Tag Archive | breast cancer

Time to Exhale

How do you spell relief?  Depending on your situation it could mean anything.  I was thinking about that old commercial, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is…” for Alka Seltzer back in the 60’s.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxjb2UJZ-5I)  Often our problems are far from an upset stomach!  Relief could come in the form of getting a grade back and finding out that you passed a test.  It could be hearing your child’s car pull into the driveway or walking into an air-conditioned home after coming inside from the heat and humidity.  Possibly it’s opening a bill and finding out it’s not as high as originally anticipated.  It’s almost like you’re holding your breath and don’t realize it until the relief comes and then you can exhale and breathe again.

I realize that for myself, when relief comes in any form, I automatically associate it with thankfulness.  I don’t tend to take things for granted.  In fact I’m not sure what I take for granted if anything.  When I find relief, I see it as being blessed knowing that the results could have been different, and give thanks to God knowing that He is always in control.

Having had cancer once, I think most survivors always wonder if it will happen again.  I don’t dwell on it or spend a lot of time thinking about it.  I am trying to eat healthier, exercise more and do what I can to prevent it but every once in a while that thought does creep in and I think that’s normal.

I was overdue to have medical tests done due to insurance.  Fortunately after many phone calls and paperwork I was able to get funded to have the follow-up tests done.  I know that was nothing short of God’s doing.  Last month I went and had a diagnostic mammogram and phewa breast MRI done to make sure that nothing abnormal was going on.  You want the tests done but at the same time you don’t because you don’t want to hear that there is a problem.  The wait seems forever but once you get the results and hear that all things are NORMAL, there is RELIEF!  And along with the relief, is THANKFULNESS to God!  I can exhale now!

When God created man, He did so by breathing life into Him.  “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)  When we find relief and can start breathing again, I think it’s appropriate to be thankful to the One who not only gave us life but also the cause for relief.

Making change

Our toy cash register

Our toy cash register

It’s been awhile since I posted in this blog.  The good news is  life is back to “normal” in the sense that I am not undergoing any treatment for cancer.   I am feeling pretty much recovered from all the side effects.  There’s still some aches and pains and sensations but at this point I honestly don’t know if it’s still from treatment or if it’s from aging, LOL.  The joke among my “cancer friends” is that we can blame most any symptom we are feeling as a lingering side effect from chemo!

Here we are at the start of 2014.  A new year.  A clean slate.  Another fresh start.  It’s probably a blessing that we don’t know ahead of time what the year may bring.  One thing I learned through this whole journey is not to worry about what may or may not happen but to take one day at a time and to enjoy life to its fullest. (Matt.6:27) Whatever comes my way, I am confident that God will give me the strength I need and will not leave me to walk  alone. (Deut. 31:6) He has brought me through some very tough days.  The road ahead may include some steep inclines, rough terrain, deep valleys, curvy and winding roads, an occasional bump in the road, and detours but my GPS (God Perspective System) will keep me focused knowing that He has my best interest in mind.  We won’t always understand the course He has us on but we can be assured of where we’ll end up ultimately.

I enjoyed the bike the most for cardio...actually steered on the courses selected!

I enjoyed the bike the most for cardio…actually steered on the courses selected!

New Year’s is a popular time to make resolutions on changes we want to make in our life as we reflect on how we did the previous year.  Some things are out of our control but many are not. We have a choice on how we’ll travel our journey through the year. Probably some of the most popular resolutions are health related…exercise, lose weight, eat healthier, get more rest, etc.  Most of these are broken within a month and then people just give up completely.  I wish more people looked internally to make changes…attitude adjustments and heart issues…than just externally.

My graduating class...12 weeks of sweat and tears.

My graduating class…12 weeks of sweat and tears.

I think the success of a resolution boils down to desire, motivation, discipline, and wisdom.  You have to really want to reach a goal bad enough in order to do something about it.  There has to be reason to reach it.  You have to have an obtainable plan to get there and it has to be plan that if followed will indeed get you there.

As a child I enjoyed playing “store.”  When I was teaching my own children, we used a play cash register and they learned how to make change.  We would set up toys and other items and put price tags on them.  They would “shop” and purchase items or be the cashier, but either way they had to learn how to count money and make change. It was a process and took time to learn.

Receiving my diploma and yellow rose at Livestrong graduation

Receiving my diploma and yellow rose at Livestrong graduation

doing the leg press

doing the leg press

Do you really want to make change in some areas?  Then do something about it.  I know for myself that last year I set a goal to run in a 5K and to start getting myself back in shape physically after going through cancer treatment.  I did run the 5 K in September and then I also signed up for the Livestrong program at the YMCA.  It is a free 12 week program for cancer survivors that encompasses cardio, strength, and flexibility.  It was a big commitment.  I had never even been in a gym before.  Not only did I learn a lot and get healthy and fit but I met a great group of people as well.  Now at the start of the new year I am ready to take on the challenge of trying to maintain my fitness.  I am still not sure whether I will join a gym or do it on my own at home but I am determined to follow through.  I feel better than I have in a long time.

Whatever my journey this year encompasses, I am determined to go through it feeling my best, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. “Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.” (1 Tim.4:8 MSG)  Change is hard but if we stick with it and really want it, with God’s help we can achieve it.  Here’s to the best in 2014.

“Blooming” trials

This week I heard the word “blooming” used in a way I wasn’t familiar with.    I had always thought of blooming only in the sense of flowering or blossoming.  The word “blooming” can be used as an adjective or an adverb, rhyming with crewman or human,  is chiefly British and was probably a euphemism for “bloody” as in a bloody fool.  It is used as a generalized intensive.

Photo credit: Joshua Siniscal

Photo credit: Joshua Siniscal

This happens to be one of my favorite times of the year.  I love to see all the trees budding and flowers blooming, the grass turning green and lawns getting cut, flower beds being cleaned up, and gardens started.  Unfortunately for so many with seasonal allergies this is not a favorite time of year but one of dread.  Green dust covers our cars and the pollen count climbs higher.  I see many with puffy itchy eyes and congestion.  It makes me wonder how something so beautiful can cause so much heartache and discomfort?  The pollen’s got some blooming nerve!

At the same time, there are horrible things like cancer or many other trials and tribulations that are not beautiful in and of themselves but can bring forth beauty.  It’s like a bulb or seed in the ground…ugly, dead, lifeless, hidden.  After a period of time and nurturing in the soil, with some warmth from the sun, and some water, a new life pokes out of the ground and blooms for all to see!

My lilac tree

Patience, the lilac tree

This is the same in our lives.  A bad report, some unwelcome news, a loss, or a heartache happens.  Our heavenly Father holds us in His bosom, comforts us, cradles us, gives us hope, warms us in the Son, refreshes our spirit with His Word, and once again we are ready to bloom in a new place where He has planted us for yet another season in life.

My oldest daughter loves lilacs and when we moved to our current house I planted a lilac tree that was only about 18″ high.  It took several years before we even had one bloom on the tree and while we waited she aptly named the tree “Patience.”  It is now tall and full of lovely blossoms but they didn’t come overnight.  It took a lot of love and nurturing, some very cold winters, and a time of waiting before others could enjoy the beauty and fragrance that it gives off.

“I will put beautiful crowns on their heads in place of ashes.  I will anoint them with oil to give them gladness instead of sorrow.  I will give them a spirit of praise in place of a spirit of sadness. They will be like oak trees that are strong and straightThe Lord himself will plant them in the land.  That will show how glorious he is.” (Isaiah 61:3 NIRV)

Blooming where you are planted (amidst your trials) is a bloomin’ good place to be!

Seasonal changes and survival

Seasons.  After what seemed like a long winter we finally got a taste of spring.  A few  days of unseasonably warm days.  Windows were finally opened for a bit. People were outside cleaning up yards.  Motorcycles were taken out for a spin. Everyone seemed happier.  It was a tease for a few days but a welcome one.  Each season brings some kind of change.  Some “seasons” in our life are brief; others seem like they will never end.  Some are welcomed, others dreaded.  How do we handle these changes when they are big and not welcomed?

Rock ptarmigan

ptarmigan

In school this week my students had read about some animals that live in the tundra and taiga where the ground is frozen and it snows a lot. How do they handle the seasonal changes?   The arctic fox and the arctic hare are  brownish grey in summer and white in winter. Their camouflage  helps them to survive.  The ptarmigan, an arctic bird, also changes to pure white in the winter but additionally grows stiff feathers between its toes so it can walk on the frozen ground. They can also fly into snow banks and nestle in the snow to sleep and keep warm.  By doing this they don’t leave tracks for predators to follow either. The wolverine grows thick fur and has flat paws so it can walk on top of the snow.  Other animals like the arctic ground squirrel simply hibernate and sleep the long cold winter away.

Seasonal changes for animals and adaptation.  God has equipped animals with ways to adapt in order to survive.  Amazing!  More amazing is that God has done the same for us humans and we are much more important to Him.  “You, beloved, are worth so much more than a whole flock of sparrows. God knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head. So do not fear.” (Matthew 10:30-31 VOICE)

So what are the ways we have been equipped to handle major changes in our lives?  I was thinking how different my life become almost overnight one year ago.  For me it was a cancer diagnosis.  For you it may be a different type of health issue, or a job loss, your marriage, financial woes, or problems with your children.  How do we weather the storm or season we are in?

I believe that our survival mode must include prayer.  Prayer is simply talking to God and hearing His voice.  We need to know what direction to go, what to do, and how to do it.  We need to trust God and follow His lead.  This is our GPS to get us through it.  He has given us the scriptures, His Word, our survival manual.  “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG)  If we release our burden to God, we are no longer carrying the weight of it.  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

We could choose to hibernate from our problems but they would still be there when we “woke up.”  They aren’t going to go away while we sleep or try to ignore them; in fact, they would probably get worse. We will never get to the next season until we go through the one we are currently in.  Some seasons will be better than others.  I find comfort in the fact that if God has equipped animals with ways to survive the seasonal changes and He cares more for me, then I know He has equipped me with what I will need to endure and embrace whatever changes come my way.  “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair;  there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 GNT)  We are not alone.  We will survive!  Spring is in the air!

Depressing Debt

The “price tag” on an expensive item can send us into sticker shock.  Some things we decide we can do without because it’s more than we would care to spend but sometimes it is not optional.  This is the case for necessary medical treatment and procedures, especially if it life threatening.  I don’t want to get into the whole health insurance debate because it turns my stomach but to make a long story short my health insurance switched as of the first of the year.  I am just now receiving bills through my new insurance.

Cancer treatment is very expensive.  Every treatment is thousands and thousands of dollars.  It can throw you into sticker shock when you start to scrutinize every statement and then the bills that follow.  It’s one of those items that you really can’t do without, can’t purchase second hand or find on Craig’s List, or  bid for on E bay.  I was trying to figure out how to pay the deductible that had been met and then got billed for the out-of-pocket max already for the year.  To add insult to injury next came the estimate and bills for my root canal, post and crown with my new dental insurance.

Going through treatments is bad enough but having to deal with the paperwork, billing and financial price tag on top of that can be very overwhelming.  I can easily let this eat away at me and get depressed which was starting OR I can choose to focus on the fact that my God has always provided.  He tells us not to worry, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,'” Matthew 6:34 (NIV).  I can rest in the fact that HE has not changed.  He is faithful and has promised to provide for my needs.  “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19 (NIV).  Matthew 6:26, “ Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (RSV)  If He takes care of a little sparrow, how much more will He take care of my needs?

I was watching the new Bible mini-series on tv last week.  One of the scenes that always grabs me is where Abraham takes Jehovah Jireh 1his only son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him in obedience to God.  So many thoughts run through my own mind when I think of what must have been going on in both Abraham’s and Isaac’s minds.  To everyone’s relief, especially Abraham’s,  God comes through and provides a ram for the sacrifice.   Jehovah Jireh (YHWH Yireh), is one of the names of God.  It means the Lord who provides or sees (to it).  This is exactly what happened here in this account in Genesis 22.  WOW…The Lord will see to it that not only is my every need met but that it is met in just the right time, and not just financial needs either.  Check out this two minute video on Jehovah Jireh…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgU8re8b8aA

No one likes to have any debt, especially large financial ones.  The good news is that the BIGGEST DEBT any of us has ever had, has already been taken care of!  God has already provided the ultimate sacrifice through his son Jesus.  “God bought you with a great price,” 1 Corinthians 16:20a (NLB)  “Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would,” 1 Corinthians 15:3b (NIRV)  That is one debt I could never repay even if I tried and am so thankful it was PAID IN FULL on the cross.

Words

Words… Words are a way we communicate with one another. They can be spoken or written but either way they can impact another person positively or negatively. It’s amazing to think that words are only something made up of speech sounds or written or printed characters but they have the power to change a life. They can make or break someone’s day or change a course of a lifetime.

Think about it; the power of even one or two words. “I do.” “Yes.” “No.” I had quite a number of medical appointments and tests done last week…thyroid biopsy, breast MRI, echo cardiogram, Pabst smear, infusion, bone density, root canal, etc. The results came back in drips and drabs over the course of the week. Each time it was a simple “normal” or “benign” and even a “beautiful” was thrown in there. Just one simple word told me all I needed to know or cared to know. I was thankful those were the words I was told, especially after what I went through medically in the last year.

Today, March 1st, is World Compliment Day.  Think about how something as simple as a compliment could put a smile on someone’s face or brighten their day.  You know the old adage, “Think before you speak” or “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say 560166_10151427374636530_552397826_nanything at all”? There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Proverbs 10:19, “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.” (Message) There’s a time and a place to say certain things as well. “The right word at the right time is like golden apples in silver jewelry.” Proverbs 25:11 (NIRV)

The third chapter in the book of James is about taming the tongue, or I should say our inability to do so. He alludes to the bit in the mouth of a horse and to a rudder on a large ship. It controls or steers it in the direction the rider or pilot wants to go. It is a small thing but it does a big job, good or bad, like a spark starting a forest fire. The tongue can be used to praise or to curse. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” (NLT) At the same time, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NASB)

When we read or hear the Word of God, it is soothing and satisfying to our whole being.  Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (NIV)  The Message translation puts it this way, “Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking.” Wow! These were especially prepared for us to devour and feast off of.  They are truth and show us how to live our lives not only here on earth but an eternal offer as well.

I really like a new song that has been played recently on a station I listen to. It’s simply called “Words” by Hawk Nelson and how words can build us up or break us down. Part of the chorus goes like this, “Let my words be life/Let my words be truth/I don’t wanna say a word/Unless it points the world back to You. This is exactly how I feel about this blog. Although I hope that it has been both informative and encouraging to others with breast cancer or anything else they may be going through, I cannot write a post unless my words are pointing back to God. This blog may be about my experiences but it’s purpose is not to point to me but to the Lord and what He is doing with a broken vessel. He gets the glory for everything and anything good in me or that may come from me.

Here is the official Youtube video of the song “Words.”  Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anVweXDcxhA

Clay jars and cracked pots

I was thinking about our bodies, how temporal they really are. Obviously I’ve thought about this more since a cancer diagnosis one year ago.  They are given to us for our time here on earth to dwell in.  It’s amazing how they function and how all the different systems and organs work together so we can do what we need to while we’re  here on earth.  This week I feel like I had my 50,000 mile check-up and I’m good to go.  I had the week off from work and had more doctor appointments and tests than I would have liked but hopefully won’t need much more for another 10,000 miles or so.  I wish somebody would create some kind of “frequent flyer miles” for the amount of time I have spent waiting in offices!  Anyway, ironically we are only taking care of jars of clay!

Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the man started breathing.” (CEV)  Man was made from the dust of the earth.  Our bodies are nothing more than earthen vessels with a spirit inside.  It’s no wonder that after a period of time, exposed to the elements of life that they begin to decay and break down as we gradually age.

I love how the Bible shows God as the potter and mankind as the clay.  “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) He takes the dirt or clay in this case, and fashions each of us into a unique vessel.  Understand that this is a long process.  The potter needs to dig the clay out of the swamp.  “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2 (NIV)  The clay is not perfect to begin with and must be prepared for the potter’s wheel.  It has to be moldable and be able to hold up under stress.  The potter creates pressure with his hands to work the clay and orient it in the same direction as the wheel or it flies off.

The potter has a plan for the clay.   One of my favorite verses is, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  You were born on purpose and for a purpose. (Psalm 139)  Little air pockets or any earthen impurities in the clay can be fatal and will wreck the whole pot.  They need to be removed and worked out.

The clay can only be worked in the center of the wheel.  If it’s anywhere else it will go around in circles until the centrifugal force throws it off the wheel.   There are spiritual forces trying to pull you away from your relationship with Christ.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)  If we are centered in the Lord’s will we will be in a place of rest.

As the potter works the clay he applies pressure both inside and outside the clay.  He draws upward lifting the clay to the height he wants.   “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:10 (KJV)  It takes time.  The work on the inside is reflected on the outside of the vessel.  The clay always has a lot of potential but it has to be willing.  Once molded, the weak and porous clay vessel needs to go into the fire at 1,800 degrees F.  It gets lighter, harder and purified. “When you pass through the waters  I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers,  they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;  the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

If there are any marks on the clay, once it goes into the fire the marks cannot be removed.  Scars tell stories.  The past cannot be undone. Give the things that have scarred you to the Lord.  “To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them ‘Oaks of Righteousness’ planted by God to display his glory.” Isaiah 61:3 (Message)  A coat of glaze goes on the fired piece and it goes back in the kiln at 2,350 degrees F.

Clay that sits out exposed, unused, not in the potter’s hands, dries out.  Clay needs moisture in order to be moldable like How to Make Pottery Clay From Earth Clay thumbnailthe washing by the Word of God.  The potter paid a price for the clay but he still can’t do anything with the clay if it’s drying out and brittle. He can’t force more water into it.  The clay at this point must completely dry out and then the potter will break it into pieces, pulverizing it before adding water to it.  Ouch!

Giving the vessel a specific form and function or calling makes the vessel useful.  We are each equipped to do something here on earth.  You may feel like you are broken and worn out, useless, unable to function in any capacity.  We are cracked pots but we can still function.  I will close with a favorite story about the cracked water pot.

“A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house.  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes to leak out all the way back to your house. The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”  Author Unknown

We are all cracked pots and all have flaws in our earthen jars.  Allow the potter to use you for whatever He has designed you for.  It’s not about the vessel but the treasure within. “Treasure is kept in clay jars. In the same way, we have the treasure of the good news in these earthly bodies of ours. That shows that the mighty power of the good news comes from God. It doesn’t come from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7  (NIRV)