The Moment that Changes Everything.

Cancer, Chemo, Encouragement, General Thoughts

“Mom. Let’s sing a song.”

19 years old and asking to sing a song with me on a Saturday in the middle of August. For a few years this lovely girl had lost some of her personal voice – her song. I battled cancer and she had battled me battling cancer. Yes. Let’s sing.

“Sure! What song do you want to sing?” We laughed. Started and stopped about 500 (ok,30) times. Finally made it through her song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – on a sunny Saturday afternoon in August.

August begins my favorite season.

27 years ago this month I went to South America for a year after high school to work and travel. My mother put me on a plane with a ticket my brother helped purchase to make the adventure happen. I had totaled his car when a drunk driver hit me a few weeks earlier. He sent me to South America. (That’s not really why. But the connection just dawned on me…)

26 years ago this month I started Bible college because of one conversation.

“So, are you excited about classes beginning?” My youth pastor and his wife waited for my answer. I had registered to study Spanish and Journalism at the local university in the Fall.

“No. I’m not.” We were sitting on a dock on a hot July day full of sunshine and water skiing. I never did figure out how to get up on top of the water on skis. And then the question that changed everything.

“Have you ever thought about taking a year and studying Bible? There’s this little school in Binghamton….”

I went home and asked my mother a question that changed everything.

“Mom, what would you and dad think if I went to Bible college for a year?” She lifted the iron from the board piled with laundry and paused mid-air. Completely surprised. A small smile on her face.

“I … think that would be just … fine.”

22 years ago this month… this week… our oldest daughter was born. A moment that changed everything.

Two weeks ago, this month, our younger daughter asked another question. One that will probably change everything.

“Mom, what do you and Dad think I should do this fall?”

Her father told her what he thought. She listened. I smiled a little grin.

“I agree with your dad,” I said.

My daughter’s not taking a plane to South America. But she’s singing a new song. And I can’t wait to hear it.

Have you lost your song? Has one conversation changed everything? Maybe you can’t believe it will ever be for good, if you’re facing a hard challenge? Has the song of someone who loves you been silenced by the the question you have to answer?  You will finally make it through. Maybe not in the way you hope; maybe not unscathed, or without loss. But your hope can be secure if you will trust God – the mighty God who will save and who sings over us with joy.

The moment you trust Him changes everything.

zephaniah 3 verses 16 to 18 God is mighty to save God sings over you God rejoices over you

 

Get Humming

Cancer Resources, Chemo, Encouragement, General Thoughts, Picture Post, Shopping

I sat in a chair facing the trumpet vines. The (trees?) are at one end of our pool and I was plotting to capture hummingbird images. You know, because the world has never seen hummingbirds in pictures, ever. The fluted coral trumpet vine flowers fascinate me. They are what my mind’s eye remembers most from our first weeks in our home five years ago. Soon after the trumpet vines bloomed that summer we learned there was something wrong with my body that ultimately would be named stage 3 cancer. Click. Swimming in the pool before surgery that fall. Click. Sitting on the ladder with my feet in the water the following spring after chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries. Wounded. Click. Waiting for the surgeon to say I had healed enough to get in the water. Click. The relief that swimming and stretching and floating provided to my battered body. Still provides to my body. Click. The trumpet vines are in bloom again. Click.

Tom was skimming the pool. I had done my laps and was armed with my camera under the table umbrella.

“Mrs. S. (our neighbor who planted the trumpet vines over 40 years ago) says hummingbirds come out between 6 and 7 PM. Maybe I should just try to get some photos around her feeder,” I said. “Do you think it’s too hot out now? I guess I can try and see.”

“You need a bigger lens.” He finished skimming. He was right. For 24 years he has noticed details and helped me see the bigger picture.

I’m content for now with what can be seen from this limited angle. Tom left to mow the lawn. Chloe trotted proudly behind him through the gate. I don’t think either one thought the hummingbirds would cooperate. I scrolled on my phone with one hand and held the camera in the other when I heard that delicious humming sound and this happened:



See More Hummingbird Photos in the Bird Gallery Here

I was thinking about the hummingbirds today and their constant motion and quiet rest. Sometimes I do wonder why we must go through Things. The suffering and all that. And when suffering is removed or relieved a new and different struggle often appears. Constant motion. Too-short rest. My phone buzzed and I saw an email from another friend who has faced great illness. We met by email after I shared my journey at a women’s conference. She, too, had colon cancer and did some medical intervention but she chose mainly natural options to build up her immune system. She is doing beautifully. Her doctors are astonished. She has shared Christ with many people who she would never have met if she had not been on this journey. She closed her email with these words that encouraged me. I hope they will encourage you:

“I think of you often and I pray for you. God has us here to be a shining light in a dark world. This is my hope that God permits that the symbol of my life be a candle that burns itself, spends itself, consumes itself while there is still wax to burn! Have a great minute, hour, day and super weekend.”

She reminded me of the bigger picture.

If you’re searching for the beauty of (hummingbirds? health? happiness?) and can’t quite find the image, stay still and focus. If you’re headed into stormy waters and unsure how deep it will get, keep moving forward in faith. Are you sitting on the edge because you’ve been wounded beyond bearing? Rest and wait. God is setting the stage for good. If you listen close, you’ll soon hear the humming. Now go shine.

“Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” Psalm 80:19

PS: The last time I blogged here it was about scanxiety and an upcoming annual CT scan related to an encounter with stage 4 colon cancer in 2012-13. The annual scan in May 2015 was clear. Uneventful. Over. Relief. Thank you for praying and reading. Click.

 

 

Hope, in a Word

General Thoughts

“Hope, in a Word” is a blog post written recently for www.help4cancer.net. Visit their website for helpful information about cancer.

Sustain Me: Notes on Cancer, encouragement for cancer patients, stage four cancer, stage three cancer

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” ~John Diamond

“Insurance usually covers a baseline ultrasound when you turn forty. I’m giving you a prescription for one; call and we’ll schedule you for August,” said the doctor. She smiled. I thanked her, left the office, and walked out the door. It was a simple conversation on a sunny spring morning that saved my life.

A few months later the well-care scan found a mass deep in my pelvis.

I was scheduled for surgery. The doctors were hopeful that the mass was just a fluid filled sac, but the potential of the mass being cancerous was real. The term “possible resection” had been spoken quietly during the consultation with the surgeon. I did not give that word much thought; surely this mass was something they would remove without complications and life would return to normal.

A week or two later I woke up from surgery with a colostomy and a diagnosis of stage III colo-rectal cancer. An ugly thing. A non-glamorous humiliating expression of disease that was threatening my life and capsizing my idea of how life was to “be” at forty years of age. Over the course of eight days our new reality of a cancer diagnosis set in. I was a physical mess. But harsh reality was being tempered and buffered with a peace that could only come from God. The morning of the eighth day I sat propped in a chair, ready to go home. I had just been taught the fine art of changing the colostomy bag by the ostomy nurse. Prescription papers and the hospital folder with phone numbers for home care were in my bag. I started crying.

My husband, Tom, looked at me and said, “What’s wrong?”

I answered, “It’s not like I’m going home cured. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.”

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” he said.

Oh God. Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Like many cancer patients and families affected by this disease, we’ve learned to appreciate life one day at a time. Four years after that first surgery, I’ve now been through chemo, radiation, ileostomy and take down (colostomy reversal); the return of cancer a year later as stage IV (I decided I’d better write fast, since there is no stage V); the implementation of a wellness plan that included juicing and raw foods; a second round of more targeted radiation and chemo (what? I thought once you had radiation, you couldn’t have it again?); and a continuation of the wellness plan in an effort to regain health. The encouraging news? My last two scans have been clear. I attribute this to the power of prayer, a high commitment to a wellness plan that includes juicing and raw foods (implemented October 1, 2012 to the present), and also to the targeted radiation and chemo pill during my second round of treatment that took place 15 months ago from the time of this writing. I’ll never again assume that medical treatment alone is the “cure” for cancer.

How about you? Are you on the cancer journey yourself, or perhaps a care-giver? Difficult days, no doubt. But there is always, always hope. Remember; cancer is word. Not a sentence.

free e-book about thriving through stage iv cancerwhatididfaith infused blog about stage iv cancer stage four cancer journey

 

 

 

Sharon O’Connor is a cancer “surthriver” who shares her personal experience with humor and grace. Her goal as a stage four cancer patient is to encourage others going through the squall of diagnosis and treatment. Sharon blogs about the cancer journey over at www.sustainme.net. You can connect with Sharon on Facebook and Twitter.

Write Your Story

General Thoughts

Sustain Me: Notes on Cancer, encouragement for cancer patients, stage four cancer, stage three cancer

“Did you speak at the Women of Faith conference recently? You look really familiar!”

The beautiful young lady asked the question with a hopeful smile. Ah the dreams and possibilities. I looked over my shoulder to see if she was talking to someone else. Did a mental check to make sure I had not missed something.  Chemo does strange things to your memory and I’ve blamed a few forgetful moments on “chemo brain”. But … no.

“Well, not yet!” I laughed and thanked her for thinking I might possibly have spoken at a national faith-based women’s conference. I finished getting settled intself publishing your storyo my spot at the table as the worship team started singing. Throughout the weekend at this particular women’s conference, the ladies were given a little gift each time a session began. What a treat! At one session, the gift was a journal with the words, “My Story” on the cover. The ladies were encouraged to pursue God’s story for their lives. I enjoyed sharing a bit of the cancer story God has given me; four other wonderful speakers shared their stories and how God had been faithful through daunting, life shattering challenges. Lives (including mine) were touched by the kindness and mercy of God through the ministry that took place. And would you believe? Each of us speakers included a verse from Psalm 34. God had been busy directing our hearts and minds as we prepared to share our stories. He’s good at that kind of thing. He delights in that kind of thing. He delights in you.

So in thinking about sharing my story, I want to ask, have you shared yours? We each have one. Just don’t forget to ask God and trust God to shape yours and prepare you to share it, in His time. It may be used to bless someone else.

My first writing tool was the personal blog here at http://www.sustainme.net, which I’ve published as a free e-book. It contains faith-infused thoughts from over three years of journal posts about living with cancer and going through treatment. Your story may be different (good grief, for your sake, I hope so). If you’re interested in self-publishing until one of the big Christian publishers like Zondervan or Tyndale House scoops up your ideas, check these links. Some will require upfront costs if you’re trying to publish printed copies. Smashwords lets you publish your book as an e-book = no up front costs. Happy writing!

Xulon Press

Tate Publishing

Smashwords

Before you leave, check out this song. It was one of the theme songs from the last conference where I spoke: “Write Your Story” by Christian artist Francesca Battistelli. Click the image to be taken to her official YouTube audio. Listen. Smile. Then get writing!

writeyourstory

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have writing tips? Have you participated in or facilitated writing conferences? Like blogging and have tips to help people just getting started on writing their story? “Leave a Comment” below.