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)


Friday, September 2, 2022

The powerful impact of a novel

I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand, yesterday. I'd only recently discovered her and had fallen in love with her writing style. I'd done my best to purchase every book she'd ever written and when that was impossible, I'd scoured thrift stores in hopes of finding used copies. I tend to do that repeatedly when I find an author I really enjoy and after I've read their entire collection, I pass it on to someone else and start with another author. 

The book I was reading was called The Matchmaker. It's about a woman who lives on Nantucket. She works for the Chamber of Commerce and has a complicated personal life. She also has the gift of being able to match people and launch them into successful long-term relationships. The book is filled with colorful characters and is an easy read. I picked it up and put it down several times over the past couple of weeks, reading snatches whenever I had time. Although I never wanted to put it down, I couldn't sit and read all day, there were other tasks at hand. 

When I reached the last chapter of the book, I was filled with sadness. The main character is dying of cancer. As the author describes her pain and the way her diagnosis affects her relationships, I couldn't help but weep. The story was too close to my own. 

I found myself reliving emotions I'd faced 8 years ago, during my own cancer diagnosis. It didn't feel good to go down that path again and I wondered, when I'd ever be completely set free from the hold cancer had over me. 

In the author's notes, at the end of the book, I discovered she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer a month before the publication of her book, The Matchmaker. She'd opted to have a double mastectomy, just like me. Her notes explained she rarely based her writings on real life events, but in this particular book, she'd given the main character a cancer diagnosis before learning about her own. Of course, the character's cancer was pancreatic while the author's was breast, but cancer is cancer.  

I was surprised to learn of the author's diagnosis and surgery. When I read about it, I couldn't help but think, almost every woman I've ever known or read about has had either a personal experience with cancer or has been touched by it through the life of someone they've loved. It made me angry. 

I searched the internet for information on the author. I wanted to find out if she was still living. The book had been released in 2014, so that meant Ms. Hilderbrand and I had been diagnosed the same year. I was relieved to find out she's still alive and plans to stop writing in 2024. 

In one of her YouTube interviews, Ms. Hilderbrand says, "I would take the cancer again - and why? Because it is only in facing that which threatens your very being that you learn what it means to be alive."  That statement gave me pause. Taking a few minutes to reflect, I had to agree with her. I felt the same way. Until I was diagnosed with cancer, I took life for granted. Oh, I didn't mean to, but I did. I just assumed I'd wake up each morning. I assumed, I'd get out of bed and do whatever I wanted. I assumed, I'd live to a ripe old age and then when cancer disrupted my life, I was slapped with the reality that no one is promised tomorrow. 

It's sad to think it takes a health crisis to wake one up, isn't it? But more often than not, that's exactly what happens and many times, by the time we get the message, too much time has slipped under the bridge. 

One thing cancer has taught me is that life is a precious gift, one not to be squandered. I can honestly say I'm thankful it's taught me that. Now I cherish every moment and plan to keep on doing that until the day I die. 


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Mountain Getaway

This past weekend, we had a lovely getaway to the mountains. We always enjoy going to North Georgia at the end of Summer or the beginning of Fall. This year, we went a little earlier than usual, so the trees hadn't started turning yet. It's always so pretty when the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of the leaves dot the mountainside with color. Even though the mountains were just covered in greenery, it was still pretty and we enjoyed the peacefulness. It's amazing what going days without hearing any traffic does for the soul. 

If I had my way, we'd live in the mountains in a little log cabin. I've always wanted to live in one and so has my sweet hubby. But as we grow older, we've realized we have to let some of our dreams go and err on the side of practicality. We need to be around family and all of the kids live in the city. 

Next year, we'll be making some big decisions on where we want to be for the remainder of our lives. We have no idea where God will lead us, but we're trusting He's got it all worked out for us. 

It's hard no knowing what the future holds, but really, all we can do is plan and hope things work out, right? I mean "Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” Despite our most careful planning, the Road of Life is unpredictable. I guess that's what makes it so fun!

Sometimes I wonder if God is sitting up ther on His big white throne looking down from heaven watching us like little ants. Of course, He knows what we're going to do before we do it, because He's Omnisicent, but it'd be fun to know how He sees us. Does He sit like a doting Father, hand to forehead thinking, " Oh no! Don't do that!" or "If you only knew what that choice would bring..." Since we have the gift of free will, He doesn't interfere with our choices but Jeremiah 29:11 says He has a good plan for us, to prosper us and not to harm us. 

Growing old is for the birds. I don't like it one bit! My body balks when I get out of bed. Joints and muscles I never noticed before now scream out in pain. When I look in the mirror, I see more gray hairs, more wrinkles, and more saggy skin. Daily I'm reminded this old body is wearing out. 

Sure, I could have taken better care of it when I was in my teens, but who thinks about approaching 70 then? When we're young we think we're immortal, but oh, how quickly time proves us wrong. 

Several of my friends have lost their spouses recently and those losses have caused me to give pause to my own life. What would I do if I suddenly lost my mate? I'd be so lost and lonely I couldn't bear it! I don't even want to think about it, so I'll change the subject now. 

I'm reminded God has numbered my days. I don't know how many He's allotted to me, but my time is in His hands. That's why I'm doing my best to take one day at a time now and enjoy each one to the fullest. It's hard, especially for a long term planner like me, but I'm trying. 

Vacations help slow me down. That's why we try to take one or two a year. When I'm on vacation, I don't think about the day to day routines, I'm more apt to let my hair down and just chill. Believe me, this old body needs to do a whole lot more of that! In fact, it could use being put on ice a few days! 

If you're finding yourself stressing out about daily life, plan a mini vacation. Get way from the daily grind. Find a place of respite and soak in some peace. It will do wonders for you, it surely will. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Honoring My Icon

Olivia Newton-John
When news outlets announced the death of one of my favorite singers, Olivia Newton John, I wasn’t prepared for the gamut of emotions I’d face. At first, I was shocked. I knew she’d been fighting breast cancer for many years and had done my best to keep up with her story. I’d been interested in her use of marijuana and had been surprised to learn she and her husband had been growing their own for medicinal use.

As I continued reading about her death, I became overcome with feelings of deep sadness. Ms. Newton-John had been initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and had faced a recurrence in 2012 when cancer was discovered in her shoulder, then in 2014, it had moved into her spine.

She’d spoken openly over the years about breast cancer and had seemed to stay positive and upbeat. I’d admired her tenacity.

I first fell in love with Olivia Newton-John in the early 70s when she released her song, “I honestly love you.” In fact, I had that song played at my wedding. It was such a sweet, heartfelt song and completely conveyed my feelings toward my husband.

When the movie, “Grease,” came out, Olivia became everyone’s sweetheart. As she sang and acted alongside heartthrob, John Travolta, audiences were captivated. She was portrayed the all-American girl. I wanted to be like her.

In 2014, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I scoured the internet for information and in those searches, Olivia Newton-John kept popping up. I read everything I could about her and learned about her life pre and post cancer. As I read about her use of marijuana, because of its CBD content, I spoke with my doctor about it. If it was good enough for Newton-John, it was good enough for me. He was on board when I mentioned wanting to try it and I had a good experience. I even wrote an article about it hoping to share valuable insight with others.

As more details were announced regarding Ms. Newton-John’s death, my emotions changed from sadness to fear. If her cancer could return many years after her initial diagnosis, mine could, too. Standing in the kitchen, cellphone in hand, I began to weep. My husband came over to hold me and asked what was wrong. I began to explain about my superstar’s death and openly shared my fear of recurrence with him. “Don’t worry,” he said, “You’re going to be okay. You’re an 8-year survivor.” Though I heard the words he was saying, I didn’t believe them. Yes, I’m an 8-year survivor, but every day I live afraid.

Some days the fear is more prevalent than others. Most of the time, I can push it to the back of my mind, but when I experience a sudden illness, or an odd pain somewhere in my body, I wonder if the cancer has come back. I don’t want to live that way. Many survivors experience similar feelings. It’s a type of post cancer PTSD.

As I write this post, something outside the window catches my eye. It’s a beautiful swallowtail butterfly on the butterfly bush. I can’t help but focus on it. I love butterflies. As I watch it flit among the flowers, I notice something – this butterfly has 2 broken wings! There’s a big chunk taken out of the lower left wing and a piece missing from the top right. Coincidental? I don’t think so. I think God allowed me to see that specific butterfly today as a reminder. Butterflies with broken wings, can still fly. And I can still live without my breasts.

Should cancer recur in the next few days, months, or years, I’ll do my best to get through it. If that broken butterfly can still fly, then why shouldn’t I try to thrive, even under difficult circumstances?

Ms. Newton-John was a beautiful soul with a tender heart. I’m thankful she’s no longer suffering, but I’m also sad she’s no longer with us.

The song, “Have You Never Been Mellow,” recorded by Newton-John in 1975, the year I graduated from high school, reminds me life is precious. It’s worth treasuring and taking time to enjoy. In honor of Olivia Newton-John, I’m going to take her advice to heart and try to remember to take one day at a time.

We will miss you, Olivia, but we’ll never forget you.

Have You Never Been Mellow?

There was a time when I was in a hurry as you are
I was like you
There was a day when I just had to tell my point of view
I was like you
Now I don't mean to make you frown
No, I just want you to slow down

Have you never been mellow?
Have you never tried to find a comfort from inside you?
Have you never been happy just to hear your song?
Have you never let someone else be strong?

Running around as you do with your head up in the clouds
I was like you
Never had time to lay back kick your shoes off, close your eyes
I was like you

Now you're not hard to understand
You need someone to take your hand, hey

Have you never been mellow?
Have you never tried to find a comfort from inside you?
Have you never been happy just to hear your song?
Have you never let someone else be strong?

 

Songwriters: John Clifford Farrar

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Staying inside my own Hula Hoop


When I was a young girl, hula hooping was a big craze. I wanted a hula hoop so badly and begged my mother for one. Finally, after much nagging on my part, she gave in and bought me a beautiful red and yellow hoop. I was so proud of it and although I had no idea how to use it, I spent hours trying to figure it out.

Slipping the large, plastic hoop over my head, I worked it down toward my little hips. Holding it on each side, I began to shimmy my body side to side. The hoop circled once or twice before falling to the ground. Frustrated, I tried again and again until finally, I mastered it. From that day forward, I spent hours entertaining myself with that simple ring of joy.

Today, as I think back on that hula hoop, I remember how I felt to be inside it. It was a safe zone. A place where I could be me and do what I enjoyed doing, even if I was only moving side to side. Fast forward to today, I often wish I were inside a hula hoop again, enjoying the simple pleasures of life. But as I’ve grown older and health challenges have become more prevalent, I don’t think there’s a hula hoop big enough to encompass my woes.

And then, I think about those I love who’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer. How desperately I want to offer them advice on how to go forward. I want to save them from learning things the hard way, like I did when I was diagnosed. I think back and wish I’d had someone to give me good advice — any small tidbit of helpful information would have been greatly appreciated, and then I hear my inner child whisper, “Stay inside your own hula hoop.”

We can’t fight anyone else’s cancer battle for them. No matter how hard we try, it’s a very personal journey.

Just like learning to hula hoop, a person with cancer must learn their own technique of balancing whatever comes their way. They don’t necessarily need or want someone to show them how to keep the hoop up.

Occasionally, the newly diagnosed person may ask a seasoned survivor for help and if they do, we should be happy to assist, but otherwise, we should take a hands-off approach. Just because their hoop seems to be slipping doesn’t mean we have to run in and fix it!

Navigating the world of cancer can feel like learning to hula hoop. At first, the hoop falls over and over again, but with practice and determination, things eventually begin to work into a more manageable rhythm. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and the hoop will definitely fall again, but there’s something inside a person that causes them to pick it up and begin again. That something could be called resilience or fortitude, but I think it’s a balance of both. To keep the hoop in motion, one must be able to recover quickly with courage in the midst of adversity.

Hula hooping is supposed to be fun. Cancer is definitely not. And though I’m currently outside the hoop of cancer, enjoying a life of remission, I know that could change any moment. I don’t take that lightly.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see many hula hoops spinning. They belong to people I care about. Some are spinning slowly and others very quickly. I stand ready to catch the ones about to fall. I want desperately to reach out and assist, but then, I hear that little voice inside my head whisper again, “Stay inside your own hula hoop.” And I do.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

My insides are all jacked up

 Since the endoscopy, my insides feel like they've been all jacked up. I can't eat normal sized meals any longer and when I do eat, I have to chew things into tiny little bits before swallowing. The food seems to sit right at the junction of my esophagus and the top of my stomach. It's a nasty feeling and I don't like it. 

My gastroenterologist prescribed some medication to help until we hear back from the biopsy reports. Apparently, he took biopsies along my esophagus wall and from my stomach. With my history of breast cancer and my brother's history of esophageal cancer, to say I'm scared is an understatement. I'm trying not to think about the possibility of a recurrence, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. 

I don't know what I'd do if the report comes back with evidence of cancer. I guess I'll face that bridge when and if I have to cross it. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

An introspective mood


For some reason today, I've been in an introspective mood. Maybe it's because of the peaceful instrumental music playing on my stereo, or perhaps the delicious steaming cup of raspberry hibiscus tea. It could be the fact that my wedding anniversary is just around the corner. Whatever the cause, as I was in the kitchen this morning unloading dishes, a thought came to mind - "I don't want to miss it." Miss what, I asked myself. And as I thought, I realized I don't want to go through the rest of my life wondering if maybe I missed something. I don't want to overlook the good things God puts in my path. I don't want to take anything for granted. I want to experience joy in the little things. 

I've lived a good life, these past 64 1/2 years. Sure, there have been some difficult seasons and I've had to fight hard to overcome them, but I'm still here. That tells me God still has a plan for my life and my number isn't up until He says so. 

Health issues always seem to knock me down a few pegs and this year, I've been knocked down a lot. It seems Satan knows exactly when and where to launch his missiles of attack. They always catch me off guard, but I don't take it lying down. I always remind myself I'm "more than a conquer through Him that loves me." 

In my China cabinet, I have several tiny treasures to remind me of special moments - dried flowers, my sweet husband picked from a roadside field, a Brazil nut that reminds me of my father, and several bird feathers that remind me of my mother. Those little things mean more to me than a pile of gold. And that's why I don't want to miss a single thing in these next years of life. 

Toward the end of the year, I'll hit a milestone birthday. I'm already trying to decipher Social Security information and it's making me crazy. 

Life seems to be flying by and I'm on the downhill slide. So, in the days ahead, I'm going to make a special point of staying present. I'm not going to let electronics steal my focus. 

I'll stand in awe at the sunrise. I'll take as long as necessary to capture the beauty of a butterfly. I'll listen well and love much. 

I don't want to miss a single solitary thing. I hope you won't either. 


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Don't take swallowing for granted

 It's amazing the bodily functions we take for granted until we don't have them. I never thought anything about being able to swallow until I couldn't. It's scary when food gets stuck going down your throat. I don't ever want to go through that again. 

I wasn't expecting to have my esophagus stretched when I went in for the endoscopy, but that's exactly what they did. After I woke up from the anesthesia, it felt like someone had taken a broomstick wrapped with sandpaper and scrubbed my innards - not a good feeling. 

Not being able to talk wasn't fun either. Thankfully, that only lasted a day. Now I can talk and hopefully, I'll be able to eat a full meal. I haven't tried anything solid since the procedure, but my sweet hubby brought home Chinese food tonight and I sure do want some. We will see. 

The older I get, the more I realize my body is wearing out. Things no longer work the way they used to and I don't like it. But what can we do? It's just part of aging. Sure, we can start to replace some things like knees, but other parts can't be replaced. 

I wish I'd taken better care of my body when I was younger. Hopefully, I can encourage my kids and grandkids to start now so they won't have so many health issues when they hit their mid-sixties. 

These shells are temporary. I can't wait for my heavenly body, at least it will be a deluxe edition :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Can you say Roto-Rooter?


For months I've had trouble swallowing. It started in December and got progressively worse. After several visits to the ER, urgent care, and to the ENT, we thought we'd found a solution. The ENT treated me for a salivary stone, then, after more tests, said I had an auto immune disorder. One frustration let to another as I endured test after test. The last one, a modified barium swallow study, revealed the problem wasn't only in my salivary glands, but also in my esophagus. 

I'd had an upper endoscopy done earlier in the year for severe acid reflux and a hiatal hernia, so I was surprised they wanted to do another, but the swallowing was getting more and more difficult. I wasn't being able to eat normal meals. After a few bites, I felt full and would blow up like a balloon from bloating. I knew something was extremely wrong. 

There had been a follow-up endoscopy scheduled for October, but I knew I couldn't wait that long, so I went into the portal and asked to be put on the waitlist. When they called Friday to offer a Tuesday appointment, I jumped on it. I knew God was in the details because this doctor was always booked up and it was rare to get a spot. If I didn't take it, I'd have to wait until October and by then, I'd have probably choked to death! 

Friday through Sunday, I existed on protein shakes and water. The test wasn't until 2:45 p.m. on Monday, so after midnight Sunday, I was instructed only to have one sip of water with my blood pressure medication. 

All day Monday, I waited and watched the clock. Time moved so slowly. Finally, when it was time to go, hubby and I dashed out the door. We'd calculated how long it would take to get to the hospital in a neighboring town - 45 minutes. 

We made small talk along the way and not long after we'd departed, a concrete mixer pulled in front of us. He was going so slow and there was no way to pass him. 

We poked along behind him for the majority of the way until finally, just a few miles from the hospital, at 2:40 p.m. he turned on a side street and we were able to cruise at a faster pace. 

I was dropped at the front door of the hospital while hubby went to find a parking space. I didn't want my slot to be given away, so I race walked to the elevators and made it to the suite just in time. 

As I sat and waited the waiting room, I was praying. God, please, help them find a vein! Every time I go to a medical office for a blood draw, the staff have trouble. I'm limited to my left hand because of the breast cancer and lymphedema. Those veins are so tiny and crooked it makes it difficult for even a well-trained nurse to find a usable vein. 

About 15 minutes passed and I was called back. As usual, the nurse had trouble. A doctor came over to see if she could help and neither of them could find a good vein. Then, they brought in a vein scanner light. 

The vein scanner lit up my veins and they were finally able to find one. 

After inserting an IV, I was wheeled into the room and the doctor told me what he was going to do. I had no idea he was planning to stretch my esophagus until that very moment! Apparently, the barium swallow study had revealed a stricture that was causing the food to stick in the middle of my throat. 

I was turned on my side and a device was placed in my mouth to hold it open. They strapped on an oxygen cannula and administered the anesthetic. Instantly, I was out. 

When I awoke, I was in the recovery room with the worst sore throat you could imagine. It felt like someone had taken a broomstick, wrapped it in sandpaper, and reamed me out. I asked the nurse if they had something I could drink. I told her I hadn't had anything since 5:00 a.m. and that was just a sip of water. I was surprised when she said no that I could get something after I left. How rude! I'm sure they had a little dixie cup they could have filled with tap water. Heck, I would have even taken water in a urinalysis cup at that point, my mouth was so dry. 

She went over paperwork with me and then the doctor came in. He told me all he'd done. Not only had he stretched my esophagus, but he'd also taken multiple biopsies of my throat and stomach. 

I'll have to wait for 7-10 days to get the results from those tests. In the meantime, I'll be living on liquids and soft foods for the next day or so while my throat heals. 

I'm really scared about a possible recurrence of cancer and since my brother died of esophageal cancer, this worries me even more. 

All I can do is pray and trust God's got this. I'm so tired of going through medical procedures. I just want to feel normal for a change, but what's normal, right? Are any of us really normal? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A valuable object lesson

This morning, while on the phone with my youngest daughter, I decided I'd get a headstart on dinner. During the summer, I like to make use of my crockpot because it's too hot to stand over the stove and cook. As I was digging through our big chest freezer, I pulled out a package of ground beef. Noticing the date on it, September 2021, I asked if she thought it would still be good. I could tell by the silence on the other end of the phone she was busy Googling an answer. A few minutes later, she responded, "If the meat has been kept at zero or below, it will be fine. What temperature is your freezer set to?" I had no idea. She then asked me to look for the thermostat. Assuming it would be near the top back of the freezer, or along one of the sides, I began moving things around. All of a sudden, I had an avalanche of cold meats falling on my head! I picked them up as quickly as possible and put them all back into place on the top shelf, the shelf I'd designated for meats since it was closest to the vents that blow out the cold air. "I don't think it has one," I said to her. "Yes, it does," she said, "all freezers have a thermostat." 

I was so frustrated. I'd looked in the freezer and couldn't find a thermostat. Since I'm so short, I decided to go into the house and get a stepstool. As soon as I had it in hand, I went back to the freezer to look again. 

Since I'd already checked the top shelf, I moved to the second one. Moving frozen fruits and veggies, I found nothing. My daughter was still on the phone with me and encouraged me to check the door, perhaps there was one there. Nope. Nothing. 

It was cold standing in front of the freezer. I was worried about keeping the door open long since the warm air from the garage would put the food at jeopardy. Closing the door again, I went inside and searched through my appliance manuals until I found the one for the freezer. There was nothing helpful in there! 

My sweet girl asked me for the freezer model number. She was going to look up information on line. I couldn't find anything on the paper manual so I went back to the freezer to see if I could find one. That's when I got the brilliant idea to start at the bottom and work my way up. 

Moving frozen breads around, I looked at the very back of the bottom shelf of the freezer. Nothing! Now I was really getting frustrated! This was a name brand appliance, a good quality item, surely there had to be a serial number inside and surely there had to be a thermostat!

I got down on my knees and started moving things from the next shelf. Frozen Chinese entrees and convenience foods began to tumble into my lap. Holding the cold things, I continued to look. When I'd moved the last item on that shelf, way back in the back right hand corner, I could see a dial! Oh, thank the Lord! I quickly flipped on my cellphone light and shone it on the dial. Sure enough, there was a thermostat! My daughter said, "What's it set on, Mom?" I looked and saw that the dial was set on 4. Yikes! The dial only went up to 9 with 8 and 9 being marked as the coldest range. Turning the dial up to 7.5, I felt better. I wondered why I'd never thought to check the thermostat before? We'd had this appliance for 8 years!

After I'd come inside with my ground beef and slipped it into the microwave for defrosting, some verses of Scripture came to mind: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have everlasting life; and these are they that bear witness about Me. “Yet you do not want to come to Me, that you may have life." John 5:39-40. Why did those verses pop into my head? I guess because I'd been searching for something that was in plain sight. 

I kept thinking about the verses and realized in Bible times, the disciples didn't have the New Testament. All they had was the Old Testament so even though they didn't have the writings telling about Jesus' life and miracles, they knew about the prophesied Messiah. Though Jesus spoke to the common people in parables, He had given His disciples the ability to understand His teachings, but often, they still were baffled at times requiring Him to go into a deeper explanation. Jesus was right there among them and still at times they didn't get it! Wow! Just like the freezer thermostat was there all along, I just didn't see it. 

Jesus doesn't hide himself from us. He wants us to know Him. 

Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." 

The obscure thermostat brought peace of mind when I found it. Knowing I could control the temperature and keep our foods safe for long periods of time was comforting, but even more so was knowing that God used that object lesson to remind me to always keep my eyes fixed on Him. I hope you'll choose to seek Him daily and allow Him to use some of life's little frustrations to remind you that He sees and cares about you, because He really does!





Thursday, July 14, 2022

Some days you have to laugh!


 Some days you have to laugh! Especially when the annual email reminders keep coming in telling me to schedule my mammogram. I have nothing to mam! I have called several times and notified the doctor’s office that they can stop sending me these reminders. When they ask why, I remind them I’ve had both breast removed but to no avail. The reminders continue to come.  

I don’t know when they’ll ever get it. In the past, I would be offended when these would come, but now, I can’t do anything but laugh.

I guess it’s a good thing I’ve developed a sense of humor over the years along with a thick hide. It would be so easy to take offense, or wounded and hurt. But what good would that do? It wouldn’t change a thing. Oh well, I guess I’ll continue to get these for the rest of my life. Hopefully one day, they’ll figure it out. By then, it will be too late, lol!

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&...