Tag Archive | cancer diagnosis

Another time, another place

I often hear people talk about how they wished they had been born in a different time period.  We have movies like “Back to the Future” and the “Time Traveler’s Wife” and others where people can be transported to different eras.  I have given that thought myself before and decided the “olden days” were good when things were simple but not so simple that there were no modern conveniences.

I have also thought about how I was born and raised in the United States.  I have been to third world countries and have seen firsthand how hard it is for some people just to survive from day to day.  They do not have access to clean water, food, shelter, education or jobs.  We recently finished a book in school on one of the Lost boys from Sudan that came to the U.S. and it got me thinking again about how I take for granted the fact that I was born to parents in this country.

It gets my brain on overload when I start to wonder, “Why me?”  Why was I chosen to be born where I was and when I was?  Many have even come before me that were fortunate enough to be born here in the U.S. but it was during a time when women didn’t have many rights or you had “washing day” where you had to spend an entire day washing your family’s clothes by hand and hang them out to dry (after you made your own laundry soap). Ugh!  I am counting my blessings!

Did you ever really think about why you were born when you were and where you were?  I’ve read this before but today it popped out at me.  “From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He (God) decided exactly WHEN they should live. And he decided exactly WHERE they should live.” Acts 17:26 NIRV  And do you know WHY He made us?  So that we could search for God and find Him (v.27).  Every human being is placed on earth with the purpose of seeking God.  You were specifically planned down to where and when you would be born!  

I no longer wish that I had been born at another time or even in another place (other than NJ).  I was thinking about the cancer diagnosis I received last year.  If I had been born years earlier, my cancer probably would not have been diagnosed in the early stages.  The aggressive cancer I had would have advanced quickly, and most likely it would have been too late for any treatment at all.  Any treatment that I received would not have been as effective as what I was able to get either.  If I lived elsewhere I might not have had access to the healthcare I was able to receive.  I literally pass by the hospital/doctors I use on my route to work each day so treatments were very convenient as well.  Right now I am happy to do just what I was put here for…seeking God.



Good Reads

In need of hope or encouragement for whatever you are going through?  Is living your life consumed with treatment and doctor appointments and “what if’s” and “why me’s”?  Feeling hopeless and like your life has changed for the worse?  Looking for peace in a storm? Read on…

I would like to put out a recommendation for two books that I found this past weekend at a convention.  The first is a devotional called Jesus Jesus Today  -             By: Sarah Young    Today – Experience Hope Through His Presence, by Sarah Young.  She is also the author of Jesus Calling which was a #1 seller.  This devotional was written during a very difficult time in Sarah’s life when she was having serious medical problems and treatment.  The devotional consists of 150 two-page entries along with 50 quotations of hope dispersed throughout the book.  It is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to the reader and includes the scriptures related to each entry.

Here is just a small sampling from one, “Learn to live from a place of resting in Me.  Since I – The Prince of Peace – am both with and within you, you can choose to live from this peaceful place of union with Me.  This enables you to stay calm in the midst of stressful situations, by re-centering yourself in Me.  We can deal with your problems together – you and I – so there is no need to panic.  However, the more difficult your circumstances, the more tempting it is for you to shift into high gear and forget My peaceful Presence.”

The second book is After Diagnosis: LIFE, Moving People from Devastation to Extraordinary Living by Dr. Jim Henry.  I was privileged to be at a convention and Jim Henry taught one of the workshops I attended.  The book was written for anyone confronted by a crisis that is stopping them from living life and for those watching.  It’s a small book (115 pages) that shows step by step how to turn a crisis or diagnosis into living life abundantly, not just “coping” with an illness or problem.  It offers peace, hope and quality of life, regardless of the quantity.  Receiving a life altering diagnosis should not be the beginning of the end but a new beginning altogether.  I felt like I could have written much of this book as I had already done most of the steps  he suggested.  This is exactly how I feel after going through my cancer journey and now it is in print ready for me to pass onto others.  The book can be purchased through https://www.tlgn.org/cms/ebook

“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  John 10:10 (Message)

Cancer Camaraderie

Well today I was fortunate enough to attend the “Celebration of Life” luncheon given in recognition of the 25th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day, given by the The Cancer Program at the hospital I receive my treatment from.  I really wasn’t sure what it was going to be like but the keynote speaker looked interesting, I was available, and it was free.  I hadn’t invited anyone to go with me because I wasn’t real sure what the whole thing was going to be like.  On the way there a major road I needed to access was closed at the entrance ramp and detoured me in the opposite direction.  Upon finally getting turned around all three lanes went into one and I found myself sitting in traffic thinking I would be very late.  I was ready to turn around and just come home but I am so glad I didn’t.

Upon arriving I assumed there must be other functions going on with all the cars and people dressed up.  I was greeted warmly at the door and to my surprise there were no other functions going on.  The place was filled with 700 people, mostly cancer survivors, some doctors and staff, and some friends.  Remember I said I came alone?  At this point it was easy to find seating for one and just look for an empty seat.  I tried to pick a table of women around my age and sat down.  A waitress took my order and when the food was served I had a delicious salmon dinner.

The speaker was a comedian who was also a juggler and an author but more importantly is a 20 year cancer survivor.  His message on surviving with a positive attitude was filled with jokes that especially appealed to anyone who has undergone cancer treatment and dealt with hospitals and doctors.  We laughed repeatedly.  He even entertained us by juggling.  We all received a copy of his book to take home as well.  I was so impressed that even in a room of 700, my oncologist recognized me, came over, called me by name and welcomed me!

As much as I enjoyed and appreciated a free luncheon with a delicious meal and entertainment, I enjoyed even more getting to know the women at my table.  I think within a few minutes after a round of introductions we all felt so comfortable with each other that it seemed like we had known each other for years.  A mixture of ages and races didn’t separate us.  It was like the “Sisterhood of the Traveling IV’s.”  We shared our stories with each other and had a common thread.  We could easily relate to each other and laughed at similar experiences.  We all agreed to come again next year and sit in that same area of the room to find each other.

I find this is true not just with strangers I meet that are cancer survivors, but even with acquaintances I already had.  Once I was diagnosed, I immediately sought out others that I knew who had been through a cancer diagnosis and treatment and felt a certain kinship that wasn’t there before.  I think this happens because until you receive a cancer diagnosis yourself, it’s hard to know exactly what that feels like.  For those of you who are fortunate enough to not have received a cancer diagnosis, you’re unfortunately not part of our club!

2 Corinthians 1:4  says, “He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (The Message Version)  Hebrews 4:15 says, “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (NIV)  We all need each other and it’s so important for us to encourage one another, especially when you can totally relate and understand what someone else is going through.

My hats (and hair) off to others in my cancer kinship club!  We will survive!

It’s Good to be Alive

Why is it that so many of us don’t look forward to celebrating our own birthdays because it means we will be yet another year older, when in reality we are only one day older than the day before?  Remember when you were young enough that you couldn’t wait for your next birthday and would tell someone you were six and three-quarter years old!  That three-quarters was very important to add because it meant you were almost another year older.

Birthday cupcakes that my daughter and her friends made for me!

I had kind of blocked out exactly how old I was once I approached middle age and found myself having to do the calculations when it came to filling out forms.  Let’s see, if I was born in so-and-so year and now it’s such-and-such year, then I must be “x” number of years old now.  It was never something I wanted to dwell on before…GETTING OLD.

Well guess what.  Today I turned 53 (and yes, I did have to calculate just to make sure I got it right and wasn’t adding extra years on) and I was happy to celebrate my birthday!  I’ll tall you what made the difference.  Getting a diagnosis of breast cancer this year and realizing that without it there is a possibility that I might not have been here to celebrate my birthday today has made a difference.

My mom wanted to know why I was reminding my Facebook friends that my birthday was coming up.  Was I really “anxious to be a year older”? No!  I was rejoicing that I was alive to celebrate my birthday this year.  I know that some people believe that frequent mammograms actually contribute to breast cancer.  I believe that it is because I did have routine mammograms that my cancer was found in stage 1 before it had progressed further.  Women hear me out.  DO NOT put it off if you are due for one.  Only one year had lapsed for me between mammograms when my cancer was diagnosed. Do you want to celebrate your next birthday?

A very special birthday card I received this year!

Time is God’s birthday gift to each one of us that celebrates a birthday. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”(NLT)  Life is short.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Our days are numbered. Time is a treasure that attracts many robbers. How are you spending your days?  Don’t live in regret. Write a bucket list and start it!  Attend that reunion.  Take that road trip. Make that phone call.  Nike has that great slogan, “Just do it!”

My father had never skiied a day in his life and took up skiing from 70 – 80 years old. He lived near a ski resort and lift tickets were free to those his age (I tried to help him see the logic in that to no avail). He bought equipment at a yard sale and hit the slopes successfully anyway.  I’m not saying you have to be that extreme but is there something you have been putting off doing?  Be courageous.

I love the lyrics to a song by Point of Grace called “How You Live.”  It mentions not spending your life looking back, of taking chances, facing things, thinking of others, and making peace with God. Check out the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNOvLqNVnSY

There’s a song by Jason Gray called “Good to be Alive.”  The chorus says,

“I won’t take it for granted
I won’t waste another second
All I want is to give you
A life well lived, to say ‘thank you’

I wanna live like there’s no tomorrow
Love like I’m on borrowed time
It’s good to be, it’s good to be alive”

Yes, it’s GOOD to be alive but just being alive isn’t enough.  It boils down to how we are actually living each day.  Be THANKFUL for each day.  Live life to it’s fullest.  Don’t be afraid to “turn up the music” loud or to “use your good dishes.”  At the same time realize that our time here is only a taste of what is to come.

Why a pilgrim’s ponderings?

I’ve been putting off starting a blog for some time now but it keeps coming back and haunting me.  I feel like I should be journaling some of what it has been like going through a diagnosis of breast cancer, surgery and then treatment.  Perhaps it might help someone else who is just starting the journey or answer questions of someone who has no idea what it is like.  Perhaps I need to do this if for no one else, just for myself.  I’ll start this today and see where it may lead.

I’m titling this blog site “A pilgrim’s ponderings” for a reason.  I did give it quite a bit of thought.  I’m obviously not off the Mayflower.  Merriam-Webster calls a pilgrim “one who journeys in foreign lands.”  Before getting a diagnosis of breast cancer I knew almost nothing of cancer or treatment.  I learned a whole new language of terminology, drugs, treatments, options, side-effects, tests, kinds of specialists, etc.  Initially it was like taking a journey into a foreign land that is now not so unfamiliar.

The other reason I chose “pilgrim” was receiving a diagnosis of cancer has given me a different outlook on my time here on earth.  I could go on forever about that but will save it for another blog.  It has helped to put many things into perspective including how short our time here on earth really is.  As a Christian it has solidified in my heart that heaven is my home for eternity and I am only a pilgrim passing through.

I know that “ponderings” is not a word.  Pondering is a verb and a ponderer is a noun but there are not ponderings, at least not in the dictionary.  But they will be here in my blog. Whatever I am thinking about or reflecting on in my brain that comes out on paper is a noun and a collection of them, which I hope to write would be plural.  Selah.

So, what has this pilgrim been pondering?  Plenty.  Chemo can do many different things to each patient because all chemo is different and specialized for each patient but one thing that I have found true of all chemo patients is that it tires you out!  When you’re tired, you think and ponder because that is something you CAN do.

I have read and heard from other cancer patients that cancer is one of the best things that happened to them.  Sounds strange right?  Getting a cancer diagnosis puts your life on a different course, forces you to put the brakes on and really think about life, your life.  No one or nothing is taken for granted anymore.  Whether you have a good prognosis or an unfortunate one, you have gone through some sort of waiting period for test results that made you think about the amount of time you may have left here in this life.

The sad thing is that for those of you reading this that have been blessed not to have ever received a cancer diagnosis, many of you live each day the same as if you will live to a ripe old age.  The truth is that anyone of us could get hit crossing the street or riding in a car and be gone tomorrow.  When I got news of my cancer and someone was concerned with the possibility that I could die from it,  I reassured them that I was more likely to die from a car accident or something else than from cancer.  How much time does the average person spend thinking they should live their life to the fullest and live each day as if it’s the last?

A cancer diagnosis gave me the freedom to have fun.  When I found out that I would lose my hair from chemo I went and ordered a wig to have on hand.  They tell patients to go before they actually lose their hair so the style and color can be matched.  I did go before my hair fell out but I did not want the exact same style or color.  This was my chance to have some fun and do something different.  I am so glad I went blonde for the first time, not that blondes have more fun but it has been fun having something different!  Once school was out and the hotter weather was here I did not want to wear the wig daily.  Round 2 of fun started with colorful scarfs and big earrings.  Now to the term pilgrim I guess I have to add the word gypsy! Life is too short to be stuck in a rut!

Well it’s time to go have some fun.  Let me know if there are any things you’ve wondered about from anyone with cancer and I’ll try my best to let you inside my head.  Nothing is too dumb to ask like, “What was it like when your hair fell out?” to “Do you need to shave your legs anymore?”