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Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Sigh of Relief

Give me relief from my distress…

This cry is found in Psalm 4. My prayer since I was diagnosed with cancer goes something like this, “Please give me relief, God.”

After each step along this journey, I look for a feeling of relief. I want to let out a great big sigh of relief. I want to stop holding my breath.

After a diagnosis of cancer, a feeling settled over me. It took me months to recognize it and figure it out. It is a stress like none other. It’s a crazy fear, a cumbersome underlying worry that threatens to squeeze the life out of me on certain occasions. It’s not always visible, but it’s always there. It’s a heaviness that lurks just under the surface of my days.

As I visited doctor after doctor, I kept waiting to feel it lift. I kept listening to hear someone say the sarcoma would be treated and I’d be well again eventually. I wanted to place my security somewhere. I wanted that feeling I used to have when I never really gave a second thought to the fact that I was walking and talking and breathing and living well.

I thought I would feel relief when I saw my pathology report and received a treatment plan. The pathology was a long time in coming and held more questions than answers. There is no protocol for treatment. A treatment plan was slow in coming. Relief never manifested.
So I sought out specialists’ opinions. I wanted their words to bring me relief from the uncertainty of sarcoma.

I wanted to feel relieved after my first visit at MD Anderson but I couldn’t because my insurance wouldn’t approve the surgery I needed to have. I reasoned that when the insurance battle was over, I’d feel relief and could move forward in the fight against cancer. I fought that battle fiercely and passionately because I wanted the sigh of relief when it was over. Instead I got the nerves you get before major surgery. The surgeon’s words didn’t calm my nerves and relief never came.

After surgery and a report of clear margins, I expected it to lift. I thought when I finally saw a sarcoma oncologist it would lift and I’d be able to breathe again. I really expected to feel all light and celebratory when I left that appointment. I left bawling. I left scared I couldn’t be fixed. I left with a keen realization the only security I would truly ever have in life would be the hope found in God’s promises. Yet, I still wanted relief to come from a doctor’s words.

You’d think I’d learn.

I expected to feel better after radiation. I wanted to feel like I was doing something to fight the cancer. I wanted to feel like I was taking measures to keep it away. Instead I felt like I was putting myself at risk for a million other disorders including another sarcoma. Radiation can cause some pretty bad things. Again, I faced a stark reminder that there is no relief from cancer. It will be with me for life. Regular scans, close monitoring, great faith. I looked forward to the proof clear scans would bring and the closure that hearing a doctor report it to me would bring.

You’d think I’d learn.

I wanted to be all relieved that my scans would certainly be clear and I could put some of this behind me. But there’s just something about sitting in a room full of people, mostly bald people, hooked up to iv’s waiting for scans. There’s this feeling I get in that room that reminds me of cancer. It reminds me of what could so easily be, what could so easily have been, but what was not. This time.

I left last night feeling incredibly grateful and incredibly overwhelmed with uneasiness. Thursday night it was late when I left. I saw lots of suffering. I saw lots of victory too. I was tired. The tests had taken a toll on my body physically.

As I lay in bed shedding tears of release and exhaustion and yes, fear, I asked God to make my sleep sweet. I begged Him for peace that would defy my emotions because I have learned that relief from the emotions of cancer is elusive. Cancer just changes things. I thanked God that although cancer had changed things, He never changes. And, I fell asleep looking forward to hearing Dr. Ravi jubilantly deliver good news. In my mind's eye he reported my great news complete with a fist pump and hug. Good news that would surely help me move forward, relieved to have cancer behind me once and for all.

You’d think I’d learn.

When I finally saw the doctor, he told me it was okay to be cautiously optimistic. He told me that chemo wasn’t completely off the table and it was too soon to jubilantly fist pump but it was okay to celebrate today. Things are good today and that is very good.

I got a crazy good reality check. The doctor told me I was his only breast sarcoma patient not to receive chemo. Scary but I see it as God’s protection. He told me he’d never seen a breast sarcoma less than ten centimeters. Mine was three. Incredible and I see it as God’s provision. Early detection allowed me to receive a less harmful treatment. Dr. Ravi reminded me that it’s sarcoma. It’s aggressive. I’m one of the lucky ones. I think that’s because I have “half the world” as someone put it praying for me.

I left slightly disappointed that the relief didn’t come today. Maybe I’ll always leave with that feeling. I see that tense feeling as God’s way of reminding me to be thankful for the gift of each morning I wake, each breath I take, each hour I live. And, I am thankful.

I’m thankful that the scriptures are clear. Relief can certainly be found through prayer to a faithful God. And the scriptures are clear, only God's words can bring relief.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer…I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:1 & 8 


Karen said...


Kimberly said...

Wow. Just...wow. I am continually amazed at your faith, your courage, and your grace and your honesty with which you face this trial. I truly believe in my heart that God is going to use you mightily through this story in ways that even right now you cannot fully comprehend. It's not just the story, it's the way you tell it with such vulnerability and candor. That draws people to you, which in turn draws people to Him. Be encouraged. All is well.
(PS...thanks for stopping by my blog. Blessings to you, dear sister!)

Brandi Hanes said...

Hi Lisa,

I just randomly read your blog...but God knows what he is doing :) Praying for you sweet friend!
1Peter 5:6-7 tells us
"humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in DUE time, casting all of your cares upon him, because he cares for you."

Andrea @ Unfailingly Loved said...

Have been praying for you. Praising God for the good news ... looking forward to meeting you.

Nancy-Jane said...

Praise God for your wonderful news. May his healing light shine upon you forever and may he bring you the peace you need so desperately need. In time, it will get easier.

Debbie said...

PRAISE GOD for the good news. PRAISE GOD He is constant and ever faithful. Your insight and faith are soo inspiring. Continuing to pray. HUGS, Debbie

Sonja said...


Honestly... God is showing you and each of us such a valuable lesson in all this... that all of life should be lived one day at a time, for each of us.

This was such a great report, and I also completely understand you wanting to see a high-5 and hear 'it's over'. So it's right back to the one we are trusting FOR you... He is guiding this whole healing process, and you are ALWAYS getting a high-5 from Him.

For sure you're getting one from me today too!! You are an amazing and precious example to so many...

Go enjoy your weekend with your family!!



Kathy@ Gone North said...

Beautiful post Lisa, & as I was going to write you this note, I noticed on your side bar, the verse from Ps. 37 "Take delight in the Lord & He will give you your hearts desires"
My husband had his "every 90 day scan" yesterday. And I wondered as we are on our knees begging the Lord for relief, Do I forget to take delight in Him???
Thanks for the reminders...

Melanie said...

I came by.
Sometimes I wonder what it really takes to have prayer for healing answered.
I think total relief from any of the woes of this world will not come until we hear that trumpet sound.

Denise said...

God is with you sis, He is your shield. He will not leave you unprotected. I love you.

Tiffany Lemke Hendrix said...

I love you Lisa. Thankful I've found you again. Thankful for your words. Thankful that you use them for you but while doing so they are for us too. Thankful for your honesty & that you allow the Lord to work through you.

Brian, Steph, Jada and Kiva Lee said...

Just a quick note that we are still praying and believing God for you. Our Jada has made pictures for you to help you "feel better" and she told me to tell you on the blog "I love you Ms. Lisa and get better, Mrs. Lisa." You are an encouragement and testimony of faith to all of us!

Bernie said...

This is the way it is in the cancer world......we live one moment, one day at a time and give thanks for it sweetie. Relief is a luxury we don't have, a tension is always there....some days not bad other days quite bad but we have a Faith that no disease can touch, no one can take from us and it will always be healthy and cancer free......I love my relationship with God as I know you do....
........:-) Hugs

Gigi said...

Sweet friend...I am led to bring you to John 14:27 in which Jesus says:

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."

Lisa, as tempting as it is (and I've been there - many times!!), don't look for your relief in the words of any man (or woman)! Our Heavenly Father has provided all the words of comfort we'll ever need in His Word.

Laura said...

I like his advice to celebrate today. And just for the sake of hope and faith, I'm doing a fist pump for you, Lisa. I love you, lady. Keep fighting that good fight.

Anonymous said...

God is good for sure. Still praying at my appointed time. God bless you Lisa and your family.

Big Fat Mama said...

I love this post. It is so honest and real to emotions we all feel.

Without fear there would be no faith. When we are at our weakest He is strongest. These feelings and emotions that don't sit right with us, draw us closer to Him and we depend on Him more.

Thanks again for your honesty and encouragement!

Sandy Cooper said...

Dearest Lisa,

I'm at such a loss at how to respond. On the one hand, I believe God's word that says, "I leave you peace."

On the other hand, I agree whole-heartedly with Melanie when she said, we won't truly feel a relief from this world's woes until that trumpet sounds.

Maybe it's both.

Of course you seek relief. OF COURSE you want someone to make this cancer go away and tell you that you are completely free of it.

We are all praying that for you.

I don't know...I don't think God is just continually trying you to see when you will "learn."

I think He's holding you in His arms, weeping with you through this storm.

I love you so much,

I'm praying every day for you this week. Can't wait to hear all the things God does in you and through you at She Speaks.


Sandy Cooper said...

I pray right now for my friend--my sister in blog land--Lisa.

I ask that you flood her heart and her mind with your peace today. I ask that as she lets the word of God dwell inside her, she will be ever more grounded in YOU. I pray she is completely free of cancer and all diseases. I agree in prayer with the thousands of others praying with her, that she will be 100% cancer free.

I also lift her up this week as she makes final preparations for She Speaks. I pray you give her supernatural creativity and clarity as she prepares her speeches. I pray you afford her the rest she needs to heal and recover from her various tests.

I pray you surround her with your love through your people as she mingles with the women at this conference. Infuse her with life-giving words. Refresh her tired soul as she worships and soaks in the wisdom of the P31 team.

Give her sweet and sound sleep. Give her energy during the day to tackle her responsibilities.

Help her to rely soley and completely on YOU.

Thank you for my friend.
In Jesus' Name...amen.