Head Games

*Language Warning*

So tonight a woman in a breast cancer facebook group I belong to asked about blurry eyes on a certain medication…well who knew it would lead to this latest #CancerEpiphany

I started wearing contacts about six years ago. I loved finally being free of the glasses that had shadowed my face since I was ten years old. It was a new life!

Near the end of chemo, I found my contacts to be more and more bothersome. It got to the point where I could not even keep them in for more than a couple hours. I asked my eye doctor about it and he explained that dry eyes are common after chemo and that although not reversible, there are medications that can help.

My last eye exam was August 2015.

After hearing what that doctor said, I never bothered even going for a check up. Why? To get put on yet another medication? To be told that cancer has taken a toll on a completely unrelated organ? To find out I have irreversible damage because I fought like hell to save my life?

The only thing is; I never realized I felt that way until tonight when I was discussing this side effect with my online friend.

…I haven’t gone to the eye doctor since the summer I had radiation (2015). After chemo I had a hell of a time wearing contacts and talked to an eye doctor who is a parent of one of the kids I used to coach and he said dry eye is common after chemo and meds can sometimes help, but it’s not reversible.
I just realized (while writing this response) that I feel betrayed by my eyes…my body…this is all such a mindfuck and I’m tired of it.

Once again my body has proven just how fickle it can be. How did this even happen? Where did the message get messed up? At what point were my cells smacked out of line? Why wasn’t my immune system strong enough to fight it off? Why did it grow so big? Why did I do such aggressive treatment if it was going to leave me so broken in other ways?

I know, I know…it’s not that bad.

I beat cancer. I kicked the hell out of stage III breast cancer. I OWNED IT.

So why does it still own me?

Why was I so angry yesterday because the local Junior A hockey team was having a Cancer Awareness night? Here’s the conversation I had with my friend:

Me: I’m just fucking mad tonight…that hasn’t happened in a long time when I think about cancer…tonight I hate everything it took from me.

Her: There’s a lot it took from you, so if you need to be mad about it, be mad.

M: Oh trust me, I’m mad

Her: I believe you.
Anything specific trigger that or is it just where you are tonight?

M: I think just so much hockey…and how much hockey was involved in my fight and how much cancer is the focus of hockey tonight.
Hockey was my safe place.
I’m praying to make this about hockey support and not cancer.

And then my baby boy saved the day…he scored his first goal of the season last night. His team won their game 15-4. He started the season as a defenseman and has recently been moved to wing. Yesterday, he played wing, defense, and then (for the final period) in net. What a talented little man he is. Now if only I can get him to open hockey so he can pick up some speed…LOL

So that’s my #LifeAfterCancer story for tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll call and make an appointment with my eye doctor…I promise.

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Thankful Thursday

While my boys go round and round about who gets in the shower first, I thought it would be a great time to just be thankful.

We drove down to Minneapolis yesterday and checked into our hotel which is directly across the street from the Mall of America. Immediately, the youngest was undressed and ready to go to the pool. The older one was busy setting up the xbox I had allowed them to bring.

So I go to supervise the little one and the older one (with strict orders that the xbox was brought for a specific purpose) decided to hang out in the room and read for a little while in peace.

While at poolside, I ordered pizza for supper and relaxed.

It wasn’t long after, Katie showed up at our room. Her and I were off to US Bank Stadium to go inline skating around the main concourse.

OMG

SO MUCH FUN

I skated for about 2 hours straight and her for three full hours. I knew going in that I couldn’t do the full time; and I didn’t care…the experience and the time with Katie was so worth it!

Of course we wore our “Cancer can Kiss My Skates” shirts and stopped at Target to buy pants because I couldn’t find mine when I left home.

Well, God was smiling on us OBVIOUSLY because we walked in and saw these pants that not only compliment our shirts nicely, they also have POCKETS for our cell phones!! SO COOL!

During the time we were skating, the boys had instructions to NOT kill each other, and no fighting over the xbox. I knew they could easily keep busy with games and movies for the couple hours I was gone…that was the ONLY reason I allowed them to bring it with us.

I DID NOT bring them on this vacation to sit in front of the xbox for three days…that’s for sure!

Today we are going to experience a virtual reality arcade, an indoor go kart track, and an hour of laser tag. Tomorrow is the Science Museum.

Father,

When I think of how full my heart is for my children, I cannot fathom how much greater Your love for us is. This is all I have to compare it to though…and it’s an amazing love. As I watch them be filled with peace and love and gratitude, it fills my heart.

It brings me such joy to give them gifts of time and memories. How much more joy must You have at each answered prayer?

It’s times like this that I am reminded to ask the Big Ask prayers. To ask for the earthly impossible…because everything is possible through You.

This trip is a reminder of that…without prayer, and without complete faith in You, we could not have made this trip.

I thank You over and over again for growing my faith over the last six years. I kept telling people it was worth it…every time they questioned how I could stay so positive, I only replied that I can enjoy the journey or be miserable…but I still had to go on the trip.

Lord, continue to rain your love onto us as we enjoy our time together. We have all worked very hard to get her and are so very thankful for every minute of this adventure!

Amen

Today I am hunkered down. Making preparations for 2018 and just spending time alone. I had a few invites to hang out with friends and their families, and except for one I will likely head to after a while, I needed some alone time after attending two church services this morning.

I have a plan in place, I am listening to God’s calling, and I am at peace.

The New Year has big things in place for us. New job, new opportunities, new life.

Oh God I miss my family today.

Being 600+ miles away is tough during holiday times. While I genuinely appreciate all the social invites, they are not the same as being with my children and my family. Most of the time I’d rather be alone than with people if those people don’t include my children and my family.

I’m not sad about that, I’ve come to realize that is just what works for me. Every other Thanksgiving, every other Christmas or New Years Eve my children are with their father and I’m okay with that.

It’s my time to be with me, and I’m as thankful for those moments as I am the ones I spend with my babies.

In two days my boys will be home and the next day we will be on the road to a three day adventure to Minneapolis. Three nights in a hotel with a pool, pizza in the bed with movies, Virtual Reality Arcade, Mall of America, Science Museum…just time to refresh and relax away from home.

I have scrimped, sacrificed, and saved up for this opportunity. I am thankful to those who have helped along the way.

As you may or may not know, I am a budget nerd. I am so excited for our 2018 budget and have complete faith in God to take a huge leap of faith in the new year.

On January 15 I will be giving notice in the kitchen at the school where I work. Whether or not they want me to work the two full weeks or not, is up to them and I am fine either way. I have three unused personal days I will use up before being finished as well. So although it looks like I have a full month left, there are 20 school days minus 3 personal leave days.

I have made connections at every school in our district to be a substitute para professional. I will also continue to be a cleaner substitute as needed.

I am so excited to be back on the front lines with the kids; in their midst. It will also afford me the flexibility to continue to volunteer for my youngest son’s teacher and for activities at my older son’s school.

The wage as a para sub is higher than my wage in the kitchen, and it is usually a full (7 hour) day as opposed to 4.25. Based on this, with only 3 days of work each week I will have the same income I have now. With the desperate need for para subs in our school system; I’m guessing I will likely work 15+days each month.

Anything over my current average monthly wages I will be setting aside for the first few months in case I have some extended time off. I’m also hoping to not have to work this summer.

I have been asked to be on staff at an area bible camp, and that would be a 5 week gig…it would likely be enough to afford me to take the remainder of the summer off. My goal is to eventually not work at all in the summer months.

I considered going home to Canada to work for the summer for one of the various construction companies; knowing I’d make enough over the summer to full fund a few months in an emergency fund.

Maybe next year. This year I have some serious training to do for three inline marathons and some serious fundraising. God has given me back my health to be put to work. This year work looks like making it big on the inline scene…reaching the podium. Shouting His praise every step of the way.

Lord,

The looks from people who wonder how I can give up my steady income for something that is not even remotely guaranteed makes me giggle. As I explain that I am following You, they don’t understand.

That’s okay.

When they see Your good works through me and my every grateful family, they will know that only You could pull this off. Then, and only then will they understand how faith is so much bigger than any fear. They will see how Your love is unending and limitless.

My eyes are so bright and my heart so free…thank you.

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

Faithful

So, there’s this guy…

Haha that sounds so creepy.

OK, so we all know I am still single. While I am interested in being in a committed relationship that leads to marriage; I am not interested in settling for anything less than a solid foundation.

Do I think it will be perfect? I sure hope not. Perfect is boring. Would I like it to be soon? Ya, but I’m willing to wait for the one…and when he shows up…I’m ready.

As far as dating goes, I try my best to focus on Christ. On days when I am lonely, I work on remembering that lonely alone is better than lonely with somebody at my side. This does not mean that if I meet somebody and there is potential that I don’t step up to the plate…as I did this past weekend.

I casually met a man in June at the Single Mom’s Retreat. He was one of the men working security for the weekend. Although our visit was brief (and he really didn’t have a choice but to be nice to me as he was on the job); something about our interaction stuck with me all that weekend. I have prayed for this man consistently since June. Praying that he has peace in every aspect of his life, that he know his identity is in Christ, that God provide for him as He did for Adam…a perfect mate. (Of course, I wasn’t even sure he was single or married, so my prayers included that she also be a woman of God and that they be happy together.)

This last weekend at the Thrive conference, I saw him again. I won’t lie, I was quite excited to attend the conference because he had told me in June he would be working again at this one. Not only was I going to be spending two days with some amazing women…this was my chance to get to know him better.

Like a giddy school girl, when I saw him I gave him a huge hug and told him I was so glad he was there. He remembered me from Single Mom’s and although I wish I had the time to stop right then and there to speak with him; the conference was my priority and worship was starting!

Katie found him on Facebook and his profile says single, all his meme’s that are public are about loving God and living a Godly life…could he be any more perfect? She had told me the last time I was thinking about dating that she wanted me to find a man who loved Jesus more than I did. (I think that conversation actually took place the day I met him for the first time…while her and I were driving to the Single Mom’s retreat in June.)

On Saturday I made my move, I had written him a short note, telling him that I had appreciated our short conversations at the Single Mom’s weekend and was glad to see him again this weekend. I told him that he had been in my prayers since then and if he wanted to stay in contact, here was my phone number…

Wow…did I really do that?

Unfortunately, what could have been the amazing start to an awesome love story ends there.

He did not call, or text.

The funny thing is that it brings me this huge full of love feeling. I now know FOR SURE that there are Godly men out there…and when mine comes along, I know I’m ready.

I am so honored to remain faithful to my future husband; whomever he may be and wherever he is today. My heart is open and it is full!

Lord,

As I walk through this singleness, I am so thankful for being shown that there truly are single men of God out there. It strengthens my resolve to remain pure for the one You have chosen for me. It reminds me that dating for fun is not something I am even remotely interested in. As my heart remains full and open, give me the strength to continue to be vulnerable and allow that love to pour out over everybody in my life so that there is always room for more love.

I know Your plan works any season, regardless of my human understanding; it would be interesting to see how You would work a new relationship into a hockey and bowling season…

I am so blessed to have the friends I have who support even my wildest dreams; and crazy antics like giving a stranger my phone number at a Christian Women’s Conference. Thank You Jesus for giving me these women in my life.

As the Fall season is upon us, and it is getting colder outside, may our hearts remain on fire for You.

Amen

Now I’ve Done It

Now that inline skating season is almost over, it is time for Katie and our friend Katherine to resume their Thursday evening workouts. Good for them, right? Wrong. They brought their weights and video over to my house and we will be doing it together.

Trust me, I tried everything to get out of this. I am not a workout kinda girl. I skated my butt of this summer and I am quite happy seeing how much better I will be next summer with a full spring/summer of training.

Well, this is where Katie pushes back apparently. She knows I want to be on a podium of at least one race next year and there is only one way to get there…hard work.

So last Thursday we worked out…the three of us. I have not even LOOKED at weights for 30 years…never mind lifted them. They asked if I wanted to start with 3 lbs or 5 lbs. Well, here’s where my thinking gets me in trouble. I figure if I’m going to work out, I might as well make it worth my time and ache. I pick 5 lbs with the idea that if it does become too much, I can reduce to three.

Ya, we all know that never happened…oh wait, ya, for one of the exercises I picked the lighter weights…but only for one.

Friday my body must have still been in shock, because it didn’t hurt too bad. I knew I had worked out but could still walk up and down stairs without cussing at these two women.

Saturday came and Katie and I went for a quick five mile skate (not sure when that became quick…or normal…but it has). While doing some one legged glides, I lost my balance and fell.

I tore a hole in my only pair of sweatpants, I figured there must have been some road rash but didn’t bother looking as we were not even a half mile into our skate and there was nothing I was going to do. I could not feel blood dripping so it’s all good.

We enjoyed the first 2.5 miles just skating along on some new pavement by my house. Then we turned around…into a 10+mph headwind.

The conversation came to a dead stop.

The next two and a half miles was full of “This is stupid” and “We should have parked a vehicle at one end and just drove back” kind of comments. “Are we there yet” has taken on a whole new level of understanding.

I did notice that the strong headwind was great for my form though. I struggle with leaning forward and a proper, slow stride when I have no resistance. I was much better at putting my hands behind my back, leaning forward and a proper stride.

Silver linings, I guess.

Then off to watch the older boy start his bowling season…sitting for an hour.

Then I had to get up…HOLY HANNA…WHAT THE…

Ya, my body was letting me know what it thought of not only the fall, but the entire workout silliness now. I was nearly in tears when Katie dropped me off a sweatshirt (because I got the skate shivers while at bowling). I was telling her that now I had to go sit for another hour to watch football…oh my aching muscles.

By Saturday evening I could not even lift my arms to brush my hair without my triceps screaming at me. I screamed back…much to the enjoyment of the boys.

Now it’s Monday and my body seems to have forgiven me. I don’t yet have the nerve to tell it we are working out on Tuesday this week because we are leaving town for the weekend Friday morning to attend a women’s conference.

But…makes me wonder if we shouldn’t be working out twice a week…just when our body is not hating us…do it again. In theory it sounds like a good plan. Wait…what?

My legs have some serious work to do when it comes to strength. I also know that with that strength I will likely try to save enough money to spend on a skate coach for a couple of hours to work on my technique. The closest one I know of is down in the cities so will likely try to fit it in during a Rochester trip.

I am already looking forward to next summer…something I could not do just a few months ago.

Before healing, I could not think beyond the next month, or the one after that. Now, I’m back to planning a future, living my life as if I had never heard those ugly words, “I”m not going to lie, it’s not good.”

I am so thankful for the ability to work out and hurt like I’ve been hit by a tank. The ache reminds me of all those who cannot workout due to treatments, side effects, and those who have graduated from earth…I workout because they can’t. I hurt by choice…I remember when I hurt just because I was breathing…

How blessed am I.

Dear Lord,

This last week has sure been a roller coaster of living, to put it mildly. I am so thankful to be buckled in and eyes open to enjoy the ride.
As this week moves forward and we say good bye to a dear friend, help me serve his family as they have served others for so long.
I need help discerning the work situation as well, this is a tough one.

Amen