Can You Just Not…

I found out this morning that a person I know is back at Mayo for a work up…might be a recurrence of he brain cancer he had like 10 years ago (maybe not that many but enough to get passed the ‘all clear’ date that some cancers actually get).

I have the absolute heaviness over my entire body. Not just an aching heart; my body feels overwhelmingly heavy…like a weighted blanket, over my entire being. A fist around my heart, holding it hostage…or securely; I can’t tell. I know when I was sick and one of my hockey families gifted me with a weighted blanket, it was the most amazing gift EVER!

Maybe this is just God covering me…protecting me…forcing me to slow down, to not panic. All I know is that I hate cancer…and I am angry that his cancer might be back. I am angry and sad and frustrated.

The reality of ‘after cancer’ is that every diagnosis I hear about, every recurrence for a friend of acquaintance is devastating, numbing, and oh so hard.

God,

I know You work everything for your good for those who believe, but what about those who don’t? How are they supposed to see your good works when a man of God has a recurrence of cancer that for all intents and purposes he had already beat once?
How do I explain not being afraid of cancer anymore because the damage in my life has already been done so anything after this is chicken feed?

I know I’m not strong enough to deal with all these emotions, and am so thankful for Your grace. Guide me through this period of waiting for news from the man I know and from Beth’s family. (Beth’s husband posted on October 31 that it is only a matter of days for her).

Lord, this disease has so many faces and so many outcomes. I ask for every person hearing those words for the first time not turn away from You; that they come to find strength and peace in You.

Amen

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Hockey and Dates

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

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

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

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

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

Then he caught my eye…

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

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

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

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

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

Lord,

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

Amen

What To Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord,

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

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

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

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.

Lord,
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.
Amen

 

 

 

I Did it Again

I messed up.

Big.

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.