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Monday, May 31, 2010

Being Alive

"IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE!” The words echoed through out campsite. It was o’early thirty and I was a counselor on a summer hiking trip.

We were surrounded by God’s beauty in the mountains of Colorado. Camping atop a mountain, looking down over a sparkling lake, seeing snow capped mountaintops and lush green foliage everywhere. A beautiful waterfall was just a short rock climb away. Surrounded by God’s beauty it seemed the perfect song to sing.

Barely out of my teens myself, I got that we were in a special place but not how truly great it was to be alive. Today, this Memorial Day, I feel like I know just a little bit more.

All those years ago, my whole life stretched out before me like an endless highway. Today I’ve come quite a ways down that road. I still can’t see the end but I can’t see the beginning anymore either.

I’ve had brushes with the edge and some mighty close calls. I don’t have to be surrounded by extreme nature to sing a song anymore. I can be surrounded by four squealing voices in a man made swimming pool in the Texas heat.

Yet, it’s great to be alive!

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Friday, May 28, 2010

Running on Empty

I have a list. This is a series of things I want to do. For example, I want to paint my toenails, go to the local Walmart, make all the beds in my house, fold some baskets of laundry and pick the toys up off the upstairs floor. I want to work on several writing projects, read a couple of books and take my daughter to Justice and the new shoe store I found the other day. And I want to run like I used to, training for a marathon. If I only had the time…

My husband asked me something this morning. He asked me if I ever thought about running any more. It was a nice way of wanting to know if I plan on running my "turning 40" marathon anytime soon.

You see, I haven’t run one.single.solitary mile since starting radiation and moving. That’s sad. I just honestly left anything that resembled a routine behind when I moved to the lake. I had grand visions of running around this beautiful body of water here. Or at least, running in my sauna-of-a-garage on my nifty, new-to-me treadmill.

We moved in and the awesome treadmill is too big to fit down the stairs. So for weeks it has remained sandwiched between bunk beds and boxes. Upstairs. Next week is the golden week. That’s when some movers are supposed to come and work moving magic on my treadmill. Next week I hope I can huff and puff one mile out since it’s already in the upper nineties here. It’s too bad I can’t seem to find a time when I can take off and explore the lake. Although, I’m sure that will come. So for now, I’m looking forward to the nice sweat I am sure to work up in my garage. I’ll keep you posted.

My husband had to politely ask me that because I haven’t talked about it much lately. I haven’t talked about much lately. When I’m tired, run ragged, mentally and physically exhausted, my words deflate. They leave. I get linguistically challenged. I answer in short, snippy answers. Just getting those rather rude answers out gets laborious. It’s sad. The cure is to spend time totally silent. Alone. I guess you could say that I’m an introverted extrovert. (Thankfully, my husband gives me grace... and time alone!)

Anyway, the reason I can fight cancer to the curb once and for all without worrying about running a marathon is because of this guy. He is a fellow sarcoma survivor I "met" online. I read his website and found something I could identify with. I emailed him. The week we spoke by phone, I was rather down, my mind spinning circles about the future effects of the toxic radiation treatments I would soon be receiving. His words helped me. He told me to just do what was required for today and when tomorrow comes, we will have found a cure. Together.

That’s what he does. He races for a cure. This weekend he’s running (and swimming and biking) a triathlon. In my honor. His words to me a few weeks ago were these, “You fight and don’t worry about running. We’re running for you.”

And when I’m well, Team Endure will be running with me! How awesome is that?

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wasting Normal

These are the verses I read this morning from Psalm 118. “Thank God because He’s good, His love never quits…I was right on the cliff-edge, ready to fall, when God grabbed and held me. God’s my strength, he’s also my song, and now he’s my salvation… Hear the shouts… The hand of God has turned the tide! I didn’t die; I lived! And now I’m telling the world what God did. God tested me, he pushed me hard, but he didn’t hand me over to Death… Thank you for responding to me; you’ve truly become my salvation! Thank God – He’s so good. His love never quits!”

All day long I’ve been thinking not only about how God has rescued and delivered me but praising Him because He did it so quickly. I may never know why my cancer story has started (and hopefully ended) this way but I am well aware there are many who have different stories. Harder stories. Stories of how God has and is testing them. Some even who are handed over to death.

Today I spent a great deal of time in the waiting room due to a scheduling error. There were lots of new faces in the room today. Many who bear cancer’s mark. I realize I am fortunate that there are no visible symptoms of disease on my body. When I am fully clothed no scars are even visible. Today I waited with those who could not talk because they were writhing in pain. I waited with those who could only sit and cry. I waited with those who bore not only bald heads and surgical scars, I waited with those who had lost body functions and limbs to cancer. I waited with those left ravaged, disfigured and misshapen by cancer. I saw things today. Horrible things.

The air was thick in the waiting room today. It’s hard to feel the surge of thankfulness you feel when you see others who have it worse than you do. It stinks. Cancer stinks.

Today I saw up close and personal how this terrible disease leaves some chewed up and spit out. Today I saw once again how it can leave a mother unable to care for her own children or worse. I saw how it can leave a mother childless. I hate cancer. Today I couldn’t wait to get inside my car. And cry. Big, giant weepy tears of sadness and gratitude and anger and grief all mixed together. I cried because today was a big giant reminder of this broken world in which we live.

As I talked with a close friend today trying to flesh out some of these crazy feelings, I told her how I felt guilty for not appreciating how “good” I have it. Her wise response was, “There’s nothing good about cancer.” I have to remind myself of this over and over again because I feel I should be more thankful for my circumstance. And I am very thankful that my treatment worked and that there is no visible disease in my body and in just a few weeks I will be able to resume “life as normal.” I can do all the things I could do before I had cancer. I've lost virtually nothing but a few months of time and even that, in cancer, is not much. I will be free to have a routine that doesn’t include cancer and that, is something for which to be eternally grateful.

And, I wonder. Will it be any different? Will I be any different? And today I begged the Lord just as I did when facing a cancer diagnosis, “Lord, don’t let me waste it.”

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory…I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done…Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 118:14,17 29

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Little Girl Who Could

Are you all familiar with the little train who could? It’s the children’s book about the little caboose that saved the day by pushing the heavy train up the mountain to the tune of. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

This is a chant that resonates in my soul. When I started selling real estate with Andrew, I woke up every morning chanting, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” in my mind.

I later revised my wake up thought but this is the first one I had. Today it hit me why I had to revise my thought.

I’ve often linked this chant to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Really, this little train’s chant has embodied this verse to me for many, many years.

It’s a verse I’ve known by memory since I was about eleven-years-old and I’ve relied on the power in its words ever since. Believing I can do all the yuck things in life with God’s help. This verse carried me through crazy course loads in college, highly demanding jobs in a high stress environment and the hard times of a newly formed marriage. This verse gave me the “umph” I needed to get up for just one more 2:00 AM feeding in the hardest, most demanding and highest stress job with the lowest pay check. This verse has always just rolled around in my head as I picked myself up by my bootstraps one more time.

Last week I decided that I quoted this verse way too much and I had never really spent any time meditating on it. So throughout  this day in and day out process of radiation, I have thought about this verse. Even though radiation is seemingly easy, it is the everydayness of it that totally wears folks out. I’m not sure if it’s the emotional reminder of what you’re fighting being thrown in your face day after day after day or if it’s just the way it eats up your entire day due to all that’s involved. Nonetheless, I’ve been quoting the “I think I can” verse. A lot.

Today I realized that this verse is nothing like the little train’s sing songy chant. The train only “thinks” he can. The new creation in Christ can. Today I don’t just think I can or think I will, I know I can and I do. It becomes a thinking versus doing thing.

And lots of times I need more doing versus thinking in my life.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]. Philippians 4:13

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Cure

Cure. That’s a word that rolls around in my mind lots. Like I’ve said before, I honestly thought down deep in my heart (even though I knew better in my head) that when I visited the smart Dr. R that he would give me a magical little white pill. I would take it for some weeks or months or even years and then I would be pronounced cured.

In cancer, you don’t really get cured. You get "no evidence of disease" or "cancer-free" but you don't really get cured. At least you don't get labeled "cured" immediately. 

Right now I have no visible evidence of disease. We are using the radiation treatments to better my chances of living cancer-free for a long, long time.

I won’t know if I’m really cured until I die of something else without ever fighting cancer again. **Sigh** Does that frustrate anyone else?

Today I saw my life like this. Two columns of tally marks stand on a tall wall. On the left, my mark has been counted. That’s the column for “sarcoma diagnosis.” On the right, not as many marks sit so proudly. That’s the column for died disease- free of natural causes. That’s the column where I want my mark boldly placed, but not for many, many more years.

So in order to reach the cure I so desperately desire, I must die first, another one of cancer’s wonderful ironies. I’m not ready yet. Not for cancer or any other malady. I’m young. I’m living. I’m still going strong.

Today was the day I made friends with NED (No Evidence of Disease). I haven’t been formally pronounced yet but I expect to be in about six more weeks after my scans. I will join the ranks of those in the middle column. Living disease free after successful treatment (a few small spots under watch, of course.)

I’m ready to be there today. I celebrate those words with you today. Tumor removed. Clear margins (even the fraction of a millimeter clear because hey, clear is clear!). I’m learning to live with and learning to love those words. I think this means I am coming to the acceptance part of cancer. I'm not so paranoid or self-conscious about being part of that group. Weird. It still feels strange like it did that first day of diagnosis. I still feel like I should be standing in front of a group of people saying, “Hi my name is lisasmith and I have cancer.” Only this time it’s not a room of strangers. Today it’s a room full of friends.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

Fresh Morning Dew

I had made time yesterday to sit with the Lord. Not in the car. Not in a loud, busy morning house. Not in a chaotic, time between after school, dinner and homework house. Not with a cute but very needy four-year-old with me space. Just time. Alone. Sitting quietly. Before the Lord.

That was good. That was the time I needed. Time I miss.

I feel totally renewed today. Refreshed. Ready.

This morning I am ready to accept my calling. My today calling to sit in a waiting room at a cancer hospital. To look for ways to share God’s goodness in that waiting room. To drive there in traffic. To drive home in traffic. To run as many errands on the way as I have the time. I’m ready.

I’m not just waiting.  I’m waiting with others. Just as God knew I would wait, He knows the new friends I wait with.

He knows Pat who was on hospice a few months ago because Scott and White sent her home to die. Her sons who love her so much drove her to MD Anderson and demanded she get another opinion. The doctors have stopped the tumor growth with radiation and she is hopeful and she is living.

He knows Longeno who drives a long, long way to receive treatments and then hurries home each Friday so her sweet husband can work all weekend on a fishing boat to support another week’s worth of treatment.

He knows Donna who sings with a beautiful voice would be fighting to save her voice because cancer is trying to settle in on her tonsils and steal her singing voice’s beauty. He knew how sick she would be and how hard her treatments would be on her and her family. He knows.

He knows all the others who sit with me each day passing the time, fighting cancer and hoping this treatment will work. He knows them intimately. He has given me the opportunity to know them a little. It is an opportunity I do not take lightly. Knowing each of these brave survivors and their families has touched me deeply. It has marked me for life.

Realizing that the God I am so intimately in love with loves each of these people is humbling and overwhelming. Hearing their own miracles and stories of faith and love and fight inspires me.

I’ve been worn out from the drive, the fight, the struggle. Last night, I settled in to wait on the Lord. I began to pray for each of my new friends. As I poured out my heart for them, the Lord strengthened me. He is so faithful.

My time. Last night. Alone. It was a good thing.

“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies…and your strength will be renewed each day like the morning dew.” Psalm 110:1 & 3

Monday, May 24, 2010

Life Breaths

Radiation is really “easy” as many have told me. The treatment itself includes undressing, laying on a table while technicians line up all the lines on my body with the visible laser lights set as guides to direct invisible and poisonous cancer-killing rays of radiation aimed at the tumor bed and surrounding tissue of my body. I can’t feel a thing or see a thing. I can hear the machine as it delivers the dose of radiation. As soon as it stops (it runs for less than two minutes) I cover myself and wait for the technician to come and lower the table. Then I get dressed and walk out the door.

This all takes about fifteen minutes unless they’re running behind on the machines. If I take my son with me and drop him off at the childcare facility and go pick him up afterwards, my time in the hospital stretches to about thirty or forty-five minutes. Not long.

That's why I feel guilty for resenting once more, cancer's intrusion into my life. I have an "easy" treatment, a "good" prognosis. Most days I'm the angriest at the drive. The drive is a killer. I spend most of my day in the car. I leave first thing in the morning. I get home in time to rest just a bit before the bus comes bringing the older children from school.

That’s been the hardest thing here to get used to. Traffic. I can’t run to Sam’s or the grocery store or Lowe’s. The two-hour trip to Wal-mart has become a half-day ordeal and trying to deposit a check at the bank takes over an hour these days. And that's why I'm a little angrier than usual over cancer commute.

Traffic may be normal for lots of you but not me. I lived in a great little town where I could jump in the car and head out to run errands and get anywhere and do almost anything in under thirty minutes. Not kidding. Spoiled, I know.

I get cranky when I don’t have any time. You know. Time to sit, rest, think, write, clean, cuddle. Just time. I don’t have time right now.

Sometimes I think I just need a little grace in the face of cancer. There are days when I feel so guilty because I see so many suffering so much more around me. There are days when I think I've had quite enough of this cancer stuff thank.you.very.much.

I'm reading this great book by Paul Wolf called My God is True! Lessons learned on cancer's dark road. It is an amazing book! I feel like I could have written it myself. I would love to have Mr. Wolf, his wife Christy and his three children over for dinner to sit around the kitchen table talking and lingering over coffee while our children run and scream in the backyard.

His journey is similar to mine. He had cancer. He had treatment. He is now cancer free. He realizes that everybody who experiences cancer is not so fortunate. Some do not walk away with no evidence of disease. Some have lots and lots and lots of treatment plans before finding one that works. Some never find one that works.

But he says something that strikes a nerve with me. He says "a little bit of cancer goes a long way." That is the truth! No matter what the diagnosis, prognosis or treatment, a little is more than enough!

So I will be angry at losing these weeks but I will keep it in proper perspective.

The verse that has been rolling around in my head is Psalm 90:12. “Teach us to number our days aright that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”

A very popular theme in cancer is Psalm 139. The loving refrain of how God formed me in my mother’s womb and had written each of my days in His book before one of them came to be has been a balm to this sickness and hope for my healing.

I began to think of these two verses together. I mean, if God has already numbered my days, He should teach me how to number them myself, right? So, I began to ask. I have been telling God how frustrating it is to lose this time. My best hours are spent driving. By the time I get home, I am tired. By the time I can muster enough energy to do something the children are home. Cancer treatment is just tiring. And I really hate that.

Today I feel like God just spoke straight to my frustration. He spoke beyond the things I know. I know He will restore what has been stolen from me. I know I don’t even have to worry about time because with God I have all of eternity. I know that as long as God gives me a “today” He has things here on this earth He wants me to accomplish. I also know that for today and tomorrow and the next day, those things He wants me to do will happen in the waiting room at a cancer hospital.

And today I began telling myself that by giving these few weeks to fight this monster, I will be adding years to the end of my life because God knew that I would be here for these six weeks. So as I add years to my own life, I will ask God what else He would have me do “today.”

And I pray I would begin to learn how to number my days.

Teach us to use wisely all the time that we have. Psalm 90:12

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Snapshots of my busy week










Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Than Enough

More Than Enough

More than enough has been a common theme floating around me since I started out on the Safari through Daniel. It all started when Sing4Joy sent me a list of waiting songs. The first one was More than Enough by Chris Tomlin. Awesome!

The theme of the song is that Jesus is more than enough to meet all of our needs. He’s more than all I could ever want and more than all I could ever need. That’s a truth I know in my heart.

I’ve been asking myself the last several weeks if I really believe that with all my heart. I mean, that beautiful yet highly expensive sectional I want for the upstairs…theoretically, Jesus is more than that to me but in reality… The reality is every.single.time. I job up my stairs, I feel a pang on want in my chest. So, so sad but so, so true. The deeper truth, which I know to be true, is that once I splurge and go buy that couch, I will job up those same stairs and my eyes will glow with greed and lust for another object. Yuck!

But more than all I need… I have needs here. I have new needs here in this new city. I don’t know people like my Aggie crew who always had my back. I hate to ask strangers things like picking up my children or watching my dog. Ya know? Even in my inability to reach out and my hesitancy to trust my new brothers and sisters in Christ here, God is providing. Amazingly. He’s given me all the help and company I need.

What about needs that seem silly, maybe no big deal but still happen? Let me give you a tangible example of God’s sufficiency and abundant provision in my life from today. Radiation patients at MD Anderson get two hours of free parking. The attendants spell out all the rules for you, big signs remind you that you have only two hours. Patients have strictly two hours and not a minute more. The fee after that is automatically $20 and that’s the most expensive place to park there, especially for just a few minutes that accidentally elapsed while sitting in some waiting room!

Today I waited, saw the doctor, waited, got treatment, waited, waited some more, filled prescriptions and then ran back to my car knowing I had gone over the allotted time. **Sigh** I prayed. I practiced my speech begging my nurse to extend my time for me. I rehearsed my lame excuses to my Ethiopian friend who parks my smelly, crunchy car for me everyday. Before the excuses were out, he interrupted me and told me I got ten minutes grace.

My immediate thought: Your grace is sufficient for me.

My next thought: Ten minutes Grace is more than enough.

Thank God for grace!

“But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]” 1 Corinthians 12:9 (The Amplified)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My heart is drip, drip, dripping

Today my mind is dripping with questions. That sounds a whole lot better than filled with worry, doesn’t it? I can give you a sample of my questioning because I promise to end on a positive note.

I’m reminded of this post about water so I pour out my heart and all the questions that are in it to the Lord. The questions about how utterly.insanely.tired I feel. My arms hurt. My hands hurt. My legs hurt. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My head hurts. That’s how tired I am. I haven’t been sleeping well (The upside is that there are barely any more boxes… I found that zip cord, took pictures with my camera and will post them as soon as I can get up off of the couch!). Will this tired go away if I sleep a whole lot tonight? Will this aching stop? Will I get an appetite again? Will the seller, builder, home warranty company, insurance company or my husband and I end up paying for the water leak that has sprung somewhere between my first and second floor? Will my children ever adjust to the changes we are going through? Will I ever adjust to my husband’s work schedule?

You get the idea. It hasn’t been a bad day. But it has been a deflating, tiring, trying day. My skin is a little tender. My appetite is nowhere to be found and even though I’m exhausted, I can’t sleep. Yes, tonight I will make myself, don’t y’all worry.

But the whole water thing… pouring my heart out, pouring my ceiling out… got me thinking.

Water

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” Psalm 18:16

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. Proverbs 25:25

Just some of my favorite water verses.

Just reading them, watered my weary soul. They were very good words. I may not have the answers but I have The Answer. And having The Answer is better than having all the answers in the world. Knowing The Answer is so much sweeter than knowing the answers to all my questions that I have now and forevermore.

Still, my mind wanders to the help I will need to get through this week and the coming weeks and I remember this.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Reading about my God’s right-there-with-me-always-ready-right-on-time help reminded me of this.

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-40

Did you see what I saw when I read that today? Neither present nor the future. My nifty New Living Bible says this, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love… neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell (cancer, mini-floods inside new homes, nor emotionally needy children of very tired mommies) can separate us from God’s love… No, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

How awesome is that? I think that is the meaning of being consumed by Someone’s love.

Even before I hit publish, the phone rings. Our amazing God has met so graciously and abundantly met yet another need. Amen

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Rest of the Lollipops

As I read Becky’s story, I was laughing and crying all at the same time. Becky didn’t like the way the word cancer made her feel so she decided instead of saying her mom had cancer she would call her mom’s cancer “lollipops.”

The next afternoon when Becky came home from school, her mom gave her a big, red lollipop and told her to eat it. Becky began to lick the lollipop. Her mom told her just like the lollipop disappeared with every single lick, her cancer was disappearing with every dose of medicine (chemo) and every touch of the laser (radiation).

I began to think how this is a lot like suffering. God has shown me through this cancer thing that suffering is His sweet invitation to us. He invites us to be keenly aware of our need for Him and to share in the suffering He endured for our sake. My journey of suffering has been an invitation to walk hand in hand with Jesus every single day. Not only have I heard His voice, I’ve been more aware than ever of His presence.

But the first thing I had to do was accept His invitation. Now, I didn’t say yes to cancer… I said yes to Jesus and for me that included cancer. He extended this “lollipop” to me. I took it, engaged with Him and began to walk the road. Every single day, I am a bit closer to the end of this particular road. Isn’t that how it is with suffering? Just as every lick took a little bit of Becky’s lollipop, every step eases a little of our suffering.

Some of us suffer with cancer, some with rebellious children, hard marriages, financial stress and some with overwhelming laundry. The degree of suffering varies in our lives from time to time. But God remains constant. Through His special invitation to us, God can make our suffering sweet if we allow Him to. Job is one of the most famous sufferers and this is what he said after his ordeal, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25-26)

As a result of suffering, I’ve shared sweet fellowship with Jesus. I feel like He is there like never before. My husband even joked with me this weekend telling me he felt like I was now in God’s “inner circle.” The truth is that I feel that way too. Needing Jesus in a way like never before, has put me in a spot to fellowship with Him on a new level and in a new way. I am thankful for that sweet fellowship.

When I received my cancer diagnosis I got the gift of instant perspective. My priorities were in instantly rearranged and I knew what was really important. That has been a huge blessing.

One of the sweetest things in this journey has been how God’s promises seem to be just for me. It’s like God took the Bible and put a spin on it so it was all about me. I have absolutely loved how personal He’s made big truths in my life. I can’t really explain it except that it’s the living part of God’s Word. My relationship with Jesus makes all the difference. Scripture ceases to be a written book and becomes a spoken word from a living God.

Of course, a big sweetness that I’m looking forward to is sweet victory. I love to win and the truth is one way or another, I will beat cancer. Cancer does not have me. And I look forward to being totally free from cancer.

What invitation is God extending to you today sweet friend? It’s not too late to take that lollipop and start licking. Let Him make the hard things sweet.

We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8:17

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lollipops and Cancer

Cancer and lollipops. That’s what I talked about Saturday night.

When Kelly called me in March, I wanted to say yes but I felt I had to qualify my yes a little. I told her I believed with all my heart God equips those He calls but she should know that I had no idea how I’d be feeling, where I’d be living or if I would even be able to speak come May. She said she was certain God wanted her to ask me and He would certainly provide. So we sealed the deal, I would come to the annual Madisonville Faith Baptist Mother/Daughter Banquet.

I love how she said that all daughters were invited... Loved that! So we celebrated as mothers and daughters of all ages, an intergenerational night of fellowship. It was wonderful! Back to our conversation...

As we hung up she casually mentioned she thought the theme of the banquet would be Lollipops and Gumdrops and explained how they were a pretty thematic church… No pressure to speak on the topic but that’s what it would be. Cough Cough

My prayer, uttered between scheduling doctors’ appointments, looking for houses, packing boxes and fighting cancer was this, “Lollipops, God. Lollipops?” Then I would go about my business silently mourning the fact that I did not have the kind of soaking time to sit before the Lord and listen for His voice in the way I would’ve liked to prepare for this event.

Fast forward. Good Friday. I went to MD Anderson for some rib x-rays and scans. Remember? While there, I went to the library. I was told they could do several things for me. They could provide me with lots of information about my diagnosis. They could give me resources to help my children deal with an impending cancer treatment. They could answer my questions and help me to answer my children’s questions in an expert manner. Being the word and book loving girl I am, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to visit the library!

I walk right up to the help desk and give them my formal diagnosis. Stage 2 high grade pleomorphic sarcoma of the breast. The resource lady looks at me and says, “You have what? In the where?” Then after about 45 minutes of digging through folders, tapping on her keyboard and searching the MD Anderson data base, she politely informed me that there are no articles or journals written about my diagnosis except this one really old one. Ironically, it was the same one I received on day one of my diagnosis reinforcing just how rare high grade pleomorphic sarcome of the breast really is.

So I asked if she could give me some good resources for the children. She did. When I got home that night, I picked up the book called “When a Parent Has Cancer” by Wendy Schlessel Harpham, M.D. In this book, the author tells a story about a little girl named Becky. Becky’s mother has cancer. One day Becky tells her mom she doesn’t like the word cancer because she doesn’t like how it makes her feel when she says it. So Becky decides she’s going to give her mom’s cancer a new name. Instead of saying, “My mom has cancer,” Becky is going to start saying, “My mom has lollipops.”

I know, astounding. As I picked my chin up off the floor, tears slipped down my cheeks. And once again, I praised my God for not forgetting me. In that second, I knew God knew that I would be right here in the middle of suffering, right here in the middle of fighting and right here in the middle of moving when He would use me to deliver His message at a banquet called Lollipops and Gumdrops.

At that moment, He reiterated the fact to me that He always qualifies those He calls. He gave me a deep peace about saying yes to the speaking engagement. That was the moment I knew that I knew that I knew God had a special message for the ladies of Faith Baptist Church.

I’ll explain more about lollipops and the word God has for all of us later but for now, isn’t that so awesome that God would share Becky’s story with me?

“For I am God, your very own God, who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves, named God-of-the-Angel-Armies. I teach you how to talk, word by word, and personally watch over you.” Isaiah 51:15-16

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Your Pictures





Here are some pictures of our house before we moved in... I promise to show you the house as it becomes ours. Of course, that will have to be after I get the study unpacked, locate the camera and zip cord and of course, make the bed. Smiles!

My Rad Team

Last Thursday on day two of my treatment, I went in and was introduced to “my team.” I thought I had met “my team.” Twice. But I hadn’t and here they were.

In order to see this as the blessing it was, I first need to tell you about my first two experiences that week in the radiation treatment center. Monday’s simulation was not bad; it was just different. Uncomfortable different.

My team was nice enough. It just consisted of all 25-year-old men. They were helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. I learned of career ambitions, sweet fianc├ęs and long commutes. Still. It felt odd. I was okay with that. I mean, a few minutes of weird each day to ward off cancer recurrence. Small price to pay, right?

I mean, the guys were likable and all. I found myself playing word games in my head the whole time they conversed with me so I could remember their names each day for six weeks. As I left, I waved and told them I’d see them tomorrow. They said I would not see them again. They were in charge of simulation only. Tomorrow I would have the real deal.

My tomorrow came and I was rushed back to the cold, sterile room. The new 25-year-old boy led me behind a wall (forget the curtain) and told me to take my shirt off. I stared. Ummmmm… where’s my gown?

The General entered. She was 25; however, not male. She efficiently informed me that I was going to be exposed anyway so I just might as well go on and take off my shirt. Just like that.

Now, I’m not the most modest gal in the locker room but that. That was just plain weird. I don’t walk around half-dressed in a medically strange environment very well. I felt I had lost all remaining dignity but I obediently removed my shirt and was led like a lamb to the slaughter for my first radiation session.

The General and her two cohorts radiated me, lowered the table and left me to dress only to call out fifteen seconds later to see if I was finished yet. I decided radiation would take some getting used to but I could certainly laugh at the humorous aspects and rise to the challenge of befriending The General and her army over the next six weeks. I’d have to if I wanted to survive it without tears. The first thing befriending her entailed was wearing clothes with no buttons, snaps, zippers or otherwise time-consuming accessories or gadgets.

I must also mention here that even though I was uncomfortable in The General's rad room, her army had Norah Jones blaring on the CD player for me. Norah's one of my very faves and that made me know once again, that God has not forgotten me. No matter how uncomfortable it gets, God has not forgotten. So as Norah sang, "Come away with me...," I prayed. I went away from that cold place with my sweet Jesus.

Then Thursday, glorious Thursday came. As my second treatment day arrived, I sat nervously in the waiting room and jumped up as a smiling new face called my name. I hurriedly rushed back throwing all my waiting-room-time-occupying junk into my purse because I wouldn’t want to keep The General waiting.

Miss Bette introduced herself, led me into the control room where Chuck and Leslie were waiting for me. They were all smiles and questions. They wanted to get to know me, couldn’t wait were their words. I feel I can even call them Miss Bette and Mr. Chuck because they’re not 25 and that is a plus to this pushing 40 mama. I call them my movie star team because there are TV shows starring Bette and Chuck. Haha Leslie is the young one of this crew and you can be sure she has movie star potential too. They make me laugh daily, tell me never to worry about running late and their first words to me each day are, “Go on behind the curtain and take your time changing. There’s a towel there to cover yourself.” Yep, that's my favorite thing about my team, they encourage modesty. And that blesses me.

I pray every day that they are blessed as much as they bless me. I don’t take their generosity and consideration for granted. Not for a second. We make a great team!

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

Exposed

Before radiation started last week, I had a practice session or what they call a simulation. This is where I went in, they marked me up so the lasers would aim at the right spots, they made a mold for my body so I won’t get out of line while on the table and they took a CT scan to make sure they were right. These were my thoughts. These were my same thoughts after my first treatment too. Nothing really changed those two days. Both sessions seemed to take forever. My arm fell asleep. My body itched and twitched. Well, just read about it.

Exposed. That’s the one word that describes my radiation therapy so far. Monday as I lay in a cold room on a hard table exposed, I alternated between nervous laughter and deep breathing. There were pictures. Lots of pictures.

There were questions. Lots of questions. Questions in the radiation room are asked while maintaining strict eye contact to ignore the obvious. Technicians switch gears to medical jargon and scientific mumbo jumbo. That is my cue to clench my eyes tight and try to avoid the uncomfortableness that comes from having four men and eight eyes and hands examining my slightly mismatched sisters as I lay there. Exposed.

The doctor explained in medical terms my treatment. Intermediate dose to a fairly large area that will miss my heart and only radiate part of my lungs. High dose electronic beam to the tumor bed. Lasers pinpoint the exact spots that are to receive the healing poison. Permanent markers and waterproof tape mark the boundaries where the lasers are pointed to expose my body to one of the only known causes of sarcoma. Radiation exposure. Except only this will heal it too. Exposed.

In a word, I’ve wrestled with only one fear about radiation. Exposure. The poison that kills this beast also causes it. That’s where my brain’s been in a tiff.

Monday as I entered the hospital, met the staff and visited with Dr. Z one more time, I felt peace. Deep peace. I reminded myself some simple facts that laid the groundwork for peace. These hard facts made the hard choice easy for me. Choose trust.

I fought hard to get to this place, one of the best high volume sarcoma clinics in the nation. I fought hard to get the opinions and treatment these expert doctors give. I’ve chosen to grab hold of the knowledge of these experts and rest in the fact they know sarcoma like no other doctors. I know that all I am exposed to has passed through the hands of my God and I can grab hold of the faith and hope that offers. I have exposed my fears before Him and laid them at His feet just as I laid on that cold, hard table. Exposed.

Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about… then guide me on the road to eternal life. Psalm 139:23-24

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jacob's Ladder

Last night I was watching The Biggest Loser. Our family enjoys watching this together and looking for ways we, as a family, can become healthier. (My confession is I always cry. Every.single.episode. I cry. I hide my tears and try not to show my family but I cry. I love watching people accomplish things they never dreamed were possible. I love experiencing it myself.) Anyway, the episode I saw last night was one where the contestants competed on an exercise apparatus called Jacob’s ladder. Whichever contestant climbed Jacob’s ladder long enough won. God was just warming me up so He could speak to me later.
I am embarking on a journey through John. I’m doing another at-your-own-pace Bible study that a friend wrote. (I’ll gladly pass on the info if anyone is interested.) The reason I chose to do this is twofold. One, I really like this friend who wrote it. Two, I have another good friend who tells his children that he’ll pay them $50 if they read the book of John and discuss it with him. I’ve always thought about making this offer to my own children and thought maybe I should prepare myself first! So I’m reading the book of John just for the sake of reading the book of John and hearing the voice of John’s God. The study is primarily reading the book of John and writing some of original reflections… Totally my kind of study!
I started with John 1. In the beginning was the Word… but what captured my interest last night was John 1:51 where Jesus is referred to as a ladder. Listen.
“Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
I love this image! As Jesus stretched out on the cross, He spanned the very wide gap between heaven and earth. I love the image of stairs. Why? We must climb them to go the distance. Jesus is there offering the way. We must take the first step.
My thoughts immediately raced to Jacob’s ladder as I saw this image. I've always been intrigued by Jacob and his ladder. I understand that God gave Jacob a vision of heaven but last night I began to understand its significance. I began to see Jacob’s ladder as more than a visionary glimpse of heaven, I now see it as a prophetic glimpse of our Savior. God in all His goodness and sovereignty showed Jacob a glimpse of Jesus. God promises Jacob that all people on earth will be blessed through Jacob’s offspring. Have you checked out the genealogy of Jesus lately? Yes, Jacob is Jesus’ forefather. The One through whom all nations are blessed.
Then Jacob’s response is to say this, “this is the gate of heaven,” about the place where he had the dream. One of my favorite names for Jesus is the gate. “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.” John 10:9
Once again, I am thankful to serve and know Jacob’s God and I am now so thankful I climb Jacob’s ladder. I love putting the pieces of the puzzle together!
“As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord…” Genesis 28:12-13

The Pictures

Ummmm… Don’t know how to tell y’all this but I can’t find a camera, a zip cord or a spot in this house that is picture worthy right now. So, pictures will have to wait until tomorrow when I promise to come straight home from treatment and unbox my study, find my zip cord and take a picture for you dirty or not. Can we make a deal?

Let me start with the beginning…

The Move

Remember how I begged the good Dr. Z to give me two weeks so that I could move a wee bit closer to the medical center in Houston before I began the daily commute to treatment and cancer freedom? Well, the first week of the two was spent trying to pack in an organizational way while trying to reincorporate my daily runs, begin weight lifting again, trying to cook somewhat nutritional meals in lieu of takeout and just try to live a “normal” week while becoming ready to move and begin radiation. Sound weird?

It’s not so weird if you’ve ever been in a situation where you just long for the routine you kissed goodbye to go on a detour of suffering and surviving. The boredom that I used to feel in daily routine suddenly lost its mundane nature and now holds an attractive appeal. You see, unknowingly I found great security in my daily routine. I worked hard over the years to get to a point where I had one. I relished the day that I woke up and didn’t feel pregnant, post partum or tired.draggy.exhausted and I was loving it. Perhaps too much.

So, here I am once again, tired.draggy.exhausted and routineless. Surviving the daily, doing what I have to do and looking for moments to grab in its midst.

Week one of my two week hiatus to move, I found those moments. I grabbed hold. I ran. I methodically packed. We all had a suitcase.

Week two of the hiatus, I lost those moments. I frantically shoved random stuff in boxes. We ate junky takeout and greasy pizzas for dinner every night. I was no longer grabbing moments, I was living them one.at.a.time. I couldn’t look any further forward then right now and it was all good. I saw “each day take care of itself.”

Wednesday of the week two, I got a phone call. Some dear friends wanted to bless us and were sending a mover. Shortly after phone call one, I got phone call two. Andrew’s office was providing a trailer and a trip. I contacted both movers. Mover one said Saturday wouldn’t work but possibly Friday would. This stressed me a tad because mover two wasn’t supposed to come until Saturday morning but I knew we could deal.

I called mover two. He kindly told me I was misinformed. He wasn’t available on Saturday but would be there at early o’thirty Friday morning. I think I forgot to mention that it was Thursday afternoon by now. Oh my stars! I was moving the following morning!

Friday morning, mover one shows up. He loads his trailer, announces he’s full and shuts the doors. At just that precise second, mover two drives up. Seriously, y’all. I couldn’t have planned it better if I had worked for years. It was amazing!

Once again, God proved Himself to be a God of the details. He’s not only a God of the large, He’s also a God of the small. I don’t know about you but I like that. I have lots of the small in my life!

Next time, I’ll tell you all we’re laughing at like the fact that none of my furniture fits up my stairs… I might even show you a picture of how my children lay on an old mattress to watch TV. How’s that for redneck? Or I could share with you how we found Fireball, my daughter’s pet frog on the bathroom floor… Fireball’s owner did not find him. She was sleeping peacefully, was being key to the happy ending of this story. Or I could share with you how as much as I want to be “settled” and organized, the boxes just really don’t bother me right now and how, yes, we are still dining on takeout until we just can’t take it and then we pull it together long enough to throw something on the grill. I could tell you how my daughter, Julia, earned the new nickname Spider and I could tell you all about the new and recent antics of Palmer.

I also want to share with you my lesson about the ladder and the one word that describes radiation and of course, the chat I had with the ladies on Saturday night. So see, there will definitely be some glad chatter going on around here!

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 The Message

Fighting Cancer

I've got to get on the road to get my rads... Sounds like a new song, huh? I'm sure if I recorded it, it would be a hit!

Seriously, the hardest part in all of this is the time commitment. But then again, is there too much of my time to give to fight cancer? I have a list. As you can imagine it is very long. Some of the the most important things on it are post on blog, unpack boxes and buy paint for Thursday. Then there are things like go to grocery store, pick up cleaning and do laundry. But the one thing at the top bolded in all caps is this FIGHT CANCER!

I am finding most days I only have time for item one. That is frustrating but rewarding at the same time. It reminds me of finally having the baby, yet finding that all I do is sit around and nurse/rock/hold/change! You know, counting the days until you can hold your bundle of joy only to find that they seemingly never end... That's a little how I feel. Finally, I am doing something about this blasted cancer. I fought long and hard to get to one of the best high volume facilities in the country. I'm here! And I'm fighting. Every.single.day.

The drive is long and tiring but the fight itself is very rewarding. So hang in here with me and join me as I sing good-bye to cancer.

I will start from the beginning (hopefully later this afternoon) to tell you all about my experiences in the radiation bunker, show you pics of my new home and share with you how God showed up and showed off at Faith Baptist Church in Madisonville. He really is amazing!

But for now, I'm off to fight cancer!

But in that coming day
no weapon turned against you will succeed.
You will silence every voice
raised up to accuse you.
These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord;
their vindication will come from me.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
Isaiah 54:17

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Today

As you all know, I am speaking tonight at Faith Baptist Church in Madisonville. For ticket information, call Kelly Smith at 936-348-3993.

I know God has a special message for these ladies. He wants them to join in sweet fellowship with Him no matter what circumstances they find themselves in... Would you pray that each woman there would respond as Jesus sweetly woos our hearts?

And...the radiation, it's going well. Some facts for you to know are these. Monday and Wednesday were a little unnerving for me. I'll explain more later. I was determined to take the expert doc's advice and rest in the treatment. Thursday and Friday were so much better. I got switched to a new team and a new room and all is going well.

My body looks like a giant bull's eye for a nuclear bomb! It's all marked up but I did discover the red ink comes off my clothes, mostly. So that's a plus. (The blue and black ink are covered in waterproof tape... question: does your skin burn through that tape?)

I get four beams. Two long (lasting around 30 seconds) and two short (lasting around 5 seconds). One long and long short on each side of my tumor site. The tumor bed itself and my still healing incision are very tender. I can actually feel that one long beam entering my body. Every hair stands on end briefly. I think it's because it's a higher dose of radiation and the tissue is still healing.

Last night I was very itchy there. Please pray I am not starting to burn already. I've got a long way to go, 27 more rads. Plus the last five will be a very strong dose (electron beam) directly to the tumor bed. I need for my skin to hold out until then or it will hurt thankyouverymuch! Today it is not irritated at all and I am thankful for aquaphor, the weekend and a two day break.

The whole time in the hospital without Palmer takes about 30 minutes. Usually I check in and then wait which takes about 15 minutes. The time I'm called back until I'm ready to go takes about 15 minutes too. Taking Palmer to the childcare and picking him up adds about 30 minutes. So the time there is only thirty minutes to an hour but the drive takes all day! I think I've finally figured out the fastest way and if there are no accidents it should go quickly from here on out as long as I don't get distracted by Starbucks, the local Steinmart or the awesome Lifeway Bookstore in The Woodlands! (I got my free NLT Life Application Bible this week. Thank you Tyndale!!)

The only difference in my overall health I'm noticing is that I'm ready for bed at 8:00. Each night my head starts whirring at about 8:00 and I feel as if my arms and legs will fall off if I don't get in bed. Getting in bed is a challenge as some nights we don't get home from soccer until 8:00! I know God will help me work it all out and I am feeling very rested this morning. Thank you for praying me through.

I'll fill you all in a little more later but just wanted to be sure I had you praying for the ladies at Faith Baptist in Madisonville tonight and the message God has for them.


Friday, May 07, 2010

For Tonight

For tonight, you might enjoy reading this. A beautiful glad chatter story about my MIRL with HisGirl and Sing4Joy. And a quick reflection on our Safari and my trip down cancer road so far. Enjoy!

Back at Last

I'm back online at last! I've missed you so much and have been so thankful for your comments and Facebook posts in my move/adjustment/cancer fight. I have much to share but for now I'm just saying hi and I miss you... Is anyone still here? Sending bright smiles and big hugs to each of you. I'll be back with more glad chatter later.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Today's Update

Hello Faithful Friends,

This is Sarah giving you tonight's update. Lisa does not have internet set-up yet and wanted me to let you know how about today and some upcoming prayer points.

Today was the radiation simulation to prepare Lisa for the weeks of radiation treatments to come. She said that it went well and she is ready to get things rolling on Wednesday.

On Wednesday she has a doctor's appointment at 9:30AM followed by her first full radiation treatment at 10:15. For this appointment, she will be taking Palmer (her youngest) to the onsite childcare while she ventures this first treatment alone. Please keep her in your prayers as I know you all do. This is a wonderful blessing that the Lord has provided Lisa the opportunity to receive treatment at the best cancer center in the United States, but I can imagine there might be a little fear as this step is taken. We know that fear is not of the Lord and I pray specifically that during all treatments and between treatments as side affects might come, that fear is absent and Lisa is filled with joy.

Hopefully Lisa will have internet soon and she can be back with a more detailed update.

Blessings to you all,
Sarah