Thursday, December 22, 2022

Merry Christmas to me!


Today was my 6 month check up with the oncologist. I arrived about fifteen minutes early and took a seat in the waiting room. As I sat, waiting to be called back, the room slowly filled up with other patients. 

As I looked around the room, I noticed the various ages. The majority of people were my age or a little older and it made me sad to see so many with cancer. 

I could only see their eyes since everyone was having to wear masks. I looked at one or two people and they turned away. Though I was smiling at them beneath my mask, I wondered if they could tell. Did my eyes twinkle with friendliness? I hoped they did. 

Two elderly ladies sat next to me. When one turned toward me, I said, "Good Morning!" and instantly received a greeting back. Thank goodness there are some friendly people in the world. 

A few minutes later, I was called back. Instead of stopping at the scale first, they took me straight to the lab. I made small talk with the lab tech and watched as she pulled out a butterfly needle for my stick. She remembered I was a "hand only" stick due to the lymphedema in my arms. I was glad I didn't have to go through the whole spiel about why she couldn't use my arms like they usually do for blood draws. 

When she'd taken my blood, the nurse was waiting for me. Now it was time for the yucky part, weigh in. I stepped on the scale hoping I hadn't gained any weight and was pleasantly surprised to find out I'd lost 5 pounds! 

We sauntered down the hallway to the exam room, talking about our Christmas plans. Inside the room, Lolly (yes, that was her real name) took my vital signs. 

Dr. P came in a few minutes later and I couldn't help but smile. He was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. I remarked on it and he said they were having a staff party today and he was hoping to win the contest. 

We chatted a few minutes and I voiced a few concerns as he pulled up my lab results that had already been posted. He said my tumor markers were great, which was a wonderful relief to me! 

When he performed his physical exam, he hovered over the place at my left clavicle. As he moved the tumor around, he said, "I'm almost positive it's a lipoma so don't worry." He reminded me we'd already done an ultrasound on it and and MRI and nothing of concern showed up. He didn't feel we needed to do any more testing and I was glad to hear that. 

I asked when he wanted me to see him again and he smiled a big smile and said, "How about 6 months from now?" I said it sounded good to me. 

As I left his office, I felt like I was walking on cloud 9. I was so elated at the news that my tumor markers were good. Why is it that we always tend to expect the worst? 

So now, I am breathing easier and feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. No one understands what it's like to play the constant "what if" game over and over again in your mind unless you've been through a bout with cancer. It's like being on a never ending roller coaster. Some days are up and some days are down and if you're lucky, you get a nice long stretch of level ground in between there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Conflicted

Tomorrow is the big day. It's my annual visit to the oncologist. I'm struggling with my feelings. While I want to be hopeful and optimistic, I'm feeling fearful and filled with trepidation. 

Piedmont Hospital

Normally, these visits are uneventful. I go to the lab for bloodwork, where they do the typical tumor marker tests, and then I see the doctor. He usually sits and talks with me for about ten or fifteen minutes and then says, "I'll let you know if there's anything concerning on your bloodwork. See you next year!" And that's that. I leave the office and breathe easy for a while until it's time to do it all over again. But this time, I have several things to discuss with him, and since it's about time for me to have another PET scan, I'm expecting him to order one of those. 

And that's why I wonder, when and if, I'll ever be able to put cancer in the rearview. 

Today on Facebook, I got word of another friend whose cancer has returned. It seems every friend I've had, who shared a breast cancer diagnosis and took chemotherapy, has either passed away or had their cancer return. I, on the other hand, am still here. I can't help but wonder why. 

PET scanner

My faith, I'm sure, is the key factor in all of this. Without it, I imagine I'd be gone, too. But I keep telling myself God has a reason for me to still be here. There must be something more I'm supposed to do. 

This is a hard, hard time of year though for so many people. 

I was looking back through my iCloud photos from the past year and realized I've not only lost several friends, but I'd also had many friends who've lost their spouses. My heart grieves for all the losses. Sometimes, life is so hard. 

Our tree
Not only that, at Christmas, families are supposed to be together but so many are broken. And while I wish I could say mine hasn't suffered that fate; it has. Oh, if only things could be the way they're supposed to be, but all we can do is keep on praying and keep on believing that one day, wounds will be healed, and fences mended. 

Gosh. I didn't mean for this to be such a depressing post! I'm sorry! Don't get the wrong idea - I do have hope. 

Christmas is one of my most favorite times of the year. I love decorating! I love buying gifts and wrapping them. I love having some of my children and grandchildren here for the holidays. Sure, I'd love to have them all here with me, but they have families of their own and I have to be understanding. 

My advent wreath
I remember the days when my children were small. I had to split the Christmas holidays between visiting my parents and my in laws. By the time the day was done, everyone was worn out. One year, we decided to stay home and enjoy Christmas at our house. You'd think we committed a mortal sin by the way the parents and in laws acted, but I didn't care. I wanted my children to enjoy a very special time in their own home. We invited people to join us at our house and eventually, they came around, but I never heard the end of it. Sometimes you have to fight for your rights, even if it makes others a little miffed. 

Over the past few days, I've taken a step back from all of the hullabaloo associated with Christmas prep. I've asked God to shift my focus. Thankfully, since Hanukkah overlaps Christmas this year, I've been able to celebrate that along with Advent. Both of those have helped me think more about God and His wonderful love for us.

My menorah & nativity
No matter what news I receive from this oncology visit, I'm going to look forward to celebrating the new year by taking one day at a time. 

The Bible says none of us are promised tomorrow. Since I was diagnosed with cancer, God's given me the gift of being able to see that in a very real way. 

I'm so thankful He's seen fit to let me continue to live a little longer. I sure hope I don't any of the blessings He's given me for granted. 

Please offer up a prayer for me tomorrow and thank you in advance.

Many blessings, 

Bonnie

Monday, December 19, 2022

Breast Cancer Camaraderie is Real

The breast cancer community is made up of men and women who understand the importance of camaraderie. By showing each other love and support, no one ever feels alone. 

One of my friends went in for a diagnostic mammogram today. She’d opted to keep her breasts after her diagnosis with cancer, while I did not. That means she'll continue to have routine mammograms periodically for the rest of her life. And while I can't judge her for her decision, I wish she didn't have to go through the trauma of constant testing.

Having your breasts removed doesn't guarantee you'll never have breast cancer again. It just means if it ever returns, no matter where it decides to show up, it'll still be considered breast cancer — metastatic breast cancer.
It's a bum rap if you ask me. It seems that if you lop off your breasts, your chances of a recurrence should be nil, but that's not the case. And that makes me nervous.
When my friend told me about her mammogram, I immediately put it on my phone calendar adding an alert one day in advance, so I’d be reminded to pray for her. I’d also put in an alert for the same day as the test. I wanted to shoot her a text message letting her know she was on my heart.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but her scheduled test affected me negatively. It felt like I was right there with her. I could almost see myself moving forward with the mammography machine in front of me. I could almost hear the technician telling me to hold still as she lowered the cold plate down onto my breast. I imagined feeling the pain of the plates squeezing my breast as the tech went through the imagine process and could feel myself exhale as the plates lifted and I was allowed to step away.

I was thankful I wasn’t there with my friend, but it sure felt like I had been.

Camaraderie in the cancer community is real. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the breast cancer Facebook groups. Whenever someone posts about an upcoming test or facing a fearful situation, her sisters will rally offering words of hope and encouragement.
We need each other.

That’s one of the most powerful things I realized as I was going through my diagnosis and treatment. I never felt alone, even when I was alone, because there were always others with me in spirit. We may have lived hundreds of miles apart, but I knew I could count on someone to be available whenever I needed them. They were only a few keystrokes away.

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

I keep wondering how long it will take to forget about cancer. It's been eight years since I was diagnosed. You'd think that would be more than enough time to forget about it, but I haven’t been able to just yet.

My friend messaged me in the early afternoon on the day of her test. She’d thought she’d have the results the same day, but that wasn’t the case. I texted right back and told her I was praying for good results and told her not to worry. She said she’d let me know as soon as the results came in.

That night, I found myself thinking about her a lot. I wondered how she would react if the test revealed a recurrence of cancer. I imagined it would be devastating for her, but I also knew how strong she was. No matter what happened, good or bad, I felt in my heart she’d be OK.

Later the following day, she called and gave me the good news: no cancer recurrence! I was overjoyed for her and cried tears of happiness with her. It felt good to finally let out a sigh of relief. She expressed gratitude for my prayers, and I reminded her we both had much for which to be thankful.

Now she goes through another period of waiting. She’ll have a whole year to forget about cancer until time for her next mammogram and then, the process will start all over again.

In the meantime, I’m hoping she’ll take advantage of doing things she enjoys without feeling overshadowed by all the what ifs cancer brings. I’m going to do my best to be there for her celebrating the mundane. 

We don’t always have to focus on the big things. We can celebrate the small things, too. Those day-to-day occurrences we often overlook are just as important as the huge milestones. Taking a breath can be just as significant as letting one go.

Remember those high school days when you’d attend a pep rally before a football game? The cheerleaders would lead students in a string of rousing cheers that would get them “all fired up?” Well, the breast cancer community is like that. Camaraderie can help foster perseverance, strength, and hope. It’s a powerful force to love others and show them support.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to be on someone’s support team. It will not only bless them, it will also bless you.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Making Memories

Yesterday, my granddaughter, Heather, came over to bake cookies with me. For the past several years, I've had the honor of baking with her while her Mommy finishes up some last-minute Christmas shopping. It's a win win for all of us. I get to spend precious one on one time with Heather and Laura gets to have some much-needed Mommy time. 

This year was a little different. Heather's gotten older and is able to do a lot more than she'd been able to do in years past. Since she could read well and follow instructions, I decided to let her do as much as she could. 

We started out by pulling out ingredients. As I'd call out what we needed, she'd run to the pantry and look for the items. When she couldn't find something, I'd give her clues to help her located each one. After they were all assembled on the kitchen island, I pulled out a new Christmas apron I'd bought for each of us, and we put them on. The bright red aprons would protect our clothing from flour and other ingredients if we decided to get a little messy. 

Playing Jenga

Pulling out a large mixing bowl and wooden spoon, I gave Heather the recipe and we walked through it step by step. As she read down the instructions, we talked about what we'd use to carry out each task. I told her we'd need measuring spoons, measuring cups, a rolling pin, and cookie cutters to start with and then later on, we'd need decorating bags and various tips as well as royal icing. 

She was so excited as we began. Carefully, I helped her measure each ingredient and place it into the bowl. She was so tickled to use a little baking set Laura had purchased for her. There were multicolored measuring spoons, a tiny scraper, a little whisk, and a miniature rolling pin. 

When we had all the ingredients in the bowl, I pulled out the electric mixer and turned it on. I let her hold it with me for a few minutes so she could get used to how it felt and then, I let her hold it on her own. You should have seen her eyes get huge as the mixer wobbled in the bowl and she tried to control it! Thankfully, she was brave enough to hold on tight. 

We got the dough all mixed up and popped it in the fridge to chill. As it was chilling, we played a couple of games of Jenga, listened to some Christmas music, and she rewatched a quick children's video, Noel, the Happy Christmas Ornament. 


About an hour later, we pulled the dough out of the fridge and got busy rolling out the dough. Heather tried her best with that little rolling pin, but soon realized it wasn't doing the job well enough. She found my large, marble rolling pin to be much more efficient. 

We had such fun cutting out cat, dog, snowflake, gingerbread men and women, and other cute critters. 

I manned the oven putting cookies in and taking them out as they were ready while Heather worked on cutting more cookies. We made a great team and before we knew it, the time had flown! 

Stopping for a quick bite of lunch, we laughed over the mess we'd made in the kitchen. Sprinkles of flour were on the floor and the counters were covered in bits of cookie dough. Heather was worried about it and I told her we'd clean it up later. "It's all part of the fun," I told her. 

When the cookies had cooled, I pulled out the royal icing I'd prepared the night before. I'd made a bag with Christmas colors - red, green, and white. I affixed various tips on the bags and showed Heather how to hold and use them. Then, the real fun began. 

Intently, she worked to decorate each cookie. I loved watching her facial expressions as she worked and captured her with my cell phone camera. 

Laura joined in the fun and decorated a cookie of her own then showed Heather how to bite the head off!


I love making special memories with the grandchildren. I hope they'll think back on those special times as they grow older and remember the love that accompanied each moment we shared together. 

For me, being a grandparent means being able to share in a child's learning and growing process. We miss so much of the day to day growing up years, so when we have a chance to capture just a few of the minutes, it's a very special gift. 
 

Friday, December 9, 2022

Feeling Nostalgic

This is the time of year that I begin to really miss my childhood and it seems the older I get, the more I long for those simpler times. 

Today, I was remembering helping my mom set up the tree in our living room. We had an artificial tree, nothing fancy. It probably cost about $20 or $30 back then, if that and we probably got it at Kmart. My memory isn't as keen as it used to be, but there are many things I still remember so bear with me. 

After unboxing the tree and getting it into the stand, Mama would pull out the decorations. We'd always put the lights on the tree first. Usually, we had colored lights because Mama thought they were pretty. Some years later, we'd change to white lights, but during my childhood, we had the bright colors. 


When the lights were on, she'd pull out a package of tinsel. I always loved seeing that package of tinsel because inside the plastic wrapped box was a world of fun. Those shiny, silver strands of tinsel were the best! After she slit the box open, she'd let my brother, sister, and I begin to drape them onto the tree limbs. We did our best to be dainty about it, but every once in a while, when she wasn't looking, we'd throw the tinsel high into the air and watch if fall randomly on the tree. Before we knew it, that dull, dark green tree was covered in shimmery tinsel. To me, it didn't need anything else. I thought it was beautiful just like that, but Mama loved the decorations, so we always put them on next. 


The first decorations I remember were Shiny Brite ornaments. They came in a box and were very fragile, blown glass ornaments. Over the years, those ornaments eventually got broken. I hate it because now those things are collectable, and I'd give anything to have some of them. But anyway, I digress.

Among those beautiful glass ornaments were specialty ornaments. I don't know when she started doing it, but at some point, in our childhood, Mama began buying one special ornament a piece for my brother, sister, and I. She'd choose a unique ornament that represented some accomplishment in our lives or something that catered to a special hobby or event we'd participated in. Some years we'd get to help choose the ornament and other times; she'd choose it for us. It became an annual tradition and Mama said, "When you grow up, you can take your ornament collection with you to start your own Christmas tree." And that's exactly what we did. 

As each of us married, we gathered our box of ornaments and took it with us, leaving Mama and Daddy's tree practically empty. But it wasn't long before Mama was choosing new ornaments to don the tree. She especially loved the unique Hallmark ornaments. They were costly, but she didn't mind. We'd always marvel at the cute ornaments she chose. Each one marking something special in one of our lives. 

When the grandkids came along, she'd buy ornaments for them, too. There was never a shortage of Christmas ornaments in the house! 

That tradition of buying an annual Christmas ornament continues through our family to this day. 

It's always fun to look back at our collections and remember what the ornament represented but more than that, remembering the joy something so simple brought to Mama. 

My box of special ornaments has disappeared. I've looked high and low for it and can't find it. All I can think is during our last move, those ornaments were either left in the attic or got lost on the moving truck. They've just vanished, and it makes me sick. I've thought about trying to replace many of them, but I can't even remember all the ones I had back then. 

Now I make my own ornaments and make ornaments for others, too. I try to do a special handcrafted one each year. To me, it's a way of using my talents to bless others, but I still miss my childhood ones. Nothing can ever replace those. 

I remember sitting on the sofa late in the evenings as a child. I'd sit there and just stare at the Christmas tree. The twinkling-colored lights looked so pretty and the way they lit up the tinsel next to them was magic. 

When I was much, much younger, we used to have an aluminum Christmas tree with a multi-colored wheel that sat underneath it. As the wheel slowly turned, it would emit a color onto the tree - Red, Yellow, Green, or Blue. I loved watching the color change and would find myself hypnotized by the constancy of it. 

Oh, those days seem so far away but how fresh they are in my memory. If I could travel back in time, I'd find myself once again in our little living room laughing with my siblings, tossing tinsel in the air, and waiting for the big day to arrive. 


Thursday, December 8, 2022

The annual 100 book challenge


I'm coming down the home stretch of my self imposed annual 100 book challenge. For the past several years, I've been able to complete reading 100 books and it's been so fun! I love reading and find there are so many new and different books I haven't read in my lifetime. I especially enjoy reading true life stories. 

My most recent book, High Achiever, by Tiffany Jenkins, was about a recovering drug addict. It was a quick read, and I found the author's writing style to be open and honest. As I read about her life, I could not only sympathize with Tiffany, I could also picture myself in her place. It would have been so easy to fall into the world of addiction, especially when facing challenging life events. 

As I dug into the story, I was able to understand a little more about the "why" behind Tiffany's choices. Doing my best not to judge her, I could only think there but for the grace of God go I. 

I was a teen in the early 70s. Back then, drugs were plentiful and readily available. The first drug I was exposed to was marijuana. In the high school bathroom, a friend asked if I wanted a hit off of her joint. At that particular time, I was very naive and repulsed so I said no, but later on, when the opportunity was presented again, I said yes. That rash decision led to an introduction to many other illegal substances. I won't go into more detail other than to say, I can definitely understand a small portion of Tiffany's life due to firsthand experience. 

Now, many states have legalized marijuana, and many doctors are finding the use of CBD beneficial for helping those with cancer or other illnesses. 

At the cancer treatment center, I was given instructions to use CBD for pain management. Though marijuana isn't legal in Georgia, it was easy to find stores that sold hemp products or CBD products without THC. (THC is the part of cannabis that gives the "high.") Truth be told, the CBD is beneficial, not only for pain, but also for anxiety. 

Sorry, didn't mean to go off on that tangent!

I have two more books to read before the end of the year. I'm reading Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and Guests on Earth. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen is a funny book about life in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia. The author writes similarly to Fannie Flagg. I enjoy this type of book when I need something lighthearted, and I was thankful a cousin sent it to me for my recent birthday. 

The other book I'm reading is Guests on Earth. It's a more serious book about a young girl's time in a mental institution. 

They're very different books and yes, I'm reading them simultaneously! I've only got 23 days until the end of the year. 


I've already started thinking about next year's challenge and I'm looking for book suggestions if you'd like to leave a comment. Also, I'm thinking about resolutions for the New Year. One of which will be to try and blog more often. I've been so busy this year it seems time has flown by, and I haven't accomplished all the things I had planned. I guess that's just life though, right? We make plans and have good intentions and then life gets in the way. 

I did pull down my wall calendar and look over places and events for 2022. I use my calendar as a sort of visual journal. By jotting down important trips and events, it helps me compile information for my annual Christmas newsletter. I usually send those out to a select few family and close friends who've expressed an interest in keeping up with my shenanigans. It's always fun to do but I've learned, unless I keep good notes, I'll forget what I did and when. 

My brain has definitely aged. I can remember things from the past clearly but couldn't tell you what I had for lunch yesterday! 

Anyway, I thank you for taking time to read my blog and I promise, I'll write more often next year. I won't promise to make daily posts, but I'll try my best. 

If you've never tried to read 100 books in a year, do it! And if you need some suggestions, visit the website: Goodreads | Meet your next favorite book

Happy reading! See ya next time! 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Sweet dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Jimmy in the camo hat)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Her name was Rain


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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Restless

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

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

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

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

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

But why?

Is it this season of life? 

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




Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Don't look back

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Tuesday thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2022

I Adopted an Emotional Support Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penny in her sweater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Dry Shampoo, a Possible Cancer Risk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Will the cancer screenings ever end?


 This morning I was scheduled for an MRI. At my recent visit to see the oncologist, he was concerned about my mentioning an increase in spine and hip pain, so he scheduled more testing. I was thankful he was being proactive but was concerned about the financial end of it. MRIs are expensive. 

I arrived at the imaging center about fifteen minutes early. After signing in and paying my 20% portion, I sat down. I wasn't expecting to pay that large amount. Thankfully, I had tucked a credit card into my wallet just in case. 

When the technician called me back, she asked if I had any metal in or on my body. I didn't. I'd been through this before and knew to remove all metal from my clothing and on my body. She showed me to a locker room where I could store my things and then took me to the imaging room. 

In front of me was the big, ugly torture chamber. I'm very claustrophobic and struggle to make it through testing. I asked the tech how long I'd be in the tube, and she said, "Probably about an hour and 45 minutes." Wow! I wasn't expecting that either and questioned her. She said, "You'll be having 3 MRIs today - one on your cervical spine, one on your thoracic spine, and one on your right hip." Oh, joy. That explained the large amount I had to pay at the front desk - 3 testes instead of one. 

I'd taken half an anxiety pill before arriving at the center. I knew it was going to be stressful being in the machine. I couldn't stand having the sides pressed tight against me and feeling entombed. The medication helped for about the first 30 minutes of testing and then it wore off. 

I kept my eyes closed the entire time. I didn't want to see how close the machine was to my face. Thankfully they had air flowing through the tube so I didn't feel like I couldn't breathe but the earplugs and headphones did little to muffle the large metal ball banging sounds as the scans commenced. 

The tech had told me she'd play some music through the headphones for me and asked what kind I liked. I told her Boney James and she said she'd find some on Pandora before starting the test, but I guess she forgot. 

When I started to get anxious, I pressed the emergency call button and asked her how much longer I'd be in the tube. She said another hour. I asked if I could come out a few minutes reposition myself. My hip was hurting so badly on the hard table. 

She slid me out and said my timing was perfect. After I'd gotten a little more comfortable, she said she was about to perform the hip study. Positioning a foam block between my ankles, she turned them inward and then strapped them together with a long velcro strap. Next, she placed some sort of frame over my hips and slid me back into the tube. 

I didn't think I'd ever get out. I lay there and prayed as the banging continued. When she finally slid me out of the tube, a took a high sigh of relief. 

It took a few minutes to get up off of the table. My hip and back were hurting but also, I was dizzy. Managing to move into a sitting position, I sat on the side of the table for a few minutes as she prepared a disk for me. The disk would have all of the images loaded and I could look through them if I wanted. They'd also send a copy to the doctor. 

When I got home, I popped the disk into my computer. The images loaded and I began to look at them. It was interesting to see inside my body. There were some things I recognized and some I didn't. 

Hopefully, in the next day or two, my oncologist will give me a report of the findings. I'm curious to hear what the test showed. I guess the next step will be to see an orthopedic doctor for the pain, but I'm not sure. 

There were some odd white blobs on the cross section of my brain. Those were quite concerning and have me wondering if I possibly have a brain tumor like my grandmother did. I pray not! 

Anyway, now I play the game of hurry up and wait. I'm not a very patient person. I guess God is trying to teach me that lesson. Maybe I learn it one of these days. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

 


Many years ago, I decided to host a family reunion for my Dad's side of the family. We rarely got together, and I thought it would be a good idea, so I began putting things together. 

I talked with my Mother and Sister, asking for their thoughts on the idea. They both thought it would be nice and so I moved forward. 

After drafting an invitation, I set a date and circled it on my calendar. I was excited to see cousins I hadn't seen in years. 

For days, I cleaned every inch of my house (which was normally very clean anyway.) I made sure to dust the ceiling fans and make sure every bathroom sparkled. I wanted my guests to feel free to roam through my entire house, after all, there would be almost 30 people coming! 

The day before the event, I went shopping and began to prepare the food. There was a lot to do in such a short amount of time, but with the help of my daughters, things began to fall into place. 

My refrigerator was filled with casseroles that I'd just pop into the oven hours before the guests began to arrive. Coolers were filled with ice and canned drinks. Tea had been made; tables had been set up. My home was beginning to look like an event hall, and I was happy. 

Hospitality isn't a gift I've ever claimed to have. It's one I've struggled with. I don't do well with the sitting and visiting part, but since the Bible says to "practice hospitality," I do my best. 

One by one, family members started to arrive. I welcomed them one by one and did my best to make them feel at home. 

Since I had things in the oven, I couldn't stay in the living room long. I had to keep going into the kitchen to make sure nothing was burning. And since several family members were already there, I figured they could talk amongst themselves while I busied myself attending to details. I was in full on "Martha” mode. 

When everyone had arrived, I showed them the varied tables set up for dining. They could choose where they wanted to sit and I had plenty of room. The older relatives, including my parents, chose to sit in the formal dining room. The kids sat at a card table in the living room, while most of the other family members scattered between my kitchen table and a long folding table set up in my formal living room. After everyone had their place, I asked people to take their plates and begin moving through the kitchen buffet style. 

As people filled their plates, I moved among them asking what they'd like to drink and asking if anyone needed anything. There were so many of them and only one of me! 

Soon, pleasant chatter filled my home, and I began the task of going from one room to another asking if anyone needed help. Some needed salt or a drink refill. I happily obliged. 

I don't know how long I served, but time was ticking by. 

On my next round through the formal living room, my cousin, Steve, patted the seat next to him and said, "Come sit down and visit with us." Throwing my head back in laughter, I chortled, "I'd like to, but I've got to keep moving! There's so much to do." He didn't press me, and I continued my busy work. 

The reunion was a huge success and my Daddy enjoyed it so much. That was my main goal, to bless him. 

Today, as I was studying about the the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus again, God hit me between the eyes. "Remember the reunion when Steve asked you to sit and visit?" "Yes, Lord, I do." "You didn't. You should have. Why didn't you?" " I was so busy. I didn't have time." "You should have made time. You would have been blessed." "Ouch!" Of course, that's my conversation with the Lord in my mind, and some of the words are very different, but it's the jest of it. That's when I realized, I'd been a Martha. 

I'd always wondered why Jesus chided Martha for her busy-ness and had pointed out that Mary chose the better part. I always thought Martha was doing a good thing, making sure everything was just so, but Jesus knew better. Martha did use her gift of service to please others but in so doing, she missed being able to sit and visit with the guests. Most of all, she missed being in the presence of Jesus and hearing Him speak. 

I missed visiting with my cousins. I missed the conversations that held years of updates, but by the time the reunion was over, it was too late to visit with anyone. 

My kitchen had been a beehive of activity and I'd been the queen bee but during that time, the "hive" had been busy laughing, loving, and lingering. I'd missed it all! 

And just a month ago, I missed another opportunity as my youngest sister and a cousin planned another family reunion. I'd had a scheduling conflict and had to choose between two events. Instead of choosing to reschedule an anniversary/birthday trip, I opted to skip the family reunion thinking there'd be time to do another one in the near future, but that may never happen. 

As God reminded me of those lost opportunities today, I wept bitter tears of remorse. I wanted a do over. But now, many of my family members are no longer here. They've already gone on to heaven. 

One thing I can do though is make time now. 

I won't ever forget the lesson I learned from that big mistake. I've asked God to help me be more Mary-like. Who cares if the dishes are in the sink or on the counter? It's more important to be present with the people I love and care about. Time is short and I won't make that mistake again. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Let go of the victim mentality

Victim. The dictionary defines victim as a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action. That about sums it up. It's how I see myself - as a victim of cancer. I didn't ask for cancer. I never expected it. But it came. And when it did, it did a number on me.

You'd think, after 8 years, I'd have let go of the victim mentality, but I haven't. I didn't even realize I was suffering from that type of thinking until recently. 

After a bout of Covid and then several consecutive illnesses, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I blamed it all on cancer or cancer related fatigue, really, since cancer, as far as I knew, wasn't still active in my life. But ever since diagnosis, I haven't felt myself. My energy level was practically non-existent. I was finding it difficult to get through each day without making myself do the things I needed to do. Every day was exhausting but I pushed through and did what I needed to do anyway. 

It wasn't living, it was existing. There was no happiness or joy. I wanted to thrive, but I didn't know how. How do you celebrate life when it takes every ounce of energy to get through a day? 

Oh, I'd wake up each morning, thanking God that I'd made it one more day but as the day wore on and I faced one challenge after another, I wondered why it was so hard. So, I asked Him. On my face, in my prayer closet, I wept turning my burden over to the Lord. 

"Why can't I let go and break free?" I asked. In that still small voice, He said, "You've got to let go of the victim mentality." 

Though I heard the words clearly in my mind, I was shocked. Had I really been living that way? Had I been thinking that way? I didn't consider myself a victim...not really...but I guess, somewhere in the back of my mind, I did. 

Eight years had passed. You'd think I'd have long since left thoughts of cancer behind, wouldn't you? But that nagging fear had taken root and wouldn't let me go. Every ache, every pain, every uncontrollable thing my body did made me wonder if I was going to be under attack again. 

That's what cancer felt like to me - an attack, just like a rape or a robbery or some other violent crime, an unprovoked, unexpected assault on my person. No wonder I'd adopted a victim mentality!

After any kind of attack, whether it be health related or otherwise, the victim has to decide whether or not to survive. Something inside them has to "want to" keep living. Making that choice is crucial and can greatly impact one's future. 

So, I had to come to the realization that I wanted to live. Not only did I want to live, I wanted to live well. I wanted to do the things I enjoyed and have fun doing it. No longer did I want to allow my body, and the way it was feeling, to dictate my choices. 

I asked God to forgive me and asked Him to help release me from the victim mentality I'd been clinging to and I'm happy to say, He has! 

The day He revealed my stinkin' thinkin' to me, I was dumbfounded. First of, that He'd point out my flaw. But He didn't do it in an accusatory way, the way Satan would have, He quietly and sweetly whispered to my heart and said, "You've got to let go..." 

I knew, He wanted the best for me because that's the way my Abba is. He loves me unconditionally. He knew I needed to be set free and He gave me time to come to the point of need so He could swing wide the gate and point me to freedom. It had to be my choice. 

Since making the decision to let go, I've felt an indescribable weight lifted from my shoulders. No longer am I carrying around a burden I wasn't supposed to bear. Now, it's like I've been given a new lease on life. 

Sure, I still struggle with fear, worry, and anxiety and I probably always will. Those are weak spots in my armor, but I know, He's got me. He won't let me fail as long as I walk with Him and trust Him. And no matter what comes into my life, He's able to handle it. I won't have to handle it alone. That gives me great comfort. 

My calendar already has several upcoming trips on it and I'm looking forward to those. In the past, I'd be hesitant to go anywhere because of the possibility of catching Covid or having a health crisis. Now, I move forward in faith. 

I'm so glad God allowed me to see the error of my thinking. I'm thankful He loved me enough to point out improper thoughts and gave me the key to freedom. Now I can honestly say I'm working on learning to celebrate life in big ways and in small ways, every single day. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Old memories sneak up when you least expect them

My friend Karen and I, both survivors 

Yesterday, I went in for an abdominal CT scan. I'd been having a lot of digestive issues over the past couple of months and the doc felt it would be wise to do some further testing. I didn't realize it until we pulled up to the building, but I'd been there before. 

As we sat outside the diagnostic imaging center, I did my best not to think about the last time I was there. It had been shortly after we'd moved to this town and I was so unfamiliar with the city. 

We went inside the register for my test and that's when I saw it - the big pink neon lighted ribbon on the wall just in front of the registration desk. I remember seeing it 8 years earlier, the day I'd been sent over to have a diagnostic mammogram. 

I'd been petrified that day. Not only was I scared to death of what they'd find, I was scared to death because I was alone. I'd never really had to pull up my big girl panties before, but I definitely had to do it that day. I didn't like it one bit. Yeh, I was an adult, but I liked the comfort of having someone with me whenever I had a medical procedure done. It put my mind at ease knowing someone else was close by. 

I filled out the registration forms and sat down. In the waiting room, I watched as more and more people filed in. Trying not to stare, I wondered how many were there for mammograms. It didn't take long before I found out. 

Several women sat in chairs across from me. It wasn't difficult to overhear their conversations. One woman was there for her very first mammogram. She had her mother with her, lucky girl. Two middle aged women, clearly good friends, sat together chatting about their last mammograms. They were diligent about their breast health because they had family histories of breast cancer. A much older lady came in and went up to the desk. She reminded me of my mother in law, who'd passed away from breast cancer many years ago. This sweet gray haired lady had come to the wrong office. The receptionist explained her appointment had been at another facility where 3D mammograms were done. This facility only did 2D exams. She offered to help the elderly woman reschedule her test or contact her doctor to see if a 2D exam would suffice. The older lady opted for the 2D exam if her doctor would agree to it. She didn't want to inconvenience her travel partner by having to change locations. 

I watched as she took a seat and waited for news. My heart went out to her. I felt like she'd probably had a brush with cancer previously from the way she acted and the bits of conversation I overheard as she talked with her driver friend. 

That moment, I felt a wave of emotions I wasn't expecting to feel. I didn't want to even think about breast cancer again. I'd done my best to forget it. After 8 years of survival, I felt pretty good about being "out of the woods." But in the back of my mind, I always have a niggling voice saying, "You're not done." I do my best to drown out that little voice every time it dares to speak. Some days it whispers. Some days it yells. When I can, I say out loud, "Not today, Satan!" It helps. 

The constant fear of recurrence is a real thing. It's hard to live a life of uncertainty but no one is guaranteed tomorrow. The only thing I can do to stay ahead of it is to recognize the fearful thoughts as they come and remind myself that feelings aren't fact. 

I do a lot of self talk. I journal. I use art as therapy. Anything I can do to keep my mind from going to that dark place in the past, I do. 

One day, I know I'll die. We all do. Until that day, I want to live my best life possible. 

I found a form online, a short survey, for those who think they have a fear of cancer recurrence. I decided to take it and see where I fell on the spectrum. There were only 9 questions and the ratings went from 0- which meant no fear at all to 4 - which recorded a great deal of fear of recurrence. 

Some of the questions asked on the survey were: 

I'm worried or anxious about the possiblity of a cancer recurrence 

I believe I'm cured and the cancer won't come back

In your opinion, are you at risk of a cancer recurrence? 

How much time a day do you think about a cancer recurrence?

Those are just a few of the questions. Out of the 9, I scored 29. I have no idea what a healthy score is because I couldn't find the scoring criteria or an evaluation of the "test." I assume I fell within the moderate range - the range I assume most survivors fall into, but I'm not sure. I may be an anomaly. I do know it's affecting my quality of life in a negative way. I need to figure out a way to correct that. 

I'll see my oncologist in two weeks for an annual exam. I imagine he'll want to do a PET scan since I haven't had one done in the past 2 years and I've been having some significant spinal pain. While there, I'll talk with him about this test and get his feelings on ways to combat FCR (fear of cancer recurrence.) 

In the meantime, I'm going to cling tightly to this wise quotation: 

"Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Fear is an emotion you can't see or touch, but you can certainly feel it's power. Finding a way to strip it of that power can only be conquered by faith. And I have faith, even though it's just a little bit...the Bible says, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to a mountain be moved into the sea, and it will be moved!" I'm not sure I have that much faith but I'm close. 

Here's a link for the form if you'd like to take it yourself: 

Fear of Cancer Recurrence Inventory-Short Form (FCRI-SF) Screening (cfp.ca)


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