Friday, November 25, 2022

Sweet dreams

For the past several years, I've struggled with chronic insomnia. It's gotten so bad, I dread the nighttime because I know, when it's time for bed, I'm not going to sleep. But on rare occasions, especially when I take medication to help with sleeplessness, I dream. 

Last night, I dreamed about my brother. It was a very odd and unexpected thing, especially since he's been dead for 491 days at the time of this posting. 

My brother and I were very close and when he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I was devastated. His cancer diagnosis came after my breast cancer diagnosis, so I knew a lot of the things he'd face as he began treatment, but I didn't expect him to die so suddenly. It was a heart wrenching experience, and I didn't feel we had the chance for a proper goodbye. Maybe that's why God allowed me to have the dream about him last night. 

Dreams are fickle, as most people know. You can't trust them, but this one was so unique, so comforting, and peaceful, it was vastly different from other dreams I've had in the past. 

I don't know exactly where we were in the dream, but I was in some type of large building wandering through crowds of people. As I worked to find my way, I caught a glimpse of someone who looked like my brother. As our eyes met, I jumped up to see above the people and threw my hand in the air to wave. Within seconds, we were close. The sea of people had parted. As we stood there, face to face, we smiled. There were no words, just a knowing. I knew he was my brother. It's kind of like I felt his spirit, but I don't want to sound weird and new age-y. It's difficult to explain. 

We began walking together down a hallway. As we walked, we talked without saying anything. It was like we were expressing our sadness over missing each other but at the same time, we were glad to be reunited. 

We continued on for some time enjoying each other's company and then, I felt our time was coming to an end. 

In my dream, we never said goodbye to each other. He was just there and then he was gone. 

When he vanished, I wasn't sad or upset. I was thankful we'd been given one last opportunity to "visit." I took comfort knowing he was at peace, and we'd meet again one day. I think he felt good at having been able to "checkup" on me. 

Now I don't believe in contacting the dead or anything like that, in fact, the Bible warns against it, but I do think, at times, God allows brief encounters for those who're struggling with the death of a loved one and often times, those experiences come in brief dreams. 

I've only dreamed once or twice in a similar way about a loved one who's already passed on. Each time, it's been a comforting thing, not an unpleasant or scary experience. 

We don't understand the ways of God and while I'm not positive this was His gift to me;

(Jimmy in the camo hat)

I'd like to think it was especially since it gave me a type of closure I've needed for months. 

Loving someone is complicated and is definitely an investment. It's a conglomeration of feelings, tangled together with experiences that often span years and years of time. But it's so worth it, don't you think? 

Many people lose loved ones before having a chance to apologize or make amends for hurtful words or actions. It's so much easier to release someone you love when you know you've done everything in your power to show your love to them. 

I'm thankful Jimmy and I were able to spend many good days together before he left this earth. Those sweet memories are priceless. 

I'm also thankful I've been able to keep all the text messages we shared as he was going through cancer. Being able to re-read those has helped me on days when I've missed him terribly. 

There are also photographs and videos to help ease the pain. I look through them when I need to "see" him again. 

We're only here on this earth for a brief moment and then we vanish like a vapor, the Bible says. 

Whether my dream was a gift from God, as a last goodbye, or whether it was my mind imagining a random scenario, I'll never know until I get to heaven, but I like to think it's the former. 

God is a good God. He knows our needs and He wants to bless us. I'm so glad He loves us so. And if He can use a dream to speak to His prophets of old, I think He just might choose to allow someone like me to dream a little dream of her beloved brother. 


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Her name was Rain


I stood in line to checkout, balancing packages and waiting my turn. As the line moved forward, I greeted the cashier with a hearty, “Good afternoon.” She responded with a grunt and that’s when I noticed her face studded with metal. Trying not to judge, I wondered why she’d chosen so many piercings.
 
She rang up my items one by one as I tried hard to think of things to talk with her about. My eye caught her name tag. It said her name was Rain. Interesting, I thought. This woman looked to be about 25. I didn’t think her parents were from my generation, so I asked about her name. “I like your name,” I began, “It’s so different. May I ask if it’s your first name or your middle name?” She looked up from bagging and said, “It’s not my name, it’s just one I identify with. My name is Kate.”

I became quiet for a moment, not knowing how to respond. I’d never encountered someone who’d chosen a name purely on its merits.
 
She continued working and I watched her countenance. I could tell, by her facial expressions as by her mannerisms, she didn’t enjoy her job and didn’t want to be there.
 
Trying my best to be cordial and kind, I offered to help her bag. She appreciated the offer and said she hated fighting with them. For several minutes I continued to watch her as I bagged my purchases.
Rain. She was definitely not a gentle, soft one. No, she was more of a brewing storm. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Be gentle, she’s been wounded.” That’s when it clicked- all the piercings, the attitude, the demeanor/ they were all a hard, protective shell. I was sure, somewhere underneath, was a soft, moldable little girl yearning for love.
 
Thanking Rain for her help, I leaned forward and lightly touched her hand. Our eyes met for a brief second and I said, “It’ll be ok. He sees you.”

A tear rolled down her cheek and she quickly wiped it away. The next customer pushed forward, and I moved out of cue making a mental note to pray daily for Rain/Kate.
 
In the next few days, I’ll stop back in and visit Rain. This next time, I’m hoping to plant seeds of hope.
I was reminded we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. We need to see not only with our eyes but with our heart. There are so many walking wounded among us. They need Jesus. They may not even know it, but they do. It’s our job to offer them small doses whenever we can.
 
“I planted the seed,Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Restless

I feel it in deep within my soul, an unsettled, slightly anxious feeling of restlessness. It's not an I’m-bored-and-should-do-something kind of restlessness, it's much deeper than that. My soul is stirring. My being is restless. 

I find myself staring into space wondering- what am I doing with my life? Why do I feel this way? But no answers come. 

There's a yearning deep inside for something but I don't know what the something is. 

It feels as if there's a major event just around the corner, but instead of feeling expectancy, dread, or fear, I feel unsettled. 

And with that feeling, there's a longing. I want more. I need more. I expect more. 

But why?

Is it this season of life? 

Perhaps the feeling will pass in a day or two. Until then, I'm going to embrace it. 




Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Don't look back

 

It takes a lot of strength to walk away from something without looking back, believe me, I know. This is a lesson I've learned the hard way. The fixer in me always wants to make things right and that has caused me to often look back on people, places, and circumstances. 

In some instances, a brief look back was necessary to help me move forward, but in the majority of the cases, looking back only caused feelings of sadness, depression, or regret. And that's not a good thing. 

I was watching a made for TV movie series the other day. In one particular scene, a criminal is working hard to prepare a bomb. As he works to connect various wires and things to a complicated apparatus, the camera pans out revealing the dangerous explosive is being placed inside an innocuous looking suitcase. Later, as the show moves ahead, we see the criminal placing the bomb laden suitcase in a very public place, just at the corner of a building. As he walks away, he tucks a remote control into his pocket and as an evil smile crosses his face. Viewers can only imagine what comes next. Inevitably, a well-timed explosion will occur. Lives will be changed in a split second. Some will likely die, and others will suffer bodily injury. But will the perpetrator look back to witness the damage? The camera doesn't reveal those details. 

As I watched the show, I became engrossed. Sitting on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, I watched as one person and then another passed by the suitcase. None of the passersby paid attention to the abandoned luggage, and then, the screen goes into a tight shot. A small hand reaches down for the handle of the case just as the remote-control timer's numbers light up in red and we see the countdown begin, 03, 02, 01....

The next scene shows a crumpled little body amid a large pile of bricks and debris. Without having seen the event, one knows what happened. An evil intent had led to a malicious act which had, in turn, caused unnecessary, but permanent damage. It was nasty, heart wrenching stuff. 

Those kinds of show make for good entertainment, but in real life, it's a very different scenario. 

As I thought about the plot, I was reminded about a quotation popular artist, Mary Englebreit, once said, "Don't look back. You're not going that way." Wise words with intrinsic value. 

Another writer, Paul penned something more detailed in the book of Philippians of the Holy Bible. In chapter 3, verses 13- 14, he says: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." He was reminding us the importance of remembering not only who we are and where we were going, but whose we are and why we are on the journey in the first place. 

It's easy to want to look back at devastating life events wondering why they happened and if there might have been anything we could have done to have prevented them but looking back on past events can't change them. It can only bring heartbreak and wondering. So why do we do it? 

There's an old saying, "Curiosity killed the cat." Not put that saying in context with the bomb incident I mentioned before and you'll get a clear picture. 

Often, God allows difficult and challenging things into our lives as part of His most excellent, perfect plan. Though we can't see or understand the entire picture at the time of the event, He knows exactly what is necessary to bring about the desired effects He chooses. 

Perhaps He will use a life altering event to help change our current course, moving us forward onto a better path. Though we may not understand, we must trust His Sovereignty. 

In almost 65 years of life, I've learned the importance of choosing not to look back. The lessons haven't always been easily learned. In the past, when I've glanced backward, I've often had to dodge a sharp piece of shrapnel, one of God's gentle reminders that I needed to leave well enough alone, to let bygones be bygones. When I've been obedient to walk away from dangerous or volatile situations, His hand of protection has covered me and guided me forward. When I've refused to heed His command and have chosen my own way, I've often been burned and have had to learn a very difficult lesson the hard way. 

I guess that's why He never gave us eyes in the backs of our heads. If He had, we'd constantly be looking backward! I'm thankful for His constant hedge of protection in my life. I hope you'll choose to keep your eyes forward, too. That way, you won't be tempted to glance back. Just remember, you aren't going that way. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Tuesday thoughts

 A friend of mine is going in for a diagnostic mammogram today. She opted to keep her breasts when she was diagnosed with cancer, while I did not. That means she'll continue to have routine mammograms periodically for the rest of her life. And while I can't judge her for her decision, I wish she didn't have to go through the trauma of constant testing. 

Having your breasts removed doesn't guarantee you'll never have breast cancer again. It just means if it ever returns, no matter where it decides to show up, it'll still be considered breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer. 

It's a bum rap if you ask me. It seems that if you lop off your breasts, your chances of a recurrence should be nil, but that's not the case. And that makes me nervous. 

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the possibility of a recurrence. I try my best not to dwell on it, but if I'm honest, I have to admit the thought crosses my mind at least once, if not more times a day. 

I keep wondering when I'll forget about cancer. It's been 8 years since I was diagnosed. You'd think that would be more than enough time to forget about it, but I can't. 

I just signed up for a 30 mile dog walk challenge with the American Cancer Society. I'm doing it to honor loved ones I've lost to cancer but also to celebrate the fact that I'm still alive and actually can walk. Every time I see a Facebook ad pop up in my feed for some sort of cancer fundraiser, I'm tempted to sign up. I wonder why I feel compelled to do that? 

I don't want to sound cynical, but I doubt there will ever be a cure for cancer. There's too much money in the drugs that are supposed to treat it. Just think how much money pharmaceutical companies would lose if there was no longer a need for their products. They'd go out of business mighty fast. Even so, I keep hoping one day there will be a cure. I think we all want that. 

And wouldn't it be wonderful it if was something extremely simple and easily accessible? Something, perhaps, right under our noses...

Wishful thinking, right? But you know what they say, Dreamers dream. And I'm a dreamer. Always have been, always will be. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

I Adopted an Emotional Support Dog

The past two years have been challenging. I’ve had a myriad of health issues, including two bouts of 
Covid. Fatigue and depression became constant daily companions. Though 8 years post cancer 
diagnosis, my world continued to feel the aftereffects of poor self-esteem, altered body image, and 
more. At the drop of a hat, I’d find myself in tears. My husband began to worry something was seriously wrong with me. As I tried to overcome the feelings of despair, I felt myself slipping into a dark place. Insomnia only added to the situation. I became agoraphobic only leaving the house for medical appointments. Joy had left my life.

As luck would have it, hope was just around the corner.

One morning, my youngest daughter texted me. She sent a photo of a little dog with big, funny ears. 
“Isn’t it cute?” she wrote. As I looked at the picture, something about the animal touched my heart. A
few minutes later, my daughter sent another message. “This dog is at a kill shelter. If it’s not adopted in the next few days, it will be put down.” Reading those words broke my heart. Looking at the picture again, I noticed the little dog was part Chihuahua. I’d had Chihuahuas in the past and had always found them faithful, easy to care for friends.

The rest of the day, I thought about the dog. I’d had dogs my entire life. The only period of time I’d been without one was right after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time, I had a miniature Pinscher I loved with all my heart. When the doctor said I’d need chemotherapy and radiation, I knew my time was going to be taken up with traveling back and forth to the medical center for treatments. I wouldn’t be able to properly care for my dog any longer so I made the difficult decision to find someone else to loveand care for him. After I’d completed surgery and treatment, I was exhausted all the time. I never gave a thought to trying to get my pet back.

Years went by and I began to get stronger. Once or twice, I mentioned the thoughts of getting another
pet to my husband. It felt odd not having a four-legged friend around. He reminded me we’d made the
decision to travel more now that I was healed and feeling better. I listened to his voice of reason and pushed thoughts of getting a pet into the back of my mind. We were getting older. The time and
commitment involved in caring for an animal weren’t a top priority any longer.

My husband and I ramped up our travel plans. We took a two-week trip to Israel. We enjoyed several
beach and mountain jaunts. Life was busy and good. We were unencumbered and could do as we
pleased. Though he was still working, my husband had 5 weeks of annual vacation and we put every bit
of that time to good use. But when he wasn’t on vacation, I was home alone. At first, I kept busy with my art projects. I loved creating and found pleasure in making and giving things away. Then I got bored and turned to writing. I wrote articles on cancer, I wrote a book, and kept a daily blog. Still, there was something missing. I was lonely. I had no friends or family living nearby. The only communication I had on a daily basis was through text messages, social media, or the occasional phone call from one of my children. I became introspective. When the pandemic hit, I felt even more isolated that ever and after I became sick with Covid, I found myself extremely depressed.

Looking at the picture of the little dog again, I felt sad. I didn’t want the animal to be destroyed. My daughter texted again and said, “Mom, here’s the information on adoption if you’re interested.” What perfect timing she had! She knew my heart so well. I’ve always had a weak spot for animals. Immediately, I called the shelter and found out information on adopting the little Chihuahua. I was told I’d need to come to the facility, pay $95 which would cover spaying, a rabies vaccine, and microchipping. Then, I’d need to come back and get the dog after surgery. I told the shelter employee I was all in. I’d be there the next day.

That evening, I began to second guess myself. Did I really want to do this? Yes, I wanted to save the dog, but no, I didn’t want to go through housebreaking an animal again. I’d been there and done that so 
many times and it was always a chore. Talking with my husband about it, he reminded me the dog 
would be good company while he was at work. He said, “Everything will work out fine. You’ll see.” And I believed him.

We went to the shelter and paid our fee. We met the little dog and fell in love. Holding her, I could feel her tiny heart racing. She was as scared as I was! But then we found out some disheartening news. Izzy had been exposed to the Parvo virus by a new intake. She was going to have to be put in quarantine for a couple of weeks. Once again, we began to wonder if we'd made the right decision. 

Over the next couple of weeks, going back and forth via email with the animal control center, we found out Izzy wasn't doing well and wasn't going to be available for adoption so we thought about trying for another little doggie. Searching through their Facebook page, we found another chihuahua and instantly contacted the shelter about that dog. After putting our name in for the new dog, we had another piece of bad news. Someone had apparently claimed to have lost that dog and they wanted to reclaim it. Our hearts were broken as we decided we weren't meant to adopt a dog now. 

We contacted the shelter and told them to keep the fee we'd paid and use it to help provide food and supplies to other animals. We had no idea what we'd do with all the doggie paraphernalia we'd purchased for our expected "4 legged baby." In a day or two, we decided to donate it to a nearby shelter but then realized how much money we'd be losing on it if we did and put it on the neighborhood marketplace website. 

And then a strange thing happened. After we'd resolved ourselves to the fact that we weren't going to have a new addition to the family, I got a phone call from the captain of the police at the animal control center. She asked if I was still interested in adopting. I relayed the whole story to her about Izzy and Isabella and she said, "Isabella is still available! If you want her, she's yours." Wow!!! I was so surprised and immediately said yes. 
Our sweet Bella
But that little doggie wasn't meant to be ours either. Days later, we found out someone had contacted the shelter when they'd seen Isabella's photo on the shelter's Facebook page. That person claimed the dog was her neighbor's and said she'd pass on the information to her. As luck would have it, the rightful owner contacted the shelter and reclaimed her lost dog. 

Once again, we wondered if we were just to forget the idea of adopting an animal again. When we were just about to decide to give up, the captain called again. "I have the perfect dog for you. I know the other two fell through, so I wanted to reach out and give you first dibs." We were surprised but agreed to see the dog and think it over. 

After seeing her photo and learning a little about her, we decided to adopt the little female terrier mix. 

The shelter had named her Gayle, but I didn't think that suited the dog or her personality, so I changed her name to Penny. 

Penny in her sweater

My middle daughter took me to the shelter to pick up Penny the following day. Penny had just been spayed and was very groggy. We didn't know it at the time, but during surgery, Penny's heart had stopped 2 times and they had to do CPR. We found out this information later in the day after reading through paperwork that had been given to us by the shelter. 

We brought Penny home and let her rest and recover from surgery, giving her oral pain meds every 12 hours. Gradually, she regained her strength and energy. 

We've only had her for 2 1/2 days, but already she feels like a vital part of our family. She's a quick learner, hasn't barked once, and has been easy to housetrain. 

In the 1800s, Florence Nightingale realized the value of small pets as she observed them with some of 
her patients. In the 1930s, Sigmund Freud used his own dog to help his psychiatric patients
communicate their feelings. In 1976, a registered nurse, Elaine Smith, established the first dog therapy
organization after she witnessed the positive effects dogs had on some of the hospital patients.

Cancer can cause more than physical problems. It can also cause emotional and mental problems.
Therapy dogs can help with these issues. There have been medical discoveries about the release of
endorphins when people pet animals. 

Therapy dogs and cats can help provide good exercise for the patient and the animal. They can help 
lower blood pressure and heart rate as patients interact with them. They can be trained to fetch 
medication, alert others to severe medical disabilities, and more.

Many people have probably never considered the value in using therapy dogs for breast cancer patients,
especially years after the person has completed treatment, but I can tell you, from personal experience,
therapy dogs (whether they’re trained or not) can make a world of difference to a hurting soul.

There are so many animals in shelters awaiting adoption. Shelters don’t have the capacity to hold them 
all and many are euthanized after days of being held. Some of those dogs would make loyal companions
and provide good therapy.

Adopting an animal is a big decision and one that shouldn’t be made lightly. Time, money, and effort are involved. Some animals can live very long lives. If you’re considering a therapy dog, do some research. There are professionally trained animals available but also, many untrained animals that might meet your needs.

I’m very happy with my decision to adopt Penny. She’s the sweetest little thing and a constant companion. I take her with me everywhere I go. I’ve even bought her little sweaters to keep her warm now that the weather is turning cooler. Yes, I’ll admit, I’m spoiling her, but she deserves it. She was abandoned before animal control rescued her. Now she knows she has a forever home where she’ll be loved and adored. She doesn’t have a clue she provides therapy for me, but she does.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Dry Shampoo, a Possible Cancer Risk?

Today I received a notification on my cell phone. Lately, I receive so many, I barely pay attention to them, but this one caught my eye. The header on the notification said, “FDA recall due to cancer risk.” Whenever I see anything related to cancer, I pay close attention.

The voluntary government recall was for dry shampoos manufactured by Unilever. The products in question contained a chemical called Benzene, a known human carcinogen. Benzene can be inhaled, ingested, or be absorbed by the skin. It can cause deadly blood cancers like leukemia or bone marrow cancer.

As soon as I read the recall information, I ran to my bathroom cabinets and began pulling out products. I had several dry shampoos on hand, all by different companies. As I looked at the canisters and tried to read the small print containing ingredients, I became frustrated. The font was so small I could barely read it. Digging through a kitchen drawer, I pulled out my grandmother’s old magnifying glass. I was thankful I’d inherited it and knew it would come in handy one day! I was dumbfounded by the number of ingredients in each dry shampoo. Thankfully, mine were not any listed on the recall, but I decided then and there that I would find an alternative method of refreshing my hair between washings.

Scouring the internet, I looked for other products I could use instead of dry shampoo. My hair is oily at the roots and if I don’t wash it daily it tends to look greasy, so I needed a good solution.

Dry shampoo became popular in the 1940s when a product called Minipoo was created. The product was invented to help women who were unable to shower and promised to remove excess oil. It came with a handy application mitt.

Dry shampoos today are easier to apply – just spray into the hair, rub vigorously and go. It’s a great product for those who may want to skip a day or two between washings or to protect recently colored hair. It’s also an easy product to use with children because there’s no danger of burning soap getting into their eyes. Dry shampoos are excellent for the elderly. I used it often on my mother when she lived in an assisted living home and was bedridden.

I didn’t find a lot of practical alternatives to using dry shampoo. There were only 2 I would consider safe and effective: cornstarch or baby powder. Of those two, cornstarch would be my first choice and only talc free baby powder as a second. Baby powders with talc can also contribute to or cause lung cancer when inhaled.

It seems many beauty products have potential health risks associated with them. That’s why it’s so important to pay close attention to product recalls but even more important than that, to the list of ingredients on each package. The less ingredients the better.

I usually opt for natural cosmetics, but they’re hard to find and often more expensive than their chemically laden counterparts.

Please pay attention to the products you buy- look at the labels, ask questions, and pay particular attention to product recalls. Looking good always comes at a price, but it should never cost our health.

 

Sweet dreams

For the past several years, I've struggled with chronic insomnia. It's gotten so bad, I dread the nighttime because I know, when it&...