Momma

Today marks 18 years since my mother’s death.  

Eighteen years of missed:
birthdays
anniversaries
Thanksgivings
Christmases
phone calls
family gatherings
‘I love you’s’
hugs
Eighteen years of my girls never knowing their grandmother.

Eighteen years of missed everything…

Momma was an extremely talented woman with a gift for numbers, people, and hospitality.  Many knew her, but not many saw her for who she truly was.  They saw her size (she always struggled with her weight) and they saw her willingness to help anyone and everyone, but they didn’t see her zest for life, her hopes and dreams.  She wanted to be somebody, anybody, but she was relegated to being what was expected of her.  It’s been said that as a child she would try her hardest to get out of the expected ordinary tasks of life, but ultimately, she lived an obscure life with no accolades to boast of except her girls.

She could work magic on the sewing machine and could she cook, OH MY, could she cook!  Cleaning house was definitely NOT her favorite thing in the world, but she would get outside on the riding mower and you wouldn’t see her for a couple or three hours.  I remember her saying that she’d made a deal with the dust in her house:  She would leave it alone if it promised not to embarrass her in front of company.  And there were times when she’d whip out a sassy remark that would cause your jaw to drop to the ground in shock.   Oh boy, were they some doozies…

She poured all her hopes and dreams into her girls.  She was never allowed to go to college which meant that college was HIGH priority on her list for her girls.  To this day, my sisters are two of the most gifted women I know.  Anything they put their mind to, they achieve magnificently!

Gifted seamstress, educator, entrepreneur, chef, organizer/ administrator, and so much more – they can do it all!  They possess this innate drive to grab life by the ‘Oh, no you can’t‘ and redefine the meaning of ‘Who’s the BOSS now?’.  They are my heroes and the living embodiment of Momma’s zest for life, her hopes and dreams.

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Today marks 18 years since my mother died from metastatic breast cancer.
I wish my Momma and I didn’t have so much in common.

 

 

 

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Year 1

On July 5, 2016 the doctor told me that the spread of my breast cancer, now consider metastatic breast cancer, gave me a life expectancy of 3 to 5 years.  That was, of course, after the 20 months that I had already spent moving my way through 3 types of chemotherapy, 30 sessions of radiation, and 5 surgeries.

I have made it through Year 1 which included 10 sessions of radiation and 1 surgery which has thrust me firmly into the grips of surgical menopause.  Again, I repeat from my last blog post that estrogen is a beautiful thing…
Embrace it.
Love it.  
Be grateful for it.  
For when it is gone, His grace becomes your life-line of daily hope for any and all mercy that is received and granted to all those in your path.

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As I reflect this Year 1 milestone, I ponder on just one particular thought despite so many blessings of grace and lessons of humility:

I am disconnected.

How do I begin to explain this thought?

I do not know how to re-integrate myself back into this world that continued to spin on its axis while I was forced to focus on all things cancer.
AND
I do not want to re-integrate myself back into this world that continued to spin on its axis while I was forced to focus on all things cancer.

I remember thinking the other day:  What in the world possessed me to agree to the ‘required’ first mastectomy?????? (Excessive question marks denoted my utter dismay.)  Would it not have been better to fight my cancer proactively in ANY other way than to amputate my body parts?????

As I attempted to articulate my horrified bewilderment to Football Fan, he reminded me that we did make informed decisions at the appointed times and he gently guided me to understand that, potentially, one of the reasons the doctors move you through treatments at an alarming pace is because getting caught in the ‘paralysis of analysis’ is a difficult place to be.

Making the decisions and living with those decisions are two different paths spread over fifty levels of difficulty.  That is the portrait of cancer, just as it is also the portrait of life: choices directed by beliefs.

I made the choice.

What was my belief???

Learning to live with those decisions while feeling like a foreigner to myself and the world around me is way past intense especially when you cannot even connect with what ‘intense’ feels like.

The only true thing I comprehend is that my non-sense meter for all nouns (people, places, and things) is elevated way past my normally extreme level of being the type of person who cares too much.

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Explaining this to you all could amount to many things.  Some will take it as an affront to their dignity, their rights,  In other words, offense.  Some will take it and pondered what in the world I am trying to convey.  Some will understand instantly, even though they may word my thoughts differently, because they have lived the spirit of experience through their own situations and circumstances.

I will say only this one thing, in conclusion:  What you believe determines what you choose.  I have many friends and family, but there is only one who has seen me as no other.  He is what I believe:

My Creator who knew me before I was a thought in my mother’s womb.

He who met me at my lowest point, broken and contrite in my sinfulness, and showed me His perfect Hope.  “Choose,” He quietly whispered to me, “Choose my perfect Hope which is full of perfect grace and perfect mercy.”

And even now, in the aftermath of all my choices, He continues to point me to the foot of that cross where His perfect Hope fulfilled the requirement to justify my sinfulness.  “There,” He points, “Lay it there.  Lay your uncertainty, your lack of care, your loss of sense and self, your disconnected life…

I, the only One who knows ALL of you, meet you there.

It is there I will remind you of my perfect love, my perfect grace, my perfect mercy, my perfect faithfulness.

All that you believe to be true.
All that you know to true.
All that is true because I AM.  

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.’ (Rev. 22:13)  I am “the Author and Finisher” (Heb. 12:2) of what you believe, your faith.

I AM so that you may know how to choose to live with this imperfect condition in this imperfect world.”

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On to Year 2…

 

 

Greetings from the fish bowl:

My last day of work was April the 27th and today (June 1st of 2017) is the first day since my 2nd cancer diagnosis (MBC on July 5th, 2016) that I feeI like I am not completely overwhelmed.  Well, except for those upcoming homeschool evaluations.  Ugh.

I have finally come up for air in my little fishbowl of metastatic breast cancer!

Why a fishbowl analogy, you may ask?
Because I have the attention span of a goldfish or a squirrel or a 5 year old kid. (And since inattentive squirrels usually get squished and I’ve already been a 5 year old kid, I choose the life of a goldfish!)

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I had been working 20 hours a  week since the middle of September 2016 in order to earn disability credits and I was able to earn 5 of the 7 that I needed based on 2017 federal standards.  Hopefully, after the summer is over, as I am able, I will look for some ’10-12 hour a week’ job to fulfill the last amount of my 4th credit for 2017.  (You can only earn 4 credits a year.  Each new year changes the credit value (dollar amount) and resets your total amount of credits based on your age – Happy, happy birthday to you!  (I wonder what happens to Leap Year babies??)  Anyway, it really is fascinating information for the interested individuals; it ranks right up there with watching paint dry…  The federal standards for 2018 have yet to be set and so I will have to wait till then to know how to arrange my priority list for life!

How many times did you have to read that last paragraph?
Confused?
Overwhelmed?
Clueless?

Welcome to the land of social security where you become a disabled hamster in that big federal wheel!

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As for my current state of body and mind, I’m alive!  

My body:
Trying to recover after 30 plus months of cancer-related surgeries and treatments.

I have no breast, no ovaries, no uterus, and 30 extra pounds (since August of 2016).  On the flip side, I have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness until a progressive group of someones get their way and chuck the Constitution.  Smirking is allowed…

Seriously though, I am tired.  Between recovery, loss of estrogen (surgically-induced menopause), and current medication, my plate is full and the flavor is less than desirable, except, of course, for the aforementioned extra 30 pounds.

Ladies, be thankful for estrogen.
Husbands, Just be thankful!

Estrogen is a beautiful thing that our Creator has granted us!

Without it (no supplementing estrogen for me since I have an estrogen-fed cancer), you get to experience the grace of God in abounding measure in multiple areas. (Follow this link if you wish to get the BIG picture.)

For now, my medication (Follow this link if you wish to continue that BIG beautiful picture.) is designed for post-menopausal women and has been causing me discomfort since about November.  Remember the hand/ wrist/ arm issues?  It’s the meds…  I’m wearing arm braces mostly at night while I sleep and about 43% of the time during the day.  The doctor says that the medication is keeping the cancer stable and that changing the medication will not guarantee a change in side effects.

So, live with the side effects, it is!

This is my course for now: taking medication designed to limit the growth of my cancer.  When it becomes evident that a particular medication is not working any more (preventing growth or severe reactions), the doctors will move me to the next medication till the same path occurs.  Etcetera,  etcetera, etcetera.  Over time, my body will not be able to endure/ combat the growing influence of the cancer.

My mind:
It’s somewhere out there.

I am a bit absent minded.  Focus is a growing issue.  Reading is for those very flighty birds.  Blogging is a struggle: focus, reading, typing, blah, blah, blah.  Conversation can be attained depending on the hour of the day and  I have acquired the proverbial ‘selective hearing’ without making an effort.  That could be a good thing: snickering…

The great Deceiver is working overtime with my ‘perception of reality’.  How I visually see myself continues to be an issue.  Battling the hormonal loss is not for the faint of heart.  Dealing with the enduring mental fatigue caused by pain is the pity party that I continually decline invitations.  Conversation with my Almighty Creator has to give Him a chuckle because keeping up with my ‘train of thought’ while having the ‘attention span of a goldfish’ would be akin to the loopiest roller coaster ride of all time!  (Feel free to define loopy as some have already decided to define my actions and attitudes based on their own perception of reality.)

All in all, I am moving forward and resting in Him, trusting in Him, and leaning on Him.  He is my great I-AM!  I am active and doing what I can, when I can, how I can, continuing to learn to live – day by day, moment by moment.  I do not live in bitterness or anger in regards to any aspect of my life: past, present, or future.  If you don’t believe me, then ask the ones who live with me 24/7: Hi Football Fan!  Hi Camo Kid!

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As a side note, I am off Facebook permanently.  If I remember correctly, there is a public group I had designated as No Smiling Allowed for those who wanted to follow my cancer journey via Facebook.  It may still be active and you are free to share my blog post there or wherever.  If you want to reach me personally, email me at nosmilingallowedATgmailDOTcom.

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Well, I’m off to swim because if you’re going to live in the fish bowl then you need to embrace the tepid water with your big beautiful eyes and your not-so-sleek, waterproof, goldish-colored body!

Till another gulp of air-
Keep that smile firmly placed in the right side-up position!

 

 

The Good, The Hard, And The Ugly

He whispers in my ear, “You aren’t even a woman. Look at those scars. No shape. No form. You’ve gain weight again…  Who would want you?”  He adds to my mounting insecurities as if he’s seen the reflection of my warped perception.

He sits on my sore spine, my burden shoulders, my swollen arm, my numb hands as if he knows exactly where to press his sharp talons on that one particular spot that makes me want to tear into the next person who says to me, “You look great!  How are you feeling?”

He reminds me of the friend who said to me, “Why haven’t you invited us to your house?” or the close confidant who often reminded me that “You make time for what’s important to you.”  He’s right there, flicking me on the side of my head, saying “How could you have forgotten that? You’re so stupid.  All you’re doing is failing.  You’re such a failure.  You can’t do anything right…”

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I haven’t written in a couple of months and to be honest, I don’t want to write even now for multiple reasons, but if you’ve walked the path that I am walking then you understand and if you haven’t walked this path, well then, words and time are insufficient to explain…

These last 2 months have been the hardest.  The mental battle wages fiercely and I have withdrawn to fight for every sane thought that allows me to go to my merciful and faithful I-AM and grasp at the hem of His garment just so that I move forward towards Him and away from the great Deceiver who is prowling, as he whispers my failures, waiting expectantly for me to let go.  I am exhausted mentally.  Physically, I just do the next thing: get up, move forward, do what needs to be done, rest, get up, move forward, do the next thing…

I grieve the loss of what was suppose to be.

As Princess Pink so adequately stated, “I just want us to be a normal family.”  We all grieve the loss of what was suppose to be…  We’ve made arrangements for the girls to have the opportunity to express their grief to a counselor.  At the first meeting, the counselor asked Princess Pink what she wanted from her,  her response: “I want you to take cancer away.”  Sitting there weeping, all I could feel was my failures of not being able to protect my blessed little family from… my cancer.

Who do you know that is grieving the loss of what was suppose to be?

My blessed little family lives in the bubble of isolation right now…  We share our burdens with each other, but there is no one else in our circle of people who knows exactly what we grieve.  We long to have someone with whom we can sit in the safety of their embrace and weep out our grief completely.  Someone who will not tell us that everything is going to be okay…  Just someone who will love us, shelter us in the comfort of their embrace and say, “I’m here.  Just cry…”

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I go for a routine CT scan on Friday.  This is what I will do for the rest of my life: a scan every 6 months or so checking to see if my cancer is stable or progressing.

In February, I had 2 MRI’s to see if my hand/wrist/arm issues were cancer related or something else.  Except for formally diagnosing me with mild Chiari Malformation Type 1, there is no definitive answer for the issues that I have been dealing with since the middle of November.  The best guess they could offer was neuropathy from the chemo treatments in 2015.   Mild lymphedema has set in on my left arm from the lymph node dissection in 2015.  I am not able to wear my wedding rings on that hand.  I continue to take sleeping medicine to combat the insomnia and lessen my awareness of the hand cramping and numbness/ tingling issues that wake me from my sleep.  I take pain medicine at night all the time now and if the night was more difficult than usual, I end up taking a dose of pain medicine during the day.

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There are good days.

There are hard days.

There are ugly days.

But ALL those days are His days and so I hide in Him because…

He is my refuge.
He is my Comforter.

He is my I-AM.

And as I cling to Him, He teaches me to trust Him…
not past tense trust,
not future tense trust,
just present tense trus
t: NOW.

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Do you trust Him?

Out Of Touch With Reality

Yes, I am.

I am out of touch with reality.
With your reality, that is…
My reality is on a tremendous learning curve right now.
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Christmas of 2016 was interesting because when you’ve been told 5 1/2 months earlier that you have a cancer that will never go away, a cancer that will end your life, you tend to look at things differently.

Things like, will I have the opportunity to celebrate another Christmas with my blessed little family?

Life goes on for you and everyone else, but your version of ‘life goes on‘ looks a lot different than someone else’s ‘life goes on‘.

I am learning how to suffer graciously.  I am learning how to answer comments and inquiries graciously.  I am learning how to act graciously in environments that have no idea what cancer and its treatments do to a person on an internal level.  And I am learning, at this moment, to be honest, with you, regardless of how much I love all things smiley… or how much I am out of touch with your reality.

Being out of touch with ‘reality‘ is the hard part though because I’m barely treading water in my own reality right now…

Work.
School.
Football Fan and the G’s.
(That’s what I call my girls, Camo Kid and Princess Pink, as a unit!).

This is what my energy level and physical capabilities can manage right now.  Friends?  Family?  Most days, they seem like just a memory.  There’s a handful that make the effort to inquire no matter if I get back to them or not.  The rest, well, I’m learning not to dwell on what I cannot accomplish.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care.  I just… can’t.

And that is exactly where I’m suppose to be…

I can’t.

It’s a very lonely place to be.  I can’t be who you want me to be.  I’m empty.  My blessed little family doesn’t even get the best part of me anymore; they just get the tired wife and mom.  Even now, I am avoiding going to bed…  Most nights of sleep have to be accompanied with sleep medicine in order to combat the pain and/or the insomnia.  Since November, I have been having hand/wrist/arm issues in addition to all my other cancer-related issues.  It could be anything and it could be nothing.  I just know that at nights, when I lie down, it’s not conducive to good sleep and that, with the ever present spinal issues, makes for long nights and slow mornings.  And long nights of non-regenerative sleep make for even longer days… and several ‘longer days’ make for ‘I really can’t’.

Have I been honest enough?

Here, let me be just a little bit more honest then:
Can’t is okay.  
In fact, it’s perfect.

I think I might’ve just put the oxy in the moron
Nothing better than a perfect can’t!
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It’s when you’ve reach can’t that you are ready to learn… and if what you believe determines what you choose, then folks, that’s where the process of learning to empty yourself of you and fill yourself with Him begins.

Welcome to my reality!

It is the perfect place to be…

And Life Goes On!

It’s been awhile since I posted…

Honestly, trying to find the time and the energy to concentrate on anything outside of the essentials of life takes effort with a capital E, F, F, O, R, and T times infinity plus (Is that even possible to have ‘times infinity plus’?)

When I was first diagnosed back in 2014, my goal was to post once a week because writing helped me gather all my overwhelmed, chemo-ridden, ‘somebody replaced my rabbit trails with kamikaze ducks’ thoughts into one coherent, ‘fit for human consumption’ thought.
In other words, it helped me process everything.
When I was diagnosed again in 2016, my goal was to post once a month because, frankly, I didn’t want to overwhelm people with the mental kamikaze duck trails of someone who was coming to terms with a terminal disease.

Now, I find that each day, however it may monotonously mirror the day before, is just plain ol’ filled up the essential necessities of life.  And in each day, I am able to bear that particular load, moment by moment, day by day:

Up
(usually early because I can’t stand to lie on my spine anymore.)
Walking
(30 minutes a day – because hormonal blockers for cancer make you want to eat even the sun, moon, stars and anything else that has ventured into the path of your mouth!)
Home school
(because we’re at home and… uh… it’s time for school?!)
Work
(20 hours a week- that’s a complicated subject, but here’s the shorter version: you cannot claim disability if you have not earned enough SSA credits in the last 10 years.  This means that I am trying to earn the credits necessary for when I am unable to work or move or whatever else may cross my path because of cancer-related issues.  Confused yet?  Welcome to the Social Security Administration…)
Keeping Up With The Chores
(as opposed to the hilarious British show, Keeping Up Appearances.  Tea, anyone?)
Nap time
(because Pappy Chubb taught me the importance of taking a nap before bedtime!)
Bedtime
(because naptime wasn’t long enough…)

People tell me that I look great and, depending on the moment, my response varies from, “Really?” to “Thanks.” to “Looks are deceiving…” to “It’s called grace. THIS is what God’s grace looks like.”  but really, all in all, “I’m doing okay.

The spinal pain is my constant friend and I am learning about “Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” (Eph. 3:20, KJV) and to “greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9, NASB)

The good news is: my recent CT scan says everything is STABLE.  That means that even though the cancer is present it is not progressing and that, dear folks and friends, is very good news!  And on that note, have a wonderfully bless day and keep on smiling, because in a world that wants to be distinctly black and white, a ray of smiley face yellow can go a very long way to brighten a truly grey day or gray day depending on where y’all are from!

FOMO

I’m currently living in Cliche Land.

It really does feel like such a drag and it doesn’t help that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I do think by now we’re all “aware” of breast cancer but do you know how much of that “awareness” money goes to actual research in comparison to the personal bank accounts of those who promote “awareness”?  The percentage is a single digit number.

Okay, okay, I’ll get off my hobbyhorse painted soap box…

It’s been a little over 3 months since I learned that I have terminal cancer.  In that time, I have had radiation, healed from radiation, had surgery, healed from surgery, started homeschool, gone back to work part-time, and played the wait-and-see game with medications and the healing process.  It has been extremely hard to see the forest for the trees because I’m pretty sure that somebody switched out those trees for varying sizes of the proverbial 2 x 4 from the lumber yard and took me out to the woodshed and tanned my hide which is currently stretched from my head to my tippy-toes.

All those proverbial 2×4’s have names and they are tattooed across my forehead (and my heart) as well as my stretched out hide.  Their names are Football Fan, Camo Kid, Princess Pink, hopes, dreams, wants, desires, and they are all encased in the fabric of FOMO.

Do you know what FOMO is?

It ranks right up there with YOLO (You Only Live Once) and LOL (Laugh Out Loud) and TTYL (TalkTo You Later).

FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out:

On anniversaries…

On birthdays…

On graduations…

On weddings…

On grandchildren…

On the moments of first…

On the sound of laughter…

On the warmth of hugs…

On the beauty of love…

On growing old with the loves of my life, my blessed little family… 

What do you do when all that you’ve ever hoped and dreamed for, when all that you’ve ever wanted and desired is seemingly reduced to nothingness in a matter of moments?

You re-examine what you know, what you believe, what you are, who you are.
You determine what matters most.  

Remember when I mentioned in a previous post about “the just shall live by faith“?  What you believe in… is your faith. Don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t believe in anything.  They’re lying to you and they’re lying to themselves because every person believes in something and that is where their faith rest, that is where their strength and guidance comes from to do each and every day.

Remember “Belief determines choice.”? 

My faith feels like it’s been sacked by the biggest and ugliest linebacker whose name is FOMO.  I am continuing to learn that faith is so much more than the ability to move mountains. Faith is the mystery of Christ in the small things.  Everybody wants to be somebody.  We want to leave our mark on the world, create a legacy that last a lifetime, be bigger than themselves, but it is the mustard seed that we are asked to examine.  It is the ‘jot and tittle‘ (Mt 5:18) that we are reminded has never changed.  It is the sparrow that has fallen and each hair on our head that He knows…

And so, as He has been teaching me about true faith, He has been using these phrases “Your will cannot lead me where your grace cannot keep me” and “Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.”

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Lord, as I seek your guidance for the day,
I find my thoughts unyielding: confusion clouds my way,
But, then when I bow to you, the challenges you guide me through,
Your promises are ever new: I claim them for today.

Each new day’s design is guided by your hand,
And graciously revealed as I seek your Master plan.
Keep my footsteps faithful when from you I go.
Return me to the joy that your blessings can bestow.

Your will cannot lead me where your grace cannot keep me.
Your hand will protect me: I rest in your care.
Your eyes will watch over me: Your love will forgive me.
And when I am faltering, I still will find you there.

Your eyes will watch over me,
Your love will forgive me,
And when I am faltering,
Lord, I will find you there.

~ Grace by Carolyn Hamlin ~

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There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev’ry step we take.
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us,
As we try to understand each move He makes.
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him.

Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

There are days when clouds surround us, and the rain begins to fall,
The cold and lonely winds won’t cease to blow.
And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel;
We are tempted to believe God does not know.
When the storms arise, don’t forget we live by faith and not by sight.

Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

~ Bow The Knee by Chris Machen & Mike Harland ~

The Mentality of Reality

I’m aware that I’m here, but where is HERE exactly? 

Because right now, it is as dark as dark can be and it is consuming me with a panic that I have never known before…

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Ever been inside one of those tourist coal mines?  You know the one: where they take you in about a mile and a half or so and then turn off ALL the lights. And then, all the little kids panic (and a few adults too) clinging to whomever with a fervency that surpasses Charlton Heston’s famous quote, “So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!’

Currently, that’s what my reality contains: infrequent panic attacks that start with a place as dark as the coal miner’s tunnel. I’m there and I know my eyes are open, but it is so dark, so black, that I can’t even see my hand in front of my face. And that is when the fear begins to consume me…

Where am I?  
The first time this happened, the tears were rolling down the sides of my face as I tried to take myself through the mental steps of reality.

Have I died?

I’m breathing…
That means there’s air!

My heart is clenched…
That means I’m still alive!

What do I last remember…
Ah-Ha!  That means there’s a definite location!
(GPS tracker may be an option for next time???)

GASP!
What in the world just happened?!

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It’s been almost 9 weeks (60 days to be exact) since my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis and I’m still confronting my new reality, day by day, moment by moment. Every day, I remind myself that “the just shall LIVE by faith” and every day I am reminded that His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness has taken me to the evening.

It’s in the middle of the day and in the dead of night (uh, no pun intend) that I have to remind myself… not to be afraid.

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My faith, my God, has been ministering His promises to my overwhelmed heart, soul, mind, and body through music. And I find that just a tad bit humorous since I have no musical abilities, except for the fact that I know how to turn on the radio and push play on the CD player…  

It was with a particular phrase that He began to whisper His healing balm to my heart over and over again: “when you walk through the fire, you’ll not be consumed. You are Mine, you are precious in My sight.” I’m terrible with names and lyrics to songs and so I went to Football Fan and asked him to help me locate the music and words for this tune that had become my anchor for my sanity and my reality.

Here, for your encouragement:

Be not afraid for I have redeemed you.
Be not afraid, I have called you by name.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
When you pass through the floods, they will not sweep o’er you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be consumed.
You are Mine, you are precious in My sight.

My love for you is everlasting,
My love for you shall have no end.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
When you pass through the floods, they will not sweep o’er you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be consumed.
You are Mine, you are precious in My sight.

~ Be Not Afraid by Craig Courtney ~

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I don’t know what particular coal miner’s tunnel you’re stuck in.  I don’t even know who turned out the lights on you…  I don’t know where your HERE is, BUT there is one thing I do know: He knows it ALL and He says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Can you imagine being still in the midst of panic and fear?
FIGHT OR FLIGHT, BABY!
FIGHT OR FLIGHT!

That is our natural inclination…

And yet, He says, “Be still…

Don’t let the mentality of your reality consume you!  Be still and know that you are His and are so completely and absolutely precious in His sight.  His love for you is everlasting. That means it has no end, no matter how long or how dark the tunnel…

Keep smiling!

Whelmed, Over and Over Again

It has been 29 days since we learned that my previously achieved NED status (No Evidence of Disease) has been permanently revoked.  In these last 29 days, there have been more moments of tears, more phone calls, more visits, more conversations than we are able to process or comprehend.

We are overwhelmed, more like discombobulated really, hence the ‘Whelmed, Over and Over Again’ blog title… and yet, there’s a phrase that continues to float throughout my thoughts and my heart.

“I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.”

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Let me start with Day 1: We walked into the doctor’s office on July 5th for a follow-up appointment to a MRI on my spine that I had received on July 1st. That scan was a follow-up to a CT scan on my spine that I had received on June 22nd. As I had previously noted a while back in a different blog post, I have been dealing with some spine issues. I became aware of the discomfort back in December and the issue was addressed to the plastic surgeon at an appointment shortly thereafter. Because I was walking around as a half chest-endowed woman, it was figured that my lopsidedness was the culprit. After my second mastectomy in March, I could tell an immediate difference in most of my spinal issues, but I needed to give my body time to heal from the surgery.  As time passed, the remaining spinal issue never resolved itself and at my 6 month post-cancer check-up on June 20th, I addressed the spinal issue to my oncologist.  You have read the progression of those events…

As the doctor spoke with us, Football Fan was in a state of shock and I sat there with tears pooling in my eyes as I stared at the doctor.  Although I can’t remember his exact words, this is what I do remember: incurable; 5 years. The rest of the day is a blurry mess with the exception of the desire not to go home and talk with Camo Kid and Princess Pink and the need to go to the eye glass repair shop because a pair of glasses flew across the room at the speed of light when the undesired talk occurred.

In the last 29 days, 15 of those days have been spent in consultations, radiation prep, and radiation. I have shared the news with family, friends, and possibly, even a few strangers. I have cried. I have prayed. I have comforted. I have been comforted. I have researched and read more information about fighting incurable cancer than I can mentally processed.

And yes, I did call the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
It’s not an option: I don’t qualify.

Reality still has not set in.  I still wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what is going on with my body. I still sit at the dinner table or on the couch doing everyday ordinary things until I look into the faces of my blessed little family and realize that there will be a day that I am not doing those everyday ordinary things with them, that I will not hear their laugh or see their smile. And that is a devastating thought because we all know how much I love smiley faces!

Everything has changed.
Tears come at the strangest times… Heartbreaking conversations with my blessed little family about the future are happening NOW instead of LATER.

Nothing has changed.
I knew before all of this that I would die one day.  Even now, I still don’t know the when… The oncologist informed us that he has taken patients to the 5 year mark, but he hasn’t been able to take anyone to the 10 year mark… yet.  He gently tried to remind us that new medical developments are happening all the time.  Please know that I do not have an expiration date stamped on my foot. I am not giving up, cancer is cancer and has been around for a long time, but how I proceed from these moments is determined by what I believe because what I believe determines what I choose.

“… the just shall live by faith …” (Hebrews 10:38)

This is what I believe. And yet, the words mean so much more now because of 1 word: live.  My faith is found in Christ and so I choose to LIVE, by that faith, each day, each moment that He allows me whether it may be one day, one year, five years, or 50 years.

Remember that phrase I mentioned earlier?

“I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.”

Enjoy the rest of what I am learning in being whelmed, over and over again by:

Overwhelmed by His mercy, amazed by His grace;
I am cleansed from all sin, every sign every trace.
Jesus left Heaven’s portals Himself to abase;
I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.

I will rest in His keeping each night and each day,
For I know that He’s leading each step of the way.
Tho’ the valleys of sadness at times I must face,
Still He comforts all heartaches with His all sufficient grace.

O what love God bestows upon all who believe:
He will free you from guilt when His Son you receive,
He has promised to keep you, prepare you a place,
If you’ll take of His mercy and His all sufficient grace.

God’s everlasting mercy, oh what tender relief,
When burdened with sorrow and laden with grief;
When I think that on Calvary Christ died in my place
I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.

~ His All-Sufficient Grace by H.A. Taylor~

 

 

Non-Celebrity Endorsed PSA

Just an average Josie-Shmosie here with no money to make and an unrecognizable face…

Twenty-two months ago I found 2 lumps while doing a routine breast self exam. This led me down a road that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. After a course of 3 different kinds of chemotherapy (with one affectionately dubbed the ‘Red Devil’), genetic testing, a modified radical mastectomy, the bodily rejection of a breast reconstruction expander, and 30 treatments of radiation, I thought I was on my way to entering the ‘rat race’ of life again!

Little did I know that insurance red tape would allow me to receive another mastectomy instead of a breast reduction and put me on the path of a colonoscopy because of a genetic mutation for colon cancer found during my genetic testing.

Colonoscopies are not pleasant to think about. To be the patient of a colonoscopy is probably about as much fun as being the administering doctor of a colonoscopy… I was especially blessed to receive a double procedure this week! Not only did a camera enter my bum-de-bum (that would be the place where the sun doesn’t shine), but a camera also entered my yapper (that would be my mouth – the sun shines there). Truly, the colonoscopy and endoscopy were nothing to write home about. The preparation for the procedure, well, let’s just say that hungry, cranky, and angry make a person cranktoriously hangry and very tired. Don’t plan on going ANYWHERE during the prep cycle…

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The end results… sorry couldn’t resist… are knowledge!

Because when the doctor tells you that he removed a 2 centimeter polyp and will send it away for testing. That’s a good thing! And when the same doctor, who told you the results would be back in 1 to 2 weeks, calls you the very next day and tells you that the polyp they removed was precancerous. That’s a good thing! And when the same doctor tells that you will be cranktoriously hangry again in 6 months for another bum-de-bum close-up and then again every 2 years for the rest of your life.  That is a good thing!

Because being able to proactively have a chance to fight colorectal cancer is a good thing!

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I would have never had the colonoscopy if it hadn’t been for the genetic mutation found during the genetic testing for my breast cancer that I found through a self exam.

So the moral of this story is:

Do your monthly breast self exams!

Talk with your doctor about your family history.

Genetic testing can be a good thing!

Mammograms are not the devil’s brother or sister.

Colonoscopies can make a HUGE difference in the end (uh, sorry… couldn’t resist… again)!

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This is the end of your non-celebrity endorsed PSA.

Keep smiling… or not!