Friday, July 30, 2010

Prayer Please

Dearest prayer warriors, I'm so extremely thankful for all of you who are praying for me all over the world. It means so much to me. My prayer is that God would bless each one of you abundantly!
Please don't grow weary! This past week has been my worst so far, physically. I've been very tired and often quite uncomfortable. Chemotherapy doesn't only attack the cancer cells, but many of the good cells as well. Below I've listed my specific physical needs.
  • Please pray that the damage to my body would be minimal, but that the damage to the cancer would be complete.
  • I've experienced some tightness in my chest. It could be nothing. But one of the drugs I'm on, the one I'm supposed to take for an entire year, can also damage my heart. Pray that my heart would stay strong.
  • Pray for minimal side effects. Spending my days on the couch is not a lifestyle that I can embrace. I expect this to be hard and I know I won't be 100%, but there are things I need to do, particularly as a wife and a mom.
  • Pray for complete healing and long life!!
  • Also, if you would be so gracious, add my dear friend Cyrus to your prayer list. Right around the time I found out I had cancer, he discovered he had a brain tumor. He has a beautiful wife and three sweet young children. They are an amazing, faith-filled family. Cyrus needs to be healed! And I'm expecting and believing that God will hear our cry.
"Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." ~James 5:16

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thoughts on Joy

I'm studying JOY in the Bible. I have a long way to go. The Bible has a lot to say about joy.
I've experienced a deep, unexplainable joy ever since I found out I had cancer. Even during the scary and painful times. And I don't understand why. It doesn't make any sense.
Joy is a perplexing thing to me. Is it a feeling? Is it a decision?
Here is what comes to mind when I think of joy...

Joy is that feeling you get when your favorite sports team wins. You can't help but leap to your feet with a shout!
Joy is when you find out your dear friend - who has been unable to get pregnant - is finally pregnant.
Joy is when you get that job you wanted so badly, but didn't think you had a chance.
Joy is what you feel when the man of your dreams bends down on his knee to ask the question you've been longing to hear.

Joy comes from getting what you hope for. The more hopeless the situation, the greater the joy when you receive what you've longed for.
Having joy in a trial comes from looking at the end, the finish line, the goal - knowing the outcome is worth the pain of the race.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." ~Hebrews 12:2

Jesus endured the cross. He endured torture and pain beyond anything I can imagine. And unlike me, he had a choice. He could have stopped it at any moment.
What was the joy set before him? What could he have hoped for that would be worth that amount of pain?
The answer is simple:
You.
Me.
God wanted a relationship with me.

And when the work on the cross was complete,
when the veil had been torn,
when the power of sin was broken and it could no longer separate me from God,
God leapt for joy. His joy is in me.

If God healed me today, I would leap for joy. I wouldn't be able to contain myself.
But the deepest cry of my heart isn't for healing.
It is for Jesus. To know him. To be close to him. To be in his presence. To sit at his feet.
That's what I hope for. It's available to me every day. And that's where I find my joy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yesterday

Yesterday was eventful. I went to MSTI for my long treatment. My dad went with me. It was a special time. Even though we talked about regular things all day, there is something sweet and intimate about sharing the trials of life with those you love. I've felt a unique bond with each dear friend or family member who has gone with me.

I'll start with the bad news...
I had a reaction to one of the medications. It was strange because I didn't have a reaction to it the first time I had the drug three weeks ago. They did everything the same and my body revolted.
My chest was tight. I couldn't breathe. I could see little stars shooting at me. Pain shot through my lower back. My face turned bright red and my blood pressure and pulse skyrocketed.
They immediately stopped the treatment, gave me oxygen, then Benadryl and Steroids. I recovered and was able to finish the treatment without problems. It was a bit scary.
Of course, these are the complications that I fear. Every time something scary happens and I'm forced to face my fear, I get through it with peace and courage. It sets me free. I overcome! God is so faithful to walk with me and give me peace and comfort through the storm.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." ~Psalm 23:4

Now on to the good news...
Before the treatment, I met with the oncologist. He asked if the tumors had been shrinking. I hadn't really checked, not thinking it could happen that quickly. The doctor did a thorough exam and was happy to report that they had shrunk significantly! So much so that when he first started checking, he jokingly said, "Are you sure the cancer is in the right breast?"
Praise the Lord!! This is an answer to prayer. I am rejoicing! Thank you friends for laboring with me in prayer!
I keep coming across verses in the Bible about God setting a boundary for the sea, and I pray that God would set a boundary that the cancer cannot cross.

"Should you not fear me?" declares the LORD.
"Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it." ~Jeremiah 5:22

Hair

My hair started falling out this week. First it was a little bit. Then it was a lot.
I didn't think it would be a big deal. I'm not particularly vain.
But when it started coming out in handfuls, it was a bit disturbing.
It became apparent to me how much of my identity I get from my hair.
Wednesday night it was time, It needed to be cut.
My dear friend brought me dinner and I asked her to stay and help me cut my hair. It was very emotional for me. But her presence brought me comfort.

I went to a wig store to try on wigs, wig after wig, style after style. They were all very cute.
But with each one I'd look at myself and say, "No, that's just not me."
Glamourous. Professional. Spunky. Sophisticated...which one was me?
Then I looked at myself without the wig and thought "cancer patient."
The worst look of all. The one I don't want.
Will that look elicit horror, pity, fear? What expression will I see on the faces of those who see me?
And as hard as it is to look in the mirror and see cancer patient, I know that is not who I am.
My hair does not define who I am.
This image that I present to the world is only an image, it's not the real thing.
My identity comes from God. I was created in his image.
My beauty comes from within. From a gentle and quiet spirit, one that God has been gently, and sometimes painfully, working in me for years.

Once my hair falls out completely, I'll be wearing one of those beautiful wigs.
And it will be fun, to have a new look. Which one will I choose?
And maybe at times, I'll go without. Perhaps I'll learn to be content. Hopefully people will see past the cancer patient look, and see the person inside.





Friday, July 16, 2010

Being Normal

This week I felt good, physically. I did normal things. Fun things.
Yet, at the end of each day, I felt down, and discouraged.
I can't quite put my finger on it.
I try to forget. To pretend things are normal.
In the midst of having fun, it is as if I'm out in the cold. In the dark. In the snow.
I'm standing outside of the house, looking in. Seeing the warmth, the light, the friends. All having fun. Enjoying life. With no worries. Without the burdens that weigh me down.
And I long to be in the house. To be warm. To be care free.
Then I snap out of it. I get caught in the moment. I forget my worries. I enjoy life, like I've never enjoyed life.
But something always pulls me back. Always a reminder. A pain. A fear. And I'm back outside, looking in.
I know I'm not alone. As I look around and see the world, seemingly care free, seemingly normal, I realize that most people have a burden that they carry. Often going through the motions of having fun and being normal, but weighed down by worries, failures, brokenness.
My heart aches. My heart longs for a place without sin. Without pain. Without worry.
And I know this is not how God intended it.
My hope is in a God who heals. A God who comforts. A God who restores.
I lay my burdens at His feet. Knowing my joy, my peace, my freedom come from him. Anything else is just an illusion.

"So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." ~Hebrews 4:16

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Second Chemo Treatment

My second chemo treatment wasn't too bad. I was at MSTI for about two hours. I only received one drug this week, the easier of the two. I was exhausted immediately after the treatment, but I feel pretty normal today. My blood counts were all good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Port

Today I looked in the mirror. I haven't been able to look at myself since this all began. I'm not sure why. I think I feel like my body let me down, or something like that. My glances have been brief, to do only what is necessary, like brush my teeth. Today I was able to look. Really look. I stared into my eyes. I looked at my hair. My glance lowered to my collar bone and the bandage covering the port. I took off the bandage and looked at that too. I've kept it covered, mostly from myself. It lays under the skin, with a scar next to the bump. Some people have imagined a plug-in type device resting on top of the skin. It actually sits under the skin, invisible except for the gnarly, protruding bump.
I'm thankful my two oldest children are boys. They find it all very cool and fascinating. I've uncovered the port countless times for them. They are very excited to see the "machine" that I get "plugged into" while the medicine is being administered. They are also excited for me to lose my hair, so I can be bald like daddy. I learn a lot from them...like how to find joy and humor in the details.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Want

There are things that I want.
Things I want but cannot have.
And it makes me sad.

They are good things, so the selfishness seems okay.
I see my kids, when they don't get what they want
And I feel that same childish tantrum rise up within me.

I didn't realize how often I get my way.
But not now.
Now I have to lay it down.
And learn to be content.
And learn to be thankful.

God will give me the strength that I need
To do what He wants me to do.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:12-13

Chemo Effects

The side effects from my first chemo treatment weren't that bad. I was expecting morning sickness times one-hundred. So far, morning sickness is much, much worse. I've mostly been extremely weak and tired. As long as I stay on the couch doing nothing, I feel great! Sunday and Monday were the hardest. Something as simple as holding my baby girl on my lap wore me out. My brain has also been very fuzzy. Thankfully, I've had help with the kids and haven't had to do much. The hardest part for me is not being able to do the things I love to do.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Just me and God

There are times in my life that I believed being a strong Christian meant that I could handle things by myself...just me and God. I shouldn't be dependent on other people, just on God. Although God is the source of all that we need, He also designed us to be relational. He puts us in families. He puts us with other people, to make us whole.
My Grandma died yesterday. She was declining in health and we knew the end was near. But it happened more quickly than I expected. It felt like more than I could bear. Evy dies Thursday. Chemo starts Friday. I froze. It was all I could do to not just sit and stare at the wall all day. I lost my joy. I lost my peace. I lost my focus. I lost my footing.
My emotions short-circuited. I didn't know what to do.
I went to church. To early morning prayer. Broken and discouraged.
Everyone prayed for me. They ministered life and hope to me. They lifted me up and pulled me out of the pit of discouragement. How foolish it is to think we don't need one another!
Thank you friends, for continually praying for me, and for being full of faith when my faith is weak.

First Treatment

I am almost done with my first toxic injection. We arrived at the hospital at 9:00 this morning. They started the chemo around 10:30. It is now 4:00. Needless to say, it's been a long day. I had no adverse reactions. Yippee! It doesn't hurt. It is just long and exhausting. They also pump a bunch of drugs into my body to help with the side effects. They make me a bit loopy. My body aches all over. I think it is due more to stress than the treatment. It's been a tough week.