Thursday, December 29, 2016

The year is coming to a close

2016 is coming to a close and with it, a year of transition. While I would like to say this has been a year filled with nothing but blessings, I have to be honest and say it's been a year filled with many challenges, too.

My focus this year has shifted from revolving completely around health issues to learning to love myself. That probably seems like a strange thing for a 59 year old to say but it's the truth. I haven't loved myself, in fact, I haven't really even liked myself. That may come as a surprise to family or close friends who take the time to read my blog especially since I always try to emit an air of self confidence. It's been hard to admit I don't really know who I am. I've always been something or someone to everyone one else...a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, but who am I really? These past few months, I've begun to delve into and answer that question. I'm sure 2017 will yield more clarity as I continue to seek out my identity as a person. Now don't misunderstand me. I know full well who I am in Christ. I understand whose I am. I completely comprehend that I am nothing without Christ. He is my life. But I want to discover Bonnie. I want to learn more about what drives me, what I like and dislike, how best to use my gifts and talents. I want to pursue my dreams and discover hopes for tomorrow.

As 2017 approaches, I've already purposed in my heart to spend more time in prayer asking God to help me hear Him clearly. I have a burning desire to write and I feel Him leading me to begin my life story. A book is on the horizon and I know my cancer journey will be a major portion of the book. I've learned so much over the past 2 1/2 years and I know God didn't allow me to go through everything I went through for no reason. In order to glorify and honor Him, I need to tell my story. His timing is always perfect and I know it will happen. I'm just trusting Him to pave the way.

While I don't remember everything that transpired throughout the year ( I do have each event recorded in my journal but I'm too lazy to go get it and look them up to record here, so I'll just jot down a few)

The good:
We enjoyed two vacations, one to the North Georgia Mountains and one to West Palm Beach, Florida. It was wonderful to get away to both locations and very special to spend time with family.

I was able to spend some time with my oldest daughter, Erin, who came into town for a family funeral. She lives in Texas and I don't get to see her often so that was a real treat even though it was just for a day.
Me and my beautiful Erin

I was finally approved for the 15 chamber compression pump for Lymphedema. The insurance company had been dragging their feet for over a year saying it wasn't medically necessary. It was a huge victory for this equipment to finally be approved. I'm thankful for the perseverance of the medical representative from Flexitouch and the documentation to substantiate the claim submitted by my oncologist.

I was able to take a 100 mile motorcycle ride with a new friend. She and I traveled to Pine Mountain and areas nearby on a Honda Valkyrie. It was freezing cold and I had on so many clothes I felt like the Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters, but it was well worth it. There's nothing like traveling 80 miles an hour with a cold breeze blowing in your face and the feeling of freedom that accompanies it.

The bad:
We had to put both cars in the shop this year for regular maintenance and ended up spending more than we intended due to unexpected repairs. We're thankful for good mechanics and having both of our cars paid in full. It's so nice to have no car payments even though we'd love to get a new one in the near future.

Regular visits to doctors continued and will continue for years to come. It's frustrating this is now a permanent part of my life thanks to breast cancer but it's necessary followup. I'm glad I have excellent doctors.

The ugly:
My broken wrist
Falling and breaking the Scaphoid bone in my wrist was a painful and challenging event. It was an unexpected injury and occurred while I was outside playing ball with my granddaughter. Falling in a leaf covered hole isn't a good thing when you're 59. Sticking out your arm to brace for a fall isn't a good idea either! I learned this the hard way. I am still experiencing pain from the break and continue to have swelling and bruising even after months in a Spica cast.

Jenny Cooper
I lost two sweet friends, Jenny Cooper and Linda Juul. It was heartbreaking to add these two ladies to the ever growing list of friends who've lost their lives to cancer. I've lost 4 friends in 2 1/2 years. It scares me to even think about the possibility of recurrence, but at the same time, makes me realize how blessed I am to still be here. I pray constantly for their family and friends. Breast cancer sucks!

These couple of days in December will be spent in deep reflection. I'm asking God to give me a word to focus on in the New Year. This year's word was JOY. Last year's word was TRUST. As I seek Him, He always answers and each word has been so timely and precious to me. If you've never done it, I would highly recommend it. God wants to speak to His people but we have to be ready to hear when He answers.

I'm sure I'll post once or twice more before the 31st so hang in there! I'll be back soon.

Linda Juul



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Losing another one to breast cancer

Yesterday was a very hard day for me. I lost another friend. Linda and I met almost immediately after I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. We connected through an internet breast cancer site and found we had so many things in common. Many people might have a hard time understanding how I can call her my friend when I've never met her in person, but through internet conversations, emails, cards and letters, and Facebook, we forged quite a friendship.

Linda and I shared the same type of cancer, invasive ductal carcinnoma and we both were diagnosed stage 2. I was stage 2B and she wasn't sure, but thought she was stage 2 A, barely a difference where we were concerned. We shared our treatment plans and spent days comparing notes on how we were feeling and areas we were struggling to overcome. We also shared encouraging words and found our faith to be another common denominator.

Linda took a different route with treatment than I did. She did everything exactly as the doctors recommended. She went through chemotherapy, radiation, and anti-hormone therapy, while I only chose to do radiation although I tried the anti-hormone therapy for several months. Although Linda did everything her doctors told her to do, her cancer spread to her bones, liver, lungs and brain. She fought the good fight and she won for she's now home with Jesus and in no more pain.

When facing me own mortality, it was difficult to learn of Linda's death. It's only been 2 1/2 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I guess I'm suffering a little from survivor's guilt. Why did Linda pass away and why am I still here? The only reasonable answer I can offer to that question is based on my faith. I know God has numbered my days and He numbered Linda's too. He is the only one Who knows how many days we have allotted on this earth. I can't help but think about my future as I think about Linda's death. Although I'm sad she's no longer with us, I'm thankful she's no longer in pain. Her suffering is over. She has a new body and she's forever in the presence of her King.

I don't want to dwell on "what if" or what tomorrow might hold instead, I'm reminded of a specific verse in the Bible, Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  So my goal for the New Year is to learn to live in the moment, to cherish each of the 14400 minutes in each day and live them to the fullest. That's the best way I can think to honor my friend, Linda, and I think it would make her smile knowing that I've chosen to live my life that way.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lessons in Brokenness

Wednesdays...hump days. Today was a cold winter one but I'd slept well last night and felt great. I didn't have anything pressing to do other than to run by my doctor's office for some blood work. I thought I'd be in and out in a few minutes but ended up waiting there for over an hour. The office was crowded. Thankfully, there was a seat in the rear of the waiting room and it was empty. As I sat among the coughing and cell phone conversations, I wished I'd had a paper mask to place over my mouth and nose. With a weakened immune system, I was fearful about catching germs.

After having my blood drawn, I headed to the parking lot trying to think of something to do. I'd already done all my housework the day before so nothing was pressing. I got in my car and started to drive. I'd head to Goodwill. This would be a great time of year to peruse the aisles as I was sure they'd be full due to donations received before the holidays. I always enjoy shopping at Goodwill. It's fun to see what kinds of things end up on their shelves and I can always use a new book or two or three.

When I arrived at the store, there were very few people inside. I liked it that way. It's hard to shop when  you're crossing paths with someone at every turn. I looked on the sign to see the daily color. Today was green and that meant everything in the store marked with a green tag was half price. In the book department, I began scanning for green stickers. Immediately, I found several Nora Roberts books I hadn't read and a Fannie Flagg. As I was pulling it from the shelf, my eyes fell on another book. A book with a red spine. The title was Broken in the Right Place, How God Tames the Soul by Alan Nelson. I picked it up and flipped through the pages. At only a $1.00, I decided to take it home.

I left the store with my purchases and went home to unpack. As I ate my lunch, I pulled out the book about brokenness and placed it beside my plate. I'd just recently completed reading The Broken Way, a new book by Christian author, Ann Voskamp, and had been deeply touched by it. I began to read the first few pages of this book and realized, God was doing something. I think He's still trying to teach me about being broken. No. I know He is. I've been kicking and screaming and fighting Him every step of the way but now, it's time for me to lean in and listen closely as He continues to reveal the fact that suffering isn't only meant to teach me, it's meant to break me of my self sufficiency.

The forward to my new book from Goodwill says: " It's odd that a religion that carries the cross as its central symbol should require a crash course in suffering. But it does. Oh, how it does. We have somehow ended up with a country full of Christians who consider suffering, whether it comes from a broken body or a broken heart, a violation of the spiritual rights. When things go badly in body or job or family, they whine and complain endlessly. Sometimes they protest vehemently. In between complains and protest, they seek out the company of those who anesthetize them with soothing words and soft music. They have no difficulty finding such anestheticians - pain killing spiritualities are a glut on the market. The only cross they seem to have any acquaintance with is a piece of cheap jewelry. Can anyone get their attention long enough to convince them that suffering must not be avoided, but embraced; that brokenness does not diminish a life of faith but deepens it? Wow! That's powerful stuff.

I am humbled to think God loves me so much He's wanting to use this cancer journey and all the suffering that has gone along with it to teach me more about Himself. I'm looking forward to reading my new book and comparing what I learned in Ann Voskamp's book with it. I know God uses physical suffering to often break the will and spirit of those He loves in order to make them more teachable. I sure hope I learn the lesson soon. I've been through an awful lot of pain and suffering in my life. If I can know it's all been part of God's perfect plan to teach me a valuable lesson, it will have been worth all the pain that came along with it.

I'm thankful He loves me enough to want the very best for me. Last year God had me focus on the word TRUST. This year it's been on the word JOY. I wonder what word He's going to give me next year...I guess I'll know in the new few weeks. Do you ever pray and ask God to give you a word for the New Year? I do and He always answers.

I'm glad I took the time to go by Goodwill today. I had no idea I'd be led to buy a book on brokenness but God did. I bet He's up there smiling right now knowing I'll be digging in over the next few days. Have a pleasant evening! And thanks for stopping by to read my blog.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Okay to not to be okay

This morning, as I was busy doing some heavy duty cleaning in my bedroom, I found a tangled cluster of watches. I'd tucked this tangle of Fossil, Timex, Armitron, and Lorus,watches away after my life was forever changed by breast cancer. Although time was pretty much the only thing on my mind, I didn't want to spend a single moment focused on how much time I had left or how much time I'd already lost. I stopped wearing watches. After giving up on these time keepers, I found a new freedom. The 1440 minutes of each day seemed longer and more precious. I didn't want a single one to slip away.

The frozen faces of these watches stare up at me, their hands fixed. I gather the mess of metal and leather and hold it tightly feeling the weight of them pressed against my skin. It is then I realize not only has time stopped, but I've stopped. I've stopped living my life. I've stopped being me.

I look in the mirror and wonder who's looking back at me. I don't know this person. This woman, the one with the flat chest, the one who doesn't even look like a woman, standing in front of me. She looks sad and depressed. She looks lonely. She has low self esteem. Where did she come from? Where did the old me go? I used to be so vibrant and full of life. I used to be self confident and outgoing. I loved being around others and now, I prefer to spend my time alone. I know this is unhealthy. But how do I fix it?

There are days when living post cancer is difficult. There are so many unspoken expectations placed upon survivors by family and friends. Somehow we're expected to just figure it out and make things work and most of the time we do a pretty good job at hiding behind a mask of "okay-ness." But sometimes, isn't it okay not to be okay?

Some days are more difficult that others. Most of the time, I have good days. Although I'm in constant pain, I push through. I'm determined to make the best of a bad situation. Truthfully, I'm very blessed so I try to live that way. But there are days when I'm just not feeling good and those are the hard days. I try not to complain because I'm sure my husband and my children are tired of hearing it. Although they sympathize with me on the days I mention I'm hurting, I know they wish things were the way they used to be and so do I.

The weight of the watches has grown heavy in my palm. Why do I keep holding on to these non-working time keepers? I should just throw them away. They serve no purpose other than to remind me of the day time stopped for me. Maybe one day, I'll be strong enough to throw them away but for now, I'll just slip them back into the drawer. I've used too much time thinking about the past today.

It's a good thing I don't wear a watch any longer. I don't want to know how much time I just wasted but I'm sure it's more than I should have. You'd think I would have pretty much put all this cancer mess behind me by now, wouldn't you? But some days, it just overwhelms me.

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? Dr. Seuss

Monday, December 5, 2016

God still hears and answers prayer!

I want to take a few minutes to share an example of God's faithfulness and provision in my life. In late 2014, after surgery for breast cancer, I developed Lymphedema in both arms. Lymphedema is a painful condition where lymphatic fluid pools in the extremities and other areas of the body where the normal flow of lymphatic fluid is disrupted.
The 15 chamber pump my doctor wanted me to have
Earlier in the year, my oncologist ordered a recirculating compression pump to aid in dispersing the fluid and easing the pain in my arms however, the pump he originally ordered was denied by my insurance company. They considered it medically unnecessary and told me I'd have to take another model that should work just as well. Without much choice, I agreed to accept the 8 chamber model and tried it for several months with no success. (You may remember my earlier post about that pump where I was trapped and couldn't get out by myself. You can re-read that post here.) The 8 chamber model was designed for someone suffering from Lymphedema swelling in the area of their arms from about the bicep area down toward their fingertips. It did not address upper arm and trunk swelling. On each visit to my doctor, he'd note extreme swelling and ask why I wasn't using the pump he'd ordered. I explained about the insurance company denial and their statement of the pump being considered medically unnecessary.
To make a long story very short, I kept praying and my doctors kept writing letters to the insurance company giving information about my medical condition. They did everything they could to substantiate the claim. After 5 1/2 months, I received a call today from the insurance company stating the original pump Dr. F had ordered was approved and on its way to me!
It is my hope that this bit of news might encourage someone else as they continue to pray for their need. God is a God Who hears and answers prayer. He works in His timing and works in ways we don't always understand, but He does answer!
These pumps are extremely expensive ranging from $2000 and up. It's no wonder the insurance companies don't want to pay for them, but I am extremely grateful for diligent doctors and their willingness to help me fight the insurance company. I'm grateful we have a good insurance company but they don't really have the medical knowledge to determine what is and isn't medically necessary.
I can't wait to receive this new pump and get some relief from this uncomfortable swelling. God is so good! And you know, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, so don't ever stop praying but make sure your prayer requests are in line with God's will for you. He isn't a big genie in the sky that just hands out gifts willy nilly, but He does reward the faithful with His very best.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A broken wrist can certainly thwart the best intentions of keeping a blog up to date, believe me, I know. To say the past few weeks have been challenging would be an understand, but I've managed. Learning to do things with one hand wasn't fun but it was doable. My mantra has always been "where there's a will, there's a way." And there has been. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a very determined person. When I set my mind on getting something done, I will do it!


My determination allowed me to get my Christmas decorations out and put into place. After a bit of sweet talking, I got my husband to bring in the artificial tree so I could decorate it too. This year, our tree is a Jesus tree. We decided to veer away from our traditional trees of the past and change it up. Our tree is covered with the names of Christ and the names of God and that's the way it should be! As Christians, everything we say and do should point others to Christ so why not our tree? Phil and I have decided we'll keep it this way for all future Christmases and only wish we'd thought to do this sooner.

Hubby putting up the tree
All of the shopping is done! Yes, I'm on a roll! I was finished with everything by the end of November. I wanted to work hard at having everything in place so I could spend the month of December focusing on the season of Advent. Knowing I have no upcoming stressors related to the holiday is a blessing.

The finished tree
I celebrated my 59th birthday yesterday! What a joy to celebrate another year of life. I can't believe I'm on the cusp of being a sexagenarian. I think I'll hold here. 60 sounds so old! But honestly, I guess age is just a number and I should be thankful for the days I've been given thus far. Life has been good and I am blessed!

Now back to cancer...you knew it was coming, didn't you, after all, this is my breast cancer journey blog and cancer is one of the main topics of conversation. I won't only be focusing on me and my health today, I will also be talking about my friend, Jenny. Jenny and I connected through a breast cancer website 2 years ago, right after we were both diagnosed with breast cancer. We received our diagnoses about a week apart. There were a few differences in our situations and diagnoses. Jenny was much younger than I. She as 31. I was 56. She was a wife and mother of two young boys. All of my children are grown and I'm a grandmother. She was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer. I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, stage 2B with metastasis to the lymph nodes. My cancer was fed by Estrogen and Progesterone. No one knows what feeds Triple Negative cancer. Triple Negative is nasty stuff and it's hard to treat.
Jenny before diagnosis

Jenny was really open about her breast cancer. She posted all about her life on YouTube. She wanted to chronicle every step for others who might be diagnosed after her. She knew from the beginning the odds were stacked against her but she kept on fighting and trying to have a good attitude. She had two little boys to live for and a husband who adored her. She found the right doctors and did all the right things but it didn't matter. Cancer took her away anyway. The cancer had spread from her breasts to her lungs, bones, and brain. She wanted to be allowed to die with dignity. She begged for that right but it wasn't legal in her state. She went into hospice care months before the end of her life and was under heavy pain medication until the end. She fought her way and no one can fault her for it. Every breast cancer patient has to figure things out for herself. There are no rules, only guidelines.

The one thing I hated most about Jenny's death was knowing she didn't have the assurance of faith in God. I did my best to share my faith with her and encourage her with words from Scripture but she never accepted it. I can't even imagine dying and not believing there was a life after death. I can't imagine not having hope. For me, death is a time I look forward to with great anticipation. I know this world is not my home! I'm just an alien here, a sojourner passing through. I can't wait to get to Heaven, but there are some who don't feel that way and it breaks my heart.
After losing her hair during chemo

If I could, I would have traveled to Jenny's bedside and held her hand. I would have talked to her and let her talk with me. I would have tried my best to help her see that there is something to look forward to after our time on this earth is done. But I didn't get that chance. She lived in another state on the other side of the country and she was actively going through treatment. I was able to send her messages and converse on Facebook. I did my best but it wasn't my job to fix her, only to present her with truth and speak that truth in a loving and kind way which is exactly what I did. I feel good about that.

I won't tell you her death didn't affect me profoundly though because it did. This is the fourth friend I've lost since I was diagnosed with cancer and that does a lot to your mind. It stirs up the cloud of "what if" that's been lying dormant for the past few months. As it begins whirring overhead, I have to fight hard to remember my days are numbered and nothing is going to change that...not even cancer. I hate living under constant fear. It's caused me to suffer insomnia and post cancer PTSD. And no, I haven't sought treatment from professionals about this other than to ask my oncologist to prescribe something to help me sleep. I've tried to work through it myself using my faith and the Word of God as my weapons of choice. There are good days and bad days. Some days I'm walking in faith and doing really well keeping the fear of recurrence at bay. Other days, it's hard, especially on days when another cancer victim loses her life. And when it's one I've come to know...that makes it very difficult because the demon of "what if" rears his ugly head and laughs in my face.
Jenny and her boys

I do my best to take one day at a time. The past two years have taught me to live in the moment and it's very freeing to be able to live that way but when you're a type A personality, old habits die hard. I'm used to always planning, always going, always doing...being busy. God has been breaking me of that though and He's been teaching me to be still and to trust. I've learned to let go of the control I used to think I had on things. I've learned to be okay even when I'm not feeling okay. And I've learned to appreciate the small things.

Every. Single. Day. I am grateful. I'm grateful for my chance to begin again. Each morning the sun comes up, I'm thankful. I focus more on being intentionally grateful now. I look for blessings and count them.

Jenny's family is in the process of grieving. I'm sure her husband and little boys are in a state of shock and bewilderment. Would you please offer up a prayer for them that God would surround them with His peace and comfort them during this time? And pray for all the women who've been diagnosed with breast cancer or have just been diagnosed. We walk a hard road. Our journey begins with shock and learning to step out into the unknown. It's a path none of us chose to walk but I'll tell you from personal experience, I'd much rather walk that unknown, dark path with the light of my faith than in complete darkness any day. And I'm very thankful my faith is grounded in the One who never fails, Jesus.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A broken wrist and a much needed break

The title for this blog post must be a little confusing but if you'll bear with me, I'll do my best to explain.

It was a bright and beautiful day. My daughter and granddaughter had come to visit. It's always fun to have them spend the day with me. At three years of age, Heather loves to be outside so I wasn't surprised when she came in and immediately wanted to go out to play. One of her favorite things to do is play with balls. Since I'm her favorite playmate, I never mind when her little hand reaches up and she says, "C'mon, Gigi." As we head outside, her tiny laughter melts my heart. We toss the ball back and forth for several minutes. Her eye hand coordination hasn't developed fully yet so she misses the ball often. Though she doesn't mind, she finds it funny to ask me to retrieve the ball whenever she misses. Being a good Gigi, I obey her gentle commands and chase after the rogue ball. This toss and miss game continues a little longer. We revel in laughter. Once more, she throws the ball my way and it skitters down a leaf strewn path. I run to gather the ball in my arms and in a split second, find myself on the ground. There had been a hole and I'd found it. As I lay upon the cold ground, my daughter runs over to see if I'm okay. I sit up but tell her I am not sure. I say I need to sit there a few minutes and gather my wits about me. A few minutes pass and I think I am probably just suffering hurt pride. When I try to stand, I felt searing pain in my left wrist. I look down at it and see it's abnormally shaped and swelling rapidly. At my daughter's insistence, we go to the doctor. After having my wrist x-rayed and examined, the verdict is a fractured wrist.

At close to sixty years of age, I'm no spring chicken. The next few days are filled with throbbing pain. I quickly find myself unable to do the most menial tasks and have to ask for help to do simple things. I don't like depending on others. I enjoy being independent. But now I have no choice.

The Spica brace the orthopedic doctor placed on my wrist is tight but holds the bones in place. It's uncomfortable to sleep in at night and I have to keep it elevated. This frustration added to my constant insomnia and agony from lymphedema seems to be adding fuel to a neverending fire. I didn't need this and I begin to wonder why God has allowed me to experience one more trial in my life.

Since retiring several years ago and after having gone through my breast cancer journey, I've spent my days writing. I blog. I write for breast cancer magazines and do book reviews for Christian companies. The writing has allowed me to do something I truly enjoy and has provided an outlet for me since I'm unable to work outside the home. I enjoy being paid for something I love to do but now, with a broken wrist, how can I do it?

God knew I needed a break is all I can figure. With so many deadlines and obligations on my calendar, I tend to get overwhelmed. Since the holidays are just around the corner, I don't need any extra added stress. As I thought about it, I had to look at the fracture as a blessing.

You may wonder how I'm typing this blog post today. Don't worry! I'm not using my broken wrist and I'm not typing with one hand. I have a voice activated program called Dragon Dramatically Speaking which allows me to speak as the computer types for me. It's an amazing program designed for the physically handicapped. A friend with multiple sclerosis told me about it many years ago. When I found the program on sale, I quickly purchased it and stuck it in a closet. Now, years later, I'm finding it useful.

It's not easy to face trials, especially physical ones, but I've learned over my life that God brings them at just the perfect time and for a special reason. While the breaking of the bones in my wrist were extremely painful, the break that injury afforded me was a much needed and welcome one.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I'm already thinking about all the ways God's blessed me this year. My middle daughter, Laura, has agreed to host the meal for us so I don't have to stress over that. My gratitude jar sits on my kitchen counter. It's filled with tiny slips of white paper on which I've jotted notes throughout the year. On Thanksgiving day, I'll open the jar and begin reading all the blessings God's given me. Being reminded of His goodness is so important to me and I've found myself spending my days learning to be intentionally grateful. Counting my blessings and naming them one by one reminds me of God's faithfulness. This afternoon, I'll add one more blessing to my gratitude jar - I'll thank God for my break (fracture) which led to a much needed break from demanding tasks. Learning to rest is hard for me and I think God's been trying to teach me that lesson for a very long time. Maybe I'll get the hang of it soon! For a type A personality, someone who's always busy going and doing, the lesson has been a hard one to learn. But I guess it's okay to take a breather now and then. Thank God also for the voice to typing program. It's been a lifesaver!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Oh bother!

My granddaughter, Heather
It was a good day until I fell into that hole! My granddaughter and I had been outside playing catch when suddenly the ball rolled down hill. As her little voice exclaimed, "Get it Gigi," I smiled and ran after the ball. The ground was covered with a blanket of leaves. Running through them I worried about sliding. Instead of sliding, I stepped into a deep hole. Falling backward, I stuck out my left arm to brace for the fall. As soon as I did it I knew it was a mistake. The swelling was almost instantaneous. My daughter tried to help me up but I told her I wanted to sit a few minutes. While coming to grips with the fact that one minute I had been up and the next minute I was down, my granddaughter continued to play. I have no idea how long I sat on the hard ground, but thought it wise not to get up in a hurry. When I was finally able to get to my feet, my daughter and I went inside.

With concern in her voice, my daughter asked if I was okay. I glanced at my wrist and noticed the swelling. My hand and wrist looked misshapen. She asked if we needed to go to the hospital and I did not know how to respond. A few minutes later the pain began and I determined it might be a good idea to visit my doctor. I placed the call knowing I might not be able to get in to see him. I was hoping I would not have to go through the weekend without knowing the damage. Thankfully, I was worked into the schedule and saw the Dr. about 2:30. After taking several x-rays, the primary care physician determined a break was evident. He referred me to an orthopedic doctor the next day.

Spica splint
The orthopedic doctor decided I have a Scaphoid break. He said the break is also called a snuff box break. I ask him to expound and he said there is a little divot just above the Scaphoid bone where old-timers used to place their snuff so that it was convenient to sniff, hence the name snuff box break. I left his office in a Spica brace with instructions to return in 10 days for re-x-ray. At that time, he may or may not put me into a hard plaster cast. I am hoping he does not!

It has been extremely challenging without the use of my left arm. It is especially difficult to get dressed without help. Today after much persistence I was able to finally zip and button my jeans. Imagine my anxiety when I needed to run to the bathroom a couple of hours later and could not get my pants undone! If I had been wise, I would have changed to elastic waist pants. Instead, I fought to re-button my pants only to go through the same scenario a few hours later! Live and learn!

While it has been difficult to function with a broken wrist, I have been able to find ways to do what I want to do. I've realized how much I depend on both hands. I've had to use my mouth and teeth to aid in opening things. My husband has been helpful with the heavy lifting. Knowing my disability is temporary makes struggling through challenges easier. I don't know how I would manage if I had a permanent disability. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be in the beginning.
Scaphoid fracture

It seems like it's always something. The update for my most recent oncology visit: my Lymphocytes were at 19% which is considered extremely low and indicate a compromised immune system, my vitamin D level was extremely low as well, so I was put on a supplement of 50,000 international units per week, and I was told to return in four months for a check up. I did not feel the oncologist gave me the time or attention he has in the past at this visit. Perhaps he was having a bad day or had something on his mind. I am hoping the next visit will be better but if not I may be looking for another oncologist. It is very important to me to have a doctor who is very attentive and caring. I have been driving an hour each way to his office because I felt he was worth it. Perhaps he has lost his interest in being my doctor since I have chosen a natural alternative route instead of going the traditional chemotherapy route. Time will tell and I'll report more at my next check up. There is a Cancer treatment Center of America with and 25 minutes of my home should I decide to change. I have heard nothing but good things about them.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Facing fear on the back of a motorcycle

The Honda Valkyrie
Morning comes too early. The alarm sounds this truth. Rousing from the warmth of my bed, I slide cold feet into velvet soft slippers and glide into the bathroom. Groggy eyed, I reach behind the curtain to turn on water. Shivering, I disrobe and enter. The warm against my back feels delightful. I long to stand and soak for days. Instead, I hurry knowing my friend will soon arrive. An adventure has been planned.

After donning clothes and eating breakfast, I hear the sound in my driveway, a low, soft rumble. Swiftly, she rides up parking the Honda Valkyrie with swift skill. She comes in for a few minutes and looks over my clothing. "It's cold outside," she says with emphasis on the word cold. I rethink my wardrobe. Underneath jeans and long sleeve shirt are silk long johns, but my friend has no clue. They're thin but efficient. The jacket. She looks at my jacket and points. "That needs help," she smiles. She's brutally honest at times, but I love that she speaks her mind. I open the closet and rifle through several garments. My hand rests on a down jacket. "Yes," she grins, "that will be best." I yank it from the hanger and slip it on. Instantly feeling like I've gained 20 pounds, I stand looking in her direction. She reassures me and we head out the door.

Me in the bandanna
I walk up to the mass of metal and marvel. This huge motorcycle will be transportation today. She hands me a candy apple red helmet and a pair of  black Harley Davidson leather gloves. The rebel inside me rises. I feel empowered as I slip on the helmet and fasten the chin strap. She climbs on the bike and maneuvers it to face down the long driveway then motions for me to hop on. It's been many years since I've been on a bike. As I throw my right leg up and over the back of the passenger seat, I realize I'm not as limber as I used to be. My hip joint complains. Once seated, she nods and cranks the engine. The motor isn't as loud as I thought it'd be. We coast to the bottom of the drive and I put my hands around her waist. She punches the gas and slips into gear. We're off! Wind whistles and the helmet shifts. The loaner helmet is too big. It will have to do. We speed up and shift into third. The cold surrounds and pushes the bike. I begin to doubt the abilities of my friend. She's 66. Can she hold up this large bike with a passenger in strong wind? What have I gotten myself into???

It started as a joke. We were texting and teasing. We'd only known each other a few months. We met at church. Instantly, I liked her. Conversation was easy between us. We had a lot in common except she was older and a recent widow. As we talked, I found out she was part of Faith Rider's Ministry, a motorcycle group representing Christ. On Friday, she'd shared about an upcoming ride. She texted, "I'll pick you up at 10." I responded with a jovial, "OK." I wasn't expecting a serious reply, but that's how the adventure began when she said, "I'm not kidding."

Outside a swap meet at the bike shop
Discussing our plans for the day
We rode about fifteen miles before I relaxed my grip and stopped being afraid I was going to die. When I was finally able to lean into the ride, I began to enjoy it. The feeling of freedom was amazing! Flying down the road, wind whipping and scenery flashing, I began to realize I'd been struggling with trust issues in my life. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I'd felt my life was on a very short time line. I'd felt the need to soak up life in record time because I had no idea how much of it I'd have left. Without realizing it, I'd been living my life filtered through a lens of fear. As we continued on, my thoughts turned from visualizing a horrific crash, me flying over handlebars, skidding along pavement, suffering a severe case of road rash, or Heaven forbid broken bones to wonder. The more I thought about it, the picture of two middle aged women speeding through countryside on a humongous bike was comical. Underneath my friend's helmet was a shock of snow white hair...under her shield, a face full of wrinkles. We both had love handles. We were by no means spring chickens...we were more like roasted hens! But here we were, off on a grand adventure throwing caution to the wind and it felt amazing!
The girls and I

An hour or so later, we arrived at our destination. We'd already traveled 50 miles at speeds well over 70 mph. Removing our helmets, we disembarked and stood for a minute letting our wobbly legs gain stability. As the other members of our party arrived, we entered a small cafe, the 27th Grill. It was just a hole in the wall, a typical biker joint. We took a table near the back of the restaurant and a young boy came to take our drink orders. He was such a nice, polite young man. Speaking through a mouth full of braces, he explained the daily specials. We opted for burgers and fries. While our food was cooking, we tried to smooth and rearrange our helmet hair. Nothing much could be done, so we opted for bandannas to cover our plastered locks. Once again, I had to laugh at myself. Here I stood in a dingy, dirty biker bar dressed in jeans, black leather boots, a black leather vest, and a bright purple bandanna. I felt like I'd stepped into an old movie and all that was missing was a beer brawl, cigarette smoke, thugs in the corner, and a pack of bearded, tattooed men lined up outside.
Our little waiter at the greasy spoon

We sat down to eat, my three friends and I, and bowed our heads to pray. Our server, stopped out of reverence, and stood patiently as we completed our blessing. Timidly, he placed our plates in front of us and asked if we needed anything else. We waved him away with a smile and devoured our food. The food wasn't good but we were hungry. We took our time chatting and went over plans for the rest of the trip. After taking bathroom breaks, we hopped back on the bikes and took off.

By now I was feeling very comfortable on the back of the Valkyrie. It almost felt too good and I began to wonder if I should become a permanent part of this Christian ministry. Wouldn't it be wonderful to ride every weekend sharing my faith with complete strangers? I was seriously considering speaking with the leader when our ride was over.

The road began to twist and turn as we climbed Pine Mountain. Quickly, I matched my friend's rhythm leaning right then left then right again. As the bike leaned low to the ground, I was amazed at how she was able to control the weight of the motorcycle with ease. What a seasoned pro! The Fall color was breathtaking as we pulled into an overlook to enjoy the view. Beautiful hues of yellow, orange, and gold dotted the sides of the mountain. The heavenly blue sky made a scenic backdrop. I wanted to sit and absorb the view forever.
The Faith Riders logo

We'd been riding for several hours and I was starting to get tired. The constant sunshine had not only kept me warm but had also caused me to get sleepy. I felt my muscles loosening and almost dropped the grip from my partner's waist a few times on the way back as I began to drift off. Halfway home, our friends split off as they waved goodbye. Now we were lone lady riders, exhausted but content.

When we ended our journey, I thanked my friend for a wonderful experience then watched her drive away. This was the first time I'd ever traveled over 100 miles in a day on the back of a motorcycle. Walking to my front door, my legs felt like jello. I was shaky and ready to fall into my recliner and rest a while.

As I removed my down jacket, long johns, and boots, I looked into the mirror. Before me stood a stranger...a biker chick in a purple bandanna. "Who are you and how did you get here?" I asked myself.  I had absolutely no idea. I didn't have a clue why I'd accepted the invitation to go riding and I didn't realize, until much later in the day, that God had used that motorcycle ride to teach me a few things about trust. I learned sometimes He brings situations into our lives to mold us and shape us. He can use unlikely events or circumstances as teaching tools. Trusting is difficult, especially when we like to have control, but when we learn to relax and let go, we can enjoy the ride.

Do I think I'll ever go on a long motorcycle ride again? Probably not. Was I happy I went? In the long run, yes! It was something I'll never forget - a once in a lifetime trip. Did I conquer my fear? I think I did. I realized God already has a specific day and time picked out for me to die and I'm not going to die one second before then. It wouldn't matter whether I died on the back of a motorcycle or in my kitchen baking cookies, it would be okay because I knew where I would spend eternity.

I've always been a rebel at heart although I haven't always acted the part. If I had a chance for a do-over, I might have learned to ride a motorcycle when I was younger. Riding 100+ miles on the back of a Honda Valkyrie isn't something I ever thought I'd do at the age of 58, but I'm glad I did. The feeling of riding, wind in your face, is very freeing. Who knows what next year will bring but I'm sure I'll be ready for another adventure.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Change is coming

I step into brisk Autumn air. Wind dances wild, leaves dip and swirl. Standing beneath sentry Pines, I look up. Sky, brilliant blue, kissed  by morning sunshine smiles down at me. Something inside whispers, "Change is coming." Leaves gently float. Evidence of change is in all nature this time of year. Deadness slowly sloughs to make ready for Spring's newness. Stirring in my heart matches the  season. Alive and hopefilled, I revel. This feeling, priceless. Maybe it has something to do with wind whispers gently caressing my soul, calling come and dance...leave the baggage of care behind...my heart leaps.

Ginger colored leaves blanket the lawn. As wind blows, trees shimmy and shake releasing brown beauties. Watching, they glide to the ground, slowly, slowly, falling. One on top of the other, they rest. I fight the urge to run, breaking and cracking. Memories come. The laughter, the falling, the mounding. But the burying! The burying was best!  My siblings and I treasured this season. Bundled in sweaters and jeans, we gathered rakes. Our yard stretched wide and long, trees and shrubs scattered throughout. Scratching the surface, we'd goad leaves into hills laughing, planning. One done and the devious runs through, scattering and destroying. Frustration mounts but for a moment, then giggles come. We begin again, working together. Lined up, we run at breakneck speed, leaping joyfully into crispy, crunchy leaves. Lying there, surrounded by crushed foliage, gazes shift. Peering heavenward, thankful for childhood. We knew...change was coming.

Change is coming. This broken has ended. New life awaits. Buried beneath the dead of old lies the new waiting to spring forth. The choice is mine. To slough off or to keep? To cast away or to hold close? The wind of change speaks, "let go...let go." Fear grips me. Insecurity chides. In the leaf cyclone, they taunt, "Release, float with us..." Listening, I am invigorated.  "Come," they say, and I do.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Step into my mind

it's time to do another train of thought exercise and today seemed like the perfect day i just got home from the grocery store and what an experience that was i don't usually go to the store by myself because it's difficult with the swelling in my arms hubby usually carries the groceries for me and makes my life easier but he was working today and we were out of a lot of things and it just made sense for me to go while i had the opportunity there were so many people there and i wondered why none of these folks worked during the middle of the week the store was like a bee hive people buzzing all around spending money and getting ready for the weekend and that's basically why i was there too getting ready for the weekend as i shopped i saw halloween decorations in almost every department i'd gone to walmart to do my grocery shopping since i didn't have to buy any meat this time i don't like to buy meat at walmart because i don't trust it i've seen people lay unwanted meat on random shelves throughout the store and i'm sure the stockers pick it up and take it back to the proper department even though they have no idea how long the meat has been lying around and that scares me meat not held at proper temperature is very dangerous and people can get very sick from it i've had food poisoning before and i don't ever want to go through that again as i was about to check out i passed the row with halloween candy and saw a big back of assorted treats inside the bag were reese's peanut butter cups whoppers milk duds and many more little tiny mini candies i threw a bag into the cart and headed toward checkout to pay i had some nice conversation with the woman in front of me she'd just moved here from illinois and she was marveling at the hot weather she had a huge basket full of bedding plants and was looking forward to planting some pansies and dusty miller i commented on the dusty miller and told her i loved to feel the leaves on it because they were so soft and silky she probably thought i was a nut but i didn't care after all my groceries had been bagged and i'd loaded them into my cart i walked across the parking lot to my car after unloading the groceries i locked the car and walked to the buggy rack to return my cart driving home was quick because the traffic was light as soon as i pulled into my driveway i opened the carport door and began unloading the merchandise the bags were heavy and i wished my husband was available to help me but since he wasn't i just made a dozen trips piling the groceries on the table and on the countertops i knew it would take me another twenty minutes to get everything sorted out and put away i glance at the clock it is already 2 and i haven't eaten lunch yet when the last can goes into the pantry i pop a meal into the microwave i want something quick and easy i wait 4 minutes and thirty seconds and then sit in front of the tv in my recliner sitting there with my feet propped up i eat my lunch and watch a documentary on the execution process of prisoners on death row as i am watching i am reminded there is a prisoner in georgia slated to be put to death today his name is gregory lawler and he's convicted of killing two police officers i struggle with the death penalty i know the bible says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but do we really have the right to judge and do we really have the right to end a life i don't think so i believe those rights belong solely to god and therefore i believe in life imprisonment instead of the death penalty the television show gives interesting facts about the days leading up to a prisoner's death and how every hour of their last day is spent they even go into great detail about how the last meal is prepared and how there's a dollar limit set for the amount of food purchased for that last meal and each state has a different limit there's a special prison chef who prepares the meals for the prisoners and he says he enjoys his job they go over the process of keeping witnesses for the prisoner and the victim's family separate at the execution and how they test equipment beforehand to make sure there are no slip ups and how the inmate has a right to talk with the prison pastor to make sure his soul is right before he dies there's so much they consider and so much the public probably doesn't know and i think it's a good thing we have a justice system in place even though i don't agree with killing someone i continue to watch and they're talking about placing a natural sea sponge soaked in water into the inside of the cap that goes on the prisoner's head when he's to be electrocuted they shave his head and the sea sponge soaked in water helps conduct the electricity they said there was a man in the past whose head was not shaved before electrocution and his hair caught fire and sparks were shooting out from under the metal helmet and the flames were everywhere and it was terrible i don't know how i can even watch this while eating but i do because it's interesting and i think i have a criminal mind after i finish my microwave meal i walk back to the kitchen for a sweet treat i just want a little something and i remember that big bag of halloween candy in the pantry i rip open the bag and look inside there are several of my favorites candies i reach for one and find i've pulled out a miniature pack of whoppers those have always been a favorite since childhood as i pop open the package and squeeze one of the malted milk balls to the top of the plastic tube they're in i let it fall into my open mouth immediately i'm transported to the early 60's i'm standing in the middle of my living room and my dad is in his chair watching tv he loves whoppers too and he's holding a milk carton type container full of the candy and he's shaking it and laughing i can hear his laugh like it was yesterday he laughs again and rattles the whoppers in their container i hear the balls rolling around and banging against the inside of the cardboard container then he tips the carton up to his lips as several balls fall into his mouth i stand close by and ask him if i can have a few and he smiles a big smile and shakes the candies into my small hand i can hold about ten candies and i'm happy when he fills my hand to the brim i sit on the sofa holding my treasure and slip a chocolaty ball into my mouth as the candy coating melts on my tongue i get a hint of malt flavor and i look up to see my daddy watching me his mouth full of malted milk balls and his cheeks look like chipmunk cheeks i want to copy him so i do the same thing and put more milk balls in my mouth i can't hold many but try to stuff five into each side of my mouth when i smile at my daddy my mouth hurts because of the tension the smile creates across the lumpy melty milk balls daddy tells me i have chocolate teeth and that makes me smile even bigger i like that he's smiling too and we keep eating until we are stuffed with malty flavor for a few minutes i sit in my recliner letting the taste of the milk balls transport me through time back into my childhood for a glimpse at that special time once again there weren't many memories like that for me with my daddy and that's why this food trigger is so memorable as i crumple the candy wrapper my memory begins to fade away and i think how good it was to relive that special time and i'm thankful for the halloween candy and how that little pack of whoppers made me feel today and just think if i hadn't bought them i would have missed stepping back into time isn't it funny how most of our memories are tied to food just the sight or smell or taste of something can spark a recessed memory and call it forth with ease our minds are amazing and god surely is the master of creation no eye has seen no ear has heard no heart has imagined what god has prepared for those who love him i am grateful for my heavenly father who loves me so well and i'm also grateful for my earthly father who sometimes took the time to make me feel special and share a smile with me over a childhood treat

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

National No Bra Day is coming soon

October has been designated as breast cancer awareness month. Many breast cancer survivors have come to know the month as the dreaded “Pinktober.” While pinking things up is meant to raise breast cancer awareness, it often sparks mixed feelings among those who’ve felt the effects of breast cancer. In conjunction with breast cancer awareness month, a campaign called “National No Bra Day,” began in 2011. According to a news article, published by ABC7, “People are encouraged to ditch their lingerie to raise awareness about the disease, raise money for research, and to support survivors.” The social media campaign purports freeing the breasts as a fun way to bring awareness to the need for annual mammograms and testing to prevent breast cancer. But does it really? As a breast cancer survivor, I’d like to give you my perspective.

When I was a young girl, I couldn’t wait to get my first bra. At the first sign of breast buds, my mother purchased a training bra for me. That lacy little slip of fabric made me feel feminine. As I developed, I graduated from a training bra into a real bra with cups. My breasts were prized possessions. They were not only ornamental, but functional. At 19, when I had my first child, my breasts provided nourishment. At the age of 40, I had my first mammogram, a necessary preventative test. At 56, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had both breasts removed. Since I opted for no reconstruction, I was forced to wear a bra containing two silicone prostheses. These man-made breast forms gave me the semblance of womanhood. Without them, my chest looked pre-pubescently flat. Some days I choose to wear my prostheses and some days I don’t. When I need to “look normal” in public, I wear a bra and prostheses. When I am home or around loved ones, I go without these items. Prostheses are heavy and uncomfortable but in order to “fit in” I need to wear them. And that’s why National No Bra day bothers me.

I don’t understand how taking off your bra for a day does anything to raise awareness for breast cancer. The only thing I think it really does is give men something to ogle over and give women something to giggle about. For those of us who’ve experienced major surgery to remove our breasts, bras have become a necessary evil. It’s difficult to wear prostheses without a bra and socially unacceptable to be a flat chested woman. Where does that leave us? I don’t want to seem overly sensitive to a fun filled social media holiday, but I just don’t get it. What’s the point in going bra-less? And how are funds raised when you remove your lingerie?

So please excuse me if I don’t participate in this year’s festivities. I find it offensive that men and women flippantly consider such a silly way of raising awareness for breast cancer. If people really wanted to gain understanding and awareness, I propose we declare a National Bare Chest Day where men and women who’ve been through breast cancer could share their battle wounds by making their scars visible for all to see. Perhaps then more people would take breast cancer seriously and the National No Bra Day would become a thing of the past.  

©bonnie annis all rights reserved


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Learning is painful

Light filtered through trees as brown leaves floated gently on wind. Sky, brilliant blue, held tight the secret of a lingering hurricane. Hummers hummed filling with sweet nectar. Today would be a good day, a beautiful gift waiting to be unwrapped.

In the kitchen, sandwiches stacked, I packed. We were going on a picnic! It was one of our favorite things to do. Surrounded by leaves and trees, we could forget. Worries melt away outdoors. We needed this day. There had been too much work and too much stress. We longed for peace. 

Along winding tree filled roads we traveled. Farmland spread wide and free. Cows dotted pastures and large hay rolls sat sentry. The sun illuminated nature's glorious canvas. My eyes memorized as hubby chauffeured. Expectations voiced, we continued forward. 

Dowdell's Knob
An hour passed and we'd reached our destination, F.D.R. State Park, Georgia's largest state park. It'd been a while since we'd been here and we'd forgotten. Today we'd remember sitting atop Dowdell's Knob overlooking King's Gap. Gathering our things, we marched across the parking lot intent on finding "our spot." There, just along the ridge of Pine Mountain, huge boulders rested. Selecting a gently sloping stone, we sat. Silently, we awed. The wide expanse of the world lay before us. Hanging gently in the blue, a train of clouds ran along the horizon, remnants of the storm. On the boulder, we felt the sun's warm caress. Sandwiches came out and were devoured. We hadn't realized how ravenous we'd become. Visitors gathered for photos. None of them stayed long. We continued our meal soaking up beauty like a sponge. Soon the sun's heat became too much. Although a breeze had been blowing, sweat had been building. We rose ready for our next destination. Not wanting to leave, I turned to make mental note of the scene. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew.  This was the perfect place, his thinking place. Thoughts jumbled banging the sides of my skull. Impossible to focus with people milling about. Their comings and goings distracting. Had I missed the moment I'd longed for, the simple solitude of being? Had we been too quick to leave this place of serenity? I quietly mourned.

Longing for more, we hiked. Leaves crinkled and crunched underneath the weight of our shoes. Padding through the forest our eyes fixed. The path, evident, led us deeper. Acorn sprinkled ground, Fall was nearing. Squirrels and birds voiced disapproval at our approaching. And then I saw it. An ugly mound of brokenness in the midst of beauty. Glass and rust mingled together. We stopped ashamed. Trash. Ugly mountain of refuse from ages past. Why? Why? We discussed this mess of things used and abused before moving on. Disgusting and painful to see, evidence of commercialism in the heart of nature. A thorn in God's creation. And life is much the same. Completing our hike, we turned to retreat. Sweat dripping from brow, we longed for water. Revival in a swig from the bottle. Our feet moved faster.
The path

Hours passed. Sitting, we realized our exhaustion. Thankful for air conditioning, we drove on. There was still much to see and much to do. Determined to make the most of the day, we did. 

The sun hung low as we worked our way past fields covered in shadows of late day. A sigh of relief was breathed between us. Silence golden as the gentle hum of riding almost lulled us to sleep. Home sweet home! We'd made it. Thankful, we paused savoring moments given today. It had been a good day. Lingering longer would have made it better. Next time....next time. 


Friday, October 7, 2016

Real Life Drama

Rory's new book
Last night my husband and I went to see the showing of the movie, "To Joey, With Love." Yes, we saw it about a month after it first came out, but that's okay. We wanted to see it. I needed to see it.

The movie was based on the real life story of Joey Feek, country music artist, and her battle with ovarian cancer. For two years, Joey fought valiantly to live. She wanted to continue to mother her little one, a beautiful daughter named Indiana. And while she was fighting to live, cancer continued to grow and metastasize in her body.

I'd followed Rory's blog on the internet for months and months. Rory felt it was important to share their life with those who loved and cared about them. Day by day, he shared the story of their lives and their faith. It was beautiful and heartfelt.

Last night, as we sat in the movie theater, there were about 15 people there. Movies like this aren't very popular, I guess, but I was thankful the theater agreed to play it for those who wanted to see it. As the movie began, a hush fell over the audience. There were no sounds from shuffling bags of popcorn or candy. There were no giggles or whispers. Everyone sat silently and entered into the lives of real people with real pain.

As Joey's struggle with cancer grew more intense, I watched my husband's face. Tears welled in his eyes as he watched her emaciated body on screen. In my own heart, I felt a dozen emotions. I hadn't' anticipated these feelings and was caught off guard.
Joey and Rory Feek

The movie contained video footage Rory filmed during Joey's battle with cancer. He said in his blog he was prompted to do it to keep the memories of his wife alive. I was thankful he did.

When their story explained Joey's cancer had come back after two years, I felt my heart shudder. All of a sudden, what ifs began to bombard my mind. It'd only been 2 years and 3 months since my surgery to remove the breast cancer. I hadn't been given an all clear yet.

While I don't want to live in fear, I do sometimes wonder. I wonder if I'll ever have a recurrence. I wonder if there are tiny, little cancer cells floating around in my body that will grow and metastasize. I wonder if one day in the near future, I'll find myself in a tough battle again. I don't want to fight again. It's too hard.

Joey died on March 4, 2016. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly after giving birth to her daughter. Throughout her battle with cancer, she held tightly to her faith. I loved the way Rory captured that in the videos.

Joey and precious Indiana
As the movie ended, everyone in the theater sat through each credit. When it was time to exit the theater, not a sound was uttered. We were all overwhelmed with gratitude. Yes, Joey's story was painful to watch and yes, it was terrible to witness her joyful life end...but what we were most grateful for was the fact that we were still here, we were alive!

I know there were several other cancer survivors in the theater. I'd talked with one as we waited for the movie to start. I wondered if those other survivors felt the way I did. Did they look at Joey's story wondering why her and why not me, like I did? Did they think ahead and begin to consider the what ifs?

There's something about being part of the world of cancer. Survivors truly care about the stories of others going through their own fight. We tend to compare stories while at the same time empathizing. We can understand the struggles. We understand the fear. We just understand in a way others can't. I'm thankful I went to see the movie. I'm thankful my husband wanted to go with me. Joey's story impacted out lives and made us realize we have been truly blessed. We have no idea what the future holds but we know who holds the future and that's enough...

Listen to Joey's beautiful voice here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Storm warning

Predicated storm path
News channels are filling air space with warnings of impending doom. Hurricane Matthew looms. Preparations for evacuation have begun. Friends and family ease into long lines of traffic, hopeful.

And my heart goes out to them. Thankfully, the weather is beautiful here today. The sky is a brilliant blue and a balmy breeze is blowing. It's easy to feel change in the air. But how can things look so calm and peaceful here while there's a storm brewing there?

And Jesus calmed the wind.

Can you imagine being there in a boat with Jesus? Knowing He was a performer of miracles and yet, as the water raged around you, becoming fearful? Why did they not trust? These disciples that KNEW His power....KNEW His strength....KNEW Him?

As Jesus slept in the back of the boat, they were freaking out. I can relate. When things seem so out of control, when we can't understand or see what God is doing in our lives, sometimes it's hard to trust.

So they shake the Master. Wake up! Don't you care if we drown???? The disciples filled with fear and trembling. And what does Jesus do? He stands up. He speaks to the winds and the sea and tells them to BE STILL. Instantly, everything is calm. Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them why they are so afraid. He asks about their faith. The disciples turn to each other in amazement and say, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!"

The disciples knew their Master, Jesus. They knew He was capable. They knew, when He got into the boat with them, they were safe...so why did they lose it? Why were they fearful? Because of the intensity of the storm. Wind and waves were crashing all around them. And Jesus...Jesus was asleep!

A hurricane is approaching. It's already done massive damage in Haiti. People have lost their lives. Fear fills hearts because we can't control the wind and waves...only He can. And all we can do is trust.

Lord, please protect those in the path of the storm. Help them look to you for protection. Give their hearts peace as they prepare. Help them remember You are capable of calming the storm. Amen.




"That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown? He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4:35-41New International Version (NIV)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A book? Really God?

Night before last, as I was about to go to bed, I felt God impressing something on my heart. "Begin at the beginning." Those four words trailed over and over in my mind. I didn't know where they came from or where they were going but I knew they'd come from God. I took a notepad and wrote the words down. I looked at them over and over again. As I read them aloud, I said to myself, "But what if I don't know when the beginning began..." I left my notepad on the kitchen table and went to bed.

This morning, when I woke up and went into my dining room, I saw the pad of paper lying on the table. I picked it up and the purple ink with which I'd written those words seemed to glow on the paper. Begin at the beginning. Was it time? Was I hearing God properly? I'd been praying about writing a book for a long time. Was this God's go ahead to start writing? I wasn't sure but I hoped so!

After breakfast, I went about my daily chores. I glanced at the notepad over and over through the day. For some reason, it I was being drawn to it. About 3:00 p.m. I passed the table on my way to the laundry room. I picked up the notepad and carried it to my office. Sitting down at the computer, I did an online search for self publishing companies and contacted 2 of them. I wanted an idea of printing costs. I wasn't shocked to find the average range was between $2,000 and $4000. To some, that wasn't a lot of money, but to me...it was a great deal. I haven't worked in almost 4 years now other than doing some freelance writing. Okay God...if you want this to happen, you've got to make a way. That was my breath prayer. One I'd exhaled up to heaven in desperation and hope. I needed a miracle.

Pulling out my desk chair, I sat at my computer and opened up a new Word document. I began to type. Before I realized it, I'd written the introduction to my book...I guess God is really in this! I'm excited to see how a book unfolds and how He will use it for His glory. Step by step, and my foot is raised ready to move forward.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Cancer is life altering but not defining

This past week, I was blessed to have time with two of my Texas grandchildren. Their other set of grandparents wanted to bless us as they traveled cross country to visit the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Since they were on this side of the country, the other grandparents thought it would be nice to allow us time with Gavin and Kaitlyn. We usually only get to see them once a year or so. Thankfully, everything worked out and we were so grateful for their willingness to share.

The week was filled with electric energy as our home, usually quiet and serene, changed to a hub of activity. Short adventures were planned and each new day was filled with wonder. At the zoo, we watched as exhibits brought excitement and curiosity. The county fair came with cotton candy, games, rides and so much laughter. Parks, picnics, and playing in water fountains at the Splash Pad reminded me of so many things we take for granted. Seeing every moment through the eyes of a child was priceless.

Turbo Man
One evening, on a less busy day, the kids wanted to watch a movie. The only kid friendly DVD we had on hand was "Jingle All the Way." It's a Christmas themed movie but they didn't mind. How fun it was to hear their peals of laughter as the story line unfolded.  They enjoyed hot, buttery popcorn as they snuggled up in cozy blankets. In the end, the good guy wins and all is well, thanks Turbo Man!

Early the next morning, over bowls of cereal, we chatted about various things. I loved hearing their hearts and answering their questions. Throughout the day, I'd hear a constant, "Gigi, look at this or Gigi, why is...?" What an honor to feel so loved. I was thankful they wanted to converse with me. It was amazing to have them look up to me and value my opinion.

While they were here, I wore my prostheses. I didn't know how much they understood about my bout with breast cancer and thought it best to avoid touching on that subject in case they hadn't been told. We were constantly on the go so I never had to worry much about the subject coming up, or so I thought. One day, I forgot to put my boobs on. When Kaitlyn came up to give me a hug, she said, "Gigi, what happened to your chest?" I guess she noticed I wasn't as soft and squishy as I'd been on previous days. I tried to find words to skirt around breast cancer but still respond in a way an 8 year old mind could understand. It wasn't easy but I explained I'd been very sick and had to have an operation. That answer seemed to appease her and thankfully, the topic was never broached again. Children are naturally curious. I knew that. If I'd thought ahead, I could have prepared a better answer. Shame on me for forgetting to wear my prostheses that day...

On Instagram, I saw a Meme, "Cancer is life altering but not defining." I thought long and hard about that saying. It was very true in my case. Cancer had turned my world upside down and inside out but I didn't have to let it define me. For the past couple of years, I'd accepted the fact that cancer had stolen my femininity. Once I'd accepted my appearance, I decided I need to redefine myself and I came up with the super hero name, "The Incredible Boobless Wonder." Giving myself super hero qualities of being able to survive in a world full of voluptuous women as a flat chested, brave fighter made me feel pretty good. My self esteem rose whenever I looked in the mirror and imagined IBW emblazoned on my chest in brilliant ruby letters. No one knew my secret identity.

As we were watching "Jingle All the Way," I couldn't help but snicker. Turbo Man, with his ability to fly and combat evil, had nothing on me. Sure I wished I had real super abilities, who wouldn't like to fly? But I was happy to know I'd given myself permission to feel good about being alive. Overcoming breast cancer was a pretty big deal. Yes, cancer had totally changed my life. I knew I would never be the same again but really, I didn't want to be. If not for cancer, I wouldn't have learned many valuable life lessons. I'd tucked them safely under my belt. I didn't have to let cancer define me. No, in fact, I was happy to be the "Incredible Boobless Wonder."

Looking at my grandchildren, I realized I wanted a better future for them. I wanted a cure for breast cancer. I silently prayed neither of them would ever experience the trauma of cancer.

Children's minds are always seeking answers. They always seem to be filled with hope. After watching the movie with them, I knew I needed to write a children's book about overcoming breast cancer. I was going to use my super hero identity to explain this nasty disease on a child's level. So, coming soon, to a super center near you, will be an awesome story about a valiant warrior and her adventures as the "Incredible Boobless Wonder." Thanks Turbo Man for giving me a vision and in the words of Spiderman, "I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride..."

Stop Talking!

Ever have a conversation with your brain? I have. I do almost every single day. In fact, that's part of the problem. I can never get m...