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.

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Fear of the Living Will

Crying. Just sitting crying. The first time it was because thinking about how fast my mom died in the end. Now, it’s because I’m thinking of my husband. No, he’s not on his way to dying but I may very well be.

It’s not that the cancer is in a bad state. It’s actually stable right now. But up until this point, I have refused to do a living will. The questions… the decisions you have to make and put on paper. Not everyone is able to face the hard task it is about your own death.

I don’t know what I should do if I wind up in a vegetable state, or be in a bed on a breathing machine for the rest of my life. When I think of these questions, my first thought is to preserve myself; I don’t want to die. But I don’t want to burden my husband either.

I would want him to be able to grieve properly so he can move on when the time is right. If I’m on a ventilator for a year, he would be hurting seeing me in that condition. So what do I do?

I’m gonna fill out the paperwork now. I’m not going to put it aside again. I can handle this, I can handle the hard questions.

I want to leave room for God in my decisions. I want Him to have all opportunity to save me in the end. You know, how I asked God to save my mom in the end. Well, the will of God will definitely trump any decisions I make.

Mustard Seed Faith

I had a CT scan done last week, and got my results when I saw my oncologist on Wednesday. I was incredibly nervous to find out what was going on with the lesion in my left lung. Back when I was diagnosed last September, it measured approximately 6x6cm (about the size of an egg), and had only shrunk down to 4×4 cm after six rounds of standard chemotherapy.

By standard chemotherapy, I mean using one platinum-based IV drug called carboplatin combined with another kind of chemo called alimta once every three weeks. Carboplatin is very toxic so patients typically only do six rounds, but if you have advanced disease like myself, you may continue using the chemo drug alimta as maintenance therapy. Alimta takes only about 15-20 minutes to get in your system, and is not as harsh on your body.

I was concerned that my lesion wasn’t going to shrink anymore with just the maintenance therapy. All I could hope for was that it didn’t start growing because if that happened, I would move to my last line of defense and try immunotherapy. I technically had already tried one of these drugs (avastin prevents new blood vessels from forming) when I moved to maintenance therapy, but it caused me to be in more pain to the point I needed to start taking pain meds again so I stopped after only two rounds. Having five extra months to live (as the drug promised) was not worth the pain I was going through.

So here I was knowing that I had already said no to one drug that could help prevent any new growths, and I had to face the results of another scan. My husband was with me as he always is for dr visit/chemo days and I think he was a little nervous too. When my doctor came in the room, the first thing he addressed was the good report on the CT scan. No new growth! We were relieved, but as we were trying to find out how big the tumor was now, we were shocked to learn that it wasn’t there.

We didn’t understand what the doctor was saying, not sure we had heard him correctly. We were having him reiterate what he had just said while I was trying to study the report in my lap. He said “there is no measurable mass” in my left lung, the same thing staring back at me in black and white. It had only been six weeks since the last CT scan where the report clearly stated the tumor was 4×4 cm. Somehow, it went from being the size of a walnut to nothing in just two chemo cycles of maintenance therapy.

Now, I know that there is no way that a maintenance drug that only puts 15 minutes of chemo in my body for 2 rounds can make a tumor of that size just disappear when standard chemo with a much stronger drug couldn’t do that in 6 rounds. The math just doesn’t add up. Even the avastin can’t make tumors disappear like that. There was only one explanation. God did that.

I was in shock for quite a bit of that day, not because I didn’t believe God could do it, but because of the amount of favor He poured over me and my situation. Today, I found out that He has done the same thing for another person who had a 11 mm tumor in their left lung and theirs is completely gone now too!

God is definitely still in the business of doing miracles. Things can seem so bleak even when you have faith because you often still don’t know what God’s plan is for your life. We hold on to Him for dear life, praying and hoping that His plans for this life still include us a little bit longer, and it is just pure joy when we finally come to understand His plans for us.

I pray for anyone dealing with a long-term, debilitating illness. There are still plenty of reasons to hope, even if your faith is as small as a mustard seed.

He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

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.

Crying At His Feet

I know that You can cure me but I don’t know if you will, and that scares me to death. Lord, help me.

I’ve suffered the last three months with what every doctor and radiologist thought was pneumonia. I thought the constant pain in my back and hips were from coughing so much. I thought my difficulty breathing, talking, and singing were from the pneumonia. Sadly, we have learned that is not the case. I have lung cancer.

I won’t lie. It’s hard be positive, to be faithful when your mom died of the same disease just three and a half years ago. Just as in her case, mine has metastized to other areas so that makes it stage 4. I used to work with cancer patients at The American Cancer Society. I know the statistics. I also know we have a God that plays by His own rules. 

I have people around the world praying for a complete healing. For me, that is a hard prayer. Not because I don’t believe it can be done but because so often I have seen Him decide on a different plan. I hope He wants to keep me here so I can be a light onto His people. Only He can make that decision but I have loudly made it known to Him that I want to be healed. 

My life changed instantly the moment I found out, and so did the lives of my family. I’ll likely be discharged from the hospital tomorrow with oxygen and a walker to embark on an unknown and scary path. I will no longer be able to work, and will be filing for disability. I know that God is with me, and I know that He won’t leave me alone to deal as my family and I sort out what this means for our lives now. It’s just going to take some time. 

Your prayers give me strength and hope after I get up from my meltdowns. I need my Christian brothers and sisters to keep lifting us up. Please understand that I’m not able to respond to everyone’s messages but I will read them when I can, when I have the strength, and when I need it the most. 

I love the ministry we have created. I don’t know the end game, what God’s plan is but I will continue to share how God is working in my life, the lessons He is teaching me, and so forth as I am able to. I appreciate every one of you for joining me on this path. I may or may not ever sing again, but remember that salvation is not found in a song. It’s found in Jesus. Don’t waste time on the world when you can run to Him and bow at His feet, relinquishing everything you’ve got. That’s what I’m doing. Crying at His feet. 

Fearless In The Midst of The Storm

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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. 

Heal The Divide

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“For He himself is our peace who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” Ephesians 2:14
 
How true this is and how greatly it is needed today with the great divisions in America today. Lord Jesus, I pray that you heal the divide, that your mercy would fall upon us, and that at the end of the day, we can all come together and find love in each other and our country once again.In Jesus name, Amen.