Wednesday, October 13, 2021

4 words

If anyone had to sum up my life in 4 words, they’d either choose the phrase, “She loved the Lord, or “She was a planner.” And while both of those choices would be true, my flesh woman would definitely meet the latter description better than the first.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a planner. Maybe it’s a typical Type A personality trait, but it works for me. I like knowing the plan ahead of time and often, when we’re going on a trip, I spend days making out a detailed itinerary and menu. That way, things usually run smoothly but I’m also okay with spontaneity and find it fun to travel off the beaten path now and then. I’ve found that’s where the best photo ops tend to be and where some of the most precious God moments occur.

Though I find comfort and security in having a well laid plan, I’ve found, over my almost 64 years of life, that no matter how much I try, I don’t always have the whole picture. Sure, I can plan to my heart’s content, but things can always go wrong. Like the time I was spelunking and my headlamp went out leaving me stranded completely in a dark eerily damp cave. That was an quite the experience and one I won’t ever forget. During that time, God taught me a huge lesson in faith.

There’s an old saying, “Man plans, and God laughs.” I imagine He’s gotten a lot of guffaws as He’s observed me making and trying to keep all of my detailed plans. But in life, God doesn’t always give us the entire plan. Usually, He provides one small step at a time.

In the Bible, we find evidence of that many times as He taught people to life by faith. Just look at the prophet Samuel.  “The Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.”  Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do.’ ”  (1 Samuel 16:2,3)

He told the Samuel to go to Bethlehem and do all the things necessary to prepare a sacrifice with Jesse and his sons. That was all. He gave them one thing to do, one step. Then He said, “I’ll show you what to do.” He didn’t give them steps one, two, three, etc. He only gave Samuel one step.  

God takes great delight in the obedience of His children. He expects us to trust Him enough to do exactly what the Holy Spirit guides us to do and to do it at the very moment He prompts us to do it. We are to act without question. Now, that’s not easy for someone like me who likes to know the entire plan, but I’m thankful He’s patient with me as I continue to learn this valuable lesson.

Only Jesus knew the Father’s plans from beginning to end. God understands our human frailty and that’s why I think He only gives us one thing to do at a time then tells us to wait for further instruction. As we are obedient, He’ll provide the next step. If it didn’t work that way, we’d surely make a big mess of things by doing them in our limited knowledge and in our haphazard way.

The Bible tells us that God’s ways are not our ways and that He knows the plans He has for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a future and a hope. He is trustworthy and true.

If I had to compare Him to a battery, I’d have to rename a popular one. I’d have to call Him the EVERLASTING battery, because Everlast or Duracell wouldn’t hold a candle to His amazing, unending power to lead, guide, and direct us through these difficult, dark, uncertain days of life. Aren’t you glad He only entrusts us with one step at a time? Our Heavenly Father always knows best and I’m so glad He loves us enough to know exactly how much we can handle at any given time. 


I love this quote by Corrie Ten Boom, “In darkness God's truth shines most clear.” What a profound truth to cling to in today's evil world!

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Incoming!

 When I was a kid, I remember listening to my Daddy occasionally talk about being in the service. Those occasions were very rare so whenever he'd talk, I'd really listen. Once he told about being outside a bunker in Japan. He said planes were flying overhead and he heard a guy yell, "Incoming!" They knew that meant it was imperative to take cover and they did, but some of the soldiers weren't fast enough. They lost their lives in a split second. 

That one word was a very serious warning and one I never forgot. I think my eyes bugged out of my head when he first said it although he didn't say it in a frightening way. I imagined the sounds of aircraft overhead as the warning went out. And imagined how I'd have felt if I'd been right there with him. I'd have been petrified, probably unable to move. No wonder so many soldiers came back from war with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). And when they were freshly home, it didn't take much to set them off- a movement, a noise, the slightest sound.  But soldiers aren't the only ones with PTSD.There are a lot of cancer survivors and people who've experience traumatic events that feel that way, too. Sometimes, when my youngest daughter calls her ringtone literally scares me to death. It's a loud and bothersome tone that quakes me to my core. I keep meaning to change it and keep forgetting, but it really causes me to feel anxious. Some days are worse than others but on the bad days, they go from bad to worse. 

This morning started out that way for me. After waking at 5 a.m., I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, wandered to the kitchen turned on the coffee maker and waited for my cappuccino to brew. While that was going, I pulled an egg white delight from the freezer. I wasn't in the mood to cook and that frozen sandwich was not only going to be a quick fix, but a tasty one at that. While I enjoyed breakfast, I glanced through emails and made a "to do" list. No big deal, right? But before I put my pen down, my phone began to send one notification after another. Emails, news apps, and texts started alerting me to the fact that something or someone needed my attention. It was not what I expected and immediately, I began to feel anxious. After several more texts came in, I decided enough was enough. I was not going to let that phone order my day. I stood and with feet planted firmly refused to go over and see who had texted. Instead, I yelled across the room to Siri asking her to read my text messages. After hearing that none of them were important, I decided I was going to do something to exert a little control over my day.  I flipped my phone to silent and walked away. 

Those constant pinging, dinging, and chiming noises irritate and antagonize me. I get so tired of all the stuff I am supposed to pay attention to. I've done my best to distance myself from social media. In the past, I'd spend hours trying to keep up with everyone's news but that became exhausting. Now I only check it once in the morning, once at midday and then after dinner.

Maybe it's just a "me" problem. Maybe I'm just getting too old to multi-task well any longer or maybe I just don't care. It might even be a little of both! In any event, I think it's important to do something when we realize our things are causing undue stress. 

There's a great feature on your phone and if you haven't found it yet, you need to employ it - the DO NOT DISTURB feature. You can set time limits for your benefit and you can set auto responses so your loved ones don't think you've been kidnapped or kicked the bucket. I have an iPhone and it's become one of my most used features. I don't know if Androids have it but if not, I'm sure they have something similar. 

Take back control of your life and remember, you have the power to squelch the noises. If incoming alerts freak you out, take shelter and protect your sanity. It's not worth it to allow those things to continue to bombard your life!


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Can you be sad but happy at the same time?

 I'm conflicted. This morning I woke up and read my emails before getting out of bed. It's a bad habit and I keep telling myself I won't do it any more, but I do. I can't help it. I'm a multi-tasker, always have been, always will be. Anyway, as I was reading, I almost skipped over a notification telling me a friend had recently made a new blog post. I don't know why, but sometimes I just find it hard to get sucked into the problems of others. I have plenty of my own. Thankfully, I didn't skip it. This email notification was different. Not only did it alert me to the fact that my friend had made a recent blog post, it also told me she was no longer living. Yes, you read that right...she was no longer living. 

Apparently my sweet friend, Jen, had thought ahead. She'd been planning for this day. She knew it was coming. 

You see, we were both diagnosed with the exact stage and grade of breast cancer. I was diagnosed in June 2014 and she was diagnosed in August of 2014. I was 56, she was 41. I had 4 grown children, she had 3 teenage daughters. She lived up North. I lived down South. There were a lot of differences between us but there were so many similarities, too. Besides sharing the commonality of breast cancer, we were also fellow believers in Jesus Christ. He was our life and our faith in Him is what helped us navigate the scary and uncertain world of breast cancer. 

I'm sad to say that Jen and I took different routes in our cancer treatment. She chose to go the conventional route - surgery, chemo, radiation, and anti-hormone therapy. I chose the more natural route although I did have surgery and endured 28 rounds of radiation, I have tried to manage my health with supplements and vitamins and whole foods. 

Jen and I compared notes often through emails and letters. It helped to know someone else understood the fears and frustrations that came along with the silver plated diagnosis we both never expected to receive. And that's why it hurts so much to know she's gone.I've ticked off another box in the long list of friends who've gone ahead to be with the Lord. And I can't help but wonder why I'm still here...

Tom and Jen

But it's just like everything else with cancer. Nothing makes sense. 

This year has been tough. Not only has Covid wreaked havoc on our world, I keep losing friends and family members to cancer. It hurts. I won't lie, it hurts really bad. "Dying is a part of living, but only a very small part," says Ashleigh Brilliant and she's right. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know this life is only temporary. My eternal life has yet to begin. 

I'm honored and thankful to have known Jennifer Small. She was a good friend. Please pray for her family in the days ahead as they shift into living without her. And if you've never thought about where you'll spend eternity, please do. There are only 2 places you can go - to Heaven or to Hell. I'd much rather see you in Heaven than dream of you being eternally tortured in Hell. The decision is yours and yours alone to make. No one else can make it for you. Don't know how? It's easy: 



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Clinical trials are they worth it?

 I have a friend who recently lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. Over the past year, I followed each event on his health care journey doing my best to offer love and support. As his tumor marker numbers went up and down, the constant rollercoaster became very stressful. The chemo worked for a while and then it stopped, that's when we knew his time was short. 

When the doctor told them there was nothing more he could do, they became desperate for a cure, and who wouldn't? There's an innate desire for survival in all of us. I wasn't shocked when they said they were willing to try anything but when the doctor mentioned a clinical trial using a deworming medication used on dogs, I was dumbfounded. 

Panacur, the brand name for pet strength medication, Fenbenzadrole, is used for ridding animals of parasites but apparently, some doctors are finding it to be a possible treatment for cancer. 

When we received the call that Jack wasn't doing well and wasn't expected to make it through the end of the week, we immediately went to visit. We wanted him to know that we loved and supported him, that we would be there for his wife in the future. That visit was very difficult. When we arrived, it was evident his physical condition had greatly declined and he was indeed on his death bed. Though he did his best to communicate, the strong doses of morphine made him too sleepy to stay awake. As he lay in the recliner resting, I noticed a package of Panacur on the side table. When his wife saw me looking at it, she explained the doctor had told them about a clinical trial and suggested they try it as a last attempt at a cure. I had mixed feelings about it but kept them to myself. 

In the car, on the way home, I told my husband about my concerns. I didn't understand how Jack's wife could give him a strong, antiparasitic medication when he was in such terrible shape. His belly was bloated from the cancer and he was unable to eat. How could he swallow a pill that was going to wreak havoc on his system like that? And how could she encourage him to take it? 

Every person with cancer has to fight it in his/her own way. I understand and respect that but when does one draw the line at ending treatment? I imagine, if I was stage 4 and had no other recourse for a cure, I might try an off the wall remedy, but I'd hope I'd have sense enough to do some research before accepting anything the doctor threw my way. 

Maybe I was appalled at the thoughts of my friend, a person I loved and cared about, being treated with a medication for dogs or maybe it was just the thought of him taking it and becoming violently ill on top of what he was already going through, I don't know. 

More than likely, we'll never find a cure for cancer. There's too much money in Big Pharma to ever hope for that. Wouldn't it be nice if someone stumbled upon a helpful option through trial and error, something so simple and so benign that people would shake their heads and say, "Wow! We had this all along!" 

I'm all about science and understand many medical discoveries have come to us through trial and error, but it doesn't seem right to play around with human lives. 

My friend, Jack, died 5 days after we visited him. It was a great loss and I'll always wonder if perhaps the Panacur contributed to or hastened his death but I can't bring myself to mention it to Jack's wife. I know it would be too painful. 

Learn more about Panacur & cancer

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Earth is not our home

Tomorrow I'll say goodbye to a dear friend who recently lost his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After fighting for almost a year, Jesus finally called him home. 

My friend's name was Jack. He was a kind and simple man, very loyal and friendly. He loved to tell people he was an alien and claimed that status due to the fact that he was born in Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell, New Mexico is famous for the legend of Area 51- a supposed crash site for an alien spaceship many years ago. Jack even bought alien facemasks and tshirts so he could dress the part and he always got a good laugh when he suited up, but really, Jack was telling the truth. He was an alien. As a follower of Christ, Jack knew the Bible gave clear insight on this fact, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20.

Janice, Jack, and Bonnie
Jack's death is a reminder that I'm an alien, too. Though I may not dress up in funny masks or bright green alien laden clothing, my home is in heaven. 

The world we see today is getting uglier and uglier. There are wars and rumors of wars, there are plagues and pestilences. There are earthquakes in diverse places...all the things that the Bible warns us will happen during the end times. The constant lawlessness abounding around us should make us all want to go HOME, and I do!!

Thank you, Jack, my dear friend, for helping me remember this world is not my home. I can't wait to leave this wretched world behind and travel to Heaven's celestial shores. 

One day soon, my friend, we'll have a reunion. Until then, I'll hold on to the memories we shared, and I'll do my best to help watch over your sweet wife. You were such a dear friend. I'll love you always and forever. 


Monday, July 12, 2021

On this day, 7 years ago...

 


I was just 3 days out from surgery to remove both my breasts when a stranger came to visit me. We'd "found" each other through a Facebook breast cancer group and she'd been a wealth of information so when she offered to come see me, I hesitantly agreed. I wanted a new friend, but I was scared. Although Karen was also a breast cancer patient, she was six months ahead of me in her treatment. She'd already been through everything I was going to face and she wanted to help ease my fears. I didn't realize it then, but that gift was one of the biggest blessings I'd ever receive. 

When I heard the gentle knock on my front door, I was nervous. I didn't feel well and was in a good deal of pain. My husband opened the door and greeted Karen, my new friend and pink sister. As he welcomed her in, she immediately came over to my chair and gave me a gentle hug. She made a joke about the way we looked, laughing and pointing to her practically bald head as she exclaimed, "We're quite the pair!" That ice breaker was perfect.

I was embarrassed to be wearing a surgical compression top underneath my blouse. There was no way to fully hide the dangling JP drains, or the bloody fluid they contained, but Karen didn't mind. She'd already been there and done that. She didn't see all that surgical stuff. Her eyes were fixed on mine. She saw me for me. 

We sat and talked for hours. It felt like we'd known each other forever. No question was off limits, she told me, and she even offered to let me see her new breast prostheses if I wanted to, but I wasn't quite ready for that. 

Karen gave me hope as she explained what lay ahead of me. Knowing what to expect made things more bearable. 

I don't know what I would have done if Karen hadn't come to see me that day. She went out of her way to help me and I'll never forget it. 

That's one thing about the breast cancer community - we're all about helping each other. Whether it's sharing helpful hints and tricks or just offering a listening ear, the compassion between pink sisters is real.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Tomorrow is the big day


Tomorrow is the big day, the day I celebrate 7 years of being cancer free. 

As I think back on all God's brought me through, I can't believe I've made it this far. 

A friend I met through an online breast cancer site and I share the exact same diagnosis and we were diagnosed just a few months apart from each other. She's not doing well at all and is about to enter hospice. I can't help but wonder why God's allowing me to live on while she is facing the end of her life. It hurts my heart and while I can't quite understand it, I have to remember God is God and I am not. He and He alone has numbered our days. My only hope is that my friend will know she was well loved and she will certainly be missed when she goes home to meet the Lord. I'm so thankful for her faithful witness, her strength and her resilience. Though she chose a different treatment path than I, I can't help but wonder if perhaps the chemotherapy and all of the other medications she endured during treatment may have contributed to her ill health. 

When I first began fighting cancer, I chose to go the natural route. The only conventional treatment I agreed to was surgery and radiation therapy. I felt those were the best choices for me and for the most part, I've been happy. Other than the burns I suffered and the cording, I think I've done quite well. It hasn't been a bed of roses though, by any means. And the side effect of lymphedema in both arms sucks, but I'm still here, so how can I complain? 

Everyone has to make their own decisions in the fight against cancer and we can never fault someone for choosing a treatment plan that differs from our own. We all want to live and we'll do anything possible to gain better odds toward that end goal, but sometimes, we react from fear and don't always make the best decisions. 

It would be nice if doctors would present all choices and allow the patient to make an informed decision, but that isn't usually the case. Most doctors steer patients toward conventional therapies and those usually involve severe life altering remedies. Chemotherapy and radiation both kill the good and bad cells in our bodies. There's no way to only target the cancer cells. If there were, we'd have so many more survivors than we currently have. 

I've always wondered why doctors don't help their patients discover natural, less invasive solutions to fighting cancer. Their Hippocratic oath of "Do no harm" should be all encompassing, but there are big bucks in big pharma and many doctors are all about the dollar signs. 

Seven years seems like a lifetime ago. It's hard to remember what life was like B.C. (before cancer) but I try. Some of the things I do remember and miss terribly are my physical stamina and my body image. I used to have so much energy I could go for days, now, I'm lucky if I make it to 9:00 p.m. without flopping into bed exhausted. I used to look in the mirror and think, "Hey, you're one hot chick!" But now, I can't help but look at my body with sadness and disgust. 

God has been faithful and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, He understands all of the emotions I've faced throughout these past 7 years. He's watched me cry tears of heartbreak and joy. He's held me tight when I felt I was unloved and unlovely. He's comforted me and given me strength on days I never thought I'd make it. I am so grateful He's deemed me fit to continue on. I know He still has work for me to do. 

Throughout my 63 years on Earth, I've learned, over and over again, through every trial I've ever faced that God is loving and kind. He has a good plan for me, a plan to prosper me and not to harm me. A plan to give me a future and a hope. 

And so, I press on. 

Now instead of watching the clock, I move through life minute by minute trusting God for the next step along the way. Jesus is my portion. He is my one true love. He is my everything. His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me


4 words

If anyone had to sum up my life in 4 words, they’d either choose the phrase, “She loved the Lord, or “She was a planner.” And while both of ...