post today as I am trying to type with a broken middle finger that has to be splinted and buddy – taped to my ring finger. (I actually un taped it from that finger just so I could type this…but I know that can’t happen every day.

I have been using my Facebook page to download some of my thoughts with their LiveFeed feature. I never would have guessed that Vlogging would be so awesome. Seriously considering maybe starting to YouTube some of my less ‘filtered and edited’ thoughts as I know not everybody has Facebook and I hate to think that anybody is missing the message that might be the exact one they need to see or hear.

Life has been moving at a lightening fast pace this summer. It is absolutely crazy how God has been showing up and getting things done every time I turn around.

I lost a dear friend and cancer mentor last week and my heart continues to hurt for her family. Her funeral was yesterday and the boys and I made it though in one piece…and some times that is all that matters.

When she died on Saturday morning I talked to my mom (over 600 miles away) and she told me, “I don’t care what you have to do, you just get through this. You be strong for her family, and you let others take care of you.”

For the first time…I did just that. I ugly cried my good friend and she came over. When she had to go be with her family, another friend showed up just as I was going to lay down. That friend stayed while I tried to nap and cleaned my house while she just was here for me. I cannot thank them enough for getting me through that day.

I will continue to do my best to catch you up on God’s amazing work this last couple of months.

I pray you are all well and having a wonderful season.

Deb

Newness

During periods of rapid growth, there is physical, emotional, and often spiritual pain.

Recently my friend invited me to start rollerblading in the mornings with her. She found an amazing deal on some decent skates and I agreed. She does this in the mornings…I am not a morning person.

The first day, I puked. I told her I would do it if she wanted to come and get me. She rings my doorbell to wake me up and off we go. I should have eaten breakfast because exerting myself on an empty stomach was not a good idea. I rollerbladed 4.65 miles that day.

The next day I skated 3.67 miles and my youngest son joined us. We had less time due to having the young one with us, and I did not push myself as hard as I had the day before; but I still skated.

Thankfully we had the next two days off (Wednesday morning it was raining and Thursday morning the boys had to be at golf at 8 am). Today we were out there again and I did another 3.67 miles. I was slower, so less winded yet still active. Her youngest son came with us today so the pace was slow again but being out there is better than just going back to sleep in the early morning hours (do NOT tell her I said that).

Monday when she rang my doorbell I was still sleeping and ran down stairs in my bathrobe to open the door. Tuesday I was awake and had time to grab some cereal. Today, my skates were on and I skated out of the house when she got her eating a bowl of cereal. She commented that it was the first time she’d ever seen anybody rollerblading while eating cereal…I told her to take a picture, it lasts longer. I am so not a morning person.

The one thing she had shared with me before was that she uses this time to pray. I know people often pray while dying so I did not find this hard to believe.

What I did not know, was how present God is out there on that trail. The Holy Spirit is very active. The first day, I was moved by how much the physical growth is akin to spiritual growth.

While I am out there skating and remembering what it feels like to taste your lungs, I was struck by how difficult this period of growth has been for me. My lungs are scarred from radiation and my endurance is so diminished due to the scarring plus chemotherapy, plus multiple surgeries over the last three years.

The only way to get back on my feet…is to actually be on my feet. My friend gets that and is willing to put up with my whining, pouting, and growly face in the early morning hours to keep me on my feet.

I am struck by how difficult my spiritual journey has been and how I am willing to go through the difficult periods usually with less whining than I am doing now.

As the Holy Spirit fills me up, I am being used as the hands and feet of God. I am reminded often just how loved I am. I am still learning how to get through the tough days in one piece.

When I start to question my prayer requests I try to focus on the fact that my Father loves me perfectly and that I would do anything within my power to fill my own children’s requests and I long for them to come to me with requests ranging from seemingly impossible to run of the mill.

Matthew 7: 9-11

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

How can I even doubt that God wants to hear my requests when I so cherish every request made by my children. So I ask my Father for so much and He answers each prayer accordingly. When I begin to think I am undeserving, I am reminded:

Luke 12: 27 – 32

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

It gives me great pleasure to meet the needs and wants of my children; and I am far from a perfect parent. I can only imagine the sincere love of God as He provides for each of His children.

While our financial struggle is still so suppressing, I remember that God provides. I am reminded that I am not living in poverty as punishment for anything I have done; that this is merely a season of my life and as the season changes, so will our circumstances.

If you would add us to your prayer list, I am grateful.

Dear Lord,
As the seasons change, I must remember that each plant in the valley grows at the pace You have designed. As I grow spiritually, I am thankful that my emotional growth has kept pace. I understand my financial situation is also a season I must endure and give my trust to you. With each glide of the rollerblade, help me to remember that each outing is one closer to the physical freedom that I long for. 
I give you thanks for those in my life who remind me that this season of abject poverty is not a form of punishment from You; that You love me completely and perfectly. They remind me that I am worthy of nice things and that You give us community to help each other during times such as these. 
When my heart is open, You speak to me and I am listening. 
Give me the resolve to continue through this dark valley, because I know You are with me.
God, C would like a trip to Northern Air or an afternoon of Go-Karting and mini golf. K would like an evening out at a nice restaurant. You know these are the prayers that I have difficulty sharing with others as they seem selfish…I also know that You know their hearts and know that my children are far from selfish…and I should never have to apologize for their sincere prayers. 

Amen

Done Dating: Part 2

My first Done Dating post was the announcement. This one is more of an explanation of how I got there and why I can be confident in my decision.

My friend Katie and I have only known each other for a little over a year. We met after the hard chemo was finished and I was healing from radiation and the after effects of chemo.

In normal circumstances, Katie and I never would have met. Her husband is a pastor of a church I had never stepped foot in and had never even been curious about stepping inside. Not that I questioned their church, I was just happy with the church I was regularly attending and very heavily involved with volunteering.

She started a MOPS group at her church and I was invited by a friend from Epiphany Station. I explained I have no preschoolers left and so a MOPS group was not really my thing. I was assured they were also a MomsNext group for mom’s with older children and I agreed to give it a try.

I was through what we thought was the difficult part of cancer, life was moving forward, and I was interested in social activities that were not overly time consuming. I enjoy group social activities that are regularly scheduled; especially if they include food and a craft!

Katie was very pregnant and we did not socialize much. We were familiar with each other but I would not have called us friends.

Then it happened.

I went to Rochester for my reconstruction in March 2016. I flew down on with Angel Flight Central and was scheduled to fly back with them as well.

I was released to fly home on Good Friday. With my appointment time and the volunteer pilot’s schedule, flying home Friday was not an option. Then the weather was bad for small aircraft travel and my weekend flight was canceled. I was heartbroken.

When I knew I would be going home before Easter I had visions of surprising my boys at church Sunday morning. With no available flight, my plan was crushed. I posted my heartbreak on Facebook and was flooded with messages of sympathy.

Then Katie said she would come and get me…she would drive to Rochester (384 miles) to pick me up and bring me home so I could surprise my boys and be home for Easter. This plan was coming together on Good Friday.

The caretakers of Nazarene Well House (where I had spent my post operative time) knew what was happening and they offered to meet up with Katie so that was it…they drove North and she drove South the day before Easter and got me home in time to surprise my boys at church Easter Sunday.

Our friendship has grown from there and she has become a best friend. She babysits our cats when we are out of town, I babysit her animals when they are gone. I can walk into her home as they start a meal and sit down at the table as if I was invited.

A few weeks ago when tragedy struck and four people died, she comforted me, she engaged me, she got me through. When I did not know how exactly chicken eggs were fertilized (she has chickens, I was curious) she taught me. (Note to self: Don’t ask if you really don’t want to know…I didn’t really want to know). When she needed help taking straw off her septic field, she put me to work. When my heart is rattled and confused and breaking and filling all at the same time, she grounds my feet.

This woman, a mere stranger just 15 months ago who let me carry her water and nothing else when we stopped for coffee on our way home from my surgery. The woman who understands my humor, who gets me, who loves to see me growing closer to Jesus and helps me through the tough spots.

This woman is why I know I no longer need to be on dating websites where men with questionable motives lurk. She is the reason I do not need to be searching for my life partner.

If God can bring together Katie and I, He certainly can bring together the man I will spend the rest of my life with. He certainly can make things happen without my assistance.

I thanked Katie for this the other day; telling her that our friendship gave me the understanding that I did not have to be out there looking for ‘The Right One’ when God already knows where to find me.

Lord,

Thank you for everything You have provided through Katie and her family. They are truly my family here with so many others.
I am so thankful that You have opened my eyes through her about the ways You work and that she has been able to show me just how much You can do.
For my future husband, I pray he also has a friend or group of friends who teach him lessons he doesn’t even know he wants to learn. (save him from the chicken stuff though if he doesn’t already know)
For all of my friends whom are now family; the thanks goes to You. I am eternally grateful.

Amen

Beyond Done

I am fuming today. I know I have said it before and I will say it again; I thought after treatment and surgery I would be finished with breast cancer and nobody thought to tell me any different.

The previous estrogen modulator I was on caused such sever joint and muscle pain it nearly crippled me. Add to that ovarian suppression and I was in a chemically induced menopause that my body decided to mutiny against.

I have been on a medication vacation since January. The pain has decreased significantly but is still prevalent.

Today I started on a new estrogen modulator, Tamoxifen. although tests show me to be a low – to Intermediate metabolizer of the drug, my doctors have decided it is better than taking nothing.

I asked for specific studies and the numbers may not sound big…but 13% is 13%. It reduces my risk of recurrence by 13%. My sons are nine and 12, my daughter 22. Thirteen percent is a pretty big deal.

Unfortunately, the risks are a crap shoot. On one hand, the medically induced menopause can lead to the same joint and muscle pain I was experiencing before. On the other hand many women experience an unparalleled moodiness from the drug. Yay

One friend of mine (also a breast cancer survivor) posted on my Facebook #HideAllTheKnives. That sounds encouraging. She stopped taking the drug because of the side effects. Sounds like ongoing compliance is hard to come by for any of these drugs.

Today I took my first dose. Because I am a low metabolizer, it is a lower than normal dose. We will reevaluate in 2 – 3 months. While I am trying my best to have a positive attitude the numbers and real life stories just don’t support it.

My ten year survival still sucks (less than 50%); as of now, nothing changes that. My five year disease-free time is the number these drugs seem to make the biggest difference on. I am working on wrapping my head around the disease free time in regards to the survival time.

Disease free time does not mean much if it is spend in agony. Survival time takes a crap if  it is spent undergoing treatment.

And that is where I am. My mother told me to listen to Mayo and do my homework; they saved my life once, they might know what they are doing still this time.

I just thought I would be done. Nobody warns you that you are forever a cancer patient, forever a cancer hypochondriac. Nobody warns you that the assistance stops when your hair grows back.

Nothing in this life has ever come easy…I guess I shouldn’t have even pretended it might.

UGH

Oof

*strong language warning*

I’m not gonna lie, I used to have a terrible potty mouth. I used the f-bomb as a comma in everyday language. I have worked SO HARD at being aware that the language I use may offend people I am not even sure are paying attention. That being said…talking to my mother and my brother in this situation I knew there were no other ears listening. I chose to not edit these words out of our conversations for authenticity’s sake…people who know me now, know how hard I have worked to be free of such vulgar language…knowing how I lost it…they know this is beyond understanding. 

My week started out as every other week does, I dropped my boys off at school, waited for Squishy (the baby I babysit) to be picked up, and went to work.

Mondays are so difficult for me. Saying cya later to my boys every other week knowing nobody can love them the same way I do is, even after four years, heartbreaking. I never asked for the divorce, they never asked for it; yet they are still paying a price that is unfathomable to so many.

I go to my second job, and things are as usual. I love my job at the middle school. Those kids fill my bucket every single day. I regularly post on my personal Facebook page about how awesome the middle school students I work with are. I make sure to tell the parents I know how great their children are; because as a parent, there can be nothing more comforting than to know that your child is just as awesome as you think they are! 

…and then it happened..

My brother (650 miles away) posted:

At a loss for words, cant imagine the hart ache.

Earlier in the day I had seen a woman post on the community page about her husband, son, and a family friend were late returning from a canoe trip. So I sent him a private message:

Me: Did they find the canoers?
Darcy: Ya, not good news. 😦
M: ALL OF THEM????
D: From the information I got so far, ya. 😦
M: Oh fuck
D: Yup
M: Oh fuck oh fuck
D: That’s all I can say too.
M: I got nothing
M: Just oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck
M: This can’t be real even
D: Too close to home.

Now, at this time, I only knew of the father, son, and the father’s friend (a friend of my family). I sent my mom a text

Me:SHANE CRIPPS???????
Mom: He and Dylan and 2 more died.
Me: Dylan is younger one?
Mom: Ya, almost 15.
Me: That’s what I thought.

Dylan is Shane’s youngest son.

Two fathers (best friends) and their sons out in a canoe for their first paddle of the year. With all of them dead on scene, only God knows what happened. They were all found floating next to the capsized canoe. They were all wearing personal floatation devices. We are left with two women have lost not only their husbands, they have each lost a child. Each of these women also have a surviving child.

I can still hear the screams in my own ears…my screams. My devastation…my hurt…my disbelief…my shock.

Later that evening my mom called. When I answered I lost it…”what the fuck Mom?” My mom lost it…the strongest woman I have ever met, known, cherished replied through her own anguish, “Oh my God it’s so awful.”

We talked until we were both calm, she told me of the man who refused to check out of Shane and his wife Li’s hotel when the news broke…like literally my mother had to go over and threaten him with the police because he, “…paid for a view of the river and I am going to have a view of the river.”

In perfect Colleen fashion, “Sir, I understand your disappointment. I can assure you though, you can leave with me, or you can leave with the police…but you ARE leaving.” I know she said this with a voice so calm, not even for a second betraying her anger. I also know that her eyes were so full of tears for this family.

I love that woman more than life itself! I am so thankful that Li and James (her surviving son) have my mom.

My mother than picked up all of Dylan’s hockey team and drove them to one of the coaches home where they had opened their home for the boys to all be together.

Shane Cripps (44), Dylan Cripps (14), Connor Sykes (33), Liam Sykes (6) all gone.

My father and another man went out to the boat launch later that evening to bring their vehicle back to town.

Some people bring brownies…my mom and dad do the logistical nightmare stuff. That is how they bring brownies. I mean seriously…the last person in that vehicle was a friend who is now dead. My mom drove around town picking up and dropping of a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds in the midst of their shock and grief.

All of this happening on the first weekend my parents’ campground is open to the public…so I know that in between all the running and shuffling, and tears, and shock they are also greeting guests, guiding tourists, mopping bathrooms, collecting garbage.

Time only stands still for those who are grieving…the rest of the world continues to spin, and somebody has to clean their bathrooms and make sure the garbage is taken care of so the bears don’t come.

On Wednesday morning, word got out that the wives and children of the deceased are planning to go out to the boat launch, which over the years has become haven to those not willing to pay a dump fee at the city dump. The litter and garbage is atrocious out there.

A post was made on the same page the wife posted asking if anybody had seen her husband and son on Monday. By 5:30 pm the place was immaculate. The city dump waived fees for people bringing garbage from the site, people showed up with water and food and they took out several FULL pick-up trucks of garbage in time to allow the families the opportunity to begin processing their situation.

As I work to process this grief from so far away I am in constant contact with my family back home and reaching out to my local friends to keep me afloat. My friends have surrounded me with the love I knew they would…keeping me safe from letting satan enter into this turmoil.

…and then it happened…

My girlfriend (Jessa’s mom) sent me a message that the roller coaster has officially started. Miss Jessa has a grade one brain bleed, her lungs are having issues and she is going to be started on steroids that are going to cause her to feel yucky…

And I’ve got nothing. I cannot even process this. I try to send love, I pray, I try to talk with her and comfort her…and I’m just lost. We will get through this, we just need to connect…we need to get back on the horse and we need to refocus.

The NICU team reassures everybody that these things are ‘normal’ for a micro preemie and that she is still doing so amazingly awesome. The roller coaster is started and we are firmly buckled in.

…and then it happened…

On Friday I am almost finished my work day…less than an hour to go and we stop for lunch.

I check my Facebook and receive notification that my friend from childhood has lost her mother to cancer. Oh shit I just CANNOT do this…

FUCK YOU CANCER! #itsnotaboutme

Is my Facebook update. I do not even remember the last time I swore on Facebook. even the times I have REALLLLLLLLLY wanted to, I always edit it and find better words. At first I did not post the hashtag…but did so pretty quickly so that people would not think I was sick again. 

Not yesterday. Nope, I did think about it. I thought about posting something heartfelt and loving. And then I realized that nope, this WAS heartfelt. These words perfectly summed up what I needed to say at that moment.

I texted my mom, “Call me.” I only have a cell phone, I cannot afford the plan that allows for calls to Canada (it would be an extra $15/month). When I need my mommy…she calls me. 

Mom: Hey
Me: Mom…Giselle died. (sobbing)
Mom: Oh shit, we knew she didn’t have long…you told me that, right?
Me: Yep, Michelle called and said it was close not long ago…just not this week.
Mom: (I can hear her voice crack) It’s going to be one of those years Deb; there are already forest fires burning up here; it’s not going to be good.

She comforts me and I get back to work. It’s all I can do.

There are beautiful things happening all around me…and I am searching SO HARD to be mindful of them…I really am.

I am also hurting and my tears are always falling, and I am letting them. I have cried this week at work, at the grocery store, at Thief River Falls House of Prayer, in my vehicle, on the phone with my landlord, in my bed, in the shower.

It has been one heck of a tough week.

Last night I posted on Facebook:

Two hours ago I said I was going to bed…I just cannot sleep. I went fishing with God earlier but apparently the fish had already talked with Him and were safe. I had supper with friends, I vented/shared love with a friend over FB…and yet my heart is still so hurt tonight. #INeedATripHome

This morning my mom responded “less than two weeks. XO”

Then I got out of bed this morning and was met by this mountain of laundry. I posted a picture of it and said “Apparently the laundry doesn’t care about the week I’ve had…I’m so not ready to die on this mountain! #GriefWaitsForNothing

Just seeing the laundry waiting started the tears again…but it is real life. Grief does not mean your underwear stays clean, grief does not remove the worm poop you wiped on your jeans when you were fishing last weekend before this all happened.

I am struggling, I am devastated, I am grief-stricken. I will be okay. I am surrounded by love, by prayers, by those God has put on this rollercoaster with me.

Lord,

I know there are lessons and beauty in all this tragedy…I am working so hard at seeing those wonderful things through my tears and my hurt.

I am so thankful for those who remind me that the tears are okay and that I don’t have to be strong through this. It is completely okay for me to be on my knees in pain and anguish.

When I’m ready to get off my knees, I look up and I see so many hands held out to help me. They have been praying with their hands on my shoulders. They have been doing all they can so I know I do not have to get through this on my own…I one have to get through it and they will not let me do it alone.

Guide me trough this agony as I glorify Your name.

Amen

 

 

 

Survivor Guilt

Today a family near me lost their young son to brain cancer. He was diagnosed in 2015. March  8, 2017 his family was told he had just 4 – 6 months to live.

On May 31 it will be the one year anniversary of the death of a friend who had cancer.

This weekend while cleaning the house, I found a pipe cleaner that reminded me of a man I met in Rochester while we were both undergoing radiation treatment during the summer of 2015…he’s been gone almost a year now.

And here I am…I am still here.

I was talking to the widow of my friend…

I just spent 5 minutes writing that sentence…I first wrote the wife of my friend…then realized she is his widow…but in my brain she is still his wife; yet she is also a widow. He has been gone for nearly a year and I am just now thinking about this.

So I was talking to my friend the other day who lost her husband a year ago and the anniversary is approaching and she is keeping herself busy. Their daughter is moving far away soon and she is worried. Although they always knew this day would come, she had prepared for this eventuality with her husband by her side.

Her husband, my friend, beat cancer. The after effects killed him. I told her that I am now dealing with the same thing. After cancer is much more difficult than chemo. People do not understand that though. They see me working, living life, growing hair and think life is great again.

Except it is not. It is full of a pain that is constant and here I am trying to have a normal life. People do not want to hear that I am in pain. I think they just do not know what to do or how to help.

I am still only able to work part time and even that is so difficult. This means money is an ongoing issue. I am trying to work, I am trying to live, I am trying to move forward, to move on, to get beyond cancer. Being reminded every pay day that I can only work part time and I may never again be able to support my children off of social assistance, is terrifying.

But I am alive…and many are not. So I feel terrible complaining. I feel so blessed to have come so far. So I say nothing except to very few people; usually the ones who I spend enough time with that I cannot hide it from them.

When I spoke in a small group last week about wanting to take another job next year because the boys will be attending school in the town where I work, so I am logistically able to work more hours.

“YA, RIGHT!” Came from a across the room from a great friend…and I wanted to cry…she is right. There is no way I can physically work more hours than I already do.

I want to provide my boys with a few comforts that most people see as every day items. I want to buy them new shoes without having to argue with their father about who can afford it (he makes $45k/year, I make $13k). I want to go out to eat when I just cannot muster the energy to cook.

I am trying so hard to move forward with every day God gives me. I should be thankful, I should be joy filled, I should be praising God for every minute of every day that I am on this earth.

Today though, I am telling you, this sucks.

Lord,
I don’t know Your plan for me regarding this and I’m not asking to know it. I just need you to know that I don’t understand it and I am sorry that I cannot always find the joy in each day. You know I try.
Help me get through each day with light. Help me see the light, help me be the light to others because I know I cannot see or be the light without You. You are light.
My eyes are open for you, to you.
Amen

 

 

 

Thankful Thursday

In just 30 hours my boys will home and I am so thankful that yesterday I got to see them both for a few minutes. One had a doctor’s appointment and the other had archery league.

It gave me the strength and resolve to get through today and tomorrow. I am also recovering from a severe sinus infection and possibly something funky in my lungs. My energy has been super low and I have been letting my body heal so taking it easy…which is emotionally difficult for me.

I learned through cancer that taking it easy was not an option, it was a necessity. My heart figured that once we were finished with treatment and surgeries I would be able to move on and continue living life. I had no idea that my life would look so different.

I expected some down time with healing, getting my energy and stamina back. I had no idea it would be so difficult. I push myself…then I question if I am pushing too hard on a healing body or not pushing hard enough. There is no manual for getting back in shape after cancer.

This weekend is walleye opener so we’re going fishing. The little one asked what time:

C: Like 12:01 am it starts?

Me: I guess so. We’ll go when we get up in the morning…like 8 o’clock or so.

C: Ya, sometimes I get up around 7.

M: That’s fine, it’s light by then.

C: Sometimes at 6.

M: (to myself) Oh man I hope not…

I just want my kids home…sooner rather than later. I know, I know…patience D…patience.

I’m working on it.