Monday, December 18, 2023

The Best Christmas Gift I May Never Receive


 Last night, my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas. To say he's a last minute Charlie would be an understatement. I've been waiting and waiting for an indicator that he's been thinking about something special for me, but I know he hasn't. In the past, he's gone out on Christmas Eve trying to find that special something but has come home discouraged. So this year, I'm going to tell him what I really want and it's something I don't think he could ever give me. 

I've thought about it long and hard. The gift that would mean the most to me isn't a tangible gift but it is a life long gift and one I'd treasure forever. What I really want for Christmas is for the post cancer PTSD and anxiety I suffer to completely disappear. 

I never thought I'd suffer with either one, but for the past few years, it seems to be getting worse. Loud noises startle me, sudden movements freak me out. I get anxious in public venues and have found myself longing for the safety and security of my home. 

I first began to experience anxiety after surgery to remove the breast cancer. I didn't seek medical help but realize now, I should have. 

When my sleep became affected, I talked with my primary care physician who prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. He did offer a stern warning -the medication, he said, is a controlled substance. That frightened me, but the doctor assured me, if I took it only at night before bed, I should be okay. 

The medicine has definitely helped with sleep but there is a draw back. Since it's a controlled substance, I have to report in to my doc every three months. It's required by law, so I do it. 

Oh how I wish I'd find a magic gift under my tree this year! I wish I'd find a stocking filled with perpetual peace and tranquility. Attached to the gift, I'd love to find a note stating I'll never be overcome with fear or worry again, especially relating to a recurrence of cancer. 

There's a place in my chest, just above the initial location of the breast cancer. Whenever my clothing brushes against it, or my fingers touch it as I'm bathing, I wince in pain. It's so tender. I don't want to think it might be another growing tumor, but I can't help it. 

I've had so many scans over the past few years, surely they couldn't have missed anything important, could they? I'd like to think not, but the fear in me says it's possible. 

My husband doesn't know what I'd truly like to receive this year for Christmas and I won't tell him. I know it would break his heart knowing he couldn't fulfill my wish. 

So instead of hoping for something I'll never receive, I've decided to do the next best thing. I've decided to settle for today. I think I can manage to get through one day without being overcome with feelings of anxiety over future what ifs. 

And I prefer to concentrate on giving rather than receiving anyway. I have all the material possessions I could ever need. But if I could find a way to get what I really want for Christmas, I'd take it in a heartbeat. Who wouldn't want a life free of fear, anxiety, and worry? Those three emotions can steal a person's joy so fast. 

I'm glad my husband loves me enough to want to give me a special gift. It means a lot to know he wants to please me, so I'll try to think of a close second and give him the suggestion tonight after dinner. I've always wanted to learn to play guitar, maybe guitar lessons would be a constructive way of managing stress. And if I learn to play well enough, I could use the music to soothe my savage soul. And if not, I guess I could torture a few of the neighborhood cats with my instrumental failures. 

Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year. Trying to think of the perfect gift is hard especially when the gift is for me. Maybe I'll just tell him to surprise me and see what he comes up with. Yes, I think that might be the best option instead of waiting for the gift I want but won't receive.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Christmas Blues


 It's 8 days until Christmas and I'm feeling a little blue. This year won't be a traditional Christmas for me. I don't like it when my normal routine is disturbed and this year, it's already started out weird. 

I love Christmas and having all of my children and grandchildren around, but that hasn't happened for years now. Since my kids are all grown and have families of their own, they make plans that don't always include us. It makes me sad. I guess I'm stuck in the Walton world. 

If only things could be the way I'd like them to be! I'd have a beautiful, snowy Christmas morning and after a quick breakfast, I'd hear a knock at the door. I'd open it and one of my children would be there - hugs, smiles, and laughter would ensue. As we'd usher in each family group, the house would be filled with chatter. It would feel cozy and warm. My heart would swell with excitement. I'd need no other gift than the gift of presence - their presence, which I am already missing this year. 

My middle daughter came to celebrate an early Christmas with us yesterday and while it was nice, it was odd. It was too quiet and quick. I felt lonely and disappointed when they left and wanted a do over, but I won't get it. 

I won't get to see my oldest son at all this year. He and his family will gather at their house and have their own celebration. I miss them so much and wish we could see them, but am trying my best to understand I have to let go. 

My oldest daughter lives in Texas. It's too far for them to come home to be with us. We'll probably get a FaceTime call sometime on Christmas day, but it's not the same. I miss them, too. 

I do have a consolation prize, however. My youngest daughter will join us for Christmas this year. At least I'll have one of my kiddos with us on the actual day and that will help things feel a little more normal, but it'll still be different. 

I guess I should be happy I'll have one child with me. There are so many of my friends who'll be spending Christmas alone this year. I can't even begin to imagine what that feels like. My heart goes out to them. 

Why do our expectations seem to be so high at Christmas? I don't like it, not one little bit. 

I'll do my best to smile and be happy on the outside this holiday, but on the inside, I'll be crying. 

Sometimes I wonder if something is really wrong with me. When I got married and had my family, I always made a special effort to go over and visit my parents on Christmas day. It was a joyous time of celebration and we made so many precious memories with my siblings and their families. Why do kids not value that sense of family any more? 

Our world is so different these days. 

I can't help thinking of Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie, Christmas with the Kranks. Her husband, Tim Allen, talks her into taking a vacation for Christmas since their daughter won't be able to come home for the holidays. After pondering it, she finally agrees. As her excitement builds and she prepares for the trip, she gets a big surprise. Her daughter calls with a change of plans. Immediately, she shifts gears and tries to pull together all of the familiar traditions she loves. It ends up being a neighborhood effort to bring a sweet holiday to fruition and maybe that's what I'm secretly hoping for...

My husband keeps telling me to take one day at a time, but it's so hard. He asked me earlier today what I wanted for Christmas. I told him I don't need a thing. The blues have hit me hard this year. I don't want anything for Christmas except my family all together under one roof. Is that too much to ask?

And while I'm being a whiney little brat, I can't help but think about two friends of mine. One's father has just found out his cancer from over 20 years ago has come back. The other, who was diagnosed the same year as me, has had to fight continually for the past 9+ years. She's gone through so much and is still having difficulty. I'm sure both of them would wish for wellness this Christmas and I'd love to see them get it, but I still want my family around me. I can't help it. I need them. 

I don't want to be this way, really, I don't. Christmas isn't about what I want. It's about Jesus, but it sure would be nice to celebrate His birth with the ones I love. Maybe next year.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Genie in a bottle


 I just recently watched a cute movie called Genie with Melissa McCarthy. It's your typical genie movie with a few twists. Instead of only getting three wishes, the guy that opens the box gets unlimited wishes. At first, he does what anyone else would do. He wishes for extravagant material possessions, but then, he wishes for more meaningful things like healed relationships. In the end, he makes a special wish for Melissa (the genie.) It was an entertaining feel good movie. 

As I watched, I wondered what I'd do if I were in that situation. Of course, we all know genies aren't real, but I remember the first TV genie that every impacted my life was on the show I Dream of Jeannie. Way back in 1969, I used to love watching Barbara Eden as Larry Hackman gave her specific instructions on what to do. I thought it was hilarious when she'd cross her arms, and purposefully nod her head with a "Your wish is my command, master." 

Boy, did I want my own personal genie! 

I'd still like to have one today. If I had a genie, I'd never have to fold clothes or wash dishes again. I could travel to Timbuktu and back in the blink of an eye. I could have all the things I ever dreamed of and then some. It would be amazing and also scary. 

Right now, people are getting ready to celebrate Christmas. They're buying gifts for loved ones and doing their best to choose appropriate, meaningful gifts. For some, it's an extremely fun time but for others, it can be exasperating and overwhelming. 

If I could have one special gift under the tree on Christmas morning, I think I'd like to have a genie. Of course, I'd prefer to have the type Melissa McCarthy was - one who offered unlimited wishes as opposed to the tiny limit of 3. But if I could only have 3, I think I'd wish for all cancers to be eradicated, for homelessness to end, and of course, for world peace. 

I wonder if my genie would find those wishes too complicated to grant. I'd like to think she'd have the power to bring those to fruition, but I guess I'll never know since genies aren't real. 

This Christmas, I'm going to do my best to be grateful for the life I have now. Yes, it's drastically different than the one I had in 2014, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but it's still good. 

I'd like to think we all have the power to grant a few wishes now and then, especially for those going through the various stages of cancer. We might not be able to give exact wishes, but we could come pretty doggone close. 

We can make phone calls and write letters. We can help transport families to see loved ones or offer to give rides to medical appointments. We can take someone's list and do the shopping for them. There are so many things we could do to be little genies. 

And while we can't grant the big wish - the take away cancer one or remove the pain and suffering one, we can do something meaningful. 

Every person is blessed with a particular ability. Some of us have great listening skills, others can give the gift of quality time. Whatever your genie superpower may be, don't wait to be called upon to use it. Go ahead and throw some kind wish granting to the wind and see where your generosity lands. Remember, it'll come back to you one day, too. It may not be in exactly the same way, but you'll receive a blessing of some sort. And that's all that really matters anyway, isn't it? It's more blessed to give than to receive, just like the old saying goes.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Well, it's about time for an update, don't ya think?

 I'm lax. A slacker. Not really, but it feels good to say I've kind of forgotten about my blog lately and the reason is a fairly good one, I think. Life has been going well and by that I mean pretty normal. 


Normal is hard for a person affected by cancer to ever say because once cancer has come into your life, nothing is ever normal again. 

On my fridge hangs a schedule of future medical appointments. I'm happy to say there's only one cancer related appointment among that list and that appointment is in March. 

How'd that happen???

It seems I've been under constant surveillance for so long and now, I'm on annual watch. It seems like I'm a recently freed prisoner or something. And it feels weird - kind of like the safety net has been pulled out from under me. But, I'm thankful. Very, very thankful. 

I can never forget about cancer though. Every time I look in the mirror, I'm reminded of how it changed my life. To this day, almost 10 years post diagnosis, I have no feeling on the right side of my chest. The long incision where they sliced away my breast tissue damaged nerve endings and those haven't rejoined. When I touch my skin there, I can feel a slight pressure, but nothing more. It's an odd feeling. 


I've kind of gotten used to being flat chested. At home, I don't wear my boobs because they're cumbersome and irritating. When I go out, I do. Mostly, to help myself fit in. I don't want to be stared at because I'm different. When I wear my prostheses, no one knows I had breast cancer, unless I tell them. 

My husband and my family know they may or may not see me with boobs on and they've grown to accept it. But now, my youngest daughter has a new boyfriend and he isn't familiar with my health journey. I've given her permission to tell him about it in hopes he'll understand and accept me with or without my female anatomy. I don't want him to be uncomfortable wondering about me if I don't look feminine, especially when he doesn't know me well enough yet. And when I meet his family one day, I'm hoping they won't know my secret. 

It's hard to keep a think like that hidden but I feel it's my right to share or not share. 

Sometimes, it feels like this has all been a bad dream.

I made it through Thanksgiving this year without balling my eyes out. In the past, I always cried as I remembered all God has brought me through. I definitely don't take any of that for granted, it's just this year, I'd come to a place of contentment. 

Now Christmas is upon us and I can't help but feel nostalgic. As I put up decorations, I think about all the people I've known who are no longer with us. Many of those were friends who fought cancer hard and lost. It breaks my heart to think about their valiant fights, but each of them possessed a bravery I can only hope to mirror one day. 


It's nice that cancer isn't my main focus any more. I still can't believe how much territory I gave it those first few years. 

There are still some friends who're fighting hard to make it through cancer. Seeing their struggle makes me so sad. I wonder why God has been so gracious to me and yet, they aren't as blessed. I have to remind myself daily, I could be in their position just as easily as they could be in mine. 

I never want to take a day for granted. 

That's one gift cancer has given me - the gift of gratitude. I used to assume too many things. Now I don't. 

One thing I've learned recently is I don't need cancer as a convenient excuse anymore. 

Yes, I still experience side effects from radiation - my right lung was damaged and sometimes I struggle to breathe properly. I do get tired more easily than I used to, but that could also be because I'm older now than when first diagnosed. I still have body image issues on the bad days, but usually, I can push through them. Most of all, I'm just glad I'm still around. 

I love getting to watch sunrises and sunsets. I love listening to instrumental Christmas classics, I love smelling oranges or cookies fresh from the oven. I love seeing the wrinkles on my husband's face when he smiles a big smile and that twinkle in his eyes when he's happy. I could be missing all those things...

I don't know if cancer will ever rear its ugly head in my life again, I pray not, but if it does, I'll worry about that then. Until that day, I'm moving forward. I'm living my life to the fullest and I'm really glad I can. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Hmm


Hmm. How can such a little "word" represent such deep thought? And yes, it is a word. Look it up if you don't believe me. 

Lately, I've been saying hmm a lot. There are so many things going on in the world that puzzle me. For instance, the fact that conveniently a new strain of the virus is going around and more than likely, new mandates will begin soon. Also, I'm puzzled by the number of people believing the lies of the enemy about who they are and who they're supposed to be. It seems we're living in a really crazy screwed up world. 

Also, recent health issues have me muttering hmm a lot. That's one of the reason I haven't been writing my blog lately. There's been a lot going on for the past few months, things I can't control. And that's hard for a person who enjoys being in control. 

It seems my innards don't like me much anymore. I've had to have 3 endoscopies done and twice, during those, I've had to have my esophagus stretched. It seems my body doesn't like solid food and won't let it pass down the esophagus as God designed it to do. 

The stretching has helped some, especially with the feeling of choking, but it hasn't solved the problem. Now that the food can pass through the esophagus, it doesn't want to go any further. It seems the junction at the base of the esophagus and the stomach are fighting. So my doc has ordered a CT scan of the abdomen. I'll have that test done in a little over a week. Hopefully it will show the problem and the doc can fix it. 

I've also been wondering if just maybe the cancer might be back. I don't want to go there, but I'm a realist. It is a possibility. 

My brother died of esophageal cancer and we have a history of many types of cancer in our family, so who knows? I pray that isn't the case and I don't know what I'll do if it is. 

Gosh! I just remembered. On my last endoscopy, the doc did several biopsies of places he found in my stomach. I haven't gotten the results from those tests back yet. Usually it only takes about 5-7 days for the results to come back. Hmm. I'm hoping no news is good news. 

So, that's where things stand for now. 

I could use your prayers. And I'm thankful for those of you who take time to do that.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Hot Georgia Summers and Childhood Memories

Oh, how thankful I am for air conditioning! It's such a blessing on these hot Georgia days. I don't know how we ever lived without it, but it wasn't too long ago that we did. 

As a child, we didn't have air conditioning. We grew up in a two story cinder block house on a large wooded lot with beautiful Oak and Pine trees. Thinking back now, I'm so thankful for all those trees! Their lovely, leaf laden limbs helped cut down on some of the sweltering heat that bathed our house each summer. The only way we had to cool down was to run around half naked, play in water from the garden hose, flip on our attic fan, or open every window wide. Usually, we did a combination of all those things but there were some days nothing seemed to work. 

I remember marveling at the hard, dry, cracked red mud from lack of rain and seeing the steamy haze of heat rising from it. We could barely wait for evening to come so things would cool off a little. As soon as cicadas started to sing, we knew it wouldn't be long before we'd get a little relief. 

I was so thankful our old house had real tile floors in the kitchen and the living room. That tile was so cool to our bare feet in the summertime, although I hated the way the floor always felt dirty and gritty no matter how many times Mama swept it. We were always tracking in dirt with our little feet. 

The attic fan didn't do much for us during the day other than move around the hot air. In the evenings, after dark, with our open bedroom windows, the fan would often draw in a little breeze that would gently flow across our bodies as we lay on top of our covers trying to get cool. 

One particularly hot summer, none of us could get comfortable. We fussed and whined and complained until Mama told us to go get our pillows. We thought she was going to let us sleep downstairs so we ran to get them, but she had something else in mind. 

I remember standing in front of her in my little white undershirt vest and my panties, the coolest thing I could wear without going completely nude. She took a large spray bottle and began squirting my pillow. When she got one side sprayed, she told me to flip it over. I did and she sprayed away. I had no idea what she was planning, but I was obedient. She did the same for my siblings. Then, she told us to take our pillows and put them in the deep freezer which was in our garage. So we did. 

I don't remember what we did for the next thirty minutes or so, but we waited. When enough time had passed, Mama got our pillows out of the freezer and handed them to each of us telling us to go on back to bed. 

Carrying that chilled pillow up the thirteen stairs to the second floor of our house, was a blessing! I could feel the coolness against my little chest and it felt amazing. 

When I reached the landing at the top of the stairs, I turned right and headed to my bed. Laying the pillow on my bed, I crawled up on the mattress, lay down, and fell asleep. 

Mama was pretty ingenious! Who would have thought to do something like that? 

Now, we buy cooling gel pillows! I have two in my room right now. If Mama'd had the resources, I'm sure she could have invented those and become rich!

Last night, as we were closing the garage door I heard the low, rhythmic hum of cicadas start up in the cluster of trees across the driveway. It made my heart smile. 

Cicada

I'll never forget my hot childhood summers and I have no idea how we survived without air, but we did. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about that now unless we have power outages or something. I don't think I could make it. I've become less tolerant of the heat now that I'm older.

Thank God for the person who invented air conditioning. He's spoiled us mighty good. 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

When you can't walk well, write!


Since surgery, I've been having a lot of trouble walking. My knee is so swollen and sore! It hasn't even been a week since the arthroscopic surgery, so I should give myself grace, but resting is so hard to do! I'm a person who always needs and wants to be doing something. 

Today, I decided I'd do what I could. Usually the mornings are when I have the most energy, so I tidied the bed, pulled out the laundry from the dryer and put another load on to wash. Then, I hobbled out to the freezer to get some burgers out for tonight's dinner. As I did each thing, I could feel my knee balk. Though I was using the walker for balance, I'd often find myself putting full weight on my injured knee. I wasn't supposed to be doing that yet. The doc had said only 50% weight bearing right now. I had to remind myself to be careful. I definitely didn't want to re-injure that leg or undo what the doctor had just done. 

Next, I pushed my way into the kitchen, prepared items for dinner and put them on to bake. It was more difficult that I'd thought trying to hold a baking pan filled with food and slide it into the oven, especially when I didn't realize the Pampered Chef stoneware was still in there! That stuff is heavy!

I managed to get the stoneware out and the other food in but as I tried to do it, I managed to burn my fingers on the stoneware. As fast as I could, I hobbled over to the sink to use the lavender/aloe burn spray. My fingers felt better after using it. 

Setting the timer on the oven, I made my way to the office and fired up the computer. There was a story brewing and I had to get it started. 

On our last trip to Florida, I'd come up with the idea for a short story as we traveled through the small town of Sopchoppy. I'd mentioned it to my youngest daughter and she'd laughed. I told her I wasn't kidding. I was going to write a story and soon, she'd get to read it. 

The other night when I had a bad case of insomnia and had crawled out of bed at 1:44 a.m. the story was forming in my mind. I went into the guest bedroom and pulled up the voice memo recorder on my phone. In the dark, I lay there and recorded my thoughts. I didn't want to forget any of them. As they swirled, I continued to talk. 

The next morning, I opened the app and listened to what I'd recorded. My voice was sultry and deep - lack of sleep, for sure, but also because of having had my thyroid gland removed in 2005. Since that surgery, my voice had taken on a sultry, sexy tone. I thought it frustratingly funny. Frustrating because my voice had gone down a few octaves and my husband could rarely hear when I was speaking to him. Funny, because whenever I get a head cold, it sounds like I should be running an 900 number for phone sex. 

The story was fun to listen to and gave me enough info to get started. 

Since I couldn't do much else today, I had fun building my characters and lining up the setting. I sent the first few pages to my youngest to read. She just sent me an email telling me it was really good. I was happy to hear she enjoyed it. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't write. 

Since I was a young child, I've written. At first, I doodled, but when I learned the alphabet, I wrote nonstop on any and everything. I haven't stopped since then! 

I love that God gifted me with the ability to share my thoughts. Words have such power. 

Proverbs 18:21 says, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." 

We have to be extremely careful with our words. You can't call them back once they're spoken. 

Writers must choose their words carefully to convey their thoughts well. I try to do that. 

Writing is cathartic for me. Since I can't do much else right now because of my healing knee, I'm spending time wielding words wisely. 

I hope you have a creative outlet. It makes life a lot easier especially in these evil days. If you don't, why not look for something you enjoy? There are so many things to try. I'm sure you'll find your niche but you have to start looking!

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Perceptions and Reflections on my cancer diagnosis

On this day, 9 years ago, my life changed forever. I can remember so well the day I discovered the lump and how it made me feel. I was going about my normal daily routine and suddenly, everything changed. In a split second, I was overcome with fear. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. It felt like my world was spinning out of control like all balance had shifted.

I went through the motions visiting one -ologist after another. Tests were run and surgeries were done. Things seemed to move at lightning speed and didn’t slow down until I’d completed radiation treatments. That’s when I had time to think. I thought about the past and the present, about all the things I’d done but also all the things I still wanted to do. I reconsidered hopes and dreams. I compiled a bucket list. 

I had no idea what the future held but knew I was going to do the best I could to live each day to the fullest. At first, it was a struggle. I wasn’t feeling great. My energy was zapped and I was struggling with a lot of body image issues. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all of those things were normal for someone who’d just experienced a major trauma like breast cancer. 

There was no instruction manual. I read all I could. I watched YouTube videos and read online blogs. Everyone’s story was different in many ways but much the same in others.
I felt like I’d been thrown into a sea of pink and had to learn to either swim or sink. So I let my will to survive take over. I knew the water was deep and dark. I didn’t want to sink, so I began to tread water. In that vast sea, the struggle lessened as I moved my legs slowly back and forth. I was staying afloat. It felt good. 

Days passed, and my broken body began to heal inside and out. I tried to stay active as much as possible. It was a challenge learning to listen to my body. When I was tired I slowed down or stopped.
I learned to process my emotions and gave myself permission to feel. I learned it was okay to cry, laugh, scream, or be angry. Sometimes feeling one emotion at a time, and often feeling several at once.
9 years. 

Back then, everything was so scary and new. Now, I don’t think about cancer as much. There are annual reminders, like National Cancer Survivors Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month that always sneak up on me, but I usually make it through unscathed. 

Annually, I celebrate my cancerversary on July 9 – the day the cancer was removed from my body, but I also remember June 5 each year, the day the cancer was diagnosed. Both of those days will forever haunt me. 

The scars have faded some but I can still see them. When I run my fingers over my chest, I feel the smooth, raised area where my skin was sliced open. 

My arms still swell, especially in the summer, from secondary lymphedema, a condition caused by the cancer and removal of lymph nodes in both arms. 

All in all, as I reflect on my situation, I can say I’m blessed. Cancer is a great teacher. I’ve learned more valuable life lessons over the past 9 years than I have in my 65 years of life. And since that’s the case, I can honestly say I’m thankful. I’m thankful I was deemed strong enough to handle the trial of breast cancer. I’m thankful I have weathered this extremely unexpected, very difficult storm with dignity and grace. So many of my friends and family have not fared as well. 

Today, I look in the mirror and see a breastless woman but I also see a brave, determined, resilient person who will forever be treading water. I don’t waste energy struggling against the tide, I’ve learned to relax and go with the flow. 

Right now, I’m cancer free. I hope to continue to be able to say that for many more years to come, no, I want to be able to claim it until the day I die, but who knows? I’m a realist. Cancer could come back again. I have a friend who fought breast cancer and thought she was cancer free for 22 years before that ugly monster reared its ugly head again and took her life. If something like that happens to me, I imagine I’ll be angry at first, but then I’ll accept it and do the best I can. That’s all any of us can do when cancer finds us. 

Taking one day at a time, one moment at a time is the only way to make it in the world of pink.


Monday, June 19, 2023

These old knees ain't what they used to be!

 When I was a kid, I remember singing a silly song entitled, "The Old Gray Mare, She Ain't What She Used to Be." It was a song that always made me giggle. Well, today, I feel like that old gray mare. I am definitely not what I used to be. These 65 year old knees are wearing out. 

Wrapped up and resting
For the past 2 years, I've dealt with pain and swelling in my left knee. I've had 4 steroid shots and have been through a series of braces. While those things bought me some time, they didn't fix the problem and it continued to get worse. Finally, last month, I was back in the orthopedic doc's office begging for help. I could barely walk and knew if I didn't do something soon, I was going to need a complete knee replacement. I didn't want that!

Since I loved hiking and being outdoors, it was urgent I do something. I wanted to stay mobile as long as possible. Talking with the doc, we came up with a plan. After XRAYS and MRIs, the verdict was a lateral meniscus tear and severe arthritis. I knew the arthritis was part of aging, but when did I do damage to that knee? I couldn't pinpoint it. I'd had several falls over the last few years, including a really hard one on my right knee while in Israel, but this was my left. Did I perhaps damage it then too and not realize it? Who knew. 

So the doc planned surgery for the following week. He would perform an arthrosocopic lateral Meniscectomy, Chondroplasty, and debridement of the patellofemoral compartment and medial compartments. Now that's a mouthful! In essence, he was going to make 2 holes in my knee, stick a camera in one hole and cutting instruments in the other. Next he would remove the torn ligament, scrape out damaged tissue and try to remove as much arthritis as possible. Sounded like a quick and easy procedure...

Icing
Well, the day of surgery, I was pretty calm thanks to all the prayers going up from my friends and family members. The anesthesiologist was able to find a vein in my hand on the first try, which was amazing because that never happens for me. After being rolled into the surgical suite, I was moved onto a gurney and within a few seconds, it was lights out for me. 

I woke up in recovery to some pretty rough pain but the nurse was instantly there with ginger ale and pain meds. After an hour, I was able to go home with instructions to keep my leg elevated and iced. I was also given an arsenal of pain meds. 

Things went pretty smoothly until the anesthesia wore off and the pain set in. I wasn't expecting it to be so bad, especially since I'd been through a horrendous automobile accident in 1991 where both bones below the knee in my right leg were crushed. But I was younger then. 

I had a fitful night but managed to make it through. I wasn't looking forward to the

day as physical therapy had already been scheduled and I'd be making my way there in a couple of hours. Thankfully, one of my girls had volunteered to come chauffeur me to the appointment. 

My therapist was a young, oriental woman but boy, she was tough as nails. She worked me hard and I was exhausted by the time our hour session was over. As I was leaving, she said she'd see me twice next week and we'd continue for about 8-10 weeks! What???!!! I wasn't expecting that! Getting old sucks!

My therapist
So, I'm doing my best to look at the positives, which is a little hard right now. One day soon, I'll be able to walk without pain. At least I'm not confined to a wheelchair like I was back in 1991 for a year and a half and then I was on crutches for another year. Now I'm shuffle along on my trusty walker. 

I'm thankful for gel ice packs, pain meds, a sweet husband who picks up the slack, and kids who do what they can when they can. I am tired and I'm doing my best. 


God continues to prompt me to rest and I find it interesting that I'm currently reading a book on that very subject. I don't know why I have such a hard time resting, but I do. I feel so worthless and unproductive when I'm not doing something. 

Surgical sites and doctor's initials

The Bible says God rested on the 7th day. He didn't rest because He was tired, He'd just completed His work. If He deems rest important, I guess I'd better learn that lesson sooner rather than later, otherwise, I may have to keep going through physical maladies until I understand. I definitely don't want any more object lessons, not for a very, very long time. 

The book I'm reading
I was able to remove the bandages long enough to take a shower yesterday. I was scared to death I'd fall in the shower, so I had my walker half in and half out so I could hang on. I'd had to put waterproof bandages over the surgical sites before showering to protect from water, but that wasn't a big deal. After drying off, I had to remove those bandages, put new ones on and rewrap everything. By the time I was through, I was exhausted and ready to ice my knee again. 

Today, I'm going to take it easy until time for therapy. I hope I can do it. There's so much I want to be doing, but my knee is hurting so they'll have to wait. 

If you have good knees, love them! Take good care of them! Knees are so important. I plan to pamper mine after healing from this surgery. Otherwise, knee replacements are in my future and I am not wanting to go through that, especially since this surgery has been so painful.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Turn down the noise

 

Noise. It's everywhere, all the time it seems. And lately, it's been really getting on my nerves. 

From the time I get up in the morning, until the time I go to bed, there's a constant barrage of noise. My cell phone is pinging with notifications or ringing with calls. My appliances are dinging signaling the completion of wash cycles or reminding me to take something out of the microwave. And when my husband gets home, the TV is blaring. My senses are on overload. 

What I really want is to experience the sound of silence. 

Remember that old Simon and Garfunkel song, "The Sounds of Silence"? I loved that song. "Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again..." Yeh. 

It seems the only time I get complete and utter silence is when I'm in bed with ear plugs in (because my husband snores). And that silence I don't really get to enjoy to the fullest because I usually fall asleep. When I wake in the morning, the first sound I heard is the sound of birds chirping outside my window, but that's a sound I do enjoy so I won't complain about that one. 

Sometimes it's important to turn down the noise and sit in silence. When we do, we can hear the voice of God. 

I think that's one reason it's important to have a designated quiet area in my home. It's a place where I can separate myself from noise and distraction. It's nice to sit in that small room and read my Bible. As I focus on God's Word, He speaks very quietly to my heart. I enjoy those quiet times with Him and they're becoming more and more precious to me. 

Noise is stressful. Have you ever noticed how much louder commercials on TV are than the regular programs? They do it on purpose so you can still hear them even if you walk into another room. 

If you're like me and find yourself experiencing sensory overload, why not try turning off your phone, removing yourself to a quiet place, and allowing yourself the privilege of spending time with God? 

I've found He always redeems the time we spend with Him. 

Mark 6:31 says, "Jesus said to them, `Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.'" Jesus knew the value of breaking away from the daily demands of the people and noise. If He found it beneficial, don't you think we should too? 

 


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Season of Rest

Have you ever felt God calling you into a season of rest? For the past several days, I've felt Him speaking to my spirit over and over again reminding me of the importance of resting.


For some time He's tried to teach me this lesson. I haven't learned it well. As a typical type A personality, I'm always going and doing. And after my cancer diagnosis, I really kicked it into high gear, feeling like I'd been given a second chance at life so I'd better not blow it. I wanted to make the most of every second of every day.

From the time I woke up in the morning until the end of the day, I was busy. I'd bounce from one project to the next, feeling like I was doing a great job at not wasting any of the time God had "reallocated" me. I was doing my best to live up to Erma Bombeck's famous quotation: "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'."

But soon, I began to feel overwhelmed and burdened. Yes, I was working hard doing things to be productive but there was something lacking.

When chronic insomnia began, I realized being unable to shut off my mind meant it was overstimulated. That's when I felt God nudging me to slow down.

So I tried. I tried limiting my projects. I tried sitting down to read for short periods during the day. I tried turning off notifications on my phone by using the do not disturb feature. I tried and tried and tried, but I wasn't resting.

My sweet husband did his best to encourage me to sit down and watch things on TV with him but I felt it was wasting time, so when I did sit to "watch" with him, I was also doing other things like small sewing projects or reading a book, or writing cards. I couldn't focus on one thing. I began to think I had ADHD.

"What was wrong with me?" I wondered. Something has to give.

So I prayed. I asked God to help me understand the importance of resting.

I looked up one Scripture after another on rest and found that every verse had one thing in common- going to Jesus. He wanted me to come to Him and allow Him to give me rest.

This morning, after doing my morning chores, I felt that still, small voice calling me - today you need to rest. And I wasn't feeling led to just rest physically, but mentally as well.

"Okay, Lord. I will try," I said. And then, I heard, "Don't try, do!" (in Yodaspeak because that's the way my brain works!)

I got a cup of cappuccino, grabbed my Bible, and headed out to the patio. While out there, wouldn't you know that God took me right to Jeremiah 31:25-

"For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish." Wow. That hit square between the eyes!

I prayed and asked God to help me learn to rest. And would you believe, I haven't done much of anything today? And I haven't felt guilty about it at all. That's huge for me.

The Bible says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." If you are willing to admit it, I bet you fall into that category of being weary especially with all that's going on in the world right now. If not, that's wonderful, but more than likely there's something that's weighing you down or stressing you out.

Giving our burdens to God isn't always easy, but He wants us to let Him handle them. I'm preaching to the choir right now, but I hope you'll hear me, too.

If you struggle to rest, listen...the word rest means to cease striving. CEASE. That means stop right now! Learn to just be and know that it's okay to have a chill day. I'm learning and I'm finding it's pretty enjoyable.

Rest and be refreshed. It's good for your body, mind, and spirit.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Perceptions and Reflections on my cancer diagnosis

On this day, 9 years ago, my life changed forever. I can remember so well the day I discovered the lump and how it made me feel. I was going about my normal daily routine and suddenly, everything changed. In a split second, I was overcome with fear. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. It felt like my world was spinning out of control like all balance had shifted.

I went through the motions visiting one -ologist after another. Tests were run and surgeries were done. Things seemed to move at lightning speed and didn’t slow down until I’d completed radiation treatments. That’s when I had time to think.

I thought about the past and the present, about all the things I’d done but also all the things I still wanted to do. I reconsidered hopes and dreams. I compiled a bucket list.

I had no idea what the future held but knew I was going to do the best I could to live each day to the fullest.

At first, it was a struggle. I wasn’t feeling great. My energy was zapped and I was struggling with a lot of body image issues. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all of those things were normal for someone who’d just experienced a major trauma like breast cancer.

There was no instruction manual. I read all I could. I watched YouTube videos and read online blogs. Everyone’s story was different in many ways but much the same in others.

I felt like I’d been thrown into a sea of pink and had to learn to either swim or sink. So, I let my will to survive take over. I knew the water was deep and dark. I didn’t want to sink, so I began to tread water. In that vast sea, the struggle lessened as I moved my legs slowly back and forth. I was staying afloat. It felt good.

Days passed, and my broken body began to heal inside and out. I tried to stay active as much as possible. It was a challenge learning to listen to my body. When I was tired, I slowed down or stopped.

I learned to process my emotions and gave myself permission to feel. I learned it was okay to cry, laugh, scream, or be angry. Sometimes feeling one emotion at a time, and often feeling several at once.

9 years.

Back then, everything was so scary and new. Now, I don’t think about cancer as much. There are annual reminders, like National Cancer Survivors Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month that always sneak up on me, but I usually make it through unscathed.


Annually, I celebrate my cancerversary on July 9 – the day the cancer was removed from my body, but I also remember June 5 each year, the day the cancer was diagnosed. Both of those days will forever haunt me.

The scars have faded some but I can still see them. When I run my fingers over my chest, I feel the smooth, raised area where my skin was sliced open.

My arms still swell, especially in the summer, from secondary lymphedema, a condition caused by the cancer and removal of lymph nodes in both arms.

All in all, as I reflect on my situation, I can say I’m blessed. Cancer is a great teacher. I’ve learned more valuable life lessons over the past 9 years than I have in my 65 years of life. And since that’s the case, I can honestly say I’m thankful. I’m thankful I was deemed strong enough to handle the trial of breast cancer. I’m thankful I have weathered this extremely unexpected, very difficult storm with dignity and grace. So many of my friends and family have not fared as well.

Today, I look in the mirror and see a breastless woman but I also see a brave, determined, resilient person who will forever be treading water. I don’t waste energy struggling against the tide, I’ve learned to relax and go with the flow.

Me and my number one fan
Right now, I’m cancer free. I hope to continue to be able to say that for many more years to come, no, I want to be able to claim it until the day I die, but who knows? I’m a realist. Cancer could come back again. I have a friend who fought breast cancer and thought she was cancer free for 22 years before that ugly monster reared its ugly head again and took her life. If something like that happens to me, I imagine I’ll be angry at first, but then I’ll accept it and do the best I can. That’s all any of us can do when cancer finds us.

Taking one day at a time, one moment at a time is the only way to make it in the world of pink.




Thursday, May 25, 2023

How do people react when they smell you?


Those who know me well know I like a certain perfume. I've enjoyed it for many years and have received many compliments on it. I guess it mixes well with my body chemistry and creates a pleasant aroma. When I walk into a room, inevitably someone will come up to me and ask what scent I'm wearing. I used to hesitate to tell them fearing my secret scent would be stolen, but now I share openly when I'm asked. It's a nice feeling to know others want to know the name of my perfume because they like it. 

Some people are very sensitive to scents, that's one reason I like mine. It's a light scent that doesn't overwhelm or arrive before I do when I enter a room. 

I remember, as a child, sitting in church with my mother. In front of us was an older woman who apparently couldn't smell very well because she doused herself in perfume. It was an overpowering smell and would cause me to feel nauseous. I told myself I'd never do that so when I started wearing perfume, around the age of 15, I did my best to find light, floral scents. 

It took a while to find one that mixed well with my body chemistry. At first, the scents I chose seemed to sit on top of my skin and linger there. Other times, they'd mix with the warmth of my skin and the scent would grow increasingly stronger throughout the day. I didn't find that attractive at all. 

I loved visiting the department stores where perfume reps would offer tiny free sample bottles of perfumes. I'd take them home and try them, often throwing them in the trash after one application. Years later, instead of giving free samples of perfume, the reps would spray the perfume onto a white piece of cardstock with the name of the perfume and the manufacturing company's logo on it. You could still smell the fragrance, but it was slightly diffused and would evaporate quickly. 

As I got older, I'd go into Macy's or Belk's and sidle up to the perfume counter perusing the various shapes and sizes of bottles displayed perfectly on ornate mirrors along the countertops. Sometimes, the shape of the bottle would entice me but more often than not, the scent won me over - that is, if the price wasn't prohibitive. Some perfumes were extremely expensive!


I never liked the knock off brands. They tried their best to copy an original scent's formula but never quite got it right. Though they were less expensive, those knock offs didn't last long and would often smell really bad after a month or so. 

When I finally found my "signature scent" I wore it all the time. Whenever I was out shopping, I'd buy an extra bottle just in case my stock was getting low. I didn't want to run out! 

One day, I went to buy my perfume and found it had been discontinued. I was mortified. Immediately, I got on Amazon and started looking for small businesses that had purchased large lots of the discontinued scent. I found several places that still carried it and ordered immediately. As months passed, I found it more and more difficult to find my favorite perfume and with much chagrin, decided to find a new favorite. 

It took a great deal of time and energy before I finally found another I liked as well as the first. Thankfully, my new favorite hasn't been on the market long so it's still very popular. I get the same type reaction whenever I wear it. People want to know the name of the scent and I gladly tell them. 

But did you know, even if you're not wearing any perfume, you still carry a fragrance around with you? And I'm not talking about how you smell after you've been outside working in your garden or mowing the lawn! I'm not even talking about how you smell if you've just cooked a big meal of fried chicken or some other smelly food. I'm not talking about how you smell after a good long shower or a hot bubble bath, either! If you're a Christ follower, you carry around a very unique fragrance. You carry the aroma of Christ. 

What does the aroma of Christ smell like? Well, it's hard to describe. It's not an actual scent, per se. It's more of an atmosphere or inner beauty exuding from your pores. When Christ dwells in you, you carry Him around with you wherever you go. 

Have you ever had a complete stranger come up to you and start talking to you like you're an old friend or have you repulsed someone without saying a word? If so, you've had a reaction to your scent. Those who are either saved or in the process of learning about Christ, or being drawn closer to Him, will find your scent attractive. You'll be like a magnet to them. They'll want to be around you because they sense something different in you. But those who are unsaved, or those far from Christ (They may have even chosen to reject Him completely) will want to get as far away from you as possible. Christ in you will repel them. 


Carrying around the aroma of Christ is a great responsibility and one we shouldn't take lightly. If you have the honor and privilege of wearing that fragrance daily, it's your duty to share His Name, the name of your special aroma, with others. 

We live in a sour and stinky world! It definitely needs a good dose of "smell good" (that's what one of my children called my perfume when they were small.) Never forget that you carry around a sweet perfume, a scent like no other - the aroma of Christ and you take it with you everywhere you go!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

When the fear of cancer recurrence becomes detrimental to health

 

For the past nine years, I’ve struggled with waves of overwhelming fear of cancer recurrence. I knew I had an issue, but until recently, wasn’t aware of how much fear was affecting my life.

cartoon drawing of blogger and breast cancer survivor, Bonnie Annis

The fear began to manifest in physical problems. First, I noticed my heart would race even though I wasn’t exerting myself, so I started seeing a cardiologist. I’d had problems with hypertension in the past, but this was something new. After running a slew of tests, the doctor assured me I was OK and the three medications I was already taking were doing a good job. He told me not to worry, so I tried my best to heed his advice.

Next, I began having trouble sleeping. I’d done a lot of reading about aging and sleep problems, so I wasn’t too concerned, but when I started waking up exhausted. I knew something wasn’t right. The cardiologist suggested we do a sleep study, so I agreed to it. The test revealed I had sleep apnea, so I found a pulmonologist to address that.

I started having stomach issues and wasn’t able to digest my food well, so my primary doctor referred me to a gastroenterologist. After several tests, it was determined I had legitimate concerns. I was afraid I had esophageal cancer — the cancer that took my brother’s life — but the doctor assured me he’d do more testing. I endured two endoscopies and a colonoscopy, and even had my esophagus stretched. While I awaited the results from those tests, my fear grew.

An enlarged lymph node on the side of my neck freaked me out. Immediately, I called the oncologist and set up an appointment. She ordered an ultrasound. When the test was inconclusive, I panicked. I wasn’t ready to face cancer again. The doctor ordered a CT scan of my neck and one of my abdomen just to be sure there was no cancer there. I was thankful she was proactive.

When I received an email alert through the patient portal of my cancer treatment center, I just about lost it. Why was the oncologist calling me in to see her? If it was good news, wouldn’t she have called and told me? The fear inside reached epic proportions.

I called my husband at work and asked if he could take a vacation day to accompany me to the appointment. I didn’t want to face bad news alone. Immediately, he went to his boss and made the request. I felt a little more at ease knowing he’d be with me.

The night before the appointment, I didn’t sleep a wink, even with my CPAP machine. My thoughts were all over the place. What would I do if I had to face cancer again? I didn’t think I could do it.

In the morning, as we drove to the cancer treatment center, my husband held my hand. He talked softly to me and assured me that whatever the news, he’d be right with me.

After waiting in the lobby for about thirty minutes, my name was called. Grasping my husband’s hand, I tugged on it hard as I stood up to follow the nurse. Together, we walked into the exam room and waited for the doctor.

I did my best to control my breathing as the nurse took my vital signs. The nurse asked if my blood pressure was normally high. I replied, “No.” She turned the screen to reveal my systolic pressure was 157. I told her I guessed I was nervous.

The doctor came in with a scribe and her medical assistant. She barely greeted us before sitting down and opening her laptop. I tried to read her body language but couldn’t. She seemed to be all business.

As she pulled up the report for the CT scans, she said, “There’s no cancer on your scans, so you have nothing to worry about. And I see here that that you’re coming up on nine years being cancer free, so I don’t need to see you but once a year now, unless you have something that pops up in between time.” She stood and folded her laptop, then headed toward the door.

“But wait!” I said anxiously, “Are you sure? This wasn’t what I was expecting.” She nodded her head and put her hand on the doorknob. As she turned it, I felt a rush of cool air brush my face.

When she’d exited the room, I turned to my husband, tears in my eyes, and exhaled. We were both in shock. Neither of us expected to hear good news delivered in such a cavalier fashion. Sure, the appointment was probably the last of the day for the doctor, but gee, didn’t I deserve a high five or something?

As we left the cancer treatment center, I suddenly realized I wouldn’t be coming again for an entire year. I had mixed emotions. On one hand, I was happy to be walking out with good news, on the other, I wondered how I’d let fear overpower me so easily.

When I got home, I went into the bathroom and cried. The tears were a much-needed emotional release. Until that point, I hadn’t realized that every time I’d felt any kind of physical malady I’d subconsciously defaulted to “it’s cancer.”

I’m a pretty grounded person, but that afternoon, I realized I had some unresolved post-traumatic stress to deal with. I’d thought that I’d done most of that healing work over the past nine years, but I guess a barb of fear had lodged itself deep in my spirit.

Fear is a powerful weapon the enemy uses against us. The important thing is to learn to recognize it and disarm it.

If there was one piece of advice I’d like to give others facing the overwhelming fear of recurrence, it’s to give yourself grace. We’re only human. It’s normal to dread a recurrence of cancer, especially when it's come into your life and done a number on your mental and physical well-being. Sometimes, it’s necessary to get professional help to conquer it and there’s no shame in that. But please, don’t let it control your life like I did.

I once read a powerful quotation by Emily Freeman I’d like to share with you, “Worry is a thief, fear is a liar, and anxiety is their trembling, furrow-browed baby.” That sums it up perfectly. No one deserves to live under that kind of stress.

Nine years is a long time to deal with the powerful side effect of fear that cancer brought into my life. So today, I choose to release myself from it. And if it ever tries to rear its ugly head again, I’m going to lop it off and scream, “NOT TODAY! I am alive and doing well.” That, my friends, is my new mantra. I’ve fought too hard to let down my guard ever again. I am blessed and I’m going to start living like it.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

The babies are about to leave!

For the past couple of weeks, we've been watching a nesting box in our backyard. It's hung on a huge Pine tree, about 4 feet off the ground. Inside the box are 5 baby Bluebirds.

One of the things we loved when we moved here was the fact that our home was surrounded by all sorts of trees. Living on a wooded lot, we've enjoyed all sorts of wildlife everything from tiny Hummingbirds to majestic deer, but the thing we enjoy most of all is when the Bluebirds come. 

Every year, around the end of April, a nest of pine straw begins to form in the nesting boxes we've put out. Slowly and methodically, the mother bird carries bits of straw, twigs, dryer lint, and even hair from recent haircuts. We try to leave a few bits near the base of the trees to help her out. 

Sleepy babies

After the nest is built, she'll sit there and lay her eggs while the male Bluebird brings her worms to eat. We don't disturb her when she's on the eggs. When we see her flying out to go get her own food, we know the babies have either just hatched out or are about to. 

From that point on, we watch and wait. About 2 weeks in, we start closely monitoring the nest. I watch to make sure the parents are away hunting food and gently lift the front door to the nesting box. As I peek in, I can see the growth of the babies and compare it to a chart I have that tells me about how old they are. I snap a quick photo and close the door. From what I've read, Bluebirds don't have a keen sense of smell so I can do this without upsetting them. I never touch the babies or the nest though, just in case.

As the babies grow and change, they begin to get more and more feathers. They start out a dark gray color and eventually start getting a bluish tint. Most of the time the babies are sleeping when I check on them, but occasionally, they'll have their eyes wide open waiting on Mama's latest catch to appear. 

Alert and waiting on Mama to feed them

They're so cute! I really want to pick one up and hold it, but know I can't. 

Bluebirds are only in the nesting box about 19-20 days, so these little ones are just about ready to fledge. Mama bird will come to the front of the nesting box and begin coaxing them out. One by one, they'll ease out and fly down to the ground. After their wings get a little stronger and the baby a little bolder, it will fly up to a low hanging branch and wait for the mother to coax it on its journey. 

I've been able to capture that with past broods and hope to with this one as well. 

It kind of makes me sad to see them go. It feels almost like it did when my kids were growing up. I knew one day they'd leave, but I didn't want them to. I wanted to keep them with me forever, but that's not healthy. Our job is to give them roots and wings. 

I'm on high alert for the rest of today, tomorrow, and the next day. I'm pretty sure I've gotten the timing right and the babies will be leaving no later than Tuesday. I'll keep you posted! 


Monday, May 1, 2023

Love Hate Relationship With My Phone


Cellphones. Love them or hate them? If I had to answer honestly, I'd say both. Sometimes I love the convenience of having my phone always with me and sometimes I don't. I love being able to receive instant messages, alerts, and phone calls. I love the quick and easy access to a pocket sized camera that takes decent photos, but I hate that my phone seems to control my life. 

Several years back, we had a house phone and our cell phones. When we were home, we could turn off our cells and rely on communication through our home phone, but that didn't last long. People began ditching their home phones to avoid an unnecessary bill and since most cable companies and cell phone providers didn't provide battery backups in case of power outages, home phones weren't what they used to be - the old timey kind that were wired in and received data from cables attached to utility poles. 

After a while, we cut the cord, too. It seemed unnecessary to have a home phone if we wouldn't be able to use it in the event of a power outage. It felt odd after we did it, kind of like we'd cut our lifeline to the world, but over time we've gotten used to the era of digital calling. 

But sometimes I feel like we worship our phones. I don't know if many would look at them as idols, but when we spend more time on them that time with God, that's exactly what they are. 

This morning, as soon as I got out of bed, I pulled my cell phone out of my nightstand drawer. I keep it there overnight with the do not disturb feature omn so I can sleep. I have it set so immediate family can still interrupt even if that feature is on, but I don't have to deal with other calls or notifications, which is a nice thing. 

After turning off the do not disturb feature, my phone instantly starts pinging with various notifications - Incoming messages, Facebook messages, news alerts, weather reports, and phone calls. I thought I'd gotten immune to the sounds, but this morning, they really bothered me. 

For one hour, I noticed how many irritations came in through my cell phone. In that brief time span, I was inundated with "stuff" (I could have said another word here, but I didn't.). I got tired of it so I turned my phone on silent and in the silence, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, "Which do you love more, God or your phone?" Whoa...There's no contest there. I love God WAY more than I could ever love a silly cell phone. Then, I felt Him saying, "Prove it." 

At that very moment, I was on the phone with my youngest daughter who calls me every morning as she's on her way to work. She's so thoughtful to call and check in on me and I appreciate it. We usually talk for about 30 minutes or more and in between the time we're on the phone and when we get off, my husband goes on his morning break at work. He always shoots me a few text messages to tell me he loves me and to check in on how I'm doing. Again, I love getting those messages, but in between talking with my daughter and receiving and replying to texts from my hubby, other notifications start coming in. A barrage of little dings and beeps keep me picking up and looking at my phone. Some days I feel like it's my tether to the world and other days I want to pitch it out the window, so I did something radical. I turned it off. 

With the phone off, I pulled out my Bible and had my quiet time, which was beautiful and sweet. I love communing with God. 

As I read His Word, I got the message loud and clear, He loves me and wants to spend time with me but sometimes, I let other things get in the way. Shame on me! 

The cell phone doesn't own me or control me and I needn't act like it does. And I shouldn't allow it to frustrate me to the point of exasperation either. It's supposed to be a useful tool at my disposal, so how did it become so much more? 

I think many have allowed their iPhones or Android devices to slowly but surely become idols in their lives. Though we may not bow down and worship them, we certainly give them more time and attention than we do God and that needs to stop immediately! 

1 John 5:21 in the Amplified version of the Bible says it so well - "Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods)  - {from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life}. Amen (so let it be).  

Forgive us, Lord, for not spending as much time with You as we do on our cell phones. Help us turn off outside distractions and focus on You. Show us truths from Your Holy Word about how we are to live, love, and occupy until You come back for us one day in the very near future and help us remember, You created us to worship You and You alone. Amen.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

When can I quit cancer?

When can I quit cancer? I ask myself that question several times a day. I'm tired of it. For over 9 years I've been dealing with cancer and cancer related items. To say I'm over it would be an understatement. 

Yesterday, I spent 4 hours at the cancer treatment center. I'd gone for a "check up." They had me come in for lab work and then I'd had to wait around for an hour so the results could be review by the doctor. Then, I had to wait even longer to see the doc. 

When she finally came into the room, I thought, she's going to spend extra time with me since she was over an hour late for my appointment. I don't know where I came up with that idea because it certainly wasn't reality. I don't even think she was in the room with me for 5 minutes! 

After looking at my labs and telling me my sodium was low, she quickly looked back at the ultrasound report from my last visit and asked about the enlarged lymph node in my neck they'd scanned. I told her it was still there. 

She came over and began to mash around on my neck then went back to her desk and said, "We'll get a CT on that area." When she said it, my mind naturally went to a bad place - did she think the cancer had returned? I didn't get a chance to ask her because she was already heading out the door. Apparently, she'd been overbooked that day and had many more patients to see. I left feeling frustrated and angry. 

I snuck this photo in the waiting room

I realize the importance of continual screening and annual oncology appointments are the best way of staying on top of any possible issues, but it sure is getting old.

When the doctor was looking over my labs, I did ask what my tumor marker numbers were. In the past, with my other oncologists, they've always told me my numbers. Dr. S, my new onco, looked at my funny and said, "Oh, we don't normally do those when you've had surgery to remove the cancer." WHAT??? I must have looked at her quizzically because she repeated the statement. That's when I told her, with my family history of all sorts of nasty cancers - lung cancer, esophageal cancer, brain cancer, etc. that I needed to know what my tumor markers were and I expected to have that test run regularly. Thankfully, she heard me because she turned to her scribe and said, "We'll make a note to run the tumor markers at your next visit." Dang. 

I toyed with the idea of going back to my other oncologist. At least he gave me the time of day and seemed to be truly interested in my health. This new onco seems overworked and uninterested. It's not a good way to do business, especially in the medical field. 

There are many things I liked about the cancer treatment center and many things I do not. I like that everything is contained in one location - all the imaging, chemotherapy, radiation, labs, etc. are in the same huge building. I don't like the fact that this hospital is a regional one and since it is one of 5 facilities nationwide, there are a LOT of patients. 

Cancer is a lucrative business, that's for sure, but when the patients suffer because of the business side of it, change needs to happen. 

Maybe patients need to start filling out those after visit questionnaires a little more truthfully. I sure do. If they ask how pleased I was with the service I received, I tell them like it is. When they ask how long I had to wait before seeing the doctor, I'm not sugar coating it and when they ask if I'd recommend others to the facility, I don't hem and haw. I state my reasons, both pro and con. I feel like they asked for it, so they're gonna get it. 

Rant over. In a nutshell, cancer sucks and I want out.


 

Monday, April 24, 2023

A little hand can hold a heart

 Yesterday, we went to visit my daughter's church. She'd invited us because she and her husband would be singing a duet and she knew I'd want to hear it. As soon as we arrived, we made our way into the sanctuary. A few minutes later, my youngest granddaughter came bounding in and squeezed into our pew slipping between my youngest daughter and I. She pulled out her little pouch with drawing materials and sat quietly waiting for the service to begin. 

As her Mommy and Daddy made their way to the stage to sing, she sidled up closer to me. I was thankful for our relationship. 

After the song was done and the preaching started, she began to quietly draw. I leaned over and whispered in her ear giving her an idea of something to draw. Immediately, she smile and began working on the project. When she'd completed it, she ripped the page out of her little notebook and slipped it to me. 

I keep all her drawings. I've framed them since she was old enough to scribble with crayons. Over the years, her artistic abilities have improved and I can see, that one day, she may find art an important creative outlet, as have I. 

As the service was winding up, the pastor asked the congregation to bow their heads and pray. All of a sudden, I felt a tiny hand slip into mine. My heart sang as I realized she valued me so much she wanted to hold my hand. 

She held it throughout the entire prayer and then, as quickly as she'd placed it there, she withdrew it. I couldn't help but smile, knowing she'd always find ways to hold my heart. 

She was just a few months old here.

When she was just a babe, I fell in love. Not only was this my granddaughter, she also carried part of my precious daughter in her. 

I was so grateful I'd been allowed to be at her birth. What a special day that was! To date, I've been able to attend 4 of my 9 grandchildren's births. 

I had the honor and privilege of babysitting this sweet one shortly after her birth to this day. Over time, I've held her little hand and have marveled at how much I love her. 

It's interesting to me, how perceptive children are. Whenever she's felt I needed it, she'll give me a big hug or grab my hand as she talks to me. When she does, it's as if our hearts and souls connect. 

I got a sticker for going potty back then, too.

As she's grown older, her little hand has gotten bigger. Her fingers are long and slender and I told her she'd make a great piano player. 

When she was potty training, her Mommy started a sticker reward program and would place a sticker on the back of my little granddaughter's hand when she made a successful trip to the potty. The program worked so well, that on a visit to my house, little bug told me I needed to go potty so I could have a sticker, too. I thought it was so cute that she wanted to share her pride and joy with me. 

I can't wait to see what those little hands grow up to do. 

She's now almost 10 and I don't have a recent photo of her holding my hand, but I'll try to get one soon. 

I hope she'll never stop wanting to hold my hand. Though my hand has grown old and wrinkly, she doesn't seem to mind.I don't think she knows how powerful her touch is and how she has and always will hold my heart.



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