A New Year

new-yearA new year will soon be upon us.

To be honest, I’m hesitant to say, “Happy New Year!” It doesn’t seem appropriate at the moment. Celebrating during cancer? Perhaps some may wish to yell “Carpe Diem” tonight, but I’m sitting on the couch with one of my kittens and thinking about what lies ahead.

Doctor’s appointments, scans, surgeries, exams, treatment, pills, and possibly more. That is what the new year will certainly bring for me.

For some of us, our only New Year’s resolution is to survive the coming year. That’s about the only resolution on my list, but I suppose I’m hoping for more than that.

I’m hoping for new opportunities, new ways to reach others, new ways to give, and new ways to grow. Vague wishes and dreams, but they are there.

Can I be sure and say, “Yes, 2017 will bring me wonderful and exciting things!” No, I can’t. I suppose I’m more realist than otherwise, and I’ve been on the cancer merry-go-round before. Depending on the results of treatment, this could become an even more long and dragged out affair, lasting through the year and beyond.

Unlike my first experience with cancer, this may be more than a detour. This may be a new road. And I’m pretty certain that this new road will continue, just like those seemingly endless highways here in the Midwest.

I can’t go back. I can’t get my old body back. I don’t even know if I can find the exit back to my original path, back to my old life. That old me and my life–with all of its normalcy and quietude–are gone.

So no, I may not be celebrating tonight. But I’ll most likely wake up tomorrow and struggle onward. It can be challenging to accept a new path–especially one full of doctors and uncertainty–but maybe there will be some good in all of this. Something that can make all of this worthwhile.

Wishing you and your families a safe and meaningful night.

Feeling Broken at Christmas

feeling-brokenI just feel broken.

So much has happened in the past several months.

Perhaps it is simply the overload of experiences or the effects of the drugs I’ve been prescribed. My thoughts feel jumbled, fractured somehow. And my body has two long, jagged scars that tightly bind my flat chest.

Too, the biopsy results from the surgery were not so great. Despite having finished chemo, two of the six lymph nodes removed were cancerous. There were also pre-cancerous areas in my left breast.

The meds help with the pain somewhat. I can rest, but sleep is often difficult.

I’ve sort of hunkered down and escaped from the joyous social media posts that I find in my online streams. Not that I want to deny others their happiness…it just seems far away at the moment. Cookie recipes and holiday cocktails? My cocktails this year have been more of the chemo variety.

Reading further in The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, I find:

“Grace waits in broken places. Grace waits at the bottom of things. Grace loves you when you are at your darkest worst, and wraps you in the best light. Grace seeps through the broken places and seeps into the lowest places, a balm for wounds.”

I hold onto this. That and the blessings I find each day, like the pendant my husband gave me that says, “Angels watch over us.” And the kitten sitting beside me purring. The warmth and security of my home, the love of family.

Voskamp goes on to say,

“Grace is grace when it gives us what we’d never ask for but always needed, and moves us to become what we always wanted. But hardly ever the way we wanted.”

I wonder about this last part. Is this time in my life moving me to become someone better? I hope so. Certainly I would never have chosen this, never would have even imagined that I would be in this place, facing a bigger and badder cancer than the first time around. Maybe something good will come of all of this.

Maybe?

The end of this year has brought me to my knees. Part of the lyrics of “O Holy Night” have been running through my mind lately, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…” Perhaps being on my knees is where I need to be right now. In the midst of my brokenness and pain, I am grateful still.

This will be a quiet Christmas for me as I continue to recover from my surgery and prepare for the next phase of treatment. If you are struggling during this holiday season, please know you’re not alone. Let’s walk through this tough time–and seemingly impossible time–together.

Maybe together we’ll find grace to help us through.

Hiding and Thriving

volta-in-bag-with-frameIt may seem strange, but in some ways I’ve been happier lately.

Certainly this is one of the worst times of my life. I’ve had to deal with a major threat to my health (and life), along with the meaning of being a woman in our culture. Too, I am no longer working and so do not have that to grab hold of in my attempts to find meaning or a place in society.

Regarding the “woman” question, it’s still a process and not really one of my major concerns at the moment. Although the pain meds help, my chest still feels like it has been bound tightly, often making it difficult to move around the house or do much of anything. I tire very easily. My focus, obviously, is regaining strength.

prosthesisBut maybe not for the company who provided the compression bra for my surgery. Apparently these bras are mainly used for reconstruction surgeries but can also be used for folks like me to hold the drainage bulbs. And the bra also came with a single, fluffy prosthesis.

Yes, apparently the company thought vanity would be a concern right after major surgery. My husband thought it was a cosmic joke to be given this after a bilateral mastectomy. And, to be honest, it made me feel even worse at the time to be reminded of my newly flat chest.

As cancer strips so many things from my life, I’ve been forced to take things moment by moment and appreciate what’s left.

  • I can still move around and do some things on my own.
  • I can enjoy reading books and watching movies.
  • I can drink as much coffee as I want.
  • I have the escape and creative outlet provided by Second Life.
  • I love watching the kitties bounce around the house with abandon.
  • I have a husband who still loves me and takes care of me.

And yes, part of my recovery involves hiding at the moment. This latest bout with cancer has brought with it an overload of experiences, questions, pain, and trials. Many more questions remain, along with the pain of radiation and even more surgery. Right now, I’m simply enjoying a bit of rest and quiet from the chaos of being a cancer patient.

Today will be my first follow-up appointment with the surgeon and most likely hearing the biopsy results from my surgery. I should be nervous, but oddly I feel calm right now. Looking back over my list above, I know that I still have a lot to be thankful for.

“And though I don’t know how today’s story will end, I remember: faith thanks God in the middle of the story.” –Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

 

Hope (When Times Are Tough)

hope-when-times-are-toughHope. It can be so elusive during dark times.

I had considered beginning this post with a pithy and yet inspirational quote regarding surgery. Reviewing the first few pages of the search results from BrainyQuote, however, I realized that most celebrities only talk about plastic surgery.

(Quick side note: I’m very thankful that Shannen Doherty has been so open about her own breast cancer journey. Her honesty about the true effect of cancer on our lives is very much appreciated and respected by myself and many others.)

For some of us, surgery is a necessity, and perfection of the physical body is far from the goal. We trade life for what most would consider a deformed, imperfect body. And often the psychological effects of surgery can be more difficult than the physical pain.

I’ve been through numerous surgeries–more than I can count, honestly–but this one will be the longest and the roughest for me physically and emotionally. It’s going to be awhile before I find my new “normal.”

But at some point, I have had to come to an acceptance of what will happen…

Surrendering my life, grasping on to those blessings that come my way each day.

Reaching out through my writing, thinking that possibly my words might impact others and even comfort those who may just be beginning their own cancer journey.

Most of all, though, learning to hope even when the future is uncertain.

As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.   –Psalm 71:14

I’ll be spending the next day with family before my surgery on Tuesday. I hope to return to blogging and such within the next week or so. As with the famous line from The Terminator, “I’ll be back.”

If you’re the praying sort, please keep my in your prayers this week, especially Tuesday, the date of my surgery.

Enjoy your holiday, friends. See you soon.

Following Through

10426856_10204329484716157_6242537118572845057_nFollowing through on my commitments has not always been my strong suit. Indeed, the list of things that I have quit in my life is probably too numerous to count. Or, with my lagging memory, to remember.

I have often allowed my feelings to get the best of me. My good intentions have flown out the window when I have felt the sting of rejection or simply boredom.

As Nicki Koziarz states in her new book, 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit,

“Momentary feelings will always try to convince us to forfeit our faithfulness.”

Whenever my feelings changed, I allowed them to lead me, rather than my controlling them. I retreated from rejection or raged at changes.  And in more cases than I would care to admit, I followed my emotions and simply quit.

Something began to shift in me recently as I began to read the Bible during an intense period of crisis that seemed to go on and on. I didn’t realize it at first, but something was happening in me.

When the crisis reached a high point emotionally, I suddenly became calm. Shock? Perhaps that was part of it. In the past I would have immediately walked out the door or done something stupid. This time, though, I was able to talk things over.

And I stayed.

Do I have any illusion that this was me? Nope, I sure don’t. It was all God and relying on His Word. Because if it were up to me, I would have been out the door with the first shocking revelation.

Koziarz goes on to say in her book:

“There is something to be said about a woman who follows through with her commitments, despite how she feels. There’s strength, honor, and God’s glory on the other side of remaining steadfast.”

Some days it is a daily, hourly, or even a minute-to-minute struggle to stand firm. I’m still a quitter at heart. I often falter, but I get back up and dust myself off. But with God’s help, I can follow through on my commitments.

 

 

Writing a Life…

Writing a LifeSometimes, blogging (or writing in general) can be a bit discouraging.

I write…and nothing.

And then I look around on the internet, and it seems like everyone else is succeeding at this writing thing.

Have you ever felt this way?

Honestly, I’ve wondered lately if I should continue my efforts. I felt that surely this was a confirmation that I am most assuredly not a writer, that I should just get back to my regular work.

This morning, though, I got a bit of encouragement in my mailbox, and I realized that although notoriety may not come from my efforts, my only responsibility is to stay faithful, serving God and others.

That loud and clamoring voice in my mind said in response, however, “Maybe this really isn’t what you’re meant to do, though? Perhaps you are just a bad writer.”

I listened to it, for awhile.

Logging in to check another blog this evening, I was surprised by several responses to a post.

Shocked even. People are reading what I write?

One person commented, “Me too!” She had had similar experiences to what I had described in the post and seemed to feel a sort of validation of her own experiences after reading my blog.

Wow.

Holley Gerth writes in her upcoming book, You’re Already Amazing LifeGrowth Guide: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be

“We are closest to and most like Jesus when we are fully being who he created us to be.”

If one person reads and is encouraged by my writing, then that’s enough.

Popularity doesn’t matter, but being faithful to God does. And maybe that’s all I need to be concerned about at the moment.

 

Small Changes

Small ChangesThe other night I was bored. Really bored.

This doesn’t happen often as I typically have something that I should be doing. However, with the current flux in my work hours, I was left feeling depressed and shiftless.

Both my real life and virtual kitties were napping, so I turned on Netflix and began browsing through the most recent movies. Nothing new caught my fancy, but then I saw one movie that my husband and I had enjoyed quite awhile ago. With that in mind, I clicked on it to begin watching.

The movie was Constantine.

I was not a Christian when we first saw the movie. My tastes in entertainment often tended toward the darker side, to be honest. Back then, this movie was perfect for me.

But now? When I attempted to watch it during my night of boredom, I was a bit disgusted. It no longer held any interest for me, and I quickly turned it off, preferring instead to read before going to bed.

Part of the change in my tastes could, of course, be due to the years that have passed since the movie was originally released. But I also think it could be a result of my faith and the different perspective on the content found in this and similar entertainment that it provides.

I hadn’t really noticed the growth, but it was there, small changes over time.

As Ellie’s father says in the movie Contact,  “Small moves, Ellie, small moves.”