Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reaching Out

Are there ever times when you are overwhelmed by the people in your life?  Overwhelmed in a good way, I mean.  Overwhelmed by their love, kindness, willingness to go the extra mile in the spirit of friendship and fellowship?

That's happening to me right now.  And I am indeed overwhelmed, feeling so blessed and so grateful to have these friends in my life.
I'm not always good at reaching out.  I tend to be a private person, and it takes a lot for me to open up.  I don't ever want to be the one that when my friends see my caller ID, they groan because there's something else I need.  I think that's why I sometimes hesitate to ask for help.  I never want to burden my friends.  Yet, I want my friends to lean on me if they have a need. In the long run, it really is a two-way street. 

It's taken me a little while to learn this lesson: to open up, to trust, and just to share.  But right now, I'm feeling the blessings and the love, and the goodness of God that is coming from the friends and family around me, just because we've taken the time to share together and trust. 

I love that God brings people into our lives just when we need them...and most times when we least expect them.

So, take a moment and reach out to someone.  Even if it's through email or a Facebook post.  Let them know you care.  Then you'll find that it is true:  It is so much more fun to give than to receive!
Happy Christmas, friends!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Holiday Season

Doesn't it seem like from Thanksgiving to the end of the year, life moves at a very hectic pace?  Thanksgiving seems to sneak up on us, then all of the sudden we're in the whirlwind of the holidays.  This year, that whirlwind included an open house that we threw for 60 guests, and includes our son's (and his girlfriend's) college graduation.  Literally, there's something going on every weekend until the new year.  Plus, both my hubby and I have had pretty rotten colds.  Nothing like sinus pressure to throw you completely off your groove!

But we keep plugging away.  I'm trying to enjoy everything about Christmas and not stress over the details.  Our open house was hectic, crazy, crowded and fun! We are so blessed to have been in the DFW area for only three years and have all of these wonderful people share an afternoon and evening with us.  God is good.

I'm slowly learning that it's okay to reach out to people even when things aren't going well.  I always try to be so positive and don't want to burden folks with my problems or hurts or discouragement.  Yet this blog alone has proven to me that people want to help, to lend an ear, or even just a shoulder.  But I've also learned you need to be there in return.  Isn't that what friendship is all about?  Heck, isn't that what human kindness is all about?

So, don't stress this year. Let's keep showing that human kindness.  Enjoy every moment of the craziness, family, food, and friends! As Seals and Crofts once said: We may never pass this way again.

God's blessings for a wonderful Christmas and very happy new year! 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Be thankful in all things.  Even the tough stuff... there's usually good that comes out from the other side of the bad.

Be blessed! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Don't Wanna Play Anymore...maybe...

As you can tell by my infrequent posts, I'm sick of talking about cancer.  I'm sick of thinking about it...there are days I wished it never touched my life. I guess it's not uncommon to feel that.  But when cancer struck me a second time, in a much more serious and scary way, I was bound and determined to be positive about it, to make that time, as frightening and painful as it was, be worth something.  I wanted to feel renewed and have an eternal optimism for life.

All in all, yes, I'm very positive, and yes, I love life.  But there are days I just don't want to play in the cancer sandbox any more.

As my husband has to remind me periodically, I don't have cancer anymore.  It's gone.  They took it out. That's why I had a mastectomy, changed my body...and whether I acknowledge it or want to acknowledge it, it changed me.

But I'm done with that now. I'm ready to move on.  Except visits to my doctor every three months (although the reports are good!), and now a recent visit to my plastic surgeon to finally discuss reconstruction options, I'm done with this. These visits keep reminding me of this insidious disease.  Heck, looking in the mirror reminds me of this disease!  Still, I have to believe I'm done and there's more to do.

So, where do I go from here? How do I cope? I started this blog with the idea of providing encouragement, hope and a positive attitude.  But there are times when I get tired of thinking about it all. I just want to be a "normal" person again.  I guess in many ways, I have yet to adjust to my "new" normal...whatever that may be.

Of course, I could be in this frame of mind because I'm about to have a "job" change -- and 2011 is going to be totally different. I get to do what most people can never imagine doing... I get to pursue my dream full time.  I'm currently serving as vice-president for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers...check us out at www.acfw.com), and my term ends at the end of December.  I've stepped back from most of my other volunteer things, and with the exception of a few paying contract jobs, I am free to write starting in 2011.  Whew...that's exciting, yet daunting, in a lot of ways.  I'm just hoping and praying I have the stamina and gift it takes to complete a manuscript or two!

It's weird... sometimes I feel like I cope better with things that are out of my control. Like getting cancer.  I HAD to have surgery, I had to deal with poking and proding from doctors...and yes, while it's a roller coaster ride, you know you have to go along for that ride. 

Now, things are back in my control, so to speak (as a Christian, I know God is in control)... but with my writing dreams: I have to sit my butt down in my chair every day and have my hands on the keyboard and get to work...creating and writing, even when my muse has abandoned me and the last thing I want to do is create and write.  It's then I have to remind myself that when it flows, the writing is so sweet and there's nothing else in the world I want to do.  I have to trust that God gave me this gift, so He'll use it for His purpose. Even that knowledge doesn't make it any less scary or intimidating. 

This is my chance to live the rest of my life. My cancer is gone, and by God's grace, it's gone forever!  Now is the time to follow my dreams, not procrastinate and not waste this life.  So, while I'm tired of talking cancer, maybe it's purpose is to lead me to this next phase...the "pursuing my dreams" phase.  And if my writing is fuller and deeper, and helps just one person in any part of their own life journey, then it's worth it all.

Okay, 2011 -- bring it on.  I may have to detour for more surgery, but the reconstructive kind, so that may be positive in the long run...then hopefully the writing will come, the words will hit the page.  Who knows, maybe that will be reflected through this blog as well.  Shall we continue on this journey? 

Let's go!

Keep on truckin' everyone!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Pinking of America

It's October, and you can't help but notice there's A LOT of pink around.  I heard the expression that it's the "pinking of America."  So true.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Turning everything pink in October has been a very successful campaign in making folks aware of breast cancer. Unless you live in a cave, I'm sure you're aware of breast cancer.
But there's a doctor out there, Dr. Susan Love, who has partnered with Avon, to create an organization called "Army of Women."  Her goal is not just to bring awareness of breast cancer, but to actually find a cause and a cure. Then take the next step and PREVENT breast cancer all together.  She's trying to dig deeper, get studies funded, get volunteers for studies, and do whatever it takes to eradicate this disease forever.  So, while I applaud the pinking of America in October, and yes, I'm even wearing my pink rubber bracelet this month, I must applaud folks like Dr. Love and the Army of Women program even more. Awareness is one thing, a very good thing, but finding the cause, cure, and complete ERADICATION of this hideous disease would be even better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting on Life

So, here I sit, one-year later.... one year of being cancer free and adjusting to my new body. But how well have I really adjusted to my new life?

After surviving a life-threatening disease, you come out of it renewed, ready to live life to the maximum. You're ready to fulfill your purpose. I wanted to awaken each day and fulfill what God's plans were for me.

And I think I'm failing at that miserably...

More often than not, I'm the queen of procrastination. My main goal in life is to be a writer. I've started three books, but have yet to finish them. I even refer to myself as a writer, however it seems I'm doing anything but that. I am very involved in ACFW, which is American Christian Fiction Writers (www.acfw.com). Being around those other writers is inspiring and makes me feel like I truly belong. Here in DFW, we have a local ACFW chapter, which is the DFW Ready Writers (waving to you all!). It's wonderful to be friends with other writers, as we all understand each other, and know that it's okay to have voices in your head! (As in, our characters are usually talking to us!). I'm blessed with all of these people.

But I feel like I'm blowing my opportunities! I'm wasting the time I've been given, and letting all my other "jobs" get in the way. Being on the board of ACFW is just an excuse not to write. I'm doing everything in and around the writing world, except for writing! I'm very frustrated with myself.

My local writing buddies: RK, MO, JO, LG, KG, and JT are terrific and inspiring. I just hope they don't give up on me as I work my way through this avoidance or procrastination... whatever it is that's stopping me these days.

Oh yeah, I'm moving this weekend...But that's just another excuse.

I said to myself I'll write after I heal from my surgery, or when I'm finished with my term on the board of ACFW, or I'll write after I get moved and settled, or I'll write after our national conference in a few weeks. It's like I'm waiting for everything to line up perfectly so I can sit down and write.

Well, life isn't going to wait on me. So, why am I waiting on life to do what I really want to do? Especially after last year -- You think I would've learned something. I should be living my life fully. Everyone should be...

Don't wait on life. It's always going to be a little messy and there will always be something that comes up and interrupts your schedule. We just need to work through that. I want to do the work that God has called me to do. So, I pray that my local writing buddies will bear with me -- that they will continue to support me and even kick my backside on occasion to keep me going.

Isn't that what friends are for?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Year!

August 17, 2010 -- One year cancer-free. :)

Rejoicing and thanking God.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ups and Downs

The thing about writing a blog is I'm supposed to be open and revealing with my feelings. Well, that's something that isn't always easy for me. (My hubby and kids may disagree with that!). I try to be a very positive person, and not one who complains all the time. It's rare that I show when things aren't going well. Part of "Living life after cancer" is that although you're so happy to still be here and loving life, there are feelings and emotions from the past that can back-up on you.

Right now, my husband and I are very blessed. Things are going well for us, we're buying a wonderful new home, and things are good. So, why is it during this time that I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop? I HATE that! I don't want anything to steal my joy right now. Life is precious. Why waste it waiting for the bad stuff to happen? I hate the cancer has brought that to me.

There are days, like one I had recently, when the feelings of what we were going through a year ago at this time hit me hard and backed-up on me. The fear that I felt came flooding in, overwhelming all the good that's in my life right now. As a Christian, I almost feel guilty about having that fear in the first place, when I firmly believe that God is in control.

On this particular day, my sweet husband could tell something was up with me, and he encouraged me to quit fighting it, and to go with the flow. Let the feelings come. If that meant breaking dishes, having a good cry, or whatever, just go with it. You know, there are days where I wish I was the drama-queen type and I would totally lose it and smash every dish in the house. But that doesn't work for me. However, talk to my husband, kids, or anyone who knows me well, you'll know that I cry at the drop of a hat. I cry when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm angry, when I'm frustrated, and when I'm being blessed! It is the one way I let out my emotions. When you tell me to go with the flow -- look out! That means tears will be flowing.

When hubby encouraged me to let it out this day when my fear and feelings backed up on me, I sat there and had a good cry. God and I also had a few words through all of this, and for a few days after.

Of course, my husband was right. Instead of stuffing my feelings, my tears actually washed them away. So did talking to God. I don't want fear to overwhelm my joy. It's a terrible way to live. It was time to put that fear at God's feet and just trust. Sometimes that's so difficult to do, but it's something we must learn to do.
I'm not saying I won't have difficult days in the future. I'm sure I will. I just don't want to waste my joyous days worrying about what may or may not happen down the road.

For me, that's what trusting God is all about. I may still have my ups and downs, but as long as I trust Him, and enjoy every single blessing that He gives us, then we'll get it through it. And guess what? Before you know it, you'll have many more happy days than you do the tough days.

And I like these happy days!

Keep on truckin' everyone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Birthdays are a Blessing

I just had my birthday a couple of days ago. By habit, I almost began to dread it, and that's just because I was focused on that "number." But very, very quickly, my attitude changed. Birthdays are a blessing! I had to tell that to myself once or twice, but it sunk in. I only had to remember what it felt like a year ago.

Last year, two days before my birthday, we received my sarcoma diagnosis. Round #2 with cancer was here. I wrote in my journal "Back on the Roller Coaster." That's what battling cancer is like - a roller coaster ride. There are so many ups and downs, thrills and scary parts, and yep, even some laughter. But it's all there. It's quite a ride.

This year on my birthday, it was difficult remembering where we were a year ago. Difficult in the sense that all those emotions are still simmering just below the surface. It was so easy to recall how we felt in 2009. We were facing such an unknown.

But it's already been a year since diagnosis. In some ways it seems like yesterday, but for the most part, it feels like a year. So much has happened. And the roller coaster ride has definitely settled down to a straight-away. Only a few dips and curves recently.

It was quite a year, birthday-to-birthday. In the long run, I'm glad to have that first year behind me. To know I'm able to keep moving forward.

Although being on the cancer roller coaster has changed me (how could it not!), I still feel like me. Yes, there are physical changes because of the surgery, but I have to laugh today because my biggest complaint is my weight! Gee, that doesn't sound any different than most of the women I know. So, I'm changed, yet I'm "normal."

My sweet husband was looking at me last (really looking), and he said "I don't know why we were so worried about this." (This indicating my chest). He stated that my surgery didn't make any difference. He said "you're still here -- and you're still you."

So, bring on the birthdays -- bring on the blessings of every day. A few more scars don't make a difference in my every day life -- heck, I hope they make me even stronger. I'm a survivor.

God is good and Birthdays are a blessing.

Keep on Truckin' everyone...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bravery and the "new" Normal

My daughter said the coolest thing to me the other day – she commented that I had been through so much over the last year and that she could tell I was very brave and getting braver. What a nice thing to hear! (Of course, I’m blessed with awesome kids.)

But she got me to thinking … am I brave? While undergoing testing and surgery, you almost have no choice but to go with the flow and get through everything. You have to suck it up, find courage and deal with it all.

Now, all of that is done. And I’m facing the question of how am I going to spend the rest of my life. This “new” normal is tricky some days. Yes, you want to take the bull by the horns and just go for it in life. Yet other times, well, it’s difficult to make plans. You’re almost afraid to plan too far into the future and get your hopes up. It takes a long time for this cloud of cancer to quit hanging above your head. In the back of your mind, you wonder is my cancer coming back? Am I really through with all of this?

I know what many of you are thinking: then why not go for the gusto with your life? It seems so easy, doesn’t it?

Well, maybe this is all a good sign that I’m getting back to “normal.” (As my doctor said today: Normal is good. We like normal and boring!). Right now, I’m more concerned about putting together a perfect book proposal to present to an editor that I had a casual conversation with last week. Hence, the reason my daughter said I was getting braver. I’m not sure I would’ve had the nerve to ask about sending her a book proposal before this. I’m nervous about continuing my writing career – about really making a go of it. Yet, I can’t quite imagine doing anything else.

So, in reality, I guess I’m no different than anyone else contemplating their future. Wow – is this really what normal feels like??

If so, then it’s time to let this fear go – ALL OF IT! Fear of cancer, fear of failure…fear of success…. It’s time to show just how brave I can be. Of course, there is no bravery – there is no courage without God.

God and my faith ARE my “new” normal.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Courageous Warriors

If anyone knows a little about me they know I'm a tennis fan -- well, more like -- fanatic. My husband refers to himself as a "tennis widower" when the Grand Slams roll around. To all you spouses who complain about being "football widows," you've got nothing compared to my poor hubby when tennis is on! I've been known to rearrange my entire sleep schedule just to watch all the action "live." It's rough when it's the Australian Open.

Wimbledon is going on right now. And like a lot of people, it's difficult not to overlook the event of the last three days at the tournament: the amazing, record-shattering, marathon match between American John Isner and France's Nicolas Mahut. Go to any sports page or Wimbledon.org and you can see the mind-blowing statistics that have re-written the history books. It's one of those very rare matches when you're sad it's over because they're has to be a winner and a loser. In reality, there were no losers today. Nicolas Mahut has no reason to hang his head. Both Mahut and Isner were warriors, on another level, showing the best of competition, sportsmanship, and courage. It's one of the reasons I like tennis so much. You can leave it all out there on the court, yet you shake hands with your opponent at the end of the day.

Most of us know that you need to be courageous when fighting cancer. Whether you're the patient or the loved one, courage is a must, along with the courage to leave it all in God's hands. And I hope I'm respectful during the battle and once the battle is complete. I hope to be polite, courteous, and respectful of the doctors and nurses, and all those who take part in my care. All the way to the accounting office when there's confusion on a bill -- I hope I don't take my frustrations out on the poor woman calling me when there's been a billing error.

In life, I hope I am courageous -- courageous enough to hang in there when the seas are rough, or courageous enough to go for it and take a chance on my dreams. To train, put in the difficult work, and be gracious no matter what.

Isner and Mahut could've quit on their dreams. Or even quit during this tennis match and the world would've been without this great day in sports. But instead they were their own kind of champion for over 11 hours of unprecedented tennis. No one lost today. Eventually, I hope this match will be a sweet memory for Mahut as I know it will be for Isner. We are all richer for witnessing their drama.

I want to live my life going for my dreams, fighting the hard fight, yet walking away a winner just in the way I've conducted myself and treated those around me. If in my everyday life, through my writing, and having the courage to put it all out there can touch someone because I didn't quit, well, then I know I'm living my life the way God intended.

I want to always be that kind of courageous warrior.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Re-Birthday - A devotional

Whether we like it or not, birthdays keep coming. How do you celebrate your birthday? Do you dread it – knowing there are a few more wrinkles or more gray hair? Do you just feel “old?” Or do you say, Thank you, God. Thank you for my time here, serving you.

I had cancer last year. My diagnosis came two days before my birthday. And does something like that change your perspective about your birthday! Suddenly my age didn’t matter. In fact, on my birthday, I didn’t think about the number, about how old I was turning. What originally had been “uh oh, I’m making the turn for the downhill slide toward 50”, very quickly became “I’m too young.” I’m too young to be faced with another bout of cancer that could kill me. There’s so much more I had left to do.

So, this year’s birthday became my “re-birthday.” A time to re-dedicate myself to Christ. A time to say: Am I doing what God wants me to do here on earth? Am I dedicating myself to God in my everyday life, in how I live my life? Does it reflect Him? Is His light shining through me?

Hebrews, Chapter 12, verse 2 says very simply: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”

But we know we’re all sinners. There are days when we fall short. Yet as Christians, we know if we ask, God will forgive us and wipe the slate clean. Does that mean there aren’t any consequences for our actions? No. We know better than that. Sometimes what we do can leave scars.

Now, I’m real familiar with scars. Over 25 years ago, I was in a motorcycle accident. Riding on the back of my then-boyfriend’s bike on a wonderful summer day. A pick-up truck turned in front of us and we had nowhere to go. We slid sideways into the truck.

I had a compound fracture of my right femur and ended up having four operations on my leg. As you can imagine, that left a scar—quite a long one – that goes from my knee all the way up to the top of my leg. My husband calls it my zipper.
Now, I have more scars across my chest. There are two ways you can look at scars. It’s easy to look at scars and believe they’re ugly and disfiguring. With scars, you know you’ll never look the same way again as you did before.

Or you can look at scars as a sign of strength and survival, as God’s blessing. You may ask yourself “What? Scars as a blessing? After the trauma that caused them?”
Yes, scars are a blessing. My scars tell me that I’m still here. That God carried me through those surgeries, and that He has work for me to do here on earth.

I remember the day, after I got home from the hospital from having my mastectomy. My husband and I chose to look at my chest together – to look at my scars. I think we were both so worried about how the other one would react, that we didn’t think much about our own reaction!

In the long run, my husband said I was beautiful. He told me that every time he saw those scars, he would be thankful, because it meant that I was still here. My scars are a blessing. They remind us every day how present God is in our life. God is always working through us.

There’s a wonderful old hymn, written in 1922:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will go strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

So, on my next birthday, as I continue my downhill run toward 50, I’m not going to moan about my gray hair, or the deepening of my crow’s feet. I want to have a re-birthday. I want it to be a celebration, and a re-dedication of my life to God. He gave me this life, and I want to use it for His purpose.

As I mentioned, my diagnosis came two days before my birthday, which was a Friday. I had already talked with my doctor, and was grappling with the emotional side of being told I had cancer again. Then the mail came. There was a package from my mother – a birthday present.

With tears still in my eyes from hearing the devastating cancer news, I opened my present. Inside was a silver necklace. And on it was one word: BELIEVE.

Mom later told me she doesn’t know why she sent me the necklace. It had been a gift to her. But she doesn’t wear silver…ever. So, it was just sitting in her jewelry box, never to be worn. As my birthday approached, Mom thought she’d send it to me, not knowing it would arrive on such an awful day.

Yet, although I was facing a long journey with cancer, and facing another birthday, there, in my hands, was a reminder to stay strong and believe.

Believe that God has a plan for your life. Enjoy every moment of getting older. You can’t go back anyway. I’m excited to see what God has in store for me. So, on my birthday, or any day, I want to take time to thank God for my life and to re-dedicate myself to Him. To really dedicate myself to what His will is for me. I may show a few battle scars from life, but if my eyes are focused on Him, then His light will shine. His light is more beautiful than any cosmetic I can apply anyway. It’s not just a birthday; I want to have a re-birthday -- focused on Him --- and just BELIEVE.

So, how will you celebrate your next birthday?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A New Routine?

With my recent good news of clear scans, I'm trying to get back to "normal." However, resuming a normal routine is not as easy as it sounds, at least for me.

When you're first diagnosed with cancer, all you want to have is your normal routine, even though in reality, your life is anything but routine or normal. Gradually, cancer sucks you into its world, a world of hospitals, doctors, appointments, treatment options, overwhelming information to process, and difficult decisions to make. Your routine is definitely disrupted.

By the time you get through surgery, any follow-up treatments, and you're into recovery and received the blessing of great news, it takes a while to re-engage and to realize the doctor visits are a little less frequent and there are no more treatment decisions to make. You can return to your real life, to have control again (although we all know the God is the one in control.)

So, what do I do from here? How can you go back to being normal when nothing feels normal anymore? Trust me, this isn't a complaint. It's a good issue to have. And I'm slowly re-engaging. It just feels strange sometimes to be "normal" again and try to find that routine of life.

I can't help but think: Now, that I've gone through all this cancer stuff, how do I spend the rest of my life?

God is in control.

Keep on truckin' everyone!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rejoicing with Happy News

This week has been a long one, but a good one. I had an MRI on Monday and a chest/arm CT yesterday. And praise God, praise God -- everything is clear, normal, no signs of anything! My doctors seem very pleased. This is obviously the best news we've received since last summer. I'm clear! What a blessing!

It's odd how a week like this makes you feel. I've alluded to the roller coaster ride before. It's still a roller coaster ride. Tests and doctors and needles, surprisingly, wear you out. By the time you receive the positive reports, you don't know whether to laugh, cry, get drunk, or have dessert! For me, I've laughed a little, cried a little, and had some wine. No dessert yet... :)

It truly is a joyous day - to really say I'm cancer-free. I have the gift of my health and my life. As much of a blow as it is to hear the diagnosis of cancer, and the spiral it puts your life in, it's just as mind-boggling trying to pull yourself out of that. Finding your real life again -- it's a journey.

I guess that's the point of this blog. Cancer changes you. Your perspective on life changes. It is the "new normal." I don't want to take anything for granted. I want to do the work God has intended for me here on earth. It's time to get to it, and not live every day with the cancer cloud hanging over my head.

The Bible verse I cling to is familiar to many of us: Jeremiah 29:11.
It says: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
As wonderful as these words are, I think my favorite verses are 12 and 13, which say: "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)

We sought God with all of our hearts and He listened to our prayers. He blessed us immensely from the day of diagnosis through the good news today. The least I can do is take this gift of a new life and do my best for Him. To live the life God intended for me.

I have work to do and I need to get to it...as soon as I finish my celebratory wine! Cheers! :)

Keep on truckin' everyone.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Caring for the Care-Giver

One of the most difficult things with having cancer was worrying about my husband and family. I think they have the hardest job. Yes, I was enduring surgery, and previously, radiation. But I had doctors, nurses, and others taking good care of me, and I really had no choice with what I had to go through as the patient. I was just along for the ride. But being the spouse of someone battling this disease is often times worse than being the patient. It's so difficult to sit on the sidelines and watch your loved one in pain or going through surgery. There's nothing worse than that helpless feeling. Who takes care of the care-giver?

No matter how many times I told my husband to take a break or make sure he was in good shape, he'd always say "It's not about me right now."
Well, in my mind, it was about him. He marvels that people from our church came to sit with him and pray during my surgery. He doesn't understand that having our friends with him so he wouldn't be alone made ME feel better. I wanted him to feel love and supported. It doesn't do us any good as patients to watch our loved ones run themselves ragged.

While being a cancer patient is often a lonely road, I believe being the spouse or a loved-one of a cancer patient is often lonelier and scarier.

The next time you go see a sick friend, or visit a patient in the hospital, make sure you take the time to do something special for the spouse of that patient. Let them know they really aren't alone and that people care about them as much as they care about the patient. Take them out for coffee and let them talk. Listen to them. They have just as many fears as the cancer patient does. Maybe more...

Take care of the care-giver. It's good medicine for all of us.

Keep on truckin' everyone!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Scars. I don't think there are any of us who haven't dealt with scars one way or the other -- whether physical scars or emotional ones. Right now, I think I'm wrestling with both.

I'm used to scars. I was in a motorcycle accident when I was 20 years old, and ended up with a compound fracture of my right femur and had four operations on my leg. Thankfully, I walk, talk and can go dancing. With physical therapy, I was nearly good as new. By the way, I think physical therapists are fantastic! They're very special folks and really do their best to get you back to "normal." Again, after any accident or surgery, there's a "new normal." However, if there's a "normal" to get to, your PT's will help you get there!

Ok, I digress...The result of my leg surgery were scars. I have one that goes from my knee to the top of my leg. My hubby calls it my zipper. This scar really only bothered me in the summer -- when I'd wear shorts or a swimsuit. But it didn't take long for me to dress how I wanted and not worry about hiding my zipper. I didn't want my scars to run my life.

Now, I have more scars across my chest. Of course, these are easier to hide. But they're still there.

There are two ways you can look at scars. It’s easy to look at scars and believe they’re ugly and disfiguring. With scars, you know you’ll never look the same way again as you did before.

Or you can look at scars as a sign of strength and survival, as God’s blessing. You may ask yourself “What? Scars as a blessing? After the trauma that caused them?”

Yes, scars are a blessing. My scars tell me that I’m still here. After a while, I learned to look at my scars as a sign of strength and survival. Going through that accident and the recovery, and going through cancer not once, but twice, has made me realize I was stronger than I thought I was.
That God carried me through those surgeries, and that He has work for me to do here on earth.

Would I feel that faith and feel this strength had I not gone through these experiences? I was talking with my cousin last week. In future blog posts, I hope to share more about my cousins. We are blessed to be a part of the same family, as most of us choose to go beyond just being cousins, and choose to be brothers, sisters and friends.

So, I was chatting with my special cousin-sister. She fights her own daily battle against a physically debilitating disease: arthritis.
This is not the disease just for aging. She's had this as long as I can remember, and has to deal with physical pain and the crippling effects every single day. But she told me, she wouldn't be the same person without this disease. It has made her stronger, made her the person she is today. And I must say, she is beautiful, strong, and sunshine in our lives. If you didn't know what she battles every day, you would think she didn't have a care in the world. She is such a bright light, and like me, would credit family and faith for getting her through her days.

My cousin and I have a kinship. She was also in a serious accident when she was younger. And now we know we are more beautiful for what we've endured, despite the physical changes on the outside. We are blessed to have our family, to have our faith and prayers for each other, and blessed to have our scars, both inside and out. We're stronger for our pain, and know God will use this for His purpose in those around us.

I'm thankful for my cousins and the scars we share.

Keep on truckin' everyone.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Rollercoaster

I've always thought of this journey of dealing with cancer as a roller coaster ride. One minute you're up, the next you're down. One minute, you're strong and you can beat this thing, and the next you're shouting at God saying "Why me?" One day there's a doctor sharing grim news, and the next there's a doctor providing hope.

Living after cancer is not much different than living a "normal" life (whatever normal is). We're all on the roller coaster of life. There are good days and bad days, calm seas, and rough ones. I guess life would be pretty boring if it wasn't a bit of a roller coaster ride. It reminds me of that scene in the movie "Parenthood" from 1989 with Steve Martin, where Martin's grandmother is talking about how exhilirating, frightening and sickening the roller coaster was as compared to the merry-go-round, where it just goes around. She preferred the roller coaster. Well, the roller coaster is life. I've always thougth you can't appreciate the good times without going through the bad times.

So, the point of this is that I'm back on a small roller coaster ride. I went to see my cancer doc yesterday because of the swelling in my arm. Again, it's not the side where the cancer was and where they removed lymph nodes. That's where you'd expect some swelling, but that side looks great. It's my other arm that is swelling. To quote my doctor, "Well, that's weird!" Yep, it's weird and unusual. I had the rare, unusual cancer, now I'm having a weird, unusual swelling in the wrong arm.

I'm having a chest CT in two weeks (the cancer I had is one that likes to go to the lungs, so although we believe we got all of it during surgery, we are watching things closely). My chest CT has now been modified to include my left arm. We all think I'm just retaining fluid. My hubby and I have determined that the massage therapy we learned during my Physical and Occupational Therapy already helps. So it may come down to where I have to wear a compression sleeve on that side.

That's not the greatest news, but not the worst news. I hate my compression sleeve that I have to wear when I fly. Now, it looks like I'll have to wear one on both arms. But if that's the worst of this, then it's okay. It's annoying but not life-threatening. Just another twist and turn on this roller coaster of life after cancer.

Keeping a positive attitude is difficult somedays. But, in thinking about my attitude in recent weeks, I realized I was forgetting to pray. I was so wrapped up in my discouragement, I didn't seek the right kind of help by being prayerful. So, as I'm getting dressed after my appointment, I thanked God for my husband, my wonderful doctor, and for the blessings of good medical care. Compression sleeves aside, life is still okay.

On another positive note, as I said, the massage we learned seems to help keep the fluid moving. So that means my hubby must massage me every day. It's a very particular kind of massage, but hey -- he's touching me daily. And it's become a sweet one-on-one time for us. See -- there are always good things along the way!

Keep on truckin' everyone!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bosom Buddies

A friend of mine was just diagnosed with DCIS. For those who don't know, DCIS stands for Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ. If you have to get breast cancer, well, this is the one to get. It's very treatable, very curable if caught early. My friend has had the biopsy, awaiting the MRI, then whatever treatment plan comes from there. I'm guessing lumpectomy and probably radiation.

She'll do just fine. She has a strong faith, a wonderful family, and friends who will love and support her. She has a great sense of humor, too, which you definitely need.

She's putting on a brave face, and she is brave, don't get me wrong. But I also can see the fear in her eyes, and I know how overwhelming it all can be. I want to help her and support her. I want to reassure her she WILL get through all of this. I don't know the best way to do this for her, but I guess number one is just to listen. When she wants to talk, let her talk.

Her experience will differ from mine, just because we're different people. However, listening and being there is something we all can do for a friend, especially if we've been through the same thing.

I don't want to smother my friend, nor do I want to ignore her. I want to reassure her -- hold her hand, remind her that this is all treatable and survivable. After all, she's now joined this exclusive club that none of us wanted to join. But here we are -- Bosom Buddies, so to speak.

So as her Bosom Buddy, I'll be there when she wants me there, and I'll leave her be when she needs time on her own. Most of all, I'll do my best to listen to her, pray for her, and just be a good friend.

I guess this is something we should do for all the people in our lives -- be a friend.

Keep on truckin' everyone!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm "normal" today!

I know the theme of this blog is the "new" normal, which is dealing with my new physical body, making decisions about reconstructive surgery, visiting doctors every three months for the next couple of years, etc., etc.

But after yesterday's post on feeling discouraged, I realized I'm "normal," at least for today - hee hee. I'm not alone in feeling discouraged or upset that I have aches and pains preventing me from exercising, or a sinus headache like no end this morning.

This past weekend, hubby and I attended a wedding and a funeral. As my aunt so aptly said: it was the circle of life. So, it's part of life to be frustrated or discouraged. It's normal today that I have a deadline for my job and am battling a sinus headache.

So, because I had cancer do I get to crawl under a rock? Nope -- one has nothing to do with the other. Which is why I'm normal today. I'll have to do what hundreds of other people have to do today -- take my medicine and plow through to complete my work. Since my boss commented on yesterday's post, I for sure better buckle down and "get 'er done!"

But I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their wonderful comments and words of encouragement. I don't know what possessed me to start this blog thing. It's difficult for me to express my feelings and put it all out there. But the comments yesterday and wonderful words have lifted my spirits, and once again, showed me how blessed I am. Y'all won't judge me forever as a negative person because I have a discouraging day. Thank you for that. Oh, for those reading me on blogger, most of my comments came via Facebook. But thank you to all for being encouragers and for your kind words and prayers.

Finally, although I'm just a normal, average person, maybe my experiences can help someone else not feel so alone. That may have been my goal in starting this, but yesterday proved that I received the blessing.

Okay-- medicine taken -- let's pray the sinus headache recedes, and onward I go to complete my work for the day. This day which is a "normal" day!

Keep on truckin' everyone! :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Discouraged today... And parts of this are quite whiney, so forgive me in advance.

I'm generally a very positive person. Even after my mastectomy last summer and dealing with those wretched, awful drains, I tried to stay positive. I was happy that overall I had very little pain from the surgery, that I wouldn't have to go through chemotherapy (Praise God!). It seemed like we got all the cancer so now was the time to just focus on recovery.

Yes, having sarcoma of the breast changed me. No doubt about that. Now, I wanted to be very purposeful and intentional with my life. I felt God's blessings all over this entire situation. So, let's take those blessings and run!

But then there are days like today. I don't want to be whiney -- especially when overall I have it SO good! But today I am discouraged. I've been trying to exercise more, take good care of myself, really make the most of things. But it seems like nothing but roadblocks are in my way. I mean, gheez, how long does it take an immune system to build back up from surgery!!!

So, I'm finally working on an exercise program I really enjoy. I'm getting into it, really trying to focus on just feeling good. In February, I got bronchitis. Both my hubby and I were down with that one. And it was the cough that lingered and lingered. It didn't want to go away. Okay-- so we work our way through that. Then I get tendonitis in my foot. I do some more stretching and get through that. THEN -- I strain a muscle in my back. That was two weeks ago, and it still hurts! Damn exercise. Is this what happens when you try to get healthy?! This morning, I wake up with a sore throat and clogged sinuses. Whaa... poor me. I suppose overall, this is just life. So, we'll get past all of these, and I PROMISE to quit whining about it all. I hate how this sounds. Time to shut up and pray!

But along with the back and sinus issue this week, I have some swelling. Here's where the "new normal" comes in when living after cancer. Muscle strains and coughs are part of daily life. But swelling is a different story. I have swelling in my upper arm and under my arm. After a mastectomy, swelling is not good. The kicker is the swelling is on my non-cancer side! If I was swelling on the side where my sarcoma was, then we'd think lymphedema. It's something we watch for once they take your lymph nodes under your arm to check if the cancer has spread.

This is different being in my "healthy" arm. For now, hubby and I are treating the swelling like we would with the other side. My occupational therapist showed us massage we could do to keep fluid moving. We've focused on my right side (cancer side) up til now -- and now we're doing both arms. And it's helped. I've increased my water intake. I'm back to at least walking, even though exercise bites my back. My left arm originally looked about 2-inches larger than the right. Now, after only a few days of intense massage and water-drinking, it's looking better, and more even with the other arm.

We have an appointment with my doctor on Tuesday. I'm sure I'll feel silly, because the swelling will have gone down. But, I guess we have to double-check because of the swelling under my arm, near my breast area, near the surgical site.

So, onward we go... despite feeling discouraged. Thanks for reading through this anyway. Sometimes I just want to wallow in my whininess -- but I know the thing to do is shut up, pray, and get busy working on something -- anything -- to keep moving forward.

Overall, that's the goal -- keep moving forward. Enjoy every moment of this life I've been given. I wish there weren't discouraging days... but it's going to happen -- whether you've had cancer or not.

Onward we go...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Cancer History

A little bit more about me and my history. I was diagnosed with breast cancer (DCIS) in June 2004. I had a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation. Believe me, I did all I could to move on very quickly from that and put it behind me. I hated radiation! By week six, I was in misery, and couldn't wait to be done with the entire ordeal.

Of course, that inspired me to write about it, with the help of my husband. You can read more of our story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book (released March 2009).

After that, I happily put cancer behind me. Truthfully, I felt like I "got off easy." I had fairly minor surgery, and despite how I hated radiation, I did not have to have chemo. I was still me and ready to move on with my life.

But five years later it all changed. Yes, I made it to my five-year mark. Five years and three weeks to be exact. But in July 2009, during my mammogram, the doctor said there was something there. But this one was different. I did NOT have a recurrence. Instead, I had a new cancer, in the same breast as my previous cancer. This was diagnosed as a high-grade sarcoma. It was, as the doctors like to say, "an ugly baby."

Well, this ugly baby would cost me my breasts. A double-mastectomy was in order. I was diagnosed two days before my birthday.

My emotions were all over the place. Fear, hope, faith, fear, fear, fear...
I was afraid of surgery, anesthesia, pain, recovery, what would I look like, and mostly would I die?

The internet research I did on sarcoma was frightening. I was turning 46 years old, and what I had thought was the downhill slide toward 50, suddenly became a very young 46. I wasn't ready for all of this. A possible death sentence at 46 was wrong. I was much too young!

Yet there it was in front of me. This time, I wouldn't be able to ignore my cancer, and its effect on me. This cancer was much too real.

More to come...

Monday, April 26, 2010

This blog has long been defunct. Probably because I didn't have a topic or theme for the blog. Well, maybe now I do. And it's a difficult one for me to write about. I don't want to be a public person known JUST as a cancer survivor. I'm much more than that. I don't want cancer to become my identity. However, there's so many twist and turns on this journey through cancer, that maybe I should write about it. Maybe just to not feel so alone at times. I know there are many, many other survivors out there who have walked this road. Hey, and thank God there are so many survivors!! I like that! But it's still an exclusive club that we're in. A club we never wanted to join, yet here we are. I've been here twice now. Back on this journey, and I don't want to be alone.
To clarify, I KNOW I'm never alone. As a Christian, I have my faith in God, and He definitely has been with me ALL THE WAY through this journey. No, I don't understand why I got cancer twice. But I do believe that all things are used for God's purpose. Maybe mine is just to reach out with love and with hope. Maybe I'll never know the reason, but I definitely want to focus on moving forward and not back.
This blog was originally called Rebecca's Journey. What a journey this life is! The theme of this blog is the "New Normal." The "new normal" is what happens when your life turns upside down, and this you're supposed to begin again -- with many things being the same, but your perspective, and your physical health and looks being so much different.
Everyone reacts differently to having cancer, to getting through treatment, to surviving cancer. Surviving is a word I like to focus on. However, different we may react, only a fellow cancer survivor knows what this feels like at its core. Friends and family can understand, sympathize, and care for you like never before, but sometimes you want to scream: You don't know what this feels like! But as long as those friends and family members allow you to scream, and still love you anyway, then I guess it's all right.
I've screamed at God. I didn't understand, and I certainly didn't want this. But yet I know He's been there by my side the entire time. Of that, I have no doubt. He's shaping me, molding me into someone else. It's obviously not just my physical body that's being re-shaped. And hopefully, I can take this faith, and this experience, and turn it in to something good.
For now, I just wanted to say hello. Next time, we'll go into my cancer history, so you'll learn more about the road I've been on. Maybe together, we can share and care for each other, and still be grateful to be here!