A Thing Called Hope

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Between the pain and the chaos of divorce, hope has been a difficult thing sometimes. I think I have it in hand, but if flies away, leaving me alone. It flutters just out of reach on those hard days.

That is when I remember all of the loss of the past year, all of the endings. So much that it feels like my life will break in two.

Indeed it has, with part of my heart going with my husband. I truly understand now the meaning of “one flesh” and the heartbreak that divorce leaves behind. There will always be that emptiness in my life, one that can’t be filled with activities or fun.

Am I still entirely me? I don’t know.

But I know that I must continue, must keep moving forward with my life. Hope is still here, and it is time for some beginnings. Something good.

As Katie Davis Majors says in Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful,

“Dreams die and seasons end and terrible, unspeakable things happen that don’t make much sense, but God is not done with us yet. He uses the bending and the breaking and the dying to prepare the harvest, to prepare more for us. We reach high to the Son and He comes down and pulls us closer.”

Today I reached high. I was baptized, fully immersed and washed clean. A new beginning after so many, many endings.

I am ready for some good. I still have hope.

 

God’s Presence Is with You

gods-presence-regularYesterday was an extra, extra bad day for me.

It has been several months since I began my cancer treatment, with my first major surgery in December. And soon radiation begins.

Friday brought two appointments, both with my oncologists. I had been dreading this day as we would discuss the staging of the cancer as well as prognosis. And nervous? You betcha.

My anxiety had reached new heights, and I found myself crouched on the bathroom floor, sick and crying. I felt alone, so alone at that moment.

It can be difficult to believe that God is with us during these storms of life. So very, very hard sometimes.

I’m trying to hold on to the hope, though, that is stated by Craig Groeschel in his upcoming book, Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life:

“God’s presence is with you, no matter how alone you may feel.”

I don’t have any more wiser words for you than that.

If you do feel alone right now and the storm seems never ending, please know that you’re not alone. There are lots of us in the storm, right there with you. And there is  God, our shelter.

 

 

 

Hopes and Dreams

hopes-and-dreamsJanuary 1st is a day for all of us to dream big.

Although many have no doubt listed their resolutions formally, I only have one resolution, that of surviving the year. Not your typical resolution, mind you, but one that is pretty common among those living with cancer.

But does that leave any room for hopes and dreams? You betcha.

You want to know what my greatest dream might be? I’ve always dreamt of being a writer. Actually getting paid to write! Yes indeed, that would be my dream job.

Well, other than getting paid to play with puppies and kittens all day…

Anyway, I love writing and reaching out to others through my articles and posts. My dream for the new year is that writing opportunities come my way. My path will just be strewn with possibility! Yes, I’m dreaming big now.

As a part of this dream and the realization that this latest cancer diagnosis is much more than a simple detour in my life, I created a new blog today that will focus on my two diagnoses of PTEN and cancer, PTEN, Cancer, and a Thing Called Hope. Hopefully this will help me reach out to others with Cowden Syndrome as well as raise awareness that genetic mutations other than BRCA can raise the risk of breast cancer.

Here’s to a 2017 that will be much better than 2016!

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.

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.

Turning on the Light

turning-on-the-lightFor the past several weeks, my reading has tended toward fiction, generally lighter fare selected from Kindle’s seemingly endless supply. Truly I love my Kindle for that reason. What bookworm wouldn’t?

Although an occasional escape into fiction-land can be a positive thing, when it is continual it is probably not so good. As for me, I’ve most likely been on the not-so-healthy side for a bit. Exchanging my storyline for a fictional character’s seemed the best choice at the time.

But today, during our holiday of Thanksgiving, I picked up a book about brokenness. Turning the pages of Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way, I felt I was reading the words of someone who understands what it’s like to want to escape, to trade my own dramatic tension for someone else’s.

Listening to the noise of a football game and sipping some water, I read a description of my past several weeks:

“I wonder if all the bad brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting–forgetting God is enough, forgetting what He gives is good enough, forgetting there’s always more than enough and that we can live into an intimate communion. Forgetting is kin to fear.”

I understand the forgetting and the rush of fear all too well these days. Why is it that we can’t seem to do what we ought to do? Why do we eat unhealthy foods and forget to exercise? Or, why do we run from God into books and music and any other distractions the world might offer?

I don’t have an answer for these or any other questions really. Reading further in Voskamp’s book, I found this push toward a healthier view:

“The way you always find the light in the dark is to make your hand reach out.”

I thought of my groping in the darkness of fear even as I had given up reading scripture and praying. Isn’t this how life can be, though? We continually fall and then search for ways to get back up, grasp for what will make us stronger and less likely to fall. Whether it is good or bad is our choice. But we keep going, somehow.

Ah, but it is the living that can sometimes trip us up. And how we live–whether in fear or otherwise–can possibly shine the light for others.

Voskamp’s words in the very first chapter made me wonder about my own life right now:

“Not one thing in your life is more important than figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain.”

Yes. How do we live with all the pain we carry around day after day? And when life throws you down in the mud–whether it is a divorce, job loss, illness, or a multitude of other problems–how do we continue to live? Will it be with fear and bitterness? Or thanksgiving?

I admit I’m not the role model for the perfect cancer patient. I’m angry far too often and have thrown myself numerous pity parties. Honestly, it’s amazing that anyone puts up with me right now. (Maybe that’s why I hang out with cats a lot nowadays.)

But, perhaps being real about my emotions and struggles while going through cancer treatment might just show another that they’re not the only one feeling this way. That there will be days–weeks even–when you feel you can’t go on.

But the days pass, and occasionally we find a little bit of light somewhere, like in a book. A bit of hope that someone has left for others who are still groping around in the dark.

Nothing has changed in my life since yesterday. I still have cancer and still face more surgery and more treatment. But I’m going to pick myself up today and start doing some of those things I should have been doing all along. Reading scripture, praying… I know I’ll fall at some point, but I’ll look for a speck of hope while I’m down on the ground.

If you’re struggling today, please know you’re not alone. There are a lot of us down here in the dust, trying to stand again.