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

Amen

 

Advertisements

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.

Amen

 

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.

Lord,

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!!

Amen

Hard Day

You know that they never tell you about cancer? Post Traumatic Stress. Nobody even mentions it until you are knee deep into thinking you are losing your mind.

As a cancer patient I became a research warrior. Every symptom, every complication, every possibility. I know my prognosis, my options, when to email the doctor, and when to brush it off.

Then one day, you are sitting around, just writing and being with your kids and it hits you like a brick to the face.

I have worked so hard at moving beyond cancer, living my best life. Yet here I am today, not able to even engage. I am a blank shell of myself and I am hollow; except for the anger and rage.

If only it were truly anger and rage…

When I explore those feelings I am reminded that angry is just sad’s bodyguard. What I am feeling (or trying to not feel) is an overwhelming grief. A grief that swallows me completely.

Although the lessons, mercy, grace, and love I have felt for the last two years have been amazing; today I want to not have had any of it. Today I want to have not been through any of it.

Today I want it all to go away.

So just for today, I will explore my sadness, my loss…my resilience.

Five surgeries, a year of chemotherapy, so many trips to Mayo Clinic, heart damage, a spread of the original cancer…guess what Deb…you’re a rock star.

Dear Me,

I’m writing this letter because I need you to know how amazing your truly are. I know that going through this was not easy. Nobody said life was easy…now you realize they weren’t kidding.

I need you to understand that your grief is normal and it’s okay to figure it out. Deb, you’ve been through Hell…truly…no crap.

You’ve begged God for another breath when you were certain death was only minutes away. Remember those days? Laying in bed…not sure if you had the strength to take another breath…but you did Deb, you kept going. I know you did it for your kids and your family; what really counts though is just the fact that you did it. Over and over again, you begged for just one more breath. Remember wondering if you should call 911 to come take you to the hospital but not sure if you’d be alive when they got there? REMEMBER?

Today I just need you to keep taking those breaths. Get through today Sweetie. I don’t care how, just get through it.

Sappy songs, violent movies, death scene pictures…whatever gets you through, take the next breath.

Pray Deb…in your heart, in your head, out loud. In your chair, your bed, on your knees, sitting with the boys…just pray.

Don’t be such a stubborn cuss…ask your friends to pray for you. They are right there…just waiting for the opportunity to help you. Remember, it was YOU that said, “If I need anything I’ll call, I promise.” You are such a terrible liar.

C’mon, how do you think your friends would feel if they knew you were so consumed with grief right now and alone.

Treat your headache…you know it’s coming…start treating it now before it overwhelms you. You don’t deserve to suffer the pain when you have medications at your disposal. You’ve been through enough. Don’t make yourself suffer when you don’t have to.

Hey Me, you’re doing awesome. Trust me.

God loves you more than anything.

Your family loves you.

Your friends love you.

I love you.

Just keep swimming.

Love,

Me

Worth a Shot

As a new laptop or even a refurbished one is definitely out of the question with my current budget, I’m reaching out to those who follow me and continue to support all we do.

I certainly do not need anything fancy, only reliable.

The following link will direct you to my PayPal account to help support my writing. Any and every gift is humbling. I have been working so hard on my pride and not allowing my pride to keep from asking what we need.

PayPal Donations

Thank you in advance.

 

Suffering Well

Or not…

I’m definitely on the or not side today.

Here is the update I sent out as a mass text to a few select people today and then posted it to my personal Facebook page tonight.

The extra knee pain in the right knee has been determined to be a Baker’s cyst which has ruptured but is again growing. This is caused by what is an injured (but not likely torn) MCL…related to my broken ankle in May.
I’m in a knee brace for 4 – 6 weeks…she was just going to put it in a sleeve but after our short conversation realized I am fairly active and may or may not be the most compliant patient. Although she prefers I stay off the ice, she’s not holding her breath. I promised one more week…and then I’ll re-evaluate.
As this is my final year on the ice with the kids my heart is so broken. I don’t want to need surgery or do permanent damage…and I’ve already had to miss so much, I’m struggling with suffering well.

1 Peter 4:19
“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”

My issue is that I am far from suffering in a manner that would please God today. I am pouting…REALLY pouting. I want to scream and cry and stomp (but that would hurt even more than walking).

I have been trudging through this pain for more than a month and writing it off as simple joint pain related to medications. Now, after learning that it truly is an injury that needs to heal I no longer have the need to tough it out. It should be healed just as I allowed my body to heal when I had cancer. So why do I feel like such a wimp now?

Damnit…I played DODGE BALL on Saturday…darn skippy it hurts more this week, even if I did baby it and stay off the ice last week.

So now; six weeks. Oh my aching heart hurts so deeply that this pretty much ends my hockey season. My final season on the ice with my son, and I am out of the game. Six weeks takes me to the end of November. After babying it for that long, even if it heals without further complications I am going to require physical therapy the strengthen it back up…by then the house teams are pretty much finished playing and we are on to travel league…I cannot jump in as a coach at that time.

So my heart hurts tonight when I put all those pieces together.

I have no idea what God’s plan for this next leg of my journey…haha…leg…damnit

I do not want to be off the ice. Hockey is my happy place.

Great…God is telling me I need another “Happy Place” now. Ya but…

Ya, but…

Then, I get an email from the Captain of our Creation Station Teaching Team:

Captain:Hey guys, we have Creation Station November 6th. The series is “like a child” and the message is “Wonder”. Having wonder in how amazing God is. How fascinating He is, etc. If you could be thinking of some cool ideas on how to teach this that would be cool.

ME: Or wonder how God answers prayers (by using us and those around us)
Captain: very nice.
Me:Because tonight…I’m wondering…and it sucks. I can’t imagine trying to figure it out as a child
Captain: ahhh gotchya….I am feeling another testimony/story coming from Debbie!
Me: This knee thing is truly beating me up
 Team Member CM: I think that would be a good subject for Debbie to cover. 😉
 Me: Definitely not testimony worthy…but I’m confident it maybe one in the making
 Captain: Yep..
Me: I don’t want to take over this team.
Captain: I like your ideas and I liked what you did last time. You are a natural leader. Its gonna happen.
Me: There is so much to wonder about…and I’m not sure my story resonates with the age range
 Then I would likely focus more on LOOKING for God…Looking for others whom they can help…even though they are only children.
Like that song…the youngest boy asked me to explain this morning on the way to school…”If we are the Father, why are aren’t His arms reaching…”
How can they show others God’s love…how can they BE light
But I think the older kids need some hard truths as well…how some times…like tonight, just because it’s right does not make it easy AT ALL and they need to be aware of it and be prepared to fight the enemies messages during these times…
Tonight, I am just tired and weary…
Matthew 11: 28 – 30 
28Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Tonight, I am working so hard at turning this burden over to God and those who love me. It is a constant struggle, reminding myself every minute to give it over. It is exhausting, I will not lie.

My orders are rest, brace on when mobile, ice, more rest, and NO SKATING.

Four to six weeks. WEEKS…ya, I promised her one and told her I would reevaluate. As tough and ornery as I think I am though, y’all know I have no intention of not being compliant. I can choose though to be compliant and make this a positive thing…I can be non-compliant and potentially do permanent damage…I can be compliant and be miserable.

While I am working on asking for what I need, I am first working on not being miserable. This has proven to be easier said than done.
I am snapping at the boys, I do not want to go to work tomorrow, I want to quit fighting every step of the way for every inch of ground we have gained.
While I have every option to quit…where would that get me? My kids? Those who are watching me when I do not even know it?

Well, now YOU know…and I know you know.

Tonight I am miserable and sad and angry. Tonight I want my Mommy and my Baby Sister.

Dear God,
Good one…wow. You sure know how to get a girl’s attention, don’t you? Well played. I have no idea if I was missing something or there is something else I should be doing…just know that I will keep going where you lead me. I will follow where my path goes.
Thy will be done…not my will…yours.
Lord, can you tell people who think I make this look easy that I’m sorry…this isn’t easy. If they could see the words and anger in my brain…and the internal struggle…and watch me try to get up from the couch and either need assistance or look like a…like a…I don’t even know how to describe it…a drunk walrus? I dunno…but easy…nope. It’s killing me. Ok, maybe killing is a bit extreme…challenging? Ugh…why did…never mind God, I was gonna ask why my Mama raised such a strong willed kid…but You made me, You already knew…HAHA…my poor Mother…good one God.
Anyway God, I’m trying. I’m trying to suffer in a manner that pleases you…help others see that that is my only goal…to suffer well for you, not for them, definitely not for me.
Lead me…lead me.
Amen

Random Post

When exhaustion strikes, I am useless. I cannot even begin to think about being productive.

Today I slept the morning away. Not just was lounging on the couch, lazy type of day; I slept, hard. Not that I didn’t sleep well last night, I did. My body though is just now waking up.

I understand that parts of my body are still healing. The difficulty is that it is all internal healing. Between chemotherapy, radiation, four surgeries, and throw in a broken ankle; my body has a lot going on inside.

My hair has grown back, I never lost any weight so I did not have that wasted away look. When I read my surgical report from my 11 hour surgery in March and it talks of the extensive scarring on my chest wall from radiation I picture that it probably looks like Freddy Kreuger. Burns take forever to heal and the scar tissue can become an ongoing issue. So far, I’ve been extremely lucky as far as lasting effects.

Except exhaustion.

I have become much better at listening to my body when it tells me to shut up and sit down. i have no problem throwing a blanket over myself and taking a 15 minute nap. The issue is when I lay down for 15 minutes and wake up three hours later.

I am getting there though. Tonight I am going for a walk. A long walk. The longest walk I have attempted since my daily five miles during radiation. That means tonight I am going to sleep well.

Tomorrow I have practice for our Creation Station Team at 10am and if I wasn’t bringing food I would walk there as well! I am going to attempt to get back out there and kick myself in the butt to find my stamina again. It apparently is not going to return all by itself, I have to go looking.

I could really use new shoes as the last time I bought walking shoes was last summer when I walked 5+ miles every day for 5 weeks of radiation…so I can only imagine the miles they have on them. I am long over due, it is just not in the budget until I get a few paychecks under my belt.

I was not hired full time at the school so will be on the sub list again. I will have to redo my budget but I think that I had it figured out before that if I worked 15 days a month as a sub I could cover my bills. I love to budget!!

I am often told I need to swallow my pride, well here goes. My ask for today:

If there is anybody who feels called to help buy new shoes, I would much appreciate it.

*Edited to add September 3, 2016: I have been blessed with brand new shoes!! Thank you so much Becky and Will. I am so blessed to have you in my life. THANK YOU