Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolved


You all know from last year's post how I feel about New Year's Resolutions. As I was going through some of my old notes from my more intellectual days, I ran across some of the writings of Jonathan Edwards. He wrote a series of resolutions that he committed to read through every week. There are seventy of them. I picked out some of my favorites to share...things I want to keep in mind each day.

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. 

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. 

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Survivor Phase

A friend of mine posted the following comment on my blog recently. She's an oncology nurse and experienced in all things cancer. I love getting her perspective.

"Stephanie, your journey with cancer is never over. You are just entering a different phase of it called Survivor-ship. Some say this is actually the hardest part of cancer, the watching and waiting. Not having the pronounced end goal of finishing treatment in sight, not having your weeks filled with tests and treatments and doctors. You have to learn to live with a different normal. The best part of this leg of the journey- you are a Survivor!"

I can't get her post out of my mind. My first thought was, "Wow! She really understands!" She articulated well the battle that all cancer survivors face. She understands those moments of fear, wondering if the latest symptom is a sign the cancer has returned. She understands the dread of potentially more horrible treatments. This is a battle that I face constantly. I will be honest in confessing that there are moments when I get tired of the battle and think, "I just don't want to deal with this!" and I wish the cancer had taken me to my home in Heaven. The possibility of recurrence hangs over my head always. It feels like the week before finals and the stress of the semester is hanging over me. But in this case, finals never come, and the weight remains, with no end in sight.

So, is it true that my journey with cancer is never over?
Is this my new life?
Dread? Fear? Watching? Waiting?
Carrying a never-ending burden that feels too heavy to bear?
With all my resolve, I muster up my war-cry: "Absolutely not!"
I will not let these moments of fear steal from me! It is my choice. I will not give in! Today, my battle with cancer is over. Today, I choose not to live in fear. What do I have to fear? Death? Certainly not! My home is in Heaven, and my faith is in a God who is in complete control. My days are in His hands. My children are in His hands. Today I don't have cancer, and today I will live as if I don't have cancer. I refuse to worry about tomorrow.

My parents were divorced when I was young. In a misguided attempt at protecting me, they innocently tried to prepare me for the possibility of divorce in my own life. Finally one day I rebelled. I said, "No! I will not plan my marriage with the expectation of divorce!" Call it naive. Call it whatever you like. But I feel the same way about cancer. I will not live my life with cancer in mind. I will not live in fear of something that is only a possibility.
So I ignore that soft whisper in my ear, telling me to fear, telling me the cancer has come back. And on the days where it changes from a soft whisper to a loud cry, I find refuge in the arms of my Savior. I seek comfort from the God of peace. I allow Him to lift my burden and give me a reprieve.

"You will keep in perfect peace 
   those whose minds are steadfast, 
   because they trust in you. 
Trust in the LORD forever, 
   for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal." 
 ~Isaiah 26:3-4

My battle is not against cancer. My battle is the same one it's always been: Where will I fix my eyes?
On cancer? On my circumstances? On possibilities?
Those things lead only to fear.
I fix my eyes on the eternal. I fix my eyes on Jesus. And all else fades away...

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. 
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  
~2 Corinthians 4:18

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."  
~Hebrews 12:2

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Growing Old

Today I am 38. I'm not sure what happened to 37. It seems like just yesterday I was 36. The last two years have been a blur. I am very thankful to be celebrating my birthday this year. I was at the store check-out a few months ago, when the young clerk told me it was his birthday. The kid couldn't have been much older than twenty. He commented about feeling old and not looking forward to birthdays anymore. I smiled to myself. Then I decided to speak up. I told him that I had just finished a brutal battle with cancer, and how thankful I will be to celebrate my birthday. Growing old is a gift. Every wrinkle, every scar, every gray hair, each representing an experience that makes us who we are. It is sad the lengths we go through to cover them, and how little we value aging.
I remember a friend once prayed for me. He prayed for long life. He prayed that I would see my grandchildren. It took my breath away. I had not dared to hope for that. My prayer was that my kids would have a mom as long as they needed one. But grandchildren! Oh what a gift that will be!
I'm excited to grow old. I'm excited for 40. I'm excited for 50 and 60 and 70...
What wonderful opportunities to celebrate the gift of life!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Power Port

I had my port removed last Monday. I was hoping they would knock me out, since I am intensely squeamish. Instead, I was awake for the entire procedure, and am now left with a very sore incision that has been nicely stitched up. Damie, who is on the other end of the squeamish spectrum, watched the entire thing, all the while telling the surgeon of all his brutish experiences doctoring up his own wounds. Damie has, in fact, given himself stitches multiple times. He loves to learn new and better techniques from trained professionals, just in case he ever finds himself needing to perform emergency surgery.
For those of you who don't know what a port is, it is a medical device that is placed under the skin. It is attached by a catheter to a vein. It makes it easier to take blood and to administer chemo and other drugs, and causes less damage to the veins. Although I detested it, it is, in fact a wonderful device.
It is placed right below the collar bone. Because I'm very boney in that area, mine protruded grossly. It made it easy for the nurses to find and accurately place the needle - so much so, that I was the perfect candidate for nursing students to gain practice, and I got my chance to be a lab rat.
How glad I am to be rid of it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reflecting On This Blog

I'm not really sure what to do with this blog now that my cancer journey has mostly come to an end. Next Monday I get my port out. I think back to when I first got it, and I'm so glad I blogged about it. I described getting my port as the first step in a race I didn't want to run. And what a race it has been! Horrible and amazing, all at the same time. Oh, how I've changed! How I've learned to surrender! Just as I predicted in that post, it has been a death to my will. And in that, I've found freedom. So many things that held me captive. Gone!

As I read back through this blog, what means the most to me are the comments. So many words of encouragement. I'm thankful for each comment and for each friend who persisted in praying for me and encouraging me. As I tearfully read all the comments, I'm overcome. I inadequately express myself with a trite, "Wow!"

I want to note my favorite comment. I feel a little bad having a favorite, but this one is really amazing. It comes from one of my favorite posts, right after my surgery. Here it is:

"You and Damie are such a beautiful example of what true love and a real marriage should look like."

I laughed when I first read this. I laughed with joy and disbelief. Then I cried. If someone had told me two years ago that someone would say this about my marriage, I would have gawked incredulously. Impossible! But now I know: My God can do the impossible!
And still, every time I read this comment, I laugh.
And laugh. And laugh. And cry.
Incredulous joy!

So thank you Elicia for that beautiful comment! And thank you to all the rest of you, for every comment that brought me peace and hope and joy and courage in such a dark season.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Marla

My distant cousin Marla, who so many of you have prayed for, died last week. My mom hesitated to tell me. I must confess, it is difficult to deal with. Marla was diagnosed with esophagus cancer around the time of my own cancer diagnosis. They gave her six months, but she fought bravely for a year and a half. Please pray for her family. She leaves behind a husband, teenage twins, and much extended family. Pray for God's peace and comfort. Pray that God will draw their hearts to Him. Pray that He will fill the void that Marla leaves behind.

When human logic fails to provide understanding, I put my faith in a God who is sovereign, a God who is just, a God who loves beyond measure.

Once more I recognize how very temporary life is, and how important it is to live each day with eternity in mind.

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
~Ecclesiastes 3:10-11

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
~James 4:14

Friday, October 28, 2011

Update

Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. For those of you who aren't on Facebook, here was my status update on October 12th:

I'm done!! I'm done! I'm done!!! I can't believe I'm actually DONE!!! Woohoo!!!!!

I had my last Herceptin treatment that day. I expected to feel emotional about it. I mostly felt excited. Unbelievably excited. Like life may actually return to some semblance of normal.
Yet, I have a difficult time being normal. When I meet new people, I always wonder, do I tell them? And if so, when? When we first meet? After I've known them a week? Or two? And how do you say, "Oh, by the way, I just survived a year and a half of cancer treatment."
Cancer is such a huge part of my life. But now it is time to move on. It doesn't have to constantly occupy my mind or be a part of every conversation.
I imagine a day will come when I meet someone new, and these thoughts won't come into my mind. At that moment, I will know that I have moved on. That cancer no longer defines me. That cancer was just one more trial in my life, one more thing I have overcome, and it is just one part of my story, not the whole thing.

I followed up my last treatment with a 10-day cleanse, in an attempt to expedite the healing process. I felt horrible the entire time. The Herceptin side effects were exacerbated as my body worked hard to remove those toxins. I felt like I was in a fog. I couldn't think clearly and I was exhausted all the time. If you talked to me in the last ten days, I probably said or did something really unintelligent. I'm starting to feel better now, and I expect to feel relatively normal soon.

That's all for now. I have something else weighing on my heart, but I'll give that a post of its own...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thoughts of Recurrence

Obedience is so much more than what we do. It begins with who we are, our very character. Then it must be mastered in our thoughts.

"casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" ~2 Corinthians 10:5

Recurrence is something that tries to dominate the thinking of every cancer survivor. At times, it is easier to believe that the cancer has come back than that it won't.
Every lump (oh no!)
Every head ache (brain tumor?)
Every pain (ahhh, it's in my bones!)
A little rash (has it spread to my skin?)
Any new, persistent pain brings with it dread and fear.
These thoughts are normal. Yet, who can live like that?

"Rejoice in the Lord always." ~Phillipians 4:4
"Be anxious for nothing," ~Phillipians 4:6
"Fear not..." ~Isaiah 41:10

Does cancer trump these verses? Surely it's okay to worry about cancer? Right?
No. That's not right. The Bible is very clear, I'm not supposed to worry. Regardless of my circumstances, I'm supposed to rejoice. I know with confidence that whatever tomorrow brings, God will give me everything I need to get through.

So when thoughts of recurrence come, (and they do), I don't let them linger. I don't allow my mind to stay there.
It's a battle.
It's a battle between faith and fear.
It's a battle for my mind.
It's a battle for my allegiance.
And it's a battle that I must win.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We had hoped...

A couple of months ago, I tried to figure out how many treatments I had left. I need 52 weeks of Herceptin. I had 12 last summer, then started up again in January. I get 3 doses once every three weeks. My calculations determined that I had two treatments left (6 weeks).
When I saw the nurse practitioner a couple of weeks ago, her computations were different than mine. She said 3-4 more treatments. I was crushed, and frustrated. That's another 9-12 weeks.
I had hoped I would be almost done by now.
I had hoped I would be stronger.
I had hoped to be helping and encouraging others, instead of continually focused on myself.
I had hoped to reconnect with friends.
I had hoped to be a better wife and mom.
I had hoped...

Disappointment comes.
Discouragement creeps in.

I was reminded of the two men on the road to Emmaus, right after Jesus' resurrection.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. ~Luke 24:13-21

They had hoped that Jesus was going to redeem Israel. In their minds, his death also meant the death of their dreams, of their hope. They had their idea of how things would go, of how God would fulfill His promises to them. And when things didn't go as they expected, they lost hope.

But the very thing that caused their hopelessness, the death of Jesus, was also the thing that provided the greatest hope the world has ever known. Jesus' death gave them exactly what they had hoped for: redemption.

I don't want to be like these men, who didn't recognize Jesus, who lost hope because things didn't go their way. I want to trust God, in all circumstances, with joy and with hope.

Perhaps the circumstances of my life, the things that aren't going the way I had hoped, are the very things that God will use to bring about the fulfillment of His promises to me, and to satisfy the deepest desires of my heart.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shine

I've never gotten angry about having cancer.
I've never said, "It's not fair."
I've maintained a pretty good attitude and I've yielded willingly as I have given up one thing after another.
Until today.
Today I got really angry.
Today I cried, "It's not fair."
Haven't I given up enough?
Do I really have to give up this?
Something so close to my heart.
Something I've been unwilling to even consider.

My heart breaks. It may seem trivial to some.
When it's your choice, sacrifice is hard.
When the choice is taken from you, hard doesn't even begin to describe it.

I've wanted to homeschool as long as I can remember, long before I was even a parent. My favorite thing about parenting is teaching. I love it! I love the way they learn so quickly and how it brings them so much joy. It's the one part of parenting that comes easily to me. I don't even need a curriculum. Tell me what they need to know and I will come up with a fast and fun way for them to learn.

My oldest starts first grade this year. I made a plan. I bought everything I needed. I've been working for months getting ready. Unfortunately my strength has been declining. I kept thinking it would get better. I've tried everything, to no avail.

I heard that small voice in my head, "Put him in public school."
No. No way.
I went through all the arguments.
But still, the thought kept nagging me.
I finally admitted to myself that no matter how many great ambitions I have, I lack the energy and patience to homeschool. My home is currently not the best environment for my children to thrive.
I'm still in survival mode. Just barely getting by. Just doing the minimum.

So after three days of angst, I registered him for school.
It's not that big of a deal, right?
Well, it is for me.
Goodbye dream. I hope we meet again soon.

I told my son he was going to school. He had mixed feelings at first.
Then I said to him, "Remember Matthew 5:16?"
We quoted it together.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.
"Now is your chance to shine." I told him.
His face lit up and he broke out in a big smile.
"I know, Mom."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Date Night

You may remember from my New Year's post that one of my Christmas presents was tickets to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Here it is, eight months later, and I was able to use those tickets. I'm pretty excited to see some of my plans actually come to pass. My life has been unpredictable these past 15 months, and completely out of my control.
I'm happy by how far I've come since the first of the year. However, I didn't expect to still be feeling SO bad. I've mentioned before that the Herceptin is wearing me down. My blood counts are down and I am tired and lacking energy almost all the time, not to mention a myriad of other strange side effects. I have just two more treatments. I'm excited, yet in disbelief that this chapter of my life is actually going to end.

We were at the Shakespeare Festival with my whole family (dad's side). They don't allow you to take pictures. Despite that, when my sister-in-law was randomly pulled out of the audience to play Juliet in a crazy, Shakespearean rendition of the Newlywed Game Show, I nudged Damie to take some pictures with his phone. Nikki is very, very shy, but was an excellent sport.


We were totally busted for taking pictures, but since this was just the pre-show, they played along and posed.


I don't get out much and having fun is always a bit difficult for me. The seriousness of cancer is a stark contrast to the lightheartedness of fun. But I really did have fun that night, and having Nikki as the star just added to the night. I was able to really, really laugh.
And to top it off, when we returned home after a long and very late evening, our babysitter refused to let me pay her.
Hot date. Fun night. Free. Awesome!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer

inside
day after day
looking out windows, longingly
remembering days of camping, hiking, parks and play
field trips, vacations, swimming adventures
what once was carefree
now replaced
peaceful, aching sadness
missing friends
me, the little bit left
stripped away
my will, gone
all rights, entitlements
gone
submitting finally
letting go
yielding to One
whose way is better than mine

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alternative Medicine

Throughout my battle with cancer, people would often encourage me to seek alternative treatment. It was always very emotional and disturbing. I heard many stories (both good and bad) of people who declined traditional medicine in favor of natural treatments. It's a difficult choice. I chose the method of treatment that had the best track record for success, based on respectable research (I'm a data junkie). My cancer was advanced, very aggressive and fast-growing. I didn't have time to try other methods. One of my nurses wisely stated, "If we could cure cancer naturally, that's how we would be doing it."
No one wants to go through chemotherapy. No one would choose that unless they felt there was no other choice. I faced every treatment with dread and had to force myself to go. I wish I could better explain how it made me feel when people told me how horrible chemo is and how there are other, easier, more natural treatments. I know they meant well, trying to help and provide me with information. But when facing a decision that will determine whether you live or die, it is extremely hard to repeatedly hear that the decision you made was not the right one. And knowing that if you went with their recommendation, it could very well cost you your life.
Three different friends encouraged me to go see a local naturopath that specialized in cancer. I didn't want to. I didn't want to be faced with more data and more choices. I had made my choice, and it was a difficult one. But finally, a few days after that last horrible chemo injection, I made an appointment.
I liked how she introduced herself. She didn't consider herself "alternative" and required that I work with an oncologist. She also emphasized that she based her treatment recommendations on research and not anecdotal stories. Her goal was to help me get through the treatment and minimize my side effects, as well as help my body heal and prevent recurrence.
I immediately voiced my skepticism to her. If she was just going to tell me to eat healthy, fresh foods and exercise...well, I already did that and look where it got me.
She asked a ton of questions and did some tests. Then she put me on an extremely strict diet and recommended many expensive supplements. I was desperate to get healthy, and we had a big tax refund, so I decided to give it a shot. She prioritized treatments for me, since doing them all was prohibitively expensive.
I started feeling better almost immediately and continued her diet for months. It was hard. And it was expensive. So I slowly started cutting out some of the supplements and adding foods back into my diet. At first, there were only mild consequences. But after a few weeks, I felt terrible. I was sick and exhausted and depressed. I could barely get out of bed in the morning and didn't function well throughout the day. I started experiencing many of the common side-effects from the two cancer medications I am still taking. Up until that point, I hadn't experienced any.
It took me a bit to make the connection between the way I was feeling and my diet, but as soon as I did, I went back on the diet and started taking my supplements again. Within a week, I felt better. Now I stray a bit here and there, but I know exactly what it costs me, and I pay for it. I've become much more of a believer in natural medicine.
I'm very thankful that I have traditional doctors that respect my naturopathic doctor and are willing to work with her. And vice-versa. I can't emphasize enough to anyone going through cancer treatment, what a huge effect diet and adequate nutrition can have in minimizing the side-effects of cancer drugs and in repairing the body.
Sadly, the two things that effect me the worst are coffee and sugar.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disengaged

I married fairly young, but waited to have kids. I experienced life first. I finished college, traveled some, and had a decent career. All of those experiences paled in comparison to being a mom. Becoming a mom was the highlight of my life. I loved it. Even the sleepless nights and endless diaper changes.
My kids were young when I was diagnosed with cancer. My daughter was 5-months-old. My boys were three and four.
Those first few days, I could hardly look at them. It was too painful. With each glance, I thought about having to say goodbye.  I thought about their cries for "mommy" and no mommy to answer. I thought about them being too young to even remember me, to remember how very much I love them.
That was followed by months of being unable to take care of them, of letting others tend to their needs and respond to their cries for comfort.

It was painful.
I disengaged.
In a feeble attempt at emotional self-preservation, I detached myself.

But now there is hope. Hope that I won't have to say goodbye anytime soon. Hope that they won't grow up without a mom. Now I'm the one who takes care of them, who tends to their needs and responds to their cries for comfort.

Yet I find myself still disengaged, subconsciously looking for ways to avoid too much interaction, too much attachment. Like someone who has been betrayed and is afraid to trust again.

I'm still tired, and often very sick. The cumulative effects of the Herceptin are taking their toll. I don't have the physical strength to be the kind of mom I want to be. It's overwhelming physically. It's overwhelming emotionally.

The effects of cancer still linger. I knew there would be residual physical effects. Now I realize there are emotional ones too.

I have to walk now with the same faith that I did through cancer treatment. Part of me foolishly thought that after cancer, life would go back to the way it was before. But it won't. My life will never be the same. And that's good.
I need God just as much now as I did facing cancer. I'm just as desperate for Him. I still need His help, His grace, His mercy, His joy, His strength, every moment.
I trust that in time, God will heal my heart, and give me the courage to let go of the emotional pains, and to allow myself to become fully engaged.

As I walk by faith, in confident dependence on my God, I know that His grace is enough.

"And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." ~2 Corinthians 12:9

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reconstruction?

Reconstruction.
People ask me about it, and those who don't ask are probably wondering.

Everyone does it. Insurance pays for it.

Yet, I walk around deformed, completely flat-chested. My only attempts to hide it are with loose, ruffled clothing.

I often wonder what people think, if they even notice.

Most of the time I'm okay with it. Other times, deep emotions come to the surface. Feelings of being "damaged goods" - my femininity stripped from me, being oddly different from everyone else of my gender.

Reconstruction.
It would be purely cosmetic. The nerves on the surface are gone. The muscles underneath are still tight and sore.
The process is not fun. It is not the same as the augmentation so many women get. Reconstruction after a mastectomy entails months and months of procedures and doctor's appointments, discomfort and pain.

Even just one more day of pain, one more day of having my responsibilities put upon others, one more day of not being able to hold and cuddle my kids, is not okay. There is nothing that would make me willingly choose that path.
Prosthetics are horribly uncomfortable, maybe because I am so active. They move around into awkward positions.
There is no good solution.
There is no decision that stands out as the right one.
None of the options satisfy.

My deformity is a harsh, severe reminder of the seriousness of cancer. Life goes back to normal, but the scars remain, permanently. At times, they keep me from moving on, drawing my focus off the future, off my hope, and into the realm of the "what ifs."
I can't go there. I won't go there. I won't allow fear to steal a single moment from me.

Instead, I let my scars remind me...
of a God who is faithful to draw near in our darkest moments
of the lessons I learned that I don't want to forget
that beauty really does come from within.

So I wear my scars with confidence, remembering the scars of my Savior. Remembering the One who suffered so much more than I.

"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." ~1 Samuel 16:7b

Monday, June 13, 2011

Anniversary

It has been a year since I was diagnosed with cancer. Friday was my anniversary. On June 10, 2010, I received the call with the results from my biopsy. All of the paperwork lists my diagnoses day as June 8th. I suppose the doctors didn't need the biopsy results to know it was cancer. They seemed to know immediately.

The funny thing about a cancer anniversary is that you are very excited to be alive to celebrate an anniversary, and at the same time you hate having a cancer anniversary. Who wants their life measured by that kind of milestone?

I wanted to have something profound to write about, but as my life slowly returns to normal and my days become busy with activity, my contemplation time is minimized and I once again get caught up in the mundane details of normal life.

I still get Herceptin treatments every three weeks. They wipe me out. My body is getting healthier, and the effects of Herceptin feel stronger in contrast.

My hair is growing in, thick and curly. It is common for post-chemo hair to be curly. It generally returns to normal after a year or so. My very supportive family teases me, telling me I look like:

The mom on Sid the Science Kid (PBS)

Mama Llama

My mom, on the other hand, thinks I'm beautiful and can't stop taking my picture. Moms are the best!




I've spent some time reflecting on this past year, what I have learned and how I have changed. In so many ways, I'm not the same person I was a year ago. Here are the results of my reflections:

1. I've developed an eternal perspective. This life is fleeting. The cares of this world, that seem so very important, are temporary.

2. I'm free from fear; fear of death, fear of man, fear of failure. I fear God, and Him alone.

3. I can face life's trials with joy and full confidence that God is in control, that He is good, and that He will work everything out for my best and for His glory.

4. I've let go. I've surrendered control. I walk by faith. I trust the Lord in a way I never did before.

5. I find joy in the little things, even things I used to despise, like house work. I love cooking. I love my little girl's constant, demanding cries for "Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY!" I love listening to my boys play, talk, and create. I love every moment of life, even the difficult ones.

6. I'm purposeful. I've learned to focus on what's important, and to spend my time accordingly.

7. I'm more compassionate. As I listen to others' trials, my heart breaks and I can't hold back tears as I feel every pain and frustration alongside them.

My friend Jonie once said to me, "I don't love cancer, but I love what it does in us." It changes our hearts, our character and our faith. I am thankful for the things I've learned, and for the opportunities I now have to impact others.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."  ~Hebrews 12:1-2

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rock Solid


A few weeks ago I had a dream. In my dream, my bones hurt. I feared the cancer had spread to my bones. I told my husband, and for the first time I saw fear in his eyes. Seeing fear in him was more bothersome than the possibility that the cancer was back. I freaked out. I woke up relieved that it was only a dream. But what I realized is that not one time since I was diagnosed with cancer was there fear in Damie. I certainly had moments of fear. They were brief and not as extensive as I expected. But it was still there. Each time, I would go to him, and he would hold me and pray for me, and the fear disappeared.
Damie has been a rock. A man of great strength and faith. Never wavering.
Today is his birthday, and I want to publicly honor him. I am thankful for him, for his courage, for his faithfulness, for his friendship, for his perseverance, and for his constant love for me.
Happy Birthday sweet husband! I love you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Swimming In Pink

Last Saturday was Race For The Cure. I was overwhelmed by the support I received. I felt so loved.
Seventy people signed up to be on my team.
Many more friends donated money, from all over the country.
Damie's employer, ESI, had a fundraiser that raised $700. In addition, many of his co-workers gave donations and/or raced with us.
As a team, we raised over $1800!
We had a lot of fun! I am touched by everyone who sacrificed. You made a difference in fighting breast cancer and saving lives.



I've been reflecting on the past few months of campaigning for Komen Race for the Cure. It was actually a lot of work. And as much as I would LOVE for there to be a cure, I'm not passionate about fighting cancer. It's not my cause. I don't want cancer to define me, in any way.
I've been thinking, what is my cause? What am I passionate about?
I want to serve God with all my heart.
I want people to know there is hope, no matter the difficulty of their circumstances.
And I'm passionate about helping the poor.
What is your cause? What are you passionate about?
Please comment and tell me. I'd love to know!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Psalm 106:1-3

"Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
      His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?
      Who can ever praise him enough?
There is joy for those who deal justly with others
      and always do what is right."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Looking Back

As I was going through treatment, I listened to music. I listened during long days in bed, and many sleepless nights. There were many songs that encouraged me and helped me remember how big God is and how faithful He is.
I remember thinking those songs would be ruined for me; when I listened to them after cancer, they would take me back to the pain, the weakness, and the frustration.
As I listened to some of those songs today, tears pooled in my eyes. The songs did bring back memories, but not of the agony of cancer treatment. The very thing that encouraged me then, encourages me now.
I'm reminded of how close God came.
The songs remind me of the miracle of peace, hope, and comfort that made such dark moments light.
They remind me not of cancer, but of a God who is bigger than cancer.
They remind me of a God who can get me through the scariest moments, a God who gives hope even in the face of death.
And I am so thankful. I'm thankful for a God who draws near, for a God who dwells among his people, for a God who hears our prayers.

I don't want to forget or take for granted the many prayers God answered during this season. Big and small, He heard them all.
Look back with me, at the detailed answers to so many prayers. All of the things listed are things we prayed for, specifically...

Doctors & treatment: I initially prayed that God would direct my steps, that He would lead me to the right doctors and the best treatment. At the time it was too difficult for me to do the research necessary to make decisions. As you will see, God provided me with amazing doctors and nurses, and successful treatment.

Biopsy procedure: Damie made it back into town just in time. The atmosphere was bright and peaceful. The doctors said I was their star patient, especially since they couldn't give me some of the pain and anti-anxiety meds they usually give because I was still breastfeeding.

Diagnoses: The day we received the call, I had unexplainable peace and joy.

Weaning: my baby girl was successfully weaned in just four days. It was not fun, but she did it! She learned to use a bottle quickly and once she got the hang of it, preferred formula over breast milk.

First meeting with the surgeon: results from the lab work and chest x-ray were good, the cancer had not spread to my organs.

Port surgery: no complications

Finances:
All of our medical expenses were taken care of, through hospital grants and the generosity of family members, and a last-minute catastrophic insurance policy we purchased just a few months before my diagnoses.

First round of chemo:
My very first nurse, on my very first day, is a breast cancer survivor. What an encouragement and God-send she is to me.
no serious complications
minimal side effects
no neuropathy (nerve damage in hands & feet which is very common)
treatment was effective and the cancer responded; tumors shrunk significantly after just three weeks
no heart damage from first 12-weeks of treatment (also a possible side-effect)
discouragement lifted
grace and peace for my family
help from family and friends, all of our needs were met

Surgery: Amazingly successful!
no complications
no infections
no lymphedema (common side effect)
speedy recovery
minimal scarring; I've had other doctors repeatedly and enthusiastically ask me who my surgeon was because they are so impressed by the great job he did and how well I've healed
range of motion completely back to normal (so thankful for my physical therapist!!)

I had an almost complete response to the first round of chemo...meaning after the first round of chemo, the cancer was almost completely gone. Only tiny, trace amounts remained (which were removed during surgery). There is only a 20% chance of that happening and it indicates a better long-term prognosis.

Cyrus: my friend with a brain tumor did just one round of chemo and radiation and the cancer was gone!! It's unheard of! He's been back for multiple MRI's, and there is still no cancer.

Andrea: my friend who was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She responded great to her treatment and is now cancer-free!

Second round of chemo:
I have to admit this was the hardest part...
God enabled me to endure, and taught me so much about endurance and faith, and about rejoicing through trials.
He gave me strength and encouragement.
He continued to provide for ALL of our needs, most often through the generosity of our family and friends.
Although I was very sick, there were many common side-effects that I did not experience.
No depression or anxiety
Discouragement lifted, when people prayed

Radiation:
no complications
minimal burning

My family:
There has been peace in my home. Our marriage is better than ever; we are closer than ever before. My kids are happy, even though many things changed for them this year. They've learned to pray, and to turn to God in times of trouble.

Post-treatment scans:
I had a CT scan of my chest and abdomen after my treatment was completed. I also had a bone-density scan and a echocardiogram. Without going into too much detail, all of the test results were very good.

Tamoxifen:
This is an oral medication that I will take daily for five to ten years. I started it right after I completed radiation (two months ago). It is accompanied by many unpleasant side-effects. I've been told it is like menopause on steroids. Side-effects should show up within the first few weeks. I have had NONE!!!

Tracey:
My sister Tracey, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, began her treatment with surgery. The pathology report indicated that the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes and the tumor was smaller then they initially thought. (She began chemotherapy today).

Healing:
Cancer is behind me. I can move on. I get to raise my three beautiful children. They don't have to grow up without a mom. I get to make their meals and clean up their messes. I get to give them hugs and tell them I love them, everyday. I'm very thankful for that.

What a mighty God we serve!! My continual prayer is that my life will bring Him glory. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

One more thing to labor for in prayer:
My distant cousin, Marla, who has esophagus cancer, needs a miracle. Please continue to pray for her and her family. We know that God will provide all that they need!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The New Me

My last chemo treatment was December 15th. That was almost four months ago. It took about eight weeks for my hair to start growing back. Then it came in so very slowly. My husband, who normally wears a clean-shaven-head, started letting his hair grow out too. He committed to letting his grow until mine was long enough to go without a wig.
He shaved his off last week, signaling the time had come.
I thought my hair would be much longer by now, but it is still very, very short. It also appears to be very curly.
My wigs are getting scraggly. I'm tired of wearing them. Last week, I ventured out of the house without. I felt naked, but free. And also very self-conscious. No one looked at me strangely.
So on Sunday I worked up the courage to go to church with my short, short hair. It is such a big, public place. But also a safe place.
I wanted to hide. I had that same feeling when I first cut my hair and when I first wore a wig. So I did the same thing I did then. I stood up extra tall, lifted my head with determined confidence, put on a big, nervous smile, and approached the building.
My fashion-diva friend opened the door. Her face lit up as she enthusiastically exclaimed, "You look gorgeous!" Just what I needed to hear, from just the right person.
People don't seem to think "cancer" or "boy" when they look at me. But this style does have a loud voice. It speaks bold, eccentric, risky, confident, modern. Am I those things? I've always liked my long, safe, mainstream hair. I like to blend in. I like to conform. I like to follow protocol.
Yet maybe this hairstyle does represent the new me. I'm not afraid anymore. I am bold. I am determined. And I am free, from so many things.




Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Details

Many have asked how Eva and I ended up on a billboard. Here's the story...

It was December. I was on the Komen email list, because I have donated in the past. I received an email saying they were looking for models for their 2011 Race For The Cure campaign. They wanted real life stories; local people who had faced breast cancer; friends and family members of those who had battled breast cancer.

I had just finished chemo and felt horrible. At the time, I didn't want anything to do with anything that identified me with cancer, including Race For The Cure. I wanted to put cancer behind me and forget.

I don't know what compelled me to respond. I don't like attention. Without thinking, I immediately replied. I told them I was currently receiving treatment and that I had three little kids who would be adorable models. I sent them links to my blogs. They emailed back and told me their campaign slogan was, "I race for _____" The three kids might be too much to fit in one picture with the slogan. They asked if they could do pictures of just me and my husband. I said we would do whatever they needed. Then I respectfully requested that they consider doing just Eva and I, because I race for her. Because I don't want her to go through what I went through. Because I don't want her to live her life in fear. They agreed.

About a month later, Eva and I drove up to a beautiful house in the foothills, equipped with my wigs and scarves. We spent about half an hour there. They took pictures and we visited a bit. I was encouraged. They were warm and friendly, and passionate about finding a cure.

I had no idea how they would use the pictures. Another month went by. I received an email with a couple of pictures that they might use for posters, banners, or billboards. They also sent me a copy of the registration brochure, with me and Eva on the cover.

I didn't get any warning about the billboard. Damie called last week to tell me one of his co-workers saw it. Then I got an email from another friend about it. I packed up the kids and ventured out, terrified of the humiliation I thought I would feel at seeing it.
They had used my favorite picture. There is something about Eva's innocent, perfect, little hand reaching up and touching my scarf, the scarf being so indicative of all of the pain and fear associated with cancer.
But what touched me most was what it said, "I race for her future." The words "her future" hit me hard. My embarrassment at being on a billboard disappeared as I realized what this was all about. It's about finding a cure. It's about raising awareness. It's about preventing anyone else from having to face this disease.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Moment of Fame


My face on a billboard. Sounds like something you would find on a bucket list. I expected to hate seeing myself that big and that public. I was surprised when I drove around the curve and first saw it. I was gripped with emotion.
"I race for her future"
When they were looking for campaign models, I told them I race for my baby girl; so she won't have to go through what I went through; so she won't have to live in fear.
I think they captured it.

We are also on the cover of the registration brochure:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Finding A Cure

One in eight women will get breast cancer.
My friend, Kristie, battled breast cancer right before me. When she heard of my diagnosis, she took me out for coffee. She couldn't hold back the tears, knowing what was in store for me, having barely finished treatment herself.
"I thought I took the hit for all of us." She said.
One in eight.
I had that same feeling. I'm taking the hit. None of my friends will have to go through this. But, I have a lot more than 16 friends.
I have finally come to terms with the fact that my battle with cancer is not over. I will have to face it over and over and over again. Every check up. Each new case among friends. Until there is a cure.

So join me in finding a cure.
Come race with me on May 7th (I'm doing the 5k walk).
Raise money with me.
Or make a contribution. Every little bit helps.

I started a team for this year's Race For The Cure. It's called Day By Day.
Click on a link below to get involved...

*Join my team!

*View my personal page, or make a donation.

Thanks!!

One more thing, Komen provides grants to almost all local hospitals and clinics for breast cancer screening. If you don't have insurance or can't afford a mammogram, you can get one for free. Early detection is the key to survival!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sisters

My mom remarried when I was twelve. That marriage granted me not only an amazing step-dad, but also three adult siblings. Over the years, we have grown close and you will rarely hear me add the word "step" when I talk about them. The youngest, Tracey, and her husband Steve have been a light to me. They live in the Seattle area, but came to visit as soon as they heard of my diagnosis. They came to visit multiple times, each time cheering me up, making me laugh, taking my mind off cancer, and showering me with love and generous gifts. And when it was time to say good-bye, my heart sank and I held back tears. They are so special to me!
There is no blood relation. We didn't grow up together. I guess that's why it was such a shock when I got the call last Thursday.
"We are sisters again." Tracey said.
I didn't understand.
Then she said very casually, "I have breast cancer."
Disbelief.
"No, you're not serious."
How could this be? I couldn't breathe. I wanted to hang up right then and completely break down, but I needed the details. I needed to know how she was.
We talked.
She was doing great. God's grace was upon her just like it was on me.
I, on the other hand, didn't handle it so well. We got off the phone and I collapsed. I've never cried like that. Sobs. Gut-wrenching, heaving sobs. I couldn't stop.
I would do anything to take this from her.
I don't want her to go through this. Not one moment of it.
Yet I can already see how God has graciously prepared her, every detail of her life. God will carry her through. The refiners fire will shape her, and make her even more beautiful than she already is.
She can do this.

But can I?
Wasn't my own battle with breast cancer enough?
How can I watch her endure this, knowing every detail of the battle, every pain, every frustration, every heart break?
I want to scream, "Stop! Pause! Rewind! Delete!"
I want to wake up from this cancer nightmare.

Oh, how I long for Heaven! No more suffering. No more bad news. No more tears. So often, I wish I could go there now. But God has chosen to preserve my life. I want to use each day to the fullest. I have one mission:
To teach my kids and to tell the world
about a God who loves them beyond measure,
about a God who can satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts,
about a God who can rescue them from a broken world.

Tracey & I

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 30

 I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
         And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
 O LORD my God, I cried out to You,
         And You healed me.
 O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave;
         You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
      
 Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
         And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
 For His anger is but for a moment,
         His favor is for life;
         Weeping may endure for a night,
         But joy comes in the morning.
      
 Now in my prosperity I said,
         “I shall never be moved.”
 LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
         You hid Your face, and I was troubled.
      
 I cried out to You, O LORD;
         And to the LORD I made supplication:
 “What profit is there in my blood,
         When I go down to the pit?
         Will the dust praise You?
         Will it declare Your truth?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me;
         LORD, be my helper!”
      
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
         You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
         O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Prize


I've run many races and never won. I've never even placed, not in any division. Not first. Not second. Not third. I've never had a medal of victory to hang around my neck.
My only hope of winning was the New Year's Day Run. The fast runners sleep in. The first few years I raced, my running friends always finished in the top three for their age groups. I never did. The last time I participated in the race, I knew I would win. I was in top shape. I ran my best time. Any previous year, I would have placed in my age group, maybe even won. But that year, the fast runners showed up. I left with nothing.

Tomorrow is my last day of radiation. I'm not completely done with treatment, but the worst is behind me.
Every Thursday I meet with my radiation oncologist. Today she gave me a big hug and a gift. It was my prize. I finished the race. I looked down at the butterfly-shaped medal and read the words, "Breast Cancer Survivor." My first medal, and it says I'm a survivor.
As I walked out to my car I felt happy. For the first time in months, I felt happy. Happy about surviving. 
I got in my car, looked down at my ribbon, and cried.
I knew it was coming; the moment to finally let go. 
Work hard. Fight. Stay strong. Keep focused. Day after day.
But not today. Today I let go. Today I cried.
I cried over the pain, the frustration, the loss, the fear.
I cried for joy. I made it. I finished. I survived!

I've been content in the present, but afraid of the future. 
I've been afraid to hope and afraid of disappointment.
Today I dared to believe,
to believe for a future,
a future of living and not just surviving.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rebuilding

Radiation is going well. This is my last week. The skin on my chest is burnt, red and peeling. It hasn't been bad, but I'm anxious to be done. The doctor told me that my chance of recurrence is low. Praise the Lord!

I've been busy. I feel much better and have enough energy to make it through the entire day.
I'm busy, trying to get my home back in order.
I'm busy, trying to win back my kids.
I'm busy, trying to return life to normal.

Conflicting emotions constantly bombard me, but I don't find the time to process them. I'm confronted with new struggles, new sins.

Envy.
Everything is hard. Rebuilding takes work. Baby steps. And envy whispers in my ear,
resentment
over the ease in which others achieve, even the simplest things
and their physical strength, to do what I cannot, but once could

Impatience, frustration
The hard part is behind me and I want normal, now.
And yet, I don't want to go back to normal. I want life to be different, better, less wasted, but I still lack the strength.

I should be thankful for how far I've come,
instead I get frustrated by how far I have to go.

I'm learning to trust
that God is directing my steps
that God will use my life as he desires
in his timing
and I'm right where he wants me to be

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Social Well-Being

I just read in the news about a new study published regarding breast cancer. Women with a strong social support system (especially in the first year after diagnosis) are 38% less likely to die and 48% less likely to have a recurrence.

Wow! Pretty incredible statistics. Thank you friends for being such an awesome support system to me this year! You have increased my odds of survival significantly!

Check out the article...
Friends and Family May be Key To Fighting Cancer

Friday, January 14, 2011

Update

Radiation is pretty easy. It takes me approximately seven minutes to drive there. Then I'm in and out of MSTI in 25 minutes. I'm only on the table getting radiated for about five minutes. The rest of the time is spent getting in and out and changing clothes. It's a fast and simple process.
Each day after radiation I go to the gym and do what I consider to be a very pathetic workout. But its a start. My body is weak and it will take a lot of time and work to build up to where I was before cancer.
I'm slowly getting my strength back. It's nice to be able to start my life over, in a sense. Before, I was always scrambling to do too many things, and doing none of them well. Now I'm reintroducing things, one at a time. Each day, I do a bit more. And every little thing feels like a great accomplishment.
First I started doing a morning Bible study with the kids. Then I added a chore chart. I've been cooking their meals myself. And today, I took all three kids to the store all by myself! It feels SO good to do things myself.
Around 3:00 everyday, I fade. I can still function, I just get dizzy, tired and weak.

In response to questions I'm frequently asked...
My hair is not yet growing back, which makes me very sad. Everyday I scrutinize my head looking for traces of normal hair growth. It's been over four weeks since my last chemo treatment. I'm impatient! It started growing back after my surgery but I can't remember when it started, nor do I know if it will be the same this time. Even though it had barely grown in, it was difficult to lose a second time, when my second round of chemo started.
The doctors assume the cancer is gone and that all this treatment is working. I think it is based on my responses to the treatment so far. It doesn't look like they will do a bunch of tests when this is over, then declare me cancer free. I suppose it is unnecessary because I am already cancer free.
I started up Herceptin again. It was one of the drugs I had last summer. It isn't technically chemotherapy, although it is sometimes referred to as such. I get it every three weeks for 40 weeks. It is administered through my port and takes an hour and a half. Side effects are minimal. When I'm done with that, I'll get my port out. That will be a day to celebrate!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolution

Here it is, a new year. I lay in bed awake, pondering what this next year will look like.
For Christmas, my dad and step-mom bought us tickets to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, in August. Of course I said we would go. We love the Shakespeare Festival. But in the back of my mind, I found myself hesitant to commit. How do I know what my life will be like in eight months? I think back to how much of my life I thought I had control over, how many plans I've made, assuming I knew my future. How strangely arrogant of me.
I'm tempted to make New Year's resolutions. There are so many things I want to do this year...things I've been unable to do, things that in the past I've been afraid to do.
Will this be a year of restoration? Or will it be a year of tragedy?
I don't know.
I do know this: New Year's resolutions are foolish. I don't know what tomorrow will bring.
So I resolve to do this...to live today to the fullest. TODAY I will do all those things that most people intend to do tomorrow.
I will eat healthy TODAY.
I will exercise TODAY.
I will play with my kids TODAY.
I will love God with all my heart TODAY.
I will reach out to someone in need TODAY.
No more good intentions.
No more worrying about tomorrow.
One day at a time. Day by day.

"In their hearts humans plan their course,
   but the LORD establishes their steps." ~Proverbs 16:9

"Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
   but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails." ~Proverbs 19:21

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~Matthew 6:34

"Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil." ~James 4:13-16