Monday, February 29, 2016

Yes and…

Yes, I had cancer and… 

I’m in the process of learning to transition from all the trauma and tragedy that came into my life because of breast cancer and get back to the art of living. It’s a real challenge. But it’s doable.

First of all, I have to begin by telling you I’m a Christian. Throughout my entire ordeal with cancer, my faith has been the single most important thing that’s gotten me through it. Without God, there is no way I’d be where I am today. With that being said, let me give you a verse of Scripture that has carried me through my quest for complete restorative health: “I sought the Lord [on the authority of His word], and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 Satan wanted me to live in constant fear, fear of recurrence, fear of the unknown, fear of all the “what ifs.” God wanted me to live in freedom!

I have to give you some background information if you haven’t been following my blog since its inception: In June 2014, I was diagnosed with stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer. It had also metastasized into my lymphatic system. As most women who receive this type of news, I was dumbfounded and shocked. I immediately thought my life was over. I thought I’d been handed a death sentence. I assumed I was going to have to go through the normal protocol of conventional medicine which would include chemotherapy, radiation, and adjuvant therapy. It was a lot to take in and I was pretty overwhelmed. I began to pray asking God for wisdom and direction. I didn’t know what to do. The doctors were telling me what I should do, but I had to seek direction from the Great Physician, God. I wanted to do exactly what He wanted me to do.

I was very blessed to have an oncologist who was very open and honest with me. While talking with him about the recommended treatment plan, I was surprised to hear him say he would NOT recommend chemotherapy for me. He explained there had been a lot of research done lately on the pros and cons of chemotherapy and research was indicating that chemotherapy did more harm than good. I was thankful to hear him make a recommendation against chemo. I knew the horrible side effects that would come from dumping all those nasty chemicals into my body. The next course of treatment he recommended was surgery and radiation. I began to pray about both of those and received a wonderful peace from God. After 28 rounds of radiation, my doctor said I did not need to continue any more radiation treatments. The original plan called for 33 rounds and 5 boosts at the end of treatment but I had responded so well, the plan was changed. Once again, I thanked God for this good news.

Adjuvant therapy was recommended and I tried 3 different medications. The first one was Arimidex, an aromatase inhibitor, the second, Tamoxifen, and the third, Aromasin, another aromatase inhibitor. All of those medications caused me to have severe side effects and I ended up abruptly stopping each one after two to three weeks of treatment. I continued to see the Lord on whether or not I was to take any of these medicines and I felt Him speaking to my heart and telling me no.

And that brings us up to today. I’ve been cancer free since July 9, 2014. I completed my radiation treatments in November 2014. In mid January, I took the last anti-hormone medication and now, I’m trusting God completely to guide me through the rest of my life. I feel very strongly that He is calling me to make some radical changes in the way I eat and move. Today, I’ve spent the last several hours researching alternative treatments to breast cancer. The treatments I’ve found include diet and nutrition but also include stress reduction and supplements.

There’s a young man, Chris Wark, who was diagnosed ten years ago with colon cancer. Chris is also a Christian and began seeking God when he was first diagnosed. He also refused chemotherapy. With radical changes to his diet and lifestyle, Chris has lived cancer free for many years. He has a lot of information about his alternative treatment plan and the choices he made regarding diet, supplements and exercise. I’ve read everything he’s written, watched all of his videos, and have read between the lines too. Everything he shared makes complete sense! I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was no coincidence that I found all of this information today. I am a firm believer that God’s timing is always perfect.

Modern medicine pushes breast cancer patients to follow a set plan of conventional therapy. Whenever we choose to deviate from the plan, we receive opposition. When I notified my oncologist that I was not going to take the adjuvant therapy any longer, he sounded displeased with me, but the decision was mine…it was my body and I knew that treatment was not right for me, so I went against medical advice.

I made some huge choices today based on all the research I’ve done thus far. My family will probably think I’ve gone off the deep end and I’m making too many radical changes in my life. But, as the old adage goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. These are desperate times in my life because I want to live! Not only do I want to live, I want to live the very best life I can live and that calls for making huge changes.

The first thing I’m going to do is purchase a high quality juicer and I’m going to begin juicing with organic vegetables. I’m going to pummel my body with wonderful, natural, healthy vitamins and minerals. After I’ve juiced for several weeks, I’ll introduce a lot of raw vegetable salads into my diet. Those salads will be topped with healthy sprouts and organic olive oil and vinegar. Next will come organic berries, fruits and nuts. I’m so excited, I can hardly wait to begin flooding my body with life giving nutrients.

I am claiming that God has already completely healed me. He is Jehovah Raphe, the Lord my healer. I’m shifting my thinking from maybe I’m healed to I’m completely healed…I’m healthy and I’m well. I’m going to claim that daily.

As I focus on God’s way to ultimate health, I’m also going to focus more on being thankful. Gratitude is the best attitude I could ever have! I have so very much to be thankful for. I’m also going to set up some strong boundaries. Stress is one of the most horrible detriments to good health, so I’ll be focusing on keeping all stress at bay. Negative thinking is another, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll have a good strong fence set up against that one, too.

So yes, I had cancer, but I don’t have it any more! Yes, it had a huge hold on my life for a short period of time, but not any more. I’m taking my life back and I’m going to work hard on making it even healthier than it ever was before. I believe God allowed cancer to be the gift to help me see things more clearly in my life and for that I’m very thankful.

I’m so excited. I have a great plan and I’m ready to transition from being a cancer survivor into a thriver. I’m looking foward to feeling better and giving my body exactly what it needs to become stronger and more healthy. I’m on the road to freedom…freedom from fear, freedom from sickness and from disease. And now, I’m off to shop for a good juicer. Wish me luck!


© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

All pieces of the puzzle

This morning, I’ve felt an overwhelming need to write a book about my breast cancer journey and as I prayed, I felt God saying I needed to do this so others would know about His faithfulness. I’ve wanted to write a book for some time, but had no idea where to begin. My love of writing began when I was a young child. My mother tells me often how she used to find scraps of paper all over the house with my thoughts scribbled on them. She would often tease me that no one could leave a piece of paper anywhere in the house because if I found it, I would be writing something on it. And it was true! As long as I can remember, I’ve had an urgent desire to write. English and Creative Writing were my favorite subjects in school. But why did I feel compelled to write? It was a huge puzzle to me. I was compassionate about writing and really enjoyed it, but I didn’t understand why I felt I HAD to write.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I began blogging as a way to chronicle my journey. It was also a cathartic way to deal with my feelings. Jotting down daily events helped me keep an accurate record of what was happening at the time. I hoped it would be a blessing to others beginning their own journey through breast cancer. At the end of 2014, I had my blog printed into a lovely soft cover book. Today, as I was pondering the prospect of writing and publishing a “real” book about my experience with breast cancer; I picked up my printed blog and began to read back through it. I realized as I read that I had more than enough material to compile a book. The pieces to the puzzle were finally beginning to make sense. But where did I begin?

It was important to me to find a Christian publisher. I looked online and found two Christian self publishing companies. The first one was Xulon Press. They’ve been around a while and have been highly publicized as being the place to publish your own work. The other publishing company I found was a subsidiary of Thomas Nelson Publishing Group and was called Westbow Publishing. Both of these companies offer comparable self publishing packages. Both of their packages start at just under $2000.00. That’s a lot of money for someone to shell out to have a book published, especially for someone living on a very tight budget and one income.

So I am in the contemplation stage of book writing. I’m considering going forward but I need God’s clear go ahead first. I know He wouldn’t have placed this longing in my heart if it weren’t for a reason. I just want to be sure it’s His will and not just my desire to accomplish this goal.

My book would be helpful to others just starting out on their own breast cancer journey. If I had been able to have a very practical, helpful guide to read as I began my own journey, it would have made my life much easier. It would have been very helpful to have been able to follow along with someone as they progressed through each stage of breast cancer treatment, etc. and it would have been very meaningful if the person I’d been following had been a Christian. But, like most breast cancer patients, we’re left to figure things out on our own. We learn to struggle through things and make our own way. If we’re blessed to have a “mentor” help us through, we don’t have to make silly mistakes through trial and error. Not many breast cancer patients are afforded that luxury and the medical staff doesn’t offer much in the way of practical advice. Being given spiritual encouragement is an even more rare event.

My journey through breast cancer is not over but my journey thus far has been one of faith. God has tested me, refined me, and grown me over the past 19 months. I know the experiences I’ve gone through could help others. There’s a verse in the Bible that sums it up well:

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

My intention in writing a book will be to share my journey with others and hopefully allow them to see how a Christian perseveres even in the face of adversity. Would you join me in praying for God to reveal His will in this area of my life? If He continues to impress upon my heart the desire to write a book, I know He’ll equip me to do so. I also know He’ll provide a way for me to meet the financial obligation that comes along with it.

It’s exciting to think I may have a book in the works soon. It’s even more exciting to know my experience may impact someone else’s life and help them to lean more firmly into Christ. I’ll keep you posted in the days ahead. In the meantime, please pray for me as God brings me to mind. Thank you!

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Sunday, February 21, 2016

We all fall down

It’s been a rough day. Some days are like that. Some days I fall down. I don’t like those days because those are days I feel defeated. It doesn’t help that today’s an overcast and dreary day. Those gloomy days aren’t good for folks who’re struggling.

Today, I found out a friend, I’d “met” last year via the internet, has gotten some bad news. Today’s not a good day for her either. She’s really struggling, even more than I. She just found out her breast cancer has returned and like an unwelcome guest, it has decided to make itself at home and spread out a little…all over her body. She’s devastated and my heart breaks for her.

I didn’t know what to say when she sent me a Facebook message with a link to her latest blog post. (We’ve kept up with each other via our blog posts and Facebook for over a year now and even though we’ve never met, I feel like she’s a dear friend.) We share so much. She loves crafting and so do I. She is a grandmother and loves her grandchildren, so do I. She loves cardmaking and so do I. She had breast cancer and so did I, but now, hers is back.

When I read her story, I felt like I was right there with her. As she shared about being rushed to the ER and having tests run, I could literally feel her fear. I wanted to say something but I didn’t know what to say. What do you say to someone who worked so hard to fight cancer only to find out it has returned? She did all the right things. She did the chemotherapy treatments. She did radiation. She had surgery. She took the medicines. She did everything right and still, things are so horribly wrong and I just don’t understand why. It isn’t fair, life isn’t fair, and I’m angry. But, I’m also scared.

We all fall down sometimes. We do our best to stay upright but sometimes, we just can’t. We trip and fall and sometimes, when we least expect it. And usually, it’s not hard to pick ourselves up and keep going but sometimes, it’s not that easy. Sometimes, it’s really, really hard, especially when the wind gets knocked out of you and you can’t get a breath. You try really hard to breathe but it’s just too overwhelming and you feel yourself sinking…needing a hand to help you up. Sometimes there’s someone there to help you and sometimes there’s not. Sometimes you have to figure out a way to get up on your own. Sometimes you have to struggle really hard to even get up on your knees but you do it because you want to do it. You know you need to do it…you have to do it, because if you don’t…you might just die.

And in the back of my mind, no matter how hard I try, there’s a teeny, tiny fear that’s dug into my brain. It’s planted its feet and no matter what I do, I can’t get it out. That teeny, tiny fear pops up every now and then and reminds me its there, like today…when I heard about Linda’s cancer coming back. I know our stories aren’t the same but they’re very, very similar. I felt afraid when I read Linda’s post about how her doctors found the cancer had spread. That little fear that has been dwelling in my brain stood at attention and I’m sure had a big smirk on its face as my heart raced and I began to tremble. I called my husband and told him about my friend and then I began to weep. He held me tightly and let me cry. I told him I was so sad about Linda’s news and I also told him I was really scared. Do you know what he did? He made me look him in the eyes and said, “We have to have faith.” And I do. I have faith, a pretty big faith, I think, but sometimes, it gets tested and sometimes, I fail the test.

So God, please help me in my unbelief. Please help me remember when I am afraid, to trust in You. You say in your word that if I have faith as big as a mustard seed…and even though I think I have a faith that big, I’m not quite sure…but you say, if I do, I have the power to say to a mountain be moved and it will move. Oh, Lord, I want so desperately to believe. I want to trust you with everything that’s in me…but sometimes, I fall down. I just have to be reminded that when I do, I need to get back up again. And hopefully, I can be there for Linda and help her remember, too, because I know she’s scared and she’s down right now. Would you please pray for her? She really needs your prayers.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Semicolon

I’m a writer. I don’t know when I first began writing. I must have been about ten or eleven. I loved to write. I wrote stories all the time. I wrote in my journal. I wrote on anything and everything. I didn’t know much about grammar and syntax back then; I just wrote what I felt like writing. Whatever was in my heart or in my brain just oozed out onto the paper. Sometimes I was surprised by the content.

When I started high school, my English teachers were amazed at my creative writing skills. I won awards for my work and had several teachers encourage me to pursue writing as a career. I didn’t have much faith in myself. I didn’t think my work was good enough, so I never pushed forward.

Throughout my years of child rearing, I continued to write. Instead of writing short stories or novels, I concentrated on poetry. Several of my pieces were published and I was so honored. My love of writing grew even stronger.

After my children grew and began having families of their own, I began writing children’s books for my grandchildren. I’ve never had any of those published, but perhaps one day I will submit them. In the meantime, I just wanted to write in the hopes that one day, my grandchildren might enjoy my stories. It doesn’t take much to inspire me to write a children’s book. I can see something in nature and immediately a story comes to mind.

Writing. There are a lot of details involved in writing a good story. There needs to be a great plot, interesting characters, beautiful scenery, descriptive dialogue, and the proper use of punctuation. Periods end things. Commas make way for other things and help to separate them. But semicolons, semicolons help form a bond between two independent clauses. I like semicolons. If I have two sentences that can stand on their own, I could choose to end them with a period allowing them to be two totally separate statements but, if I choose to allow them to co-mingle, I insert a semicolon. As the writer of the story, I get to decide.

My life could have ended with a period. It could have been complete. I could have died from breast cancer and that would have been it. Finito. My life would have been history, but, God, in His omnipotence decided to give me a semicolon in writing my life’s story. When breast cancer came onto the scene, He didn’t insert a period….He inserted a semicolon! That meant there was more to come…my story was not over. When a semicolon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank.

So, as I was thinking today about my life’s story, the semicolon became huge to me. In my mind’s eye, I could almost peek over God’s shoulder as He was writing my story and read the following: Some people, when diagnosed with breast cancer, receive it as a death sentence; but others, for different reasons, choose to accept it as God’s perfect will for their lives. Isn’t that amazing? I love semicolons!
© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thou hast enlarged me in my distress…



Daffodil


“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” Psalm 4:1

What a powerful prayer found in Psalm chapter 4, verse 1. As I read this verse, I kept repeating “thou hast enlarged me in my distress.” Enlarged me. Thou hast enlarged me. Thou hast enlarged me in my distress. What did that mean exactly? The more I thought about it, the more I realized this verse was speaking volumes to me.

In the middle of the tragedy of my being diagnosed with breast cancer, God was in the process of enlarging me. He was using my health ordeal as a really powerful teaching tool. He was widening my dependence on Him and in the midst of that, He was growing my faith. Little did I know my faith would be tested later in the day.

Driving to Fayetteville, my mind began to wander. As I looked out over the dry, winter grass I couldn’t help but think about the seasons. It was the middle of February here in Georgia, but we were in the dead of winter. Everything was dormant. Trees were barren and stark. Everything seemed so lifeless. I don’t like winter. The cold and I don’t get along. As I kept driving, I searched the landscape in hopes of seeing just one single sign of new life. There had to be just one. I drove for miles and miles seeing nothing but open fields dotted with cattle. Living out in the Southwest corner of the state was wonderful. I loved the scenery and the laid back atmosphere but in the winter, it was hard to find things to bring joy on cold, gray days…and then I saw it…one lone daffodil.

The tiny daffodil was all alone, just at the edge of a large pasture. There beneath the bob wire fence it stood in regal glory. It’s beautiful yellow head tilted toward the sunlight basking in the warmth. The dark green leaves cupped the flower and anchored it in place. Yes, Spring was coming! This was a sign of new life. I was so thankful to see that tiny little flower. It made my heart sing.

I drove on toward the doctor’s office. I was hesitant about going even though I didn’t really know why. I loved my breast surgeon. She’s an awesome lady. She’s young and vibrant, full of life, and still, there was a bit of trepidation in my heart.

A parking space near the door was open and waiting. I slid the car in carefully and parked. Traffic had been heavy and I had only a few minutes to spare before time for me to check in for my appointment. I hurried up the path to the medical building and grabbed the first elevator up to the second floor. When I walked inside the office, three women turned to look at me. As always, their gaze went straight to my chest. I don’t know why but every time I’ve ever been to this office the same thing has happened. Perhaps it’s because the women there are just before having their own breasts removed or perhaps they already have had them taken. I guess it was just natural for them to scope me out to see where I was in the process. I smiled and walked toward the check in desk.

After signing in, I took a seat and pulled out my phone. I knew it would be a few minutes before being called back and wanted to check my emails. I glanced up from my cell phone now and then to see what the other women were doing. Two were watching reruns of Three’s Company on the TV in the corner of the office. The other woman was engrossed in her phone. No one made eye contact. It was very sad.

The nurse called me back and we went to the room at the end of the hall. She took my blood pressure and asked a series of questions. After she’d completed her bit, she asked me to remove the clothing from the upper half of my body and put on the robe provided. I complied and took a seat on the exam table.

I waited and waited and waited for the doctor to come. After about forty minutes, I heard a small tap at the door and heard her enter. “Hello, Sunshine!” she exclaimed, “How are you doing today?” We bantered back and forth with pleasantries and then she unfastened my robe. Her cold fingers began probing my chest and armpits. She noticed a small rash on the right side under my surgical scar. “When did that pop up?” she said. I explained I’d noticed it a few days earlier. She looked at it carefully and said, “Well, it’s not cancer!” I was glad to hear it and asked what she thought it could be. She told me it looked like Eczema and said the cold, dry weather was more than likely the culprit. She told me to begin applying Neosporin or Petroleum Jelly to it to keep it hydrated and allow it to heal. As she was finishing up, she asked how I was doing on the medication. Oh no…here it comes, I thought to myself.

I told her I had stopped taking the Aromasin about 2 and a half weeks ago. Immediately she turned to me and got close to my face and said, “WHY?” I explained all the side effects I’d had and how terrible I’d felt and told her I’d just decided it wasn’t for me. She got very quiet and then said, very matter of factly, “I don’t like it. I don’t like it one little bit.” I could tell by her tone that she really was upset and didn’t understand how I could stop taking the medication. She leaned in toward me and said, “You know your cancer was very aggressive and with it being fed by Estrogen and Progesterone, it could come back at any time. We really need to make sure that doesn’t happen. I really think you should take the medication.” I didn’t say anything. I just sat and listened. I think she could tell I felt intimidated so she shifted the conversation to her two little ones. As she talked about her boys, I reminisced with her and told her I remembered those kind of times in my children’s lives, too. After a few more pleasantries, she left the room with the instruction for me to return in six months.

On my way out of her office, I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was so upset. Why did I feel like I had to defend myself for my decision to stop taking the anti-hormone therapy? I’d already tried 2 others before this one and all three of them had given me extreme side effects. I replayed the conversation I’d had with the doctor in my mind. The part that really bugged me was when I was explaining to her about the various side effects and she piped in saying, “We have medications we can give to counteract the nausea or the mood swings.” It didn’t make sense to me to take one medication to try and keep cancer at bay and then have to take 2 or 3 more to counter the side effects of the first medication. I felt like I was at war with my medical professionals over the choices I was making pertaining to my health and that really upset me.

In the car, as I backed out of the parking lot, I began to cry. I don’t know why, I just started to bawl. I wanted to hit something and scream, “Don’t you understand??? How would you feel if the shoe was on the other foot and this was you, instead of me? Wouldn’t you do the same thing? Wouldn’t you want to have a good quality of life? Would you really take medication if you knew all the side effects?” All the way home, I struggled wondering if I was doing the right thing and making the right decisions. Maybe I hadn’t given the medications enough time to really see how they’d work long term…maybe I was making a mistake. I started to doubt myself.

When I got home, I talked it over with my husband. He assured me I had made the right choice. He reminded me of what had happened during the time I was on the last medication and how I had felt. I knew in my heart he was right, but I kept hearing the doctor’s voice in the back of my head telling me I needed to be on the medication.

I started to think. Why do oncologists push Aromatase Inhibitors so? Do they receive kickbacks from the drug manufacturers or are they really thinking the medication will prolong my life? I’d like to know the answer to that question but I’m afraid to ask it. And we, as dumb, uninformed patients just do as we’re told most of the time…that is, until we’ve had enough and start to do our own research.

My decision to not take the medication has been a hard one. The oncologist’s office called today, in fact, to offer me another choice drug. I turned them down. It’s hard to explain faith to a medical professional but I tried. I wanted him to understand my decision not to take Aromatase Inhibitors in no way reflects on ability to trust his expertise, but I have a Great Physician whom I trust even more.

“Thou hast enlarged me in my distress”…I feel the Lord working on my behalf as I trust in Him and rely on Him for wisdom and direction. And just like that tiny, yellow daffodil with its face lifted toward the sun, I may stand alone in my decision, but I am still here and I’m still thriving.
© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Inching my way forward


cave


It was dark in the cave as the rope lowered me along the cavern walls. Deeper and deeper I went down into the pit and more and more fear welled up inside me. I’d never been inside a cave before, but our Explorer troop leader assured us that this would be the adventure of a lifetime.

Weeks before, our Girl Scout troop had met with the local Boy Scout troop. Our leaders had decided it would be a great idea to meld the two troops into one and call it “Explorers.” Of course, our group of pubescent girls were ecstatic to even think about doing things in the out of doors with a group of good looking, overly hormonal young men. Our leaders had no idea what they were getting into at the time, so the plans moved along and we kept our giggles to ourselves and our fingers crossed behind our backs.

Our first expedition would be an overnight camping trip to the extreme Northwest corner of Georgia as it borders Alabama. The leader of the Boy Scout troop knew of a great cave in that area and thought it would be perfect for teaching us the art of Spelunking. As we listened to him give an overview of our trip plans, we were both excited and nervous. None of the girls had ever been caving before and although we wanted to appear brave and fearless, we were literally trying to keep the noise from our knocking knees silent so the leaders could consult on which equipment was needed and what food we’d want to cook.

After the initial planning meeting was over, each of the girls in our troop went home with a long list of supplies in hand and the image of our chosen one, our male counterpart, in our head. We were sectioned off into pairs and our assigned hiking buddy was sadly a member of our own troop instead of the opposite as we had hoped. Girls would camp and hike with girls and the boys would do the same. Our leaders were no dummies. They knew how dangerous it would be to send a troop of rambunctious teenage girls into the dark with a troop of equally adventurous teenage boys. They didn’t want the name of our new troop, “The Explorers,” to be christened true on our maiden voyage.

The week was spent gathering our supplies and packing them into a bundle we could fit nicely on our backs. In the early 70’s, most of us didn’t have the convenient day packs hikers carry today. Our crafty mothers managed to sew bags with straps that would do the trick. I was lucky enough to have my Daddy’s army pack to use. Eagerly I crammed all of my gear into the pack. Our frugal Girl Scout leader told us to be sure and bring a water bottle and she suggested we use an old syrup bottle that had been rinsed out and prepared for that very purpose. It was a good idea in theory, considering water bottles weren’t yet popular at that time. We were told to wear grungy clothes that would take caked dirt and mud well. My Daddy’s U.S. Army coveralls would be perfect for that so I slipped them into the bag.

I could barely sleep the night before the trip. I was on the phone with my camping/hiking buddy most of the night. Cyndy and I were best friends in high school and in Girl Scouts so it was wonderful we’d been assigned to be each other’s partner for this trip. We giggled and plotted how we’d get to spend alone time with our dream guys. Cyndy had picked out a Senior named Greg and I had picked out a junior named Matt. Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, we drifted off to sleep with visions of those hunky guys wandering through our heads.

Our troops carpooled to the assigned location. All along the way, our leader, Mrs. Cameron, chided us on remembering to be on our best behavior. She expected us to act like ladies and not like love struck ninnies. We assured her we’d comply while secretly winking at each another and smiling.

After what seemed to be hours, we arrived at the mountain. Quickly, we unloaded our gear and rallied around the leader of the Boy Scout troop. He gave us instructions to stay together and listen well. He didn’t want to have to repeat things over and over again. He had a whistle around his neck. If we heard it blow, we were to stop dead in our tracks and stand still because he had something important to say. The girls in our troop raised our hands in the three fingered salute to indicate we had heard and understood.

There must have been about thirty teens and six adults, give or take a few…my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. We looked like ants following one after the other up the side of the mountain that day. When we reached the entrance to the cave, the whistle sounded. We heard, “Drop your gear” and so we did. We were told the entrance to the cave was in front of us and to achieve access to the cave, we’d each be lowered into the abyss via a rope/pulley type harness. As soon as I heard those words, my heart leapt into my throat. I hadn’t planned on this!

Our troops formed a semi-circle as the leaders prepared the harness. The first brave soul to be lowered into the mouth of the cave was the Boy Scout leader’s son. One by one, members of the boys’ troop went forward to take the plunge. The girls stood back with trepidation. “Oh, come on!” our leader yelled, “Who’s going to be first?” Reluctantly, I raised my hand. Someone had to do it! I stepped into the rope harness and felt it tighten around my waist. I was glad I’d already slipped on my Daddy’s Army coverall. The rope bit into my crotch area. I was so thankful at that moment I wasn’t a boy. I could just imagine what the rope would have done to my nether region if that had been the case! Slowly I was lowered down into the hole. I offered a silent prayer as I went.

As I was made my descent, I realized the sides of the cave walls were close around me. The opening was narrow and long. There were gnarly roots and sticks protruding from the cave walls. As I looked up, toward the entrance, I could see daylight becoming fainter and fainter. The scoutmaster stood overhead yelling, “Stop wiggling!” I was scared and I guess I was wiggling my legs in fear. It was about 30-40 feet before I felt my feet touch the bottom of the cave floor. When I did, the boys began to clap and cheer. I felt great! I’d made it! I was the first girl to do it and it was awesome.

The other girls and leaders were lowered into the cave and as soon as everyone was down, we did a sound off. Each person counted off by numbers. The leaders knew exactly how many of us there were and if the sound off didn’t meet that exact number, we weren’t going to be moving another step. Thankfully, everyone was present and accounted for and we could proceed.

The scoutmaster handed out headlamps and showed us how to use them. Our headlamps were attached to plastic helmets. Inside the little lamps were pieces of calcium carbide. When water was placed in with the calcium carbide stones, an acetylene gas was formed. When the gas was formed, a match would be lit and the miner’s lamp would provide light for our journey. It was very interesting to learn about the way these lamps were used in the past. It took a few minutes for all of us to get our lamps on and ready. We were told not to let our lamps go out and if they did, to stay put and wait for a leader to come to our aid.

With our lamps on, we could see the inside of the cavern. Our heads turned in all directions illuminating the cave. We were standing in a huge “room.” Stalactites and Stalagmites surrounded us. I’d never seen them before! They were amazing! These rock formations took hundreds and hundreds of years to form. As we looked at them, we heard a chittering sound overhead. Above us were thousands of tiny, black bats. We didn’t give a thought to the possibility of them carrying rabies, we were just awestruck at their presence. Little did we know, we’d soon be traipsing through bat guano.

We left the safety of the big room and began our Spelunking journey. The large room split off into various sections and each section twisted and turned randomly throughout the cave. We started out being able to stand and walk freely inside the cave but soon found ourselves having to kneel down and get on all fours as the cave narrowed.

The floor of the cave was cool with wet mud which also made it very slick. We could hear a distant dripping throughout the cave. One of the leaders mentioned underground springs and warned us to be careful as we proceeded. We used our hands when we could to hold onto the sides of the cave walls but were told not to damage any of the rock formations. Traveling through the small passageways gave me the willies. I had never been claustrophobic but I could feel the temptation to give way to it very easily in here.

Our headlamps shone brightly the first hour but began to dim as time ticked on. Each group leader had a sack of replacement stones in the event a lamp began to die. Constant laughter and chatter filled the cave as each group of two traveled off on their own. We had fun listening to our echoes as we would shout out a word and listen for it to travel back to us over and over again.

My partner and I had eased into a narrow passage and had just saddled a ledge. The ledge was so thin we found ourselves sitting down and scooting along it to reach our destination. Suddenly, horror struck! I’ll never forget the feeling of absolute terror when my headlamp went completely dark. There I was behind my friend, Cyndy, with my legs dangling on each side of a narrow cliff ledge in pitch black darkness. I know I must have screamed out because I heard her stop ahead of me. Her headlamp flashed my way as she turned her head in my direction. She must have seen the tears welling up in my eyes because she scooted backwards to be closer to me. There in the dark, I did as I was told. I sat and waited. We waited for about fifteen minutes and no leader came. Cyndy said she was going to go find someone to help us and I begged her not to leave me but she did anyway. I was terrified!

Have you ever read the book, Dante’s Inferno? Well, I hadn’t read that book at that time and I’m so thankful I hadn’t…but I did read it many years later as it was assigned reading for a high school class. In that book, there’s a description of the 9 circles of hell. Sitting there on that ledge in utter darkness, my imagination went wild! I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. My legs were dangling over who knew what and I was totally petrified by fear. I imagined that was what hell felt like.

I must have only been there for a few minutes but it seemed like hours. Cyndy came back with the leader and she took my headlamp and rekindled the fire. I was so thankful to have my precious light again. Cyndy and I edged our way across the ledge and back toward the way we’d come. We took a side path and ended up in another grand room with a very low ceiling. There we found the entire group enjoying their lunch beside an underwater lake. We sat down and took our lunch from our packs. I was so thirsty and reached for my repurposed Aunt Jemima syrup/water bottle to take a big swig of cool, clear water. What I got instead was a big gulp of nasty, soapy, syrupy tasting water! My mother, in her attempt to make sure my reused syrup container was clean, washed it not only with water but also with soap. The only problem was, she’d forgotten to rinse it out well and soap residue remained. Needless to say, this was not a good day for me! First the lamp went out and now, I was left to drink from a soapy bottle of water that would surely produce a good case of diarrhea if I’d continued to drink.

Soon the leaders were rounding us up. It was time to head out. I was never so glad to see daylight! When we made our ascent out of the mouth of the cave, I wanted to kiss the ground. I did kneel there for a few minutes but that was because we’d been in the cave so long our eyes had to readjust to the light.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this story and I’m getting there now, so be patient. The name of my new blog is Pink in my Rearview, leaving cancer behind. The name of my blogs aren’t taken lightly. My first blog was entitled Journey into Pink, the Big C has found me. When I first started blogging, I wanted to chronicle each step of my breast cancer journey. It was not only cathartic for me, but I wanted my experience to possibly help someone else as they began their own journey. When I felt, at the beginning of this year, God telling me it was time to move on…I knew I couldn’t keep chronicling my breast cancer journey on my original blog. Things were changing and God was moving me in a new direction, so I began a new blog.

The title of this post is called “Inching my way forward” because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I feel like I’m still in the cave, in the dark, stuck on that ledge. I’m sitting with my bottom in cool, damp, slimy mud and I’m wondering when the light is going to come on and illuminate my path so I can see where I’m going, but so far…there’s no light. I know I’m supposed to keep moving forward but all I can do is inch along. I’m scared and this is the time I’m called to be brave.

In the Bible, when I think about people who were brave, I think about Abraham. He had some big faith. When God told him to sacrifice his son, he did exactly what God told him to do but God stepped in at the last minute and kept him from thrusting the knife into Issac’s chest. When God told Abraham to leave his home and travel to the land where he would receive his inheritance, Abraham just gathered his things up and left, even though he had no idea where he was going. Now that’s brave.

It’s natural to want to cling to what we know is safe and sure and true, isn’t it? I know I feel much safer when I know exactly where I am and exactly what’s going to happen next. Certainty brings security. But I think God is trying to teach me that although certainty means I know what’s going to happen next, confidence means I can TRUST what’s going to happen next even if I don’t have a clue…even if I’m stuck on the middle of a ledge in the pitch black darkness like I was in that cave! Now I’m really hoping God never places me in a cave again, but I do know that He wants me to keep on moving even if it’s only inch by inch.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m doing my best to have faith. I’m doing my best to go where He wants me to go even if I don’t know where we’re going. I’m clinging to the verses in Proverbs 3:5-6 which say: “Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge andrecognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

So that’s where I am and hopefully, now you can understand why I used my Spelunking adventure to bring you to this point. I wanted to help you see and understand that sometimes God’s going to take us on difficult journeys. Sometimes He’s going to lead us down dark paths and we won’t have a clue where we’re going but even though we’re in the dark and it seems like we’re forgotten and lost…we’re never alone. He’s right there beside us, leading, guiding, and protecting. The Bible says even darkness is light to Him. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12.

And that gives me great comfort…just knowing that God’s headlamp never goes out. He can see perfectly well in the dark. He knows exactly where we are going and even though I don’t, I trust Him because He loves me and only has the best in store for me.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Running on Empty

 Late last year, I was totally caught off guard when I received a phone call from my son in love, Caleb, asking me what I was doing that day. “What a random call,” I thought to myself, as I listened to him chatter on. We made small talk for a few minutes and then, he got right to the point…”Mom, how would you like to come to Texas?” I almost dropped the phone, but managed to keep it from slipping from my hand. I pressed the phone a little tighter into my ear thinking I’d misheard him. “What did you say?” I asked. Once again, he repeated his question, “Mom, how would you like to come to Texas?” I told him I’d love to come. He knew I missed my oldest daughter and grandchildren more than anything. It had been a long time since I’d seen them. As I continued to listen, Caleb explained his plan. He was willing to drive all the way to Georgia to get me and then, turn right around and take me all the way back to Texas. Absurd!!! 900 miles each way and in less than 2 full days???!!! Yes, his plan was crazy, but it was a beautiful, wonderful, gift offered in love. I graciously accepted and cried at his kind offer. (Side note: The reason Caleb offered to come get me had to do with complications from my recent breast cancer surgery. I’d developed Lymphedema in my upper arms after the breast surgeon had determined cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. That swelling prevented me from flying so the only way I could get to Texas to see my loved ones was by automobile. Caleb explained he had a few days off work and he really wanted to do this for me, but he also wanted to do it for his wife, my daughter, Erin. She’d been struggling for several months feeling blue and missing her family. Caleb, in his generosity, wanted to give of himself and his time to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. So the plan was made for Caleb’s long drive and would be executed the following weekend.)

My husband and I were so worried about Caleb driving such a long distance with no one to relieve him. We began praying for God to sustain him as he prepared to leave Texas. All that week, we continued to pray. We asked God to keep Caleb alert and awake as he traveled and to provide mercy and protection along the way.

Caleb arrived late Friday evening, and when he got here, his face said it all…he was dead dog tired. (That’s a Southern Euphemism meaning he was more than exhausted…he could barely move.) We welcomed him in, talked a few minutes and then quickly ushered him into our guest room where he crashed hard.

Saturday morning, we were up bright and early. Our plan was to get on the road before 5:00 a.m. After a few cups of coffee, Caleb seemed to have a second wind. I could barely believe he was able to function after only about 5-6 hours of sound sleep, but he was ready to go. We loaded up the car, said our goodbyes to my husband, and headed out into the pitch black, pre-dawn hour. We had 900 miles ahead of us so we knew it would be a long, long ride. Caleb was going to be driving the entire trip solo but I assured him I’d do my best to keep him alert and I’d be a good co-pilot.

Within our first twenty miles, we experienced an usual incident. As we merged onto the expressway, and crested the top of a small hill, a huge, ten point buck was standing smack dab in the middle of our lane! Thank God, Caleb saw it and madly honked his horn, causing the deer to jet off to the side of the road. We both breathed a silent prayer of relief. That deer could have caused a a fatal accident and both Caleb and I would have left our loved ones behind as we were instantly transported to glory.

The sun was starting to crest and we witnessed a beautiful sunrise. Glorious pinks, blues, and yellows streaked across the skies. The day was crisp and clear. Soft music on the radio made our travel pleasant and conversation light. The miles seemed to drift by and soon we were entering Alabama. We slipped through that state quickly and were just on the other side of Louisiana. We were making really good time! I glanced over at the gas gauge and saw it was quickly approaching a quarter of a tank. I asked Caleb if he wanted to stop and get gas and he replied he would do that soon. On we drove and as we traveled, I continued to watch the gauge. It was getting closer and closer to E. I began to get nervous and looked around for the nearest gas station. Caleb seemed content to keep driving. I had no idea how much longer we could go before we’d be completely empty, but I knew it wouldn’t be much longer. I didn’t want to bug him about stopping to refuel, but I was very concerned. It would be scary to break down on the highway, so I began to pray…“God, we’re almost on empty. We really need gas and I don’t see a gas station anywhere. Please get us to one soon!”

Casually, I leaned over again so I could see the instrument panel. The needle on the gas gauge had reached a point where it had stopped moving. It was sitting exactly on E. Empty. EMPTY!!! I felt my hands curl tightly in my lap, indicating my fear was real. Would we make it? In just a few more miles, Caleb pulled into a gas station. Praise God! Just in the nick of time! As he was pumping the gas into the car, I felt my hands release their tension and I felt my heart slow down a bit. I was glad I hadn’t pushed Caleb to stop earlier because if I had, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have heard God’s silent whisper in my ear…“When you finally come to Me completely empty, I can fill you with more than you dream possible. Bonnie, you must learn to trust Me.” Wow. That was intense! Yes, Lord, I hear you…

For most of us, being on empty is a scary thing! I know it is for me! But, sometimes, it can be a good thing. When we empty ourselves of all the “junk” the world dishes out on a daily basis, we can empty ourselves preparing a huge void that God can, in turn, fill with His love and truth; but, we can’t take it in if there isn’t any empty space to contain it.

With the tank full again, we eased back onto the highway and were off. Caleb was enjoying a nice, hot cup of coffee and I was thanking God for His reminder that being empty is sometimes exactly where He wants us to be.
© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Friday, February 5, 2016

Have you thanked Him for it?

It was a cold winter morning and the warmth of the electric blanket swaddled me like a newborn babe. Although I was awake, I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I did what I usually do on those dark, snuggle down deep into your memory foam mattress moments…with my eyes still closed, I opened the drawer to my nightstand. My fingers drifted over bottles of pills and books until I felt my cell phone. Carefully, I lifted it out of the drawer and brought it over to the pillow lying on my chest. I reached back to close the nightstand drawer, because I’m a type A personality and I can’t stand to leave things left undone. 

I pressed the little button on the side of my Iphone and instantly was blinded by the light. I’d forgotten to turn down the brightness from yesterday’s jaunt to the mall. After finding my settings feature and readjusting the brightness to a lower setting, I jumped on the internet to find a sermon by my favorite preacher, Dr. Adrian Rogers. Although Dr. Rogers is now deceased, I love visiting his website, Love Worth Finding, and listening to his audio sermons.
I found a sermon on trials and adjusted the volume on my phone so I could barely hear it. I lay the phone right beside my ear and closed my eyes. Dr. Rogers had such a calming kindness to his voice and I enjoyed this quiet time with him in the wee hours of the morning. I listened intently as he talked about how God often uses trials to teach us. The words he spoke really touched my heart and made me think over past experiences with trying situations in my own life.

Dr. Rogers began talking about trials and the various reasons God allows them into our lives. He said that sometimes God uses trials to correct us with His loving hand and sometimes He allows trials to cause us to be more dependent upon Himself. He talked about Paul and how he was given some sort of ailment that caused him great pain. It was called a thorn in the flesh and he mentioned how Paul asked God three times to remove it, but God did not. Instead of removing the pain from Paul, God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). I thought about Paul and wondered what kind of pain he had. There’s nowhere in the Bible that explains that for us but some Biblical scholars suggest he had really bad eyesight while others suggest it was epilepsy or another malady. Whatever it was, God gave it to him to keep him from becoming “puffed up.”

In the middle of the sermon, Dr. Rogers made a statement that caused me to open my eyes and give him my full, undivided attention. He said, “If your trouble causes you to depend more upon God, can’t you realize we are to thank Him for it?” I had to replay that part of the sermon to make sure I heard him correctly, but before I had a chance to hit replay, Dr. Rogers said, “Have you thanked him for your trial?” Whoa! I paused the audio sermon and lay there in bed for a while mulling that statement over and over in my mind. I thought I’d come to pretty good grips with accepting and dealing with the breast cancer diagnosis I’d been given. Sure, it had taken me a while to do it, but I had done pretty good under the circumstances, or so I’d thought. But to thank God for it? Had I thanked Him for allowing me to have cancer in the first place??????? No, I had not.

I continued to listen to the rest of the sermon and Dr. Rogers continued giving reasons God allows trials. One more reason he shared was that God often uses trials to grow us in maturity, I was familiar with that one. I knew He’d used cancer to teach me so many things over the past year and a half. The sermon ended and I continued to lie there in the darkness. “Have you thanked Him?” kept echoing in my mind.

How do you thank God for allowing you to go through a very challenging time in your life? How can you be truly grateful for having to go through a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain? The more and more I thought about it, the clearer it became. I’d been doing a study on the book of Job last month and one verse in Chapter 2 connected the dots here. Job was talking to his wife after all of his children, livestock, and earthly possessions had been destroyed. His wife is telling Job to curse God and die but this is what Job says, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

It’s so easy to accept the good things from God, isn’t it? We all love it when He blesses us but when He sends or allows bad things into our lives, is it easy to thank Him for those too?

If we can look at trials and adversity as tools God uses to teach us, then yes, I think we can learn to thank Him for them, but often, in the middle of a trial, we can’t see very clearly. All we can see is the heartache and pain it’s causing us. We don’t see the reason for the trial until sometime later, after the trial is over…and sometimes, we don’t get an understanding of the reason for the trial for years and years down the road. In fact, God may not give us a clear answer on His reasons for the trial at all…ever.

As I continued to lie in the dark and think about Dr. Roger’s question, “Have you thanked Him for your trial?” I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I knew this was something I needed to do and I had to do it right then.

I turned off my phone and closed my eyes. I began to pray and share my heart with God. I told Him I was so sorry I hadn’t thanked Him for the trial of breast cancer. I told Him I knew He’d allowed it into my life to teach me and to grow me and to mature me. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I did it. And do you know what, I think God smiled.

I felt a peace in my heart after I’d thanked Him. I felt Him reminding me that I’m taking the right steps forward and that He’s got great things in store for me.

Nothing God ever does is random. He always does things in an orderly, perfectly timed fashion. Since I know Him and I know His character, I can trust Him.

The days ahead are filled with things I can’t see. I have absolutely no idea what He’s got in store for me in the next five minutes or in the next few days, but I will choose to trust Him and lean on Him for understanding and whether He sends good or evil into my life, I will choose to give Him thanks. The whole reason God is God and I am not is because He knows what’s best for us. He sees the whole picture. He knows when to use good things to teach us and when He needs to use difficult trials. Whatever He sends, whatever the reason, He should be given glory merely because He is God.

If you’re facing a difficult trial in your life right now, let me ask you a question, and I’m going to borrow from Dr. Adrian Rogers here…Have you thanked God for it? If not, remember, we’re supposed to. There’s a commandment that tells us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

In 1972, David Bowie came out with a song called “Changes.” The song deals with changes in our lives and how we deal with them. Change is never easy. It’s always hard to welcome change but sometimes it’s necessary. 

My new blog is all about moving forward and leaving pink behind, and while I hate to use the phrase “getting back to normal, ”that’s exactly what I’m doing. My normal will never be the same as it was before cancer, but it’s interesting to realize that normal is a relative term. Change is a good thing and God uses it to help us grow. I’m noticing some big changes in my life and here are some of the things I’m seeing after 19 months of focusing solely on surviving breast cancer.  

First of all, I’m still here! When I was first diagnosed, I immediately thought I’d been given a death sentence. Cancer is a scary word but it doesn’t necessarily mean imminent death. I’ve fought hard to be here and I’m glad God’s allowed me to continue living. I know He’s not done with me yet and He’s still got a big plan for my life. Each day, I’m trying to listen to His voice and seek direction on what that big plan might be. I’m trusting Him to lead me exactly where He wants me to go. 

Living in the moment is fun! It’s a lot less stressful to concentrate on the present instead of worrying about the past. When my mind starts to wander back to the past or forward to the future, I look down at my feet and remember where I am. Being firmly planted helps me remember to take one moment at a time. I never did that before cancer. I was always planning ahead or worrying about the future. A sweet friend encouraged me to always remember to be exactly where I am. That was really good, sound advice! 

I’ve stopped saying “I have cancer.” Now I say, “I had cancer.” There’s a big difference in the two. When I used to say I have cancer, I was acknowledging the fact that cancer was still active in my body. I’ve had 2 surgeries to remove it and I’ve completed my treatments. Cancer is no longer active in my body and the Lord willing, it never will be again.
I no longer spend the majority of my time in doctors’ offices or hospitals. I’m so thankful for that! This is a very, very, big change! 

I don’t care what people think about my flat chest. Since it’s winter, I still sometimes camouflage my chest with a sweatshirt or jacket. I don’t usually wear my prostheses, even though I have them. I’ve gotten used to being flat. My family has adjusted well to my flat chest, too. In the Spring, I might care a little more about the need to display femininity and begin to wear my prostheses, but right now, I’m fine without them. Learning to accept things as they are instead of as you want them to be is a definite change in my life. 

I’m getting out in public a little more. Breast cancer made me an agoraphobic. I got really comfortable staying by myself and being in the safety of my own home. Those chains have fallen off now and I’m free to go places and do things without stressing about my appearance. I’ve finally realized I’m not a total freak. Most of the time, people don’t even notice I have no boobs. 

It’s okay to cry whenever I want or need to cry. I’m really am quite a sap. There, I said it. I find myself crying more now than I did before I was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe I’m just starting to realize how very precious life is or maybe it’s just realizing I’m not quite as young as I used to be. In any event, tears leak out when I least expect it. I’ve always been pretty sentimental but now I’m even more so than ever before. Crying doesn’t necessarily signify weakness in me, it just shows the depth of the emotions I’m feeling. Being able to cry and not feel guilty is a big change. 

I pay attention to seatbelts now. I never used to give a thought to clicking on my seatbelt in the past. I did it out of habit. Now, I’m keenly aware of it. It’s uncomfortable for me to wear a seatbelt that crosses over my chest area. The belt rubs against my chest wall and although my scars have healed, they are still sensitive to pressure. I have a padded seat belt cover I use to help me feel more comfortable. 

I’m worry less now. I used to be a huge worry wort. I was always caught up in a world of “what ifs.” I didn’t like the fact that I worried, I just did it. It came naturally to me. Now, not so much. Now that I’ve passed one of the greatest “what ifs” I could ever imagine, nothing seems to bother me anymore. 

I’ve learned I’m stronger than I ever imagined. I never dreamed I’d be able to be victorious over breast cancer. There were some really tough days these past 19 months and sometimes, I just wanted to give up and stop trying but I never did. I kept going. I learned to persevere. There’s a quote from the Winnie the Pooh movie that I love and it says, “Always remember you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I have that hanging in my office to remind myself daily. 

I sometimes need a nap and that’s okay! I’ve never been a napper but now I find I get tired more easily than I did in the past. That could be a side effect of aging, too, but I never experienced this before cancer. My stamina may remain low, I just need to learn to set healthy boundaries for myself. It’s important to know what I can and can’t do and be okay with it. 

I overuse hand sanitizer. I’ve become a germaphobe. It’s pretty natural to want to keep germs at bay when you’ve been dealt the cancer card especially when your immune system is low. I keep a bottle of sanitizer with me at all times. There’s a bottle in my car, in my purse, and in every room of my home. People might think I’m obsessive, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. 

I can sleep on my stomach again! When I was young, I used to be a stomach sleeper. After I developed breasts, I became a side sleeper. I was afraid to sleep on my stomach for fear of squishing my valuable assets. Right after my double mastectomy, my chest was in such pain, I could barely stand to sleep on my back but now, after months of healing, I’m finally able to sleep on my perfectly flat chest if I want to do so. 

I’ve learned to let go of my hair. I loved my hair getting longer but it was getting so thin and was still falling out from the anti-hormone therapy. I finally gave in and got it cut off super short. It will be a lot easier to take care of and it looks thicker than it really is! 

I am drug free! Well, sort of…I’m cancer drug free. I still have my prescription medications I take for controlling high blood pressure and things like that, but I’m off of all cancer medications. It was my choice to leave the cancer medications behind. Nasty side effects weren’t something I was willing to accept. Now I keep my body in an alkaline state and have made dietary changes that will be more favorable for keeping cancer away. I take many natural supplements and drink lots of green tea, too. So far, so good!

So those are some of the many changes I’ve gone through since June 2014 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I know there are many more things God will teach me and I hope I’m a willing student. I want to learn all the valuable lessons He wants me to know and understand. I know there was a really, really good reason for Him allowing cancer into my life in the first place. He doesn’t do anything randomly. Our God is a God of order. I’m just so thankful He loves me enough to hand pick the trials and tribulations that come into my life.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Monday, February 1, 2016

Choosing Joy

Last night was a tough one. My jaws were hurting a lot from having two molars extracted on Friday and the pain medication wasn’t helping alleviate it much. I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. and dozed off about an hour later. In the wee hours of the morning, my pain became more intense and I got up to take another pain pill. I read the bottle before taking out one pill and saw the directions said it was okay to take 2 if necessary. I was afraid to take more than one. Codeine and I don’t do so well together and even though this was a synthetic form of Codeine, I didn’t want to chance it. I took the pill and went back to bed. Around 3:00 a.m. the pain had come back and I knew it was too early to take another pain pill, so I took an Advil. The combination must have done the trick because I fell asleep and didn’t wake up again until 8:00 a.m. 

I went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for my husband. I drooled as I made him boiled eggs and toast. Although it wasn’t a fancy breakfast, it was real food and I sure did want some! The last solid food I’d eaten was some mashed potatoes and I was really hungry. With the two gaping holes in my jaw, I knew it would be asking for trouble if I ingested anything other than liquid or semi-solid foods. As I opened the fridge, I looked at my choices: Boost, Jello, Greek yogurt or pudding. Nothing appealed to me but I made my selection and sat down at the table to pray. I thanked God that I had something to eat and I decided I’d better be happy about it.

Perspective changes everything. I could have decided to moan and groan complaining about my situation and my pain. Instead of focusing on the bad things, I chose to focus on the good things. One good thing about not being able to eat right now is knowing that I will eventually lose weight. If I don’t ingest calories, I won’t gain weight. My grocery bill will be much smaller. I won’t be able to eat solid food for a month or two. Feeding one person is much less expensive than feeding two.

When I do heal up and get fitted for my bridge, I’ll be able to make up for lost time and one of the first things I’m going to eat is a big slice of cheesy, vegetable pizza! I never thought I’d be one of those people who kept their teeth in a glass of water by the kitchen sink, like my grandparents used to do…looks like I shouldn’t have laughed so quickly in the past. And Polygrip…that’s another story that I see it in my future. I’ve definitely learned never to say never.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

For those with breast cancer, mundane tasks like grocery shopping can be a challenge. Before cancer, grocery shopping was a pleasurable ...