I Shouldn’t Have Waited

On Thanksgiving Day, I had so many thoughts of all that I am thankful for that I wanted to post about. I knew I had to spread The Good News about how I see God work in my life. There were so many amazing thoughts in my head as I spent the day in restoring rest.

Then Thursday turned in to Friday.

I ran to the store to buy milk and ran into a friend and her kids. Her son plays hockey with mine and her baby is just an adorable little munchkin who is always quick to tell me, “I’m not a baby, I’m a big boy.”

I knew her dad had to return to the doctor after talking with them at last week’s hockey game so I asked about it. He is a two time cancer survivor whom had just recently finished his second round of treatment along with a bone marrow transplant.

You know that moment before your life changes…it was right before I asked.

“Well, we got some not good news this morning.”

Fuck

So he goes back to the doctor again this week (6 hours away from home) to figure out what the next course of action is. My friend is scared, her older son is devastated (him and Grandpa have always been very close).

I told her that all I can do is pray…because I don’t even know what else to do.

Then I got a text confirming a fear I’ve had for a few weeks. Another guy I know (although not well, I’ve known him for about 10 years) his brain cancer is back. Stage four glioblastoma.

So, of course I don’t do myself any favors by looking it up. Median survival, 15-18 months. Only 20% of patients area alive after one year.

I’ve been praying for his family…and my friend’s family.

I still want to post about all that I am thankful for…just at a more appropriate time. Today is not that time.

Today I am praying about not killing anybody at work…the last week before my Zoladex shot is beyond hell. It’s like PMS on steroids. I never dealt with PMS before cancer, I was pretty lucky.

Not anymore.

About a week before my shot is due, something will alert me to the shift in my mood; being short with the kids, something trivial causing an explosion…then I will check the calendar and take a deep breath…because it is just the beginning of Hell Week. College frat boys got nothing on me!

I can’t fall asleep at night, I don’t want to get up in the morning. I have no desire to do anything (I even skipped my morning skate today and last Wednesday). Ya, you read that right…I skipped an opportunity to be on the ice…twice.

I get my shot at 2:30 today and then because the weather is so awesome I may even go for an inline skate; whoda thunk we’d be able to skate at the end of November? I think Halloween Day was my last inline skate. Would have been cool to skate on ice and pavement in the same day. Today is not that day.

So I will get up and go to work, I even considered calling in sick today to avoid any potential issues, I’m just not myself and I hate it. Twice last week I nearly quit my job. I saw a co-worker yesterday and she asked if I was ready to go back to work tomorrow after a four day weekend and I told her, “No, I hate my job.” She said that made her sad.

I also hate that it’s four unpaid days (no stat holidays in this country). Ya, I know we’re going to be okay, yes I know God will provide for our needs.

You know what though?

I want more than just our basic needs. I want to pay the light bill AND take my kid for a hot chocolate. I want an emergency fund so that I don’t have to rely on others when my vehicle finally decides it’s done.

And I hate that.

I hate feeling like I want more. I hate to think that I somehow sound ungrateful for all that has been provided for us. I’m not. I am truly thankful to be where we are. I also know that even a few hundred dollars every month would make a huge difference in our comfort level. I could own more than one pair of jeans for work, I would not beat myself up for driving 3 hours (one way) to watch my son play hockey on his dad’s weekend. I wouldn’t cringe at the thought of the fees for archery (although only $40…that’s almost a tank of gas).

I had a great idea for Christmas for the boys and now I don’t think I can pull it off.

Instead of buying gifts this year, I was going to plan a getaway. It wouldn’t cost much more than what I would spend on gifts, and the memories would be way better than any gift I could buy them.

We even received an unexpected monetary gift in the mail last week. Well, between travel for hockey this month and other unexpected expenses, that was swallowed up like a snake eats a frog…like it was gone before I even realized it.

Add on the fact that my December 15 paycheck will be smaller than normal, and I’m right back to counting pennies in time to pay rent for January.

This is where that ‘cushion fund’ would come in handy. If I had a couple months of expenses saved up, and the security that I had the money on hand, I could let go of the stress.

So, instead. My kids will be on the local ‘Giving Tree’ and somebody will pick the “Boy – age 10” and “Boy – age 13” off and bless them, again.

I thought I had it all figured out.

Turns out God’s plans and my plans are not always the same.

Heavenly Father,

I am so thankful for the blessings bestowed upon myself and my boys. I do understand how blessed we are and how good we have it.

I miss how things were when I didn’t have to worry about money. I want to have that again. God, I ask for abundant resources to not only meet our needs but to also exceed them.

Amen

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Truth

Of all the things I have ever posted, this may be the most vulnerable I have ever been.

Please know I want no recognition of this awful day. This feels like a war memorial of sorts. A somber occasion.

I posted the following on a breast cancer group I belong to. This is what cancer looks like to me tonight…

So tomorrow (Saturday) is my cancerversary. Three years ago I went to the doctor because I thought I had pulled a muscle being back on the ice after 20 years of not skating…and volunteering to help coach my son’s hockey team. Doctor felt nothing, thought nothing…but offered a mammogram just based on the fact that I had just turned 40 and “we should get a baseline”

As I walked out of the imaging department, the technician informed me that the radiologist was already writing his report and that my doctor would be calling me and, “…I’m not going to lie, it’s not good.”

October has been so full of triggers and PTSD and just trying to survive in one piece already. I feel this swallowing me whole…encompassing my entire being…and it hurts…physically hurts my soul.

My boys are no longer 6 and 9, they are now 9 and 12. I am cancer free. I am healthy.
Tonight though as I crawl into bed…I am not strong enough. I am a crying mess.

THANKFULLY…we are at my parents in Northern Canada…and I am safe here…Oh God it’s killing me…but I’m alive…I LIVED…I MADE IT…why is this swallowing me whole???

Tomorrow I will wake up…with my young son snoring at my side (he shares a bed with me here). I will wear the t-shirt I EARNED finishing the NorthShore Inline Marathon in September…and I will SURVIVE…and I will continue to survive.

I will live my life filled with love, courage, and never ever stop.

Validation

Today is October 1.

I knew it was coming.

I chose to try to ignore it.

I made the wrong choice.

You see, as much as I would like October to come and go without any fanfare, it hit me today with a force I cannot deny. I got up and went to church and just standing there with people I know and love was anxiety laden. It was so awful that I could not even attend the second service I always attend.

I came home and crawled into bed with the cats. I needed rest, I needed to hide, I needed to not have to do anymore peopleing. My friend texted, asking if I only attended one service today and I said yup, and I was in bed. She was just checking to make sure I got out at least.

When we discussed what October meant to me the other day she asked what I needed from her or what she could do. I told her to make sure I do not isolate myself too much. When she texted today, I almost was not going to answer because I was afraid I had disappointed her by only going to one church service. She knows I thoroughly enjoy both.

Instead she told me she was happy I had gotten to at least one and to sleep well and that she was praying.

Oh I needed that more than anything. It was so validating. I had no idea how invalidated I feel about all of this until that very moment.

I feel like being full of anxiety just because it is October is stupid, that I should not feel this and I should be able to get over all of it. The truth is, I cannot. In October three years ago my world, which was already crashing down around me in the aftermath of a very long and drawn out divorce process felt like it was ending.

As I have moved through cancer and beyond; I do not think I have ever truly validated myself for all I went through. How could I ever accept it from anybody else.

So while I want to cancel the small group from coming to our house tonight, I know that it is only a six or seven people and we are finished within two hours. Cancelling serves no good purpose.

I am stuck between honoring this process and not allowing it to consume me. I am choosing to keep moving forward. One more stride. Head down and just moving forward. I cannot look ahead to how much further I have to go; I need to focus on the next step in front of me, and not one inch beyond that right now.

It feels like cancer all over again and I need to continually remind myself that it is not. That Dorothy is gone and God won. I need to remind myself that I am safe and I am worthy and I am loved. I.Am.Safe.

I thought I could embrace October and a month of advocating for the right charities and the right reasons to pink…it turns out I just need to survive this year and get beyond this pit of agony, despair, and anxiety.

I need to remember that I trust God in all of this. He got me this far.

What can you do for me? Check in with me, feed me, financial assistance, hug me and tell me I’m gonna be ok and the hard part is over. Encourage me to feel; real feelings, real reactions.

Together, we got this. I’m just the one with the puck on my stick right now and nobody to pass to.

Hockey and Dates

Today I was gifted four tickets to a University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks hockey game. As a huge hockey fan, I cannot even begin to explain my delight at this. I have never been to a college level hockey game. Unfortunately, my boys cannot join me so I am taking friends.

While I was at the grocery store with my youngest son after school today we were joking about me looking for a date. He even asked a friend of ours and our checkout guy if they would be my date. He did not seem to care that our friend is married and the checkout guy has a girlfriend. Too funny.

At one point we were standing by a store employee who was giving out free brownie sundaes and he was still trying to convince me I needed a date, and he would find me one. He even asked the guy at the meat counter…he declined as it is his mother’s birthday tomorrow.

The lady said to him, “Aww, he just is worried about his Mama and wants her to be happy.”

I responded that he worried enough when I was sick, he should never have to worry about his Mama ever again.

Then he caught my eye…

A look of terror and dread and anguish flashed through his whole body. It rocked me to the core.

“Ya, I worried enough, I never want to worry like that again” was his reply as he moved closer and put his head against my arm and looked up at me.

“That’s legit buddy; I’m sorry.” I wrapped my free arm around him as we walked away, his head still leaned against me. What else was I supposed to say, what could I say? We walked like that in silence for a few minutes through the store, eventually easing back into conversation.

For a minute though, I saw it. I saw cancer in my young son’s eyes. I could see it written on his heart. He is nine years old. In a split second, I watched him age a hundred years. I watched him become a man, with a little boy’s broken heart.

Cancer will be a part of who my boys become as young men, as partners, as fathers, as leaders. I am so glad I get to guide them and raise them up!

Lord,

That fear I saw tonight…it was the first time I’ve seen it in a long time. I am so grateful that he had that moment with me, so he could be validated and comforted.
As we move further away from cancer and as I raise these young men up into Godly men; give me the patience, the strength, and the integrity to do it right.

Amen

What To Say

Another warrior discovered her cancer had metastasized to her bones a few weeks ago.  Her doctor ordered a brain MRI and she received the results today that she has three lesions on her brain.

I do not even know what to say. I am sorry sounds like a death sentence. When I think of what I would want to hear, I cannot even imagine.

I think the most logical, honest, heartfelt response for me would be, “Oh Fuck, now what?”

Seriously…because for women who have breast cancer that metastasizes, it means life-long treatment. It means facing the unknown and every fear you have faced since your initial diagnosis has been realized.

One lady said she feels such peace now. She had spent years wondering if and when it would show up again; now she knows and can make a treatment plan and move forward.

I would like to think I would also feel that way; but I am not that strong. Oh, I would look that strong on the outside, of that I am sure. On the inside, and at my Mommy’s house though, I would be a mess. A puddle of mush.

And when it was time to get to work, I would get to work. Maybe I would be like that. I am glad I do not have to find out.

Being healed has brought me a peace I had before I ever heard that ugly word; Cancer. I am different though. I no longer am able to be naive about my mortality. I am no longer willing to let simple symptoms go for more than a couple of weeks.

What if I had gone to the doctor when I first felt pain in my left breast? Would that have changed my treatment plan or outcome? I never want to be that close to death ever again. So from now on, if I have a pain, a twinge, a feeling something is not right, I will get it looked at sooner rather than later.

I may be healed yet I still take medications on a daily basis. My body tried to kill me once, I will do everything in my power, to not let that happen again. As I still have one natural breast left; I am still at risk.

My risk for a new primary cancer in my right breast is pretty slim; I get that. I also get that it was pretty much a fluke of nature (if I believed in such a thing) that I had it in the first place.

So difficult to put yourself in the shoes of somebody receiving such devastating news; I am blessed that I can though. I am thankful I know her well enough to ask what now and have her know she can share the details with me, they will not scare me away and I will not tell her to eat more carrots.

To my stage IV warriors, my friends; this sucks, and I’m coming along for the ride. Hang in there and you do you.

Lord,

I pray for all the metavivors out there, those I know and the ones I don’t. I pray for their medical team to be the best, I pray that the treatment decisions are sound and successful. I ask for relief from any pain or anxiety as they live their new life.
I ask for a miracle, for radical healing as only You can do.
Lord give me strength and courage to continue to grow these friendships and not back away. To not fade.
I praise You for my healing, God. For giving my another shot at life. For allowing me to serve you with grace and wisdom.
Amen

Stepping Out In Faith

As change continues in my life and the life of my children lately I have been called to make one more change and it is not an easy one to make.

As I have shared before, our financial situation is beyond difficult. Besides a reduction in hours throughout the summer there are several unpaid weeks of time off I have no control over. My children and I live in poverty. Not just that we have more month than money, there are often months where the money I earn does not cover even our basic expenses (rent, electricity, car insurance, phone, parenting time expeditor, and gasoline).

I have no debt outside of the parenting time expeditor who is court ordered through my divorce. Thankfully he takes payments and unfortunately the need for him is necessary for any and all co-paretning communications.

As you can see, we do not have lines in our basic budget for items such as clothing, sports, school fees, household needs, vehicle maintenance, vehicle replacement, furniture replacement savings, dining out, internet, or entertainment.

Things most people take for granted…a stop at Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone, running to the store for toilet paper or cleaning supplies, socks, even stopping at the local Farmer’s Market for some amazing strawberries…the little things that most people can find an extra dollar or two around the house for; we do not have that dollar or two. Every penny is strictly accounted for. Every.Penny.

This week, my gas gauge was low and I knew that I had barely enough money to pay my rent and gas was going to have to take a back seat. If we needed to walk, we were just going to have to walk.

Then God said to me, “If you trust Me, fill your gas tank.”

And I’m like Dude…I know how to count, I know exactly how much money I have and I cannot fill my gas tank AND pay the rent.

“I can.”

It cost $41.37 to fill my tank that day.

I do not claim to understand how God does the things He does; I just know He does them with love for me. He loves me so much and His provision is great.

It was after I realized just how big of a step out in faith this was for me that I decided it was time to start Tithing.

Malachi 3: 10 – 12

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (NLT)

The Lord has provided for us through so much, it is only right that I trust Him to provide for us. How can I claim to be so trusting yet keep my tithe to myself? Will He not provide for all my needs?

“Try it! Put me to the test!”

I have never tithed in my life although I have always been called to, it was always something I wanted to do. In my life right now there is no better time to put ME to the test, not God. It is a test of how much I trust in the Lord.

Proverbs 3: 5 – 8

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

I am challenging myself. I am trusting the Lord beyond my understanding.

Starting July 1, 2017 I am committing to giving a Tithe. I had no worries as I dropped that envelope into the plate this morning. I knew God would take care of me and my boys.

Even though filling my gas tank last week made me short to make the rent, I filled my tank. Even though I have been so worried about making sure I have enough money to pay my rent this month; today I tithed.

I am so very excited to see how God uses this newness for His good. I am so excited to trust Him beyond my own understanding.

God is so good and I am so excited to be His child.

Lord,

I have heard Your call and I have done as You instructed. I live for You; to bring people to Your glory. Lord I want people to see You in me, to see Your love, Your promises.
Lord, you called, I answered…and I continue to grow closer to you and to show the world Your greatness.
I thank you for this opportunity to trust you beyond my own understanding and to show others Your Glory through Your good works.

Amen

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