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.

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.





I Did it Again

I messed up.


My pride has led me astray and caused a ton of trouble…when will I learn. Especially after just posting yesterday how many times I have learned to swallow my pride…I guess I just needed to find out FOR REAL what happens when you refuse to give it ALL to God. I refused…and now I will pay a price.

This is one of those times that I understand when people are at their lowest and see no way out.

Today, I am so thankful that there is a way out and that way is God…through Him everything is possible.

Today, I am grateful to have friends remind me that this is only one day. Although the repercussions may last for some time, I am still loved and I am still worthy.

These things are the times when people who do not have a support system see no light at the end of the tunnel. All they see is destruction and condemnation.

I will get through this, just as I have every other time.

Right now though…

I feel like a loser.

I feel like a disappointment to my children.

I feel like a bad mom.

I feel useless and helpless.

l feel awful.

I feel guilty.

I feel like I just cannot take even one more step.

I feel finished.

I feel my ex-husband’s judgment all over me.

Right now, I am going to take a shower and go to work. It is just over a mile and I believe the combination of fresh air and activity will be good for my mental health.

This lack of trusting God has led to worry…which I never have when I do trust God. This worry leads to hopelessness…which God never leaves in my heart. The hopelessness leads to isolation…which is not good for reaching out to those who love me unconditionally.

If you feel called to help through this crisis, let me know and I will give you ideas.


Today it hit me.

I am going to be okay.

This does not relate to anything medical; I am talking about real life. Just living life.

I have learned in the last two years that God truly does provide for our needs. Our needs may be spiritual, emotional, financial, physical, medical, educational…the list goes on and on.

Through two years, our prayers were heard and answered.

Our testimony through cancer and beyond has been nothing short of a miracle. I am so glad to be able to see it for all it has truly been; a gift from God.

We remained faithful, we made some Big Ask prayers, we reached out. I swallowed my pride more times than I can count, I learned to trust people again, I learned what love amongst friends truly looks like.

A few of my closest friends now met me in the midst of the battle. There are times when I wish I had known them before it started, and remember that God’s timing is always perfect. Some of them have become the most important people in my social circle right now.  This is a reminder to me that relationships come and go, people grow and change. Sometimes, friendships end and that it is okay.

I do not enjoy the perceived relationships people have through social media. Although I am a Facebook fanatic, I keep my friends list under 400 at all times. I have some friends with over 1000 contacts!

As I am just as raw and honest in real life as I am on this blog I need to keep that circle small for my own sanity.

Speaking of sanity, I see a new counselor now and as we ended the appointment the other day she said, “OK, first of all, you are not crazy…” I told her that I want every session to end like this because when it has been pounded into your head for 20 years that I have been the problem, it is so difficult to overcome that when the abuse continues beyond the marriage. 

Anyway…because I am always so open and raw, I keep my social media circle relatively small. I always giggle to myself when I want to invite people to a local event; most of my contacts are not local. That is why I love Facebook, it keeps me connected to my family and friends from afar. The local people on my list are part of my inner circle of trust; my local family.

We continue to have some Big Ask prayers and I am so grateful that I learned through this journey to write down in a notebook all that we pray for so we can go back and look at God’s answers.

Being a believer helps me pray the biggest prayers, because I know there is nothing impossible through God.

John 14: 13 – 14

13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! (NLT)

When I pray I ask for some pretty outrageous things and am confident that God will answer them perfectly. I will continue to pray, and not stop. While I wait for the answers, I will continue to live my best life, to serve others, to minster as I am called.

Dear God,

I am reminded today though this writing just how wonderful you are. I thank you for all you have provided for me throughout my life. Although I sometimes think my prayers range from small to outrageous; you hear each of them with the same love. You answer each one perfectly. 

Lord, I ask today for people to join me prayer; Spring is here and summer hot on its heels and we want to be active and outside together even more. I would like for the boys and I to get new bikes this year as our old ones have been outgrown and worn out. Helmets also will be needed for all three of us. You know my son started archery yesterday and he enjoyed it so much, help me to provide him with the equipment he will need as he progresses. 

Guide me as I pray about replacing my vehicle. It is only a matter of time before this becomes an urgent need so I’m praying now…before we get to panic mode. I know You know how this will work out; thank you for giving me reason to not worry, knowing you will handle this perfectly. 

As I pray for the salvation of people around me, give me strength to feed them spiritually. 



Not Quite Friends


The new lady at work, a mom on your child sports team, a person you don’t know well but attend the same church with has been diagnosed with cancer/had a new baby/had a death in the family. I know you want to help; here are some practical ways you can help somebody you are not an intimate friend of.

When I was diagnosed, I had only been divorced four months. I had only moved to town a year before and as you can imagine spent the entire year focused on getting my kids and myself through this in one piece.

When I was diagnosed, I truly had zero close friends who lived near me. I had people I was getting to know at church. Nobody I was comfortable being as vulnerable as I was about to become.

Instead of retreating to isolation, I continued to build these relationships through my illness. Although I was never comfortable enough just to text somebody to come and check up on me to make sure I was not already dead…seriously, my sister or mom would text or call me (from over 600 miles away) to check on me if I hadn’t been on Facebook for a while.

So here you go, you are desperately wanting to help but get no response to the “Call me if you need anything” mantra (trust me…unless you are in the inner circle and have a deep standing relationship…they won’t call).

  1. Money: Lets just get that one out of the way. It’s a great help (especially in my case being off work and not having a significant other). It doesn’t have to be cash though…I know lots of people like to know that their dollars are being used wisely. Here are a few ideas (and many which we were recipients of).
    1. Cash – can be used for anything.
    2. Gift cards – Food (fast food, pizza, grocery store, coffee shop). Pampering (manicure, pedicure, coffee shop, favorite makeup brand). Gas (locally or – even better – regional so they can be used if/when traveling for medical appointments. Shopping, cell phone…the possibilities are nearly endless.
    3. Housing and Utilities – Rent/mortgage payment (often not a possibility as an individual or family but if you can get enough people together it is possible). Cable/Internet/electricity/water/heat/cellphone  (you can usually just go in and request to put money on a person’s account. Each time I opened a bill with a credit (because it had been paid anonymously) brought me to tears.
    4. Extra curricular activities: Cancer does not take the baseball/hockey/bowling season into consideration. Helping to pay for these fees ensures their family can still have some normalcy.
  2. Non-perishables: This can run from super inexpensive to out of the park so anybody almost can do it. Make sure to ask if they have a brand preference and maybe if they have space to store (of you are thinking of getting a large quantity)
    1. Toilet paper
    2. Dish soap
    3. Laundry Soap (pods are very convenient when time/energy is at a premium)
    4. Body Wash
    5. Shampoo/Conditioner (for the rest of the family)
    6. Lotion
    7. Q-tips
    8. Kleenex
    9. Bubble bath/Bath salts/etc
    10. Paper plates/plastic utensils
    11. Garbage bags
    12. Toothpaste/toothbrushes
    13. Hair products (if there are children in the house with hair needs)
    14. Pet products (food/litter/grooming) (we didn’t have a pet during cancer, but if we did this would have been a good one)
    15. School shopping list
  3. Experiences: This was a very difficult one for me. I could not afford to take my kids anywhere that was not free. Even then, if there were concessions or other costs with the event, we usually stayed home. For some people, even the $2.00/each is too much. For many of these, it is appropriate (and even welcome) for you to invite the family to join you as you do one of these activities.
    1. Movies: most theaters now have gift cards that can be used for admittance as well as concessions.
    2. Pampering: See gift cards above
    3. Museums
    4. Sporting events: locally, regionally. Even high school events.
    5. Hotel stay: whether traveling for medical appointments or locally just to get out of the house for a night. For medical appointment stays, it is nice to stay at the same place when you are able to build a relationship with the staff…if they are staying at a roach motel, an upgrade for even one night might be nice as well.
    6. Water parks
    7. Laser tag
    8. Trampoline parks
    9. Shopping Mall gift card (excellent option for a group gift – for say a coworker)
  4. Food: Now this one is a little more tricky, especially as a single parent and with the custody arrangement I had. The boys are with me one week and then one week with dad. Take Them a Meal type arrangements are not necessarily appropriate during long term treatment.
    1. I always LOVED when a friend would call and tell me pizza would be delivered on a certain day at a certain time…or would call early enough in the day for that same day. SERIOUSLY…awesome.
    2. If you’d like to provide a meal, or sign up for a Take Them a Meal type thing here are a few guidelines:
      1. Be on time or at least call/text to change the time. Calling or texting when you were expected to be there 15 minutes ago is too late. A few hours notice is awesome. Of course…there are exceptions to everything…accidents and emergencies happen. Just try to give as much notice as possible.
      2. If you bring it in dishes that you want back, feel free to also return the next day (or so) to wash dishes and take what is yours back.
        1. Disposable dishes are an awesome option for this
      3. Instead of asking “what would you like” how about “is there anything you have been craving lately?” “what is something your kids would kill for?” They were the ones I really needed to feed…I was happy with Smuckers Uncrustables for the most part.
      4. Consider dessert as a meal…honestly…especially if the kids are gone. Cherry pie with ice cream for supper…SIGN ME UP.
    3. It is MORE THAN ACCEPTABLE to give gift certificates for places like McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Pizza, Taco John’s. If you think about how you are able to just run through the drive through when you are at the end of your rope or energy…imagine NOT having that option PLUS having cancer (or a new baby or a funeral to plan).

We received almost all of these through out my two year battle. We could NOT have gotten through it without each of these. None of them is insignificant. Each one fills a different need that we prayed about on a regular basis.

It was a lesson in teaching my children how God answers prayers. We had a list of things we prayed for…being able to look back on the list and to be able to cross things off the list was the most tangible way to show God’s love through such a trying time.

Thank you to all of those who supported us through what could have been a devastating time!

Dear God,

As those who have become my friends recognize their contributions, help them understand the weight of their gifts. Help them to see that each time they reached out, whether it was $5.00 or $5000 it made an impact that touched our hearts and fed our spirits.

For those wondering if they can help…let them see it does not take much to make a difference. That it was the gifts from mere strangers/acquaintances that really showed us that we were loved beyond comprehension.

Thank you God for giving me the opportunity to learn these things so I can share them with others!


Fear and My Legacy

Yesterday while talking with my pastor, he asked what my greatest fear at the moment was. I honestly shared with him that my biggest fear is that if my cancer ever comes back that my boys not be able to deal with it on their own terms.

A recurrence for me would mean stage IV which is terminal. This would absolutely devastate my ex-husband. He has so many regrets and emotionally issues surrounding our marriage and subsequent divorce that a terminal diagnosis would send him into emotional turmoil. My worry would be that the boys have to deal with my cancer on his terms.

I would also worry that a recurrence would take my ex-husband away from the church. Last Easter he began regularly attending the church that the boys and I have been attending for over three years now. He has even started volunteering and making connections within the church. I fear that if I ever have cancer again and he sees the church rally around me as they did last time; he would feel slighted…or something like that. Not that he would not want the people I know and love to support me, I think it just brings out a lot of his inner guilt and demons. If he pulls away from the church, my boys would lose out on the support that they would need more than ever.

My final, and most intense fear is that the boys do not see God’s grace and mercy at work through everything we have been through. I wish I had recorded what I told Matty, it was something to the effect of when I go out, I want their faith to be headed off a ramp…towards God. I saw his eyes widen…like he knew I totally got it.

The more thought I put in to it as my day went on today, I want their faith to be growing and taking a run off a ramp…not diving off a cliff.

I am not waiting until I have a terminal diagnosis to lead my children towards God. If that diagnosis ever comes, it will be God we turn to out of history and habit. When God is their go-to out of habit for things good and bad, I have done all I can.

For my entire life, that is my job. To lead them to Christ. To fill them with Christ. To model Christ.

Dear Lord,

As we go through the motions of everyday life, help me to guide these children to You. Show me how to point to You in every situation we face.

Help me to help them find you on their own. Help me to guide them in their own individual languages of love.

Help me to continue to meet their earthly needs and teach them the dangers of pride and shame and anger. Continue to give us opportunities to be the answer to prayers for others so we can recognize those same answers when they are our prayers.

Thank you so much for making me their Mom…for being everything they need and most of what they want (I am a mom after all…I can’t be their friend all the time).

Continue to surround me with people who know I am stressed and take the best care of me by sending creepy memes to my phone and Facebook. The Army you have surrounded me with is AWESOME! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU



It Never Stops Hurting

Yesterday afternoon the boys and I returned from a ten day vacation in Canada. We visited my family in Thompson, Manitoba which is north of the 55th parallel (the USA/Canada border is the 49th).

Today…I am crashing. A terrible, agonizing, emotional crash. It happens every time I return to the USA and likely because for many years our trips were so few and far between. I have been so blessed to have been able to make so many more regular trips in the last years.

It helps that my trips are always subsidized (my parents almost always pay for my gas there and back). While I am home, I have very few expenses so the trips are nearly free from any costs.

While I was sick, my trips consisted mostly of laying on the couch and watching the world spin around me. Those were some of the most healing days.

The previous trip was very quick, one day of driving there, two days of being at home and one day of driving back. It is just over 600 miles one way so a full day of driving. The boys are AWESOME travelers and used to the trip so I rarely hear, “Are we there yet?” This last trip they rotated places every 150 miles (the back seat is prime real estate when on a long trip).

The difference with this last trip was that we were there for eight full days (plus two days of driving). My dad took us all snowmobiling…something I have not done in probably six or seven years (at least). It was recreation mixed with science, geography, geology, history, community service, and love.

I explained to the boys how Grandpa showed his love by getting the snowmobiles up and running for them and taking us out for two rides. That he serves people in the community by helping make sure the trails are safe and that the ice is thick enough for the groomer to cross. Just because Grandpa does not go to church, does not mean he does not love the people around him, and there are many ways to show that love.

My Mom’s love is easier for them to see, she is on the city council, she has a great pride in her community and home. She is always helping somebody somehow. My Dad just does more behind the scenes work. Both, great examples of service and love.


Today, I am missing them. I want my mommy and daddy.

I could not help but wonder for a short time about what if that was my last trip up there. Thankfully, I enjoy living in the moment so very rarely is an opportunity missed. So difficult though to wonder if I would never be back there.

Definitely my happy place.

I refused to tell my parents of the depth of my pain although they both knew I was on constant pain relievers and they could see my agony even though I tried to suck it up. I developed another pain, this time it is in my elbow. It even hurts to lift a simple cup of coffee…that can’t be a good thing for many reasons.

So tomorrow, I need to go see my doctor…or at least call for an appointment because today I was crippled with fear and did absolutely nothing. When I asked Mayo Clinic what they suggested the local practitioner investigate, they recommend a overview of my symptoms and a complete physical exam with blood work.

I know it is a side effect of my estrogen modulator…I just hate that it is getting so much worse so fast. It is crippling me just when I should be getting back into real life and activity.

I wonder what God has in store for this leg of the journey; and I am thankful He chose me…that does not mean I am not sad that my previous physical body is forever gone. I worked so hard to keep up during my illness.

I coached hockey through chemo, I walked five miles a day throughout radiation treatments and was back on the ice in the fall after surgery and five weeks of surgery. I went back to work as soon as physically possible.

I am finished chemo and I am crippled up, I have peripheral edema, I feel like I am 80 years old. I beat cancer…and now it is beating me back.


So, the pain and the sadness…not a great combination for any situation. I am surrounded by an army of friends who would do anything to take this hurt away. They would do anything to ease my heartache.

Tonight I am overwhelmed to the point of having a headache (I never get headaches). I do not know where to start and only want to stop…so tonight, I am stopping. I expect nothing of myself. I will be kind to myself. I will take care of my body and my heart and my soul.

Tomorrow will start and we with it, another day to fulfill the purpose God has for my life.

Dear Lord,

Grant me peace, grant me relief from pain. Fill me with the knowledge that you are always here, and with my family and friends. Fill them with the knowledge that You got this.

Give my boys the strength to continue to have their needs met.

Give my daughter the tools to be the best mother and girlfriend, and sister that she can be.

Give me strength to be vulnerable Lord…to let the hurt, hurt.



Merry Christmas

Christmas growing up was not much about Christ’s birth as it was about spending time with family time. We had a small nativity set that was set out every year, and we knew the story so it is not as if we were blind to the season we were celebrating.

As an adult, the most important part of Christmas is the time spent with loved ones and the absolute joy of Christmas morning watching faces, young and old, light up around the room as their new treasures are uncovered.

The givers are just as joyous as the receivers, if not more so.

Not unlike that first Christmas so many years ago.

Everybody was gathered to see the new born King. They all brought gifts; gifts they anticipated being exactly what was wanted and needed, even if it was a little over the top.

In my family, we gather to see each other. The miles keep us so far apart; jobs, finances, and local obligations mean there is so little opportunity to spend time together. My parents have seven children, six whom no longer live at home. All six of us have children who live in four other cities (five including the city where my parents live). To have six of the seven kids home seems to be the norm, usually either the youngest (my sister in Saskatchewan) or myself (in Minnesota) are the one missing, this year it is my sister’s year as her husband’s days off work were changed last minute and they could not make it.

Even though our family was financially comfortable growing up our every whim was not indulged thought the year. How my mom kept track of the wants of all seven of us I will never know. I can hardly keep the boys and my daughter straight!

Christmas morning was filled with cheer and wonder because it seemed like we got everything we had ever asked for. Years later I asked my mom how they could afford to spoil us every year like they did and she laughed as she told me that we were very much not spoiled and that we generally only ever got two or three gifts each; one from Santa, and a couple smaller gifts.

She also said that buying things we wanted was pretty limited throughout the year and for the most part we only received wants on birthdays and Christmas. As fleeting as wants are, I can now see how this was a brilliant game plan.

My kids rarely get wants other than birthdays and Christmas as well, usually out of financial necessity but also because they are learning wants versus needs and budgeting. They can usually see beyond instant gratification and make smart spending decisions.

This year, I had planned to spoil a little bit. Gifts a little above the price range we can usually afford, things the kids would be super excited about.

Then life happened.

In November we went to spend two days with my niece in the hospital, an unexpected but well needed dip into the emergency fund and savings. Then a week later, the place we are moving to required the deposit paid immediately. There goes another $800 (of which I had to borrow some of). Suddenly Christmas is looking pretty bare again.

I was not too bothered though because I was going home for the holidays and it was going to be my first Christmas at home in about five years, we would make the most of our time off work and school no matter what gifts we had.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and the parent of a child I coached two years ago (my first year) came up to me and wished me a Merry Christmas and as he hugged me, stuffed a  gift in my jacket pocket to, “…help with the holidays.”

He had no way of knowing that because of that, I was able to purchase my older son’s birthday gift before he came back to my house instead of making him wait until my payday which was six days after his birthday. I sent a thank you text and explained how he had been the answer to my prayer.

Two weeks later and I was shopping two days before we were set to leave town, trying to figure out exactly how I could still get a gift close to what I had been planning on getting plus still having enough gas money to drive the 600+ miles home.

While walking around the store trying to figure out how I was going to make it work, I received a message from a friend…she and her husband wanted to help with Christmas. I left the store because I was crying too hard to shop. As I am sitting in the parking lot of the store, trying to compose myself, another friend messages me that she needs to see me before I leave town. I tell her I’ll stop over after work and have coffee the next afternoon.

These three people answered my prayers to be able to give gifts to my daughter and her boyfriend’s three children (he brought two children into the relationship) and for my boys to not have to smile through their disappointment that they again did not get the latest greatest gifts. We al

Each time I asked the boys to make me a wish list I was met with barely perceptible, “Oh, I dunno. Maybe a movie.” Or some similar response. They know we are just getting back on our feet and that living in a one income household with an upcoming move we do not always get the things we want but God will always make sure we get everything we need.

My older boy received a drone that comes with a camera. He is still searching for his calling and I want to offer him every opportunity to explore various areas. Remote controlled vehicles may lead to electronics, remote controlled vehicles, models, movies…who knows. The younger boy received clothing from the hockey association we belong to. I had purchased them with the fall order. Santa brought the boys a set of “Battle Drones” it is a set of two smaller drones that actually battle each other…watching them learn how to control them through my parents busy house, clipping Uncle N in the ear once, slamming against the wall and sliding down to the floor other times.

The day before Christmas my mom had asked what they want and the older boy gave her some ver inexpensive options, like a gift card or a book. Then the younger one sheepishly giggled, “Haha, an xbox One.” We all laughed as it had been an ongoing joke because he knew it was a BIG ASK that was not ever going to happen.

Little man also got new hockey socks, hockey tape, tennis balls, a book, Hot Wheels, a MN Wild ornament, and a game controller.

My older boy got a book, Hot Wheels, a MN Twins ornament, a game, and a cast iron pan for cooking steaks.

After all their gifts were opened (minus the controller and game) it was time to open a gift with no name tag on it…with so many grandchildren missing and other siblings to come later in the day there were several unopened gifts so this gift had not stood out.

Everything was cleared away and I got ready with my video camera and they sat down together to open their final gift from Grandma and Grandpa…and Xbox One.

To  see them light up was amazing…they truly got everything they had asked for this year.

The day after Christmas my dad got these two old Yamaha Bravo snowmobiles running and the boys have free reign around the campground…their own private winter wonderland. I am so blessed to be home this holiday season. Tomorrow Grandpa is leading us on a longer ride.

Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God.

Each prayer that we prayed this year has been heard and answered. Every need has been met. Our faithfulness has been rewarded with grace and mercy.

God has spoken to those who surround us and they have listened and been the hands and feet of the Lord in answering each prayer.


The amazing power of Your love is humbling. I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who trust You as I do. They trust when they hear you whisper and they follow your calling.

Thank you for putting each of us exactly where we needed to be and for giving us all the life lessons we have used to be better people.

It is such a blessing to be around such faithful men and women who are a wonderful example of your love.

Continue to speak Lord, we are listening!!