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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Dangerous Whispers

I’ve been pretty transparent about my financial situation and all that entails. I’ve shared our struggles, our triumphs, our goals, and our dreams. As I work on getting on track with our new budget, the enemy continues to whisper how terrible I am as a Christian, a woman, a child, a sibling, and a mother.

It’s that last one that it takes less than a whisper to take me out at the knees and I’d like to share how that manifests in my world right now.

I’ve been working super hard at balancing our budget and building our baby emergency fund of $500. I’m on track to have that complete ahead of schedule. We have scrimped, saved, sacrificed, and prayed.

Then the blower motor on my vehicle decides to finally quit. It’s been thinking about quitting for over a year…and I’ve been hoping it would last just long enough to get through the winter. Not having heat or a defrost function in northern Minnesota through the winter when you are carting your children everywhere is just not an option.

My vehicle has over 235,000 miles on it. My brain tells me that putting a $70 blower motor into a vehicle that may not last another six months is throwing good money after bad. My brain tells me I need to be saving for our next vehicle, not kicking a dead horse.

  • What kind of mother drives her kids around with the only heat in a vehicle being from whatever air is moved by driving.
  • What kind of person can’t afford $70 but can afford to have her kids in hockey and bowling and archery?
  • What kind of mom would miss her son’s first away tournament because she doesn’t have a reliable vehicle or the funds to make the trip?
  • If I wouldn’t have taken the trip to Minneapolis for Christmas, this wouldn’t be happening right now…I didn’t deserve that trip.

Those are the whispers surrounding JUST the $70 blower motor. Satan is an evil dangerous son of a bitch. He will take the smallest amount of normal mom-guilt and exploit it beyond all reason.

Sunday night was a difficult night in our home. One of the boys did something I probably did a thousand times as a kid; he ate some leftovers that I had plans for.

I lost my shit.

He stopped me, mid rant, and with tears streaming down his face said, “Mom, I want you to calm down. Remember when we were in the cities and you said that you hate to be upset because you look weak? Look at me, I’m upset and I’m showing it and I’m not weak.”

My son is no longer a child.

Everything he has been through, everything he knows about his Mama…he’s become a young man.

I told him I feel like a horrible mom when I can’t provide them everything I feel like they deserve. That I hate everything they have endured (divorce, cancer, poverty) and it kills me that they have to live in this cycle of poverty when they deserve everything in God’s Kingdom for how amazing and faithful they have been through it all.

~~~~

All those dangerous whispers from the enemy in my head…yet I can still know that all of this has got us to the point where my son gets it. My kid understands emotions and negotiation and love.

My kids get it…not in spite of where we are…they understand life BECAUSE of where we are. How can I even hate where we are when I see how it has manifested in the emotional growth and maturity of my boys?

I have one who sees through hurt, another who challenges every perceived fact.

These struggles are in my brain…and I need to drown out those whispers.

The type of mom who does those things whispers above…is a mom who is trying. Over and over again. A mom who never gives up, even for one minute. A mom who has been through more in six years than some moms go through in their children’s entire youth.

That mom shows a resiliency and faith that is rarely seen publicly in today’s society. She shows a transparency that brings people around her to hold her up when she’s taken out at the knees.

She shows a strength that moms who’ve never struggled are in awe over. Her drive are what draws people to God. Her faithful trust in the Lord are beyond understanding and inspiring to those with struggles they feel are insurmountable.

~~~

I need to remember that mom, that woman…IS ME. I’m the resilient one, the faithful one, the leader, the driven.

I have been given these blessings to raise men. Every struggle has been a blessing.

Lord,

These late night silent times when I can’t sleep are a welcome challenge. Being able to see both sides of the coin is a gift more priceless than imaginable.
These challenges laid in front of me, I bring to You. I come to You as I want my children to come to me. If I, as a broken human in a sinful world, wish for my children to come to my embrace; how much more do You long for me to find comfort in Your arms…that’s where You blow my mind every day Father.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise these boys through this adversity with a faith not commonly seen publicly in today’s world.
Give me rest and give me strength to continue to be raw and real to bring Your light into my home, my work place, my social circle, my everyday life.
Continue to grant me these silent nights to hear Your love over the whispers of the enemy that drown out my daylight hours.

Amen

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

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.

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

Yes, you heard me right. I am done with dating and finished looking for Mr. Right. I trust that God knows who I am meant to be with and for all I know we both still need some major work in our lives.

Who am I to mess with His plan? I have had an online dating profile for sometime on a free site. The quality of men is…umm…well; you get what you pay for.

The other day after some big heart to God conversations (similar to heart-to-heart but at least one side knows what they are doing) I removed my profile completely. I finally deleted it for good. I used to set it to invisible but would always find myself back there looking, searching.

I never had any success as I knew that every one of the people who contacted me were wrong on so many levels and it never took more than a quick conversation to shake my head in disappointment or more often disgust.

One of the wonderful outcomes of last weekend’s retreat was the complete security in God. My health, my finances, my children, my future. My mate.

If and when the time is right for me to be matched with a man for the remainder of my days; God knows where to find me. God will bring us together. Finally I get it.

Finally I am free.

I am free from dating, I am free from loneliness, I am free from questioning. I just know and I am so filled with this sense of love and security and everything that goes with those things!  #DoneDating

Lord,

I have so much appreciation for Your love, for Your guidance, for everything.
I am so thankful that this realization has finally been settled in my heart for once and for all.
I am humbled by those who surround me and have be supporting me through all the good and less good days.
Continue to guide my path and help me be light for those searching in the darkness.
You know my needs, and I continue my daily prayers for my needs and the needs of others, both known and unknown.
Thank You Lord…just thank You. I am so blessed.

Amen

I wish you could all see the 100 pound rock that was just lifted off my shoulders and the smile on my face…ear to ear.

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