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 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!