One Year Later

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When I got diagnosed with cancer a year ago today, I didn’t think I would see the day when I had hope again. I didn’t think I would see the day when I believed I’d be okay again. I had spent so much time suffering up until the point I was diagnosed, and knew that having cancer meant suffering even more. But more than anything, it meant that I may be losing my life too. Losing everyone that I loved and everything that I had worked for. I can’t believe that I’m still here.

As much as I feared the end, I also knew that my life would never be the same. I was not prepared for the normal activities of life that I would no longer be able to do… like cooking, cleaning, taking a walk, or buying groceries. I was not prepared for the humility I would need in allowing others to care for me instead of me taking care of them.

I haven’t been able to serve others the way that I used to. I’ve spent my days just surviving, and trying to deal with everyday setbacks with my health because of treatment side effects. It’s taken a long time to get to a point where I can be a little more self-sufficient, like walking to the fridge on my own to get a drink without feeling like I’m going to pass out. And when I say a long time, I mean like I have only been able to do that in the last three weeks. My prayer is that I will get to a point where I’m able to start doing more for others, and give back to the heroes that have been there for me through this journey. In the meantime, I’m going to try to focus more on accepting the fact that I am a survivor instead of just merely surviving. I know that God will continue to lead the way.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

 

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When Life Is Too Short

An old coworker of mine lost her son last night to cancer. Bone cancer. He was 14 years old.

He won’t live to finish high school. He won’t live to fall in love and marry his sweetheart. He won’t bring kids into this world or work hard to provide for his family. There will be no growing old with his wife and hugging his grandchildren. His life is no more.

I don’t know how God makes these decisions. How a child can die but I’m still here. I’ve been able to do so much with my life that Kristian will no longer even be able to dream of doing. My prayers go out to his family.

Lord, make my life meaningful. Help me make my life mean more than the hours that seem to just pass by. If I’m still here, than it must be for a purpose I can only hope to understand. There must be more God is calling on me to do. Help me succeed so that this life is not held in vain. Amen.

The Need For Rest Will Just Have To Do For Now

The last time I was sick on Christmas was five years ago… before my life was drastically altered after meeting my husband and embracing the Christian faith wholeheartedly for the first time. I had traveled to Colorado via Greyhound to spend the holiday with my best friend and her kids. Taking the bus was a great way to get out of the city to venture the beaten path with my camera after the end of a six-year relationship I never should have been in, and the end of a disillusionment for an affair that would never be more than a roll in the hay. 

Yeah, I’d had better days and the opportunity to run away from home was enchanting. The road to freedom was a little more traveled than I wanted it to be though; it took three days to get to Colorado and five to get home. I remember getting stuck in the Dallas bus station for a day and a half while a snowstorm wrecked havoc just north of us. I was still trying to get to Colorado, and I was completely at the mercy of a storm I couldn’t even see. It wasn’t snowing in Dallas where I was, but all around me it was coming down so heavy that travel all the way up to Denver was at a halt. I just wanted to get where I was going, and I wanted answers. There was no way out and nowhere to feel safe. 

I think it took a good 12 hours before they finally brought a bus out for us weary-eyed travelers to sleep on. I was so thankful… all I wanted was answers and rest, but I would settle at the moment for just some rest. It’s how I’m feeling again after all these years.

Cancer has a way of eating away at your soul… if you’ll let it. Sometimes I do, I won’t lie. Sometimes, I give in and let the cancer take a bite or two out of me. Sometimes it takes a few days, weeks, or months for me to wake up out of the chokehold-slumber that cancer is and stumble again onto my faith. On Christmas Day, it was just a reminder staring back at me that reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yesterday, it was a complete meltdown on the living room sofa where I begged God to help me over and over again. Today, it might look like something completely different but I’m not giving up. 

The answers may come another day but for today, I’m going to take the rest that comes with knowing Him. 

Tiptoe


Even when you’re going through it,

You’re not going through it;

You’re tiptoeing around,

Careful not to step on

Your own thoughts, your own feelings. 

You don’t really want to talk about it;

You don’t really want to write about it.

You only want to think about, write about 

Nothing at all.

The nothingness that stares you in the face,

The nothingness that will never be nothing again,

The life that will never be the same.

Fearless In The Midst of The Storm

Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee (1)

It seems like this year has been storm after another for me, and the one thing that always remains is pain. And sickness. And more pain. And more sickness. It’s enough to tire a person out.

I have talked about my struggles with chronic pain this year but then I fell silent. I’ve been quiet for quite some time for a very good reason. I was diagnosed with pneumonia in June, and still getting over it.

Coughing for three straight months will challenge anyone. Coughing to the point of vomiting and breathlessness is another thing entirely. I really thought I had whooping cough. I just couldn’t see how I could still have pneumonia after antibiotics and 2 rounds of prednisone.

I should say that I was quite surprised to learn I was so sick in the first place. I was weaning off all of my medications, something I knew God would call me to do at some point but six months into my chronic headache seemed to soon. Still, I went with it and put all of my trust in Him to get me through the pain. As my headache got worse and I started coughing non-stop, I knew something was terribly wrong. This couldn’t possibly be from weaning off of Lyrica and everything else that never helped anyway.

A month later when I was still very sick, I was told that I had bronchitis as well. Two weeks later as I struggled to take a painful deep breath, I was told I also had pleurisy. My painful ribs that had me struggling to walk were nothing more than the result of that and coughing so much. And as my breathing went from bad to worse, I had another chest x-ray done stat, only to find out the pneumonia was persistent after two months. Time for another round of antibiotics and a nebulizer for breathing treatments at home.

I finally have my appointment with a pulmonologist tomorrow, and I cannot wait. I doubt he will have special powers to make me better, but I do hope to find a regimen that will finally help me breathe easier because I’m not convinced the breathing treatments have helped me. Sometimes I think they actually make things worse.

I do the best I can dealing with all of this. I have a family to take care of, a job to hold down, and I have no more sick time left. All of my vacation time has been used up because of all of these things going on. Still, in the midst of everything that I have been through in the last 3 months, I have never felt closer to God. Never felt like He was there for me more than He is right now. It’s hard to explain but I’ve had to learn how to come to Him differently. I haven’t been able to sing in three months. I haven’t been able to work on music. There are days when I am so sick that all I can manage to do is cry out His name. He answers me every time.

Lately, in addition to helping me through this sickness, He is also giving me strength as I learn new ways to do simple things like breathing, talking, dressing myself, getting the dogs in and out of their cages, and doing a load of laundry. Did I mention that I can’t bend over? Yeah, haven’t been able to for at least a month and a half… basically after the pleurisy stopped being so bad, everything else started hurting. Coughing for so long is really bad for your back and hips so these days I use a crutch for walking and for bracing myself when trying to stand up. It has not been a fun ride but at the same time, my faith has grown stronger. I’ve surprised myself with a resilience that could only come from God as I continue to endure more and more pain. I was ready to call 911 the other night because I couldn’t get out of my bed after several hours, but instead I wound up talking to a friend of mine about God’s goodness. I went from crisis mode to a great level of peace so fast I didn’t even see it coming. Just talking about Jesus and sharing my experiences about how He has gotten me through tough times literally got me through the most excruciating pain I have endured in a very long time. Only Jesus can bring that kind of peace in the midst of pain that wasn’t going away any time soon.

Thankfully, I made it through the night and got a shot of toradol that helped some the next day. It’s amazing how thankful you are for level 8 pain after being at a 10 for so long. I’m  sure I will be just as thankful when I’m able to breathe normally again too. But regardless of how long that takes to improve, I know that God’s got His hand on my life, on my struggles, and on my perseverance to withstand these challenges. He is the difference between enduring pain and having peace in the midst of pain.

On another note, my family and I stayed home for Hurricane Irma, unlike Matthew when we evacuated to Alabama. Though we had damage like many families, what astounded me the most was my attitude change between the two storms. With Hurricane Matthew, I brought the storm with me in the form of anxiety, frustration, and emotional outbursts that wreaked havoc on my family. With Irma, I had a peace going into the storm that I’ve never had before. It didn’t make any sense, even while huddled in the bathroom with my family at 4 in the morning for a tornado in the area all the while knowing that a tornado warning is what sparked me to start having panic attacks years ago just from sheer fear. Instead of being swept up in the chaos of the storm this time, I remained rooted in the knowledge that it didn’t matter what happened; we were going to be okay. I have never felt such freedom and peace in my life, and I know it has to do with how much He has challenged me this year… to be fearless in the midst of the storm.

He’s challenging me and my family with new circumstances now. Nothing that I can discuss right now but an opportunity for the devil to try and stretch our faith even further. I hope he’s starting to figure out that we don’t give up that easily, that God is on our side, and that He WILL continue to fight for us. How sweet it is!

Lord Jesus, you are my rock and my salvation. You are the very breath that runs through my body and a beacon of hope on a cloudy day. I love you with all of my heart, and thank you for all that you continue to do for me, for all the ways you have shown up in my life, and for all that is yet to come. I pray that my story and my struggles can be used to show your love for your people, and to bring hope to the hopeless. May you be glorified every step of the way. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

It’s Not Just Pain


Lord, I need you every day as I fight each and every aspect that comes with being in pain all the time. I need you, and many more need you, many more that are enduring the same tortures that I am. Lord, be with us in the worst moments, and when we are in such pain that we cannot speak, please let our tears be our cry to you. In Jesus name I pray. Amen. 

Still Hear The Whisper

It’s 11:30 in the morning, and I’ve already had my share of crying today. I’ve calmed down but I still want to crawl in my bed and just sleep the day away. Oh wait, I have problems with my muscles tightening terribly anytime I try to relax… so sleeping is usually out of pure exhaustion. I wonder how much crying I have to do to get to the point of exhaustion.

Honestly, what I really want is to just stop hurting. And to be heard. To have a doctor genuinely care and want to help me. Not just any doctor. You know, the kind that is supposed to help you. I just had another bad experience from a doctor that really has no interest in helping me, and this is coming from a rheumatologist. If he can’t help me, who can?

Even when I’m at my worst, I can hear the whisper from God. It’s easy to rely on a doctor to help me but they have an inadvertent way of reminding me that only God can.

It’s OK To Be Down, It’s OK To Be Unsure

Crying-Woman

Today is a down day for me. Maybe it’s because of all the crying I did yesterday. First at the physical therapy office… let’s just say he was a complete jerk in regards to my diagnosis and I will not be going back. The second time was when I broke down at my doctor’s office telling her everything that I’ve been through in the last two months. Okay, mostly every thing. I didn’t tell her about the cognitive issues. I didn’t tell her about the stress this has caused me. She was patient and understanding while she listened. After dealing with the physical therapist, it was encouraging to have someone be compassionate about what I’m going through.

The last time I cried was while listening to my husband’s sermon last night . He had written it out the night before when I went to bed early from exhaustion, and then recorded it last night in another room where I couldn’t hear him. I just couldn’t hold back the tears as he talked about how he has prayed for me while I sleep, how he has asked God why me? I have wondered how all of this has been affecting him, but he’s not one to talk about how he’s feeling. He said in his message that he was trying to be strong for me. That he has, and yet I know that he won’t always be able to be strong. My hope is that we can grieve and grow together as we overcome each hurdle that comes our way.

I listened to his message again this morning, and I keep thinking about the verse “my grace is sufficient for you…” 2 Corinthians 12:9. I’m desperately trying to understand the weight of it. Honestly, it’s a verse I wrestled with even before my headache started. Grace. It’s such a heavy word, and my feeble mind has a hard time comprehending.

Jesus died for me. For ME. I am a sinner, and He thought I was good enough, worthy enough, lovable enough to be pardoned. When it comes to salvation, I can much easier feel the weight of the cross. But when it comes to suffering, I fumble. Maybe because I haven’t suffered long enough. Maybe because I am coming to terms with what all this means for my life. Grace. It’s such a heavy, heavy word when you’re in the middle of suffering because it doesn’t always mean healing. It’s not a “get out of jail free card” in every situation.

I do much better with the second half of that verse… “for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This I see evidence of every day that I am in pain. He gives me the strength to do the things He has asked me to do, the things that are worthy in His eyes. When I call on Him, He is there. He shows up in the middle of struggle, and in the middle of my tears.

Whatever you are going through, know that He is always available and willing to be there for you in your darkest hour. You don’t have to be an expert on the bible or know how to pray. You can talk to God like you would talk to a friend, crying out for help and tell Him all that you have been through. You can tell Him your deepest darkest emotions that you think no one wants to hear or would understand. He wants to be the shoulder you cry on. He loves you that much.

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” Psalms 34:17

Today may be a down day for me, and that’s okay because God is with me. He knows and feels my pain. Because of Him, I can withstand the lows, go through the emotions I need to feel, all the while maintaining my faith and knowing the love He has for me. I don’t know what my future looks like; I don’t know how all of this is going to turn out and that is scary. But I do know that He is using me during this time. He is teaching me, and allowing my faith to grow from a tiny mustard seed into a mature tree. And my faith combined with His promises tell me that He will deliver me in the end.

A milk weed seed pod open and waiting for the wind to spread seeds.

 

When They Want To Hurt You

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I hesitated. I really didn’t want to tell this person what was going on with my health. I knew that I had to for various reasons and that it was time that I did. I shared my diagnosis, what it means, and how it can and will cause limitations for me.

They were quiet. And then the questions came and I answered each one calmly. We also got to a point in the conversation where I admitted I was nervous telling them at all. When they inquired as to why, I had tears in my eyes. “Because you’re not always nice.” His response back to me was very curt and cutting.

“I want to attack you but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

This is a person I have to deal with often, and we usually go about our business, bypassing each other as much as possible. I know they don’t like me. I know they would rather not have to deal with me at all. The words still hurt though. No one wants to be attacked, and while I appreciate them choosing not to attack me on the basis of having health issues, the statement still shows a desire to hurt me intentionally.

I know that I have to forgive this person, and I will. Maybe I already have, I don’t know. I know I have to love my enemies. I’ve gotten really good at doing that too, but it’s not easy. I falter, I get angry and sometimes even lose my temper. Sometimes I just sit there and cry.

Being in pain all the time does not help me when it comes to controlling my emotions, but it does cause me to lean on God a little more to get through the tough times. I don’t have all the answers, and I can’t always shield myself from the negativity and ill intent from others, but I can hug Jesus a little tighter.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30