cancer

psalm 103 forsythia praise yellow green perennials spring flowers

He’s Concerned About You

The local oncology office was quiet last week when I checked in for my pre-scan appointment. I sat and watched rain trickle down the window.

“Sharon?”

There were two other people in the reception area and no one moved. I guess that would be me.

The lab tech smiled and walked me into the room where phlebotomy chairs wait for cancer people to have blood drawn. Her scrub top had a Marvel Comics theme and we talked about the finer points of Marvel vs DC Comics. I asked her what the difference was and she explained with great enthusiasm. I don’t think I can explain it back to you. She cheerfully checked my vitals and asked a few basic questions before another assistant led me down the hallway into an exam room.

“Have your medications changed?”

She showed me a list from 2013 and we updated it to show no medications in 2018.

“Okay! The doctor will be with you shortly.” The door closed quietly.

The oncologist asked a few questions about how I’m feeling (fine).

“Are you breathing okay?” The stethoscope moved methodically across my back and I was told to breathe in. Breathe out. Wait. Shouldn’t I be breathing okay?? I mean, I don’t run marathons, but I don’t need an oxygen mask walking up the hill behind our house, so…

I left the office with lab work completed and instructions to pre-register for my fifth annual CT scan since being NED (no evidence of disease) in 2013.

The visit made me feel stressed and anxious. I struggled to pinpoint the reason.

Why do they seem to *expect* you to be feeling bad physically and then act puzzled when you’re doing pretty decently well?

Why does scheduling an annual CT-scan make me feel like I have PTSD?

Why do I even need to have this scan? Ah. There it is.

My “new normal” body works differently, but it works well. Me and my current inventory of organs get along pretty okay together. What if the test inadvertently causes more problems than it solves from, say, too much radiation? The oncologist even brought that up as a long term concern. What if the scan finds a new problem? Like that stable “benign lung nodule” thing they have brought up the past two years that I never even knew I had in my possession during the entire previous six years?

Maybe I don’t need to know my current status. I feel fine. I’m not even sure I would go through more standard medical treatment if cancer were to return. Let’s leave well enough alone. These are the frantic thoughts in my head one week each year.

Actually I think this way almost every week in the year, but there is only one week when I have to decide how strongly I really feel about the potential ramifications of medical procedures. This is why personal blogs are useful so one can write the words they don’t want to be heard shouting out loud to kind medical professionals doing their jobs.

And who, in the medical world, cares about my cancer-recovery-related concerns?

I left the office determined to eat more plants, juice more carrots, and to earnestly examine my stash of essential oils for ones I know may specifically support my efforts to stay above a particular wellness line.

Well-being – in spite of our physical circumstances – is a conversation that starts inside of us. Me. You.

I’m learning through this continuing process to speak praise from my inmost being to God. HE is the one who satisfies my desires with good things even when I may want to fear the worst. He is always concerned about me in the big frantic obvious things and the little quiet subtle things of life.

Psalm 103:1-5 says,

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Read Psalm 103 Here

I’ve been listening to CeCe Winans on Pandora and last week I heard this song for the very first time. God cares enough to send unexpected gifts that minister to us on a very personal level.

God is concerned about me.

God is also concerned about you.

Click the image to play this subtle and beautiful reminder of God’s loving concern:

Lyrics for “He’s Concerned” by CeCe Winans:

God is, just a prayer away
All you need to do is call
He will hear, your faintest cry
He’s concerned about you

So while your tears are flowing through
Your time of mourning
He is here to lift your heavy heart
‘Cause He’s in love with you

He knows
He cares
He sees
He’s there
And He’ll carry you
He’s concerned about you

Weeping may endure for the night

But the morning will bring joy
He won’t give, you more than you can bear
He’s concerned about you

He loves you, oh yes
He loves you, ooooo
He loves you, I know He does, He really does
He’s concerned about you

He knows
He cares
He sees
He’s there
He’ll carry you
He’s concerned about you

He knows
He cares
He sees
He’s there
He’ll carry you
He’s concerned about you


stage four colon cancer survivorSharon O’Connor is a wife, mom, and stage 4 colon cancer survivor. She loves coffee, writing, playing piano, and taking walks with her husband, Tom, and their adopted Pug-Maltese mix, Ace. Sharon is grateful for wellness support strategies that work and that have helped support her personal journey with cancer.

[ More about Sharon ]

Three Life Changing Words from the Most Effective Class I Ever Took

“You mentioned finding strength from spirituality or faith during your cancer journey. Can you explain that more?”

The young lady asked the question at the end of my December lecture in a local university. She had been very attentive while I shared my personal journey with stage 3 and stage 4 colon cancer. The professor had invited me to present my story during the complementary and alternative wellness series. I hoped just one person would be encouraged by my journey and the choices I made including standard medical treatment, juicing, raw foods, bentonite clay and other supplements and strategies.

“Sure! I’m a Christian and I have found great comfort and strength in my relationship with God.”

I continued by sharing that I told one of my oncologists I was not afraid of dying. I know where I’m going when this life ends because of my faith in God. I was much more fearful (maybe even angry?) about the suffering caused by cancer treatment. That is clearly a choice each person has to make regarding treatment. I did go through grueling medical treatment, too – surgeries, chemo and radiation. I suggested to the class that the best thing one can do for people on a journey with cancer is to love them and support them in the choices they make about treatment.

storm cancer journey field fire clouds sunshine hidden walk

One of the students raised his hand and asked a question. He said he was planning to into the field of medicine.

“Good for you, and I wish you well in your studies!” I stated. “I’m not here to tell you that medicine is evil or using nutrition is foolish. I do want you to know that there is always, ALWAYS, hope. I would love to see medicine and nutrition paired more often for the benefit of the patient. Natural ways of healing can’t be patented like medicine can be and doctors simply aren’t trained in the true power of ‘healing’ using nutrition in our western culture. And quite honestly most of us want a quick fix. A pill.”

A friend told me that in Germany cancer patients are automatically paired with a medical doctor and a homeopathic doctor. The practitioners work together to find the best ways to meet the needs of each patient using medicine AND homeopathy. I like that concept.

Cancer patients who ask doctors about alternative options, like me, don’t typically encounter openness or understanding of valid options or complements to chemo and radiation from the medical community. When my husband and I asked a gifted surgeon in New York City what her thoughts were about the benefits of juicing carrots and using the power of nutrition, the response was literally,  “Oh, sure, carrots are fine for you – I mean, my sister feeds carrots to her horses so….” (insert smug chuckle). Completely discouraging. There can be ignorance on both sides of the cancer treatment discussion. I kept right on sipping my carrot and apple juice while she continued with our very brief consultation. I was dealing at that time with a return of cancer (stage 4) and had been juicing and eating raw foods for two months while considering whether I would accept further medical treatment. Eventually with much reluctance we agreed to a modified, more targeted radiation and chemo pill. I stopped asking doctors what they thought about what I was doing with my diet and decided what was best for me. It was a time of clinging to God for strength and wisdom and living out that little anthem of “my body, my choice.”

Later, after treatment in New York City was completed and a follow up scan five months later showed that the mass had responded far better than anticipated (it had shrunk by 90% and the doctors were very surprised), that same surgeon was insistent that I still should see her to consider surgery to remove the remaining small portion of tumor. The price I would pay for that medical kindness would be a permanent colostomy due to nerve damage and recovery from a very difficult surgery. No, thanks. I hung up the phone and juiced another five pounds of carrots.

Let me share with you the most important thing I know about cancer.

Whatever treatment I choose, no matter how hard I fight disease using any available medical method, drug, or herb, I will still die one day. I want to be certain I know where I will spend eternity when my body fails and the Creator takes me home to heaven.

How do we find confidence about an eternal plan we can’t humanly see? We have so much knowledge about the human body and spirituality and life and still we don’t have all the answers. I’ve found answers to help me cope with challenges and map out my journey in God’s Word. The Bible.

Here are three life-changing words from the most effective class I ever took in high school. It was called Youth Group. My youth pastor scrawled the following words on a whiteboard. The lesson and many others that followed ignited a desire to keep learning about what God’s Word had to say for my life.

OMNISCIENCE: God is all-knowing.

OMNIPOTENCE: God is all-powerful.

OMNIPRESENCE: God is present everywhere.

The fears and anxieties created by a cancer diagnosis are very real. Let me encourage you that God sees you. He cares! Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher from England:

So if you are lying on the battle-field of life, God sees you; let that cheer you: he will relieve you; for he only needs to look at the woes of his children at once to relieve them. Go on then; hope yet; in night’s darkest hour, hope for a brighter morrow. God sees these, whatever thou art doing; “He knows they cares, they tears, they sighs; He shall lift up they head.”

Read the full text of this sermon about “the God who sees us” from www.spurgeon.org – Click Here

Do you know God? How, then, do those three words above (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence) shape your view of life and death and even perhaps your choices about medical treatment and alternative wellness strategies?

Do you wonder what I mean by “knowing God”? You may be in need of the more important “cure”. The cure from sin that only can come through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. If you get healed from cancer after whatever course of treatment you choose, you still will one day face eternity with God, or without God. You want to be with our all-knowing, ever present, all powerful God in eternity. His power and peace is available to us now, every day, when we ask him to forgive our sins and trust Jesus. He paid the price of my sin to give me eternal life no matter what I go through here on this earth. I have some personal thoughts about the only cure that matters. You can find that information by Clicking Here.

So, friend, how does your spirituality or faith give YOU strength in the cancer battle? I’d love to know!

cancer smarts, cancer, cancer encouragement, faith, hope, cancer, stage 4 cancer, cancer survivor

Thank you for stopping by! I’m a stage four colon cancer and cancer treatment survivor. I like to share encouragement and things that have helped me and given me hope on my personal journey. Speaking of things that have helped, you can find a information about “What I Did that Helped” by Clicking Here, and a summary of my personal Cancer Journey Timeline by Clicking Here. Most importantly, you can read about the Only Cure that Matters – just Click Here.

Follow CancerSmarts on Facebook! Click Here

Diagnosed with Cancer? Three Things You Can Do Immediately.

“You are the QUEEN of gentle.”

A staff member said this to me recently. My co-worker meant it as a compliment about how I work with people in challenging situations and I thanked her. We sometimes equate “gentle” with “weak”. There have been a few times in my life when my gentle nature has given way to steely resolve laced with some anger and an unshakeable belief that there must be another, better, different way in a particular situation. One of those times was October 1, 2012, when my husband and I were told that the cancer in my body had returned after a one-year reprieve.

hiker cancer walking journey diagnosis cure

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Are you like me? Do you want answers NOW? Do you want the expert to override your fears with proven knowledge and a clear path to victory?

“Tell me what to do!”

What if no one has the answer? Or at least maybe not the answer you want to hear?

What if ‘they’ don’t really have an answer? I was told this by another friend whose experience in medicine and wisdom I trust.

“Sharon. They just don’t know.” Terrifying and freeing.

You, friend, have options even when no one knows what you should do. You don’t have an expiration date. God knows the numbers of the hairs on our heads. He knows the outcome of every day we live, and, yes, the day we will die. Include him in the equation, please. He cares. He has a plan for you working with Him, trusting Him, relying on Him as you go forward.

Here are three things you can do immediately if you are diagnosed with cancer:

  1. Start juicing organic vegetables and change how you eat while you wait for tests and as you make decisions about treatment.
  2. Do something you love.
  3. Get a second opinion.

Choosing to take action while coping with the cancer diagnosis gave me more control in a bleak situation. Here is how those steps looked in my own life when cancer came back.

  1. Eating differently. I began following a juicing and raw foods eating plan within five days of the diagnosis. Why? Because even if I decided to accept more chemo and radiation I no longer trusted that medicine alone would heal the cancer in my body.  Perhaps medicine would knock down the immediate threat and the juicing and raw foods would help heal what was not working properly in my immune system.
  2. Shifting priorities. I dropped every commitment from my schedule except for three things.
    1. Work. (Because I had to – I had just started a new job, and my blogging career had yet to launch me into financial freedom… still hasn’t… but I love writing, so…) I did eventually take off four months for treatment and rest and recovery once we made a decision about what plan of action to take.
    2. Juice/follow a raw foods eating plan. That meant every morning I juiced five pounds of carrots and six green apples to take to work in thermoses; mixed powdered greens to carry in another thermos; ate oatmeal or Ezekiel bread and fruit for breakfast; took supplements; and made a raw salad for lunch. Another thermos contained hot green or yerba matte tea. I discuss some of these strategies and the exact eating plan I followed in more detail on the What I Did That Helped page. I did this three months while going through tests and making decisions about what I would do for treatment, or not, to strengthen my immune system. (I ended up going for a second round of modified radiation and chemo. See My Timeline for a summary of steps I took.)
    3. Serve others. Music is the gift God has given me to share as a form of encouragement in the local church. I had just returned to serving on the worship team before this new catastrophe. I was determined that THAT would be my service to the Lord as long as He allowed and provided strength. It is a source of great joy to me personally. What gives YOU joy?
  3. Consider all options! I got a second opinion. I researched and read. I prayed. I talked with my husband and family. I decided what I would and would not accept in and for my body. If you think you want a third opinion, get one. That is your right!!

Remember. God gives us a spirit not of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

The promise for God’s help is true in our darkest days. Yes, even when we’re facing death. He does not scorn us when we ask for help. He is not arrogant when we seek His wisdom. The answer may not be what we want to hear but his plans will always work for our good and His glory!

Have you dealt with a first-time cancer diagnosis, the return of cancer, or some other physical battle? What has helped you move forward in your journey?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” I Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

cancer smarts, cancer, cancer encouragement, faith, hope, cancer, stage 4 cancer, cancer survivor

 

 

 

 

Thank you for stopping by! I’m a stage four colon cancer and cancer treatment survivor. I like to share encouragement and things that have helped me and given me hope on my personal journey. Speaking of things that have helped, you can find a information about “What I Did that Helped” by Clicking Here, and a summary of my personal Cancer Journey Timeline by Clicking Here. Most importantly, you can read about the Only Cure that Matters – just Click Here.

Follow CancerSmarts on Facebook! Click Here

 

Core Strength

Tuesday morning I was laying on the floor in my office for the second time that day. My lower back had gone out so I carefully navigated to a space on the carpet to stretch. I spent a few minutes looking up at the ceiling tiles trying to figure out how to roll over gracefully. My arm was wedged under my left shoulder against a box on the floor. I tried turning on my side to get on all fours to hoist myself up into a cat stretch. My foot was stuck behind a roller on one chair. My boss opened the door to ask how I was doing. Awkward. She felt bad for me. We both laughed.

We think we’re so… independent… self sufficient… and in ten seconds of a wrong twist we’re flat on our backs and helpless.

“Are you okay?,” asked a lab tech. I had made it out of the office and was clinging to the wall on my way down the hallway to fax something. I felt like I was moving on ice and bent over balancing a bag of rocks on my back.

walking buddy golden doodle walking buddy puppy

My walking buddy and core strength tester, Max.

“Oh yeah, thanks, this is nothing!” I meant it. No IV’s, ICU, surgery, chemo, radiation or colostomy bag involved. A complete breeze. No problem.

I called my chiropractor because I was supposed to travel and it would only get worse.

“Well,” said his receptionist. “He can see you December 20th.”

“Uh, you mean, like, three weeks from now?” It was November 29th. “I’m in pain and I’m a current patient. He saw me three weeks ago for the same problem and I must travel.” I also have a fifty-five pound puppy to walk every morning to keep him and me happy. I had to be able to move.

“Can’t you fit me in?” Ten minutes. I just needed ten minutes of his time and an applied adjustment of the correct vertebrae.

“I guess we’ll ask his nurse and call you back.” Alrighty then.

I felt this meant good news for the nurse to be contacted about my problem. The nurse typically is the one who can make things happen because she reviews your history. Appointment spots used to be reserved for patients like me with problems. Piece of cake.

“Mrs. O’Connor? Hi there. Yeah so he can see you December 20th. Sorry but he’s fully booked until then.”

“Really?” Silence. “So, no way to get in when I’m a current patient with a history of back problems? I’m sure he’s busy, I mean, he’s a great chiropractor…” Compliments sometimes work when pleading does not.

“No. He said if you are in worse pain to go to the ER.”

You know how the old cartoons would use the sound of a record scratching to get across that, “What in the WORLD?” sound. That was going on in my head. Chiropractors are the antithesis of “just go to the ER”. ER’s mean muscle relaxers and maybe physical therapy for weeks when a ten minute adjustment and a few follow up appointments would do the trick so quickly. I was back down on the floor staring at ceiling tiles and pondering options.

On Wednesday morning I saw my new chiropractor.

We were chatting about my history of falling off horses years ago and a twisted pelvis and that cancer thing with multiple surgeries and my current problem with standing straight.

“Where are your scars?”

How odd. No one ever asks about those abdominal cancer surgery scars. They couldn’t have any impact now on my body, right? They had done their job of healing me up. The chiropractor went on to spend a lot of time testing my muscles and pressing on sensitive points in my back that I had no idea existed.

“I want you to breathe and push against my hand so I can test the strength of your diaphragm muscles. You’re singing this weekend with your daughter, right?” Then the chiropractor pushed into some of those scars around my abdomen and had me breathe deeper.

It hurts to breathe deep when those scars are pressed. Scars protect those old wounds.

“Your left shoulder is compensating along with your right lower back, and you really need to work on your core strength. That’s an underlying cause of the lower back problems.”

“Ok. I’ll work on the breathing control for the muscles in my abdomen.” It was so basic and I had known the importance of core strength but you forget until you’re flat on the floor.

Sometimes you can’t breathe easily with scar tissue protecting your best efforts to move forward.

That unseen scar tissue felt reignited with discomfort as it was loosened to give me more strength and range of motion.

It hurts to work on loosening scars from old wounds that sapped your strength. Maybe it would be easier to leave them alone.

I walked away from the appointment sore but also better able to stand upright and move forward.

Are you dealing with physical or emotional scars from some battle?

You’ve gotta go right to your core. Jesus is the core for me spiritually. When I ask him to be the center of my life and focus on allowing him to work through me (even in the areas that hurt) things all work better.

Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” The “him” is Jesus. God’s Son. ALL things in this universe are held together by him! If you want to walk upright and straight you need to ask Him to forgive your sins and walk with you. He knows about scars, too. He died on a wooden cross to pay for my sins and yours and he still has the scars from all he went through to rescue us from sin.

This is the time of year we all are consumed with gifts and how to afford them. The gift Jesus offers freely to you, right now, no matter how deep your scars? Himself. He is the only “Cure” that matters.

Read more about the supremacy of God’s Son, Jesus, here:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:15-23, NIV