Watching Waves. Listening for Songs.

Cancer, Encouragement
ocean, fishing, sand, beach, florida, after cancer, encouragement, fishing line, fishing pole, stress, joy, peace, waves

“Life is like the ocean; calm or still. Rough or rigid. In the end, it is always beautiful.” – Unknown

My toes were buried in beach sand Tuesday morning. The Atlantic put on a show and the sun threw rays all over the place despite storm warnings. Tom nodded at a man near a large multi-colored beach umbrella to our right; he and his wife were going for a walk and that nod promised we would watch their belongings.

“It’s like a gift, isn’t it?” I said. “It was supposed to rain and God gave us a beautiful morning to enjoy all of … this.” Tom’s eyes were closed and he murmured in agreement. He’s good that way. Lets me wander verbally and just listens when I get a little sappy. After I finally get to my point he’ll look over and say, “What?”

Another man worked a fishing line. I wondered what kind of fish he would catch. I didn’t really care. I was just glad to be present. Sitting on the edge of the ocean for the third March in a row and thankful to God and the kindness of friends to be able to say so.

A week away from my annual CT scan and reluctant to think so.

A couple wandered by and called out, “New York??”

I’m not sure what gave us away… my white skin slathered in sunscreen, the camera in my hands in between trips to swim in the waves, or Tom’s Mets t-shirt?

“Yes, right, we’re from New York!” I waved towards the water. “It’s great, isn’t it?!”

It was great. Life is great. Normal. Dear God? Thanks for letting anything feel normal. Like seeing a fishing pole set in sand on the ocean shore. Full of potential. Content and quiet in the waiting while waves change color and crash and pull away. There was something healing about just watching that water. Peaceful. Hopeful. Joy-full.

What’s in your forecast? Turmoil? Roaring waves? Listen close and watch the horizon. Don’t miss the songs while you wait out the storm.

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” Psalm 65:5-8

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.

 

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

 

Bruises

Cancer, Cancer Resources, General Thoughts

I whined and made a face; Tom looked at me from his perch in the corner and raised an eyebrow.

“Do you have to?” I really sounded childish. I had lost all pride and did not care.

The nurse had returned to prick my finger and check my blood sugar. I was in the surgical short stay unit to have my kidney stent replaced, and a finger prick was what I was complaining about. It hurts! And I don’t have sugar issues. I have post-cancer issues.

“Well, I tried to see if we could not do this Mrs. O’Connor, but they are saying I must prick your finger.” She smiled sympathetically and commenced swabbing my finger with alcohol. When I looked at Tom and laughed at something he said she did a swift, painful jab. The strip soaked up a bead of my blood and the nurse watched the machine.

“Your number is an 80. Perfect!” Yes, like I said…

Tom was taunting me with a little grin and mocking my angst. It is how we do this thing together; he laughs at my whining. I interpret the laugh as a solid care and concern and a fierce watching over me in a situation that can run beyond our control in a heartbeat. Our routine gives me just enough mental room to make my fears about the day’s procedures known without being consumed by them.

Another nurse came in and I recognized her from a year ago. She was the first nurse who actually injected Novocaine and then inserted the IV. Imagine, making a painful procedure easier on patients! She was my hero. She efficiently tied a tourniquet on my arm and my trusty vein popped out to say hello.

“Here we go. Breathe in.”

Sunshine illuminated gaps in the window blinds. Somewhere beyond the window a person without a care in the world was ordering a cup of coffee. I’d like a kidney stent with that espresso, please.

“Here’s the Novacaine.” No pain; oh God thank you.

“Good. Now here’s the needle.” Oh please, oh please…

“Done.”

The needle resided snugly in the back of my right hand and was covered by tape. No trauma. Nurse G. was, again, my hero. Her visit was followed by the anesthesiologist and I asked for my usual. That would be the little round patch behind my ear to make sure I don’t have nausea from the medicine. Then the doctor came in.

“We’re going to give you a little something to relax you before you head into the O.R.,” he said as he marked my side with his initials, “And then we’ll see if we’re able to leave the stent out today, or not.”

The room began to swim and then I was waking up in another short stay room.  Tom sat in the corner saying words and they sounded like a biopsy had been taken; the doctor had seen something unexpected. A stent replacement had been done successfully to keep my left kidney working properly. I dozed off. Was in a wheelchair. Stepping out of the wheelchair into the car. Climbing steps at home into bed to sleep off the anesthesia. Me and my stent and my scar tissue or whatever had shown up on the screen in my bladder.

Three days later we sat in the doctor’s office for results. I was watching sunshine through window slats again. A 50/50 silence covered the room. Fifty percent chance of benign scar tissue conditions. Fifty percent chance of malignant cancer seeping into another part of my body like a bad leak. Had radiation caused this? They call it the gift that keeps on giving. God, I’ve done all I know to do; this is up to You. Scar tissue would be a welcome diagnosis. Why was I stuck on these thoughts. He was faithful. Always. Even if it was not what I hoped. Please. Please? Please. Tom shifted his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. A knock on the door. We both said, “Come in,” like we were expecting dinner guests. Yes, please come in and tell us the news.

“No cancer; the biopsy was benign.” The culprit was the stent, and it was causing some scar tissue in my bladder. The price of having a wounded working kidney. Breathe.

“I had trouble getting the scope inside the ureter on the left side; as you know, we’re dealing with scar tissue from your past surgeries as well as the radiation. In addition to the scar tissue biopsy, I thought I saw something new pushing into the ureter higher up towards your kidney.” Air left the room. “But I was finally able to look and am confident we’re simply dealing with the same condition as before. Your ureters have been pulled in, or pushed in, from the scarring after the multiple surgeries and treatment. They’re innocent victims in the cancer battle and we’ll need to keep using the stents on the left side for now. I’ll see you in six months to change it again.”

We left the doctor’s office with many reasons to be crazily happy.

So why did I feel like I had woken up in Elijah’s cave?

Elijah ran for his life. This was right after God gave him multiple wins over wicked enemies trying to kill him. After one little nasty verbal threat from evil Queen Jezebel, Elijah’s courage fled and took him too. I always read that story and wondered what his problem was. If God was for him, how could he curl up and want to die? What was there to be afraid of? He’d WON. What a whiner. Turns out he and I have some things in common.

After our good news I struggled for a few days. I looked past the good (no, GREAT) outcome and focused on the What If’s hiding in the shadows of the conversation. What if I have problems not from cancer, but from stents? Will my bladder hold up if I have to keep getting stents replaced? What if some day I have to sit and hear that cancer has returned?

Wake up. Drink. Rest. I heard the echo of heavenly encouragement in the quiet flames of a fire Tom built for me in our fireplace; in the music played in the church sanctuary Sunday morning to worship the Giver of Life; in the cheerful lights of the Christmas tree our daughters and son-in-law helped decorate; in kind congratulations on our good news from friends.

Bruises. That’s all. They’re real; but they fade. Life has to be lived. Don’t stay in the cave.

Here is one of the songs from our worship set Sunday that I struggled to sing. Got a little emotional. The words are real, and so is the One they are about. Click here to listen to “Made Me Glad”.

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song. – Psalm 95:1&2

No Evidence

Cancer, Cancer Resources, Fundraising, General Thoughts

blood pressure cuff on cancer patientI was scheduled to visit one of my doctors on a sunny fall afternoon a week or two ago. I had not seen this particular specialist in three years; he was one of the first to confirm that something very bad was going on in my body. I had completed my usual “let’s contemplate what the worst thing is that can happen during this office visit” mental exercise while driving to the office, and settled on — nothing. It should just be a conversation to schedule a not-great-but-not-the-worst-procedure-I’ve-ever-had.

The nurse came in, apologized for the long wait, looked at my chart, and said, “You poor woman. You’re much too young to have gone through all of this.” Thank you, thank you for confirming what I’ve been suspecting for a few years now. I smiled and she put the blood pressure cuff on my arm. She pumped the ball thing at the end of the tube and I realized my heart was pounding.

“Top number is a little high today,” she commented.

“Yes. Usually my blood pressure is pretty good. I guess I’m a little anxious; this is one of the appointments that sort of started the circus three years ago.” She smiled and made her notations in my chart, and then left the room.

The doctor came in and we began to chat. He exuded a friendly, business-like confidence.

“I have to tell you, you look great.” The wheels on his chair squeaked slightly as he turned to the desk.

“Thank you. I believe it is the food and the juicing. I mean, I know there is no guarantee for the future.” I wonder if I’m tossing words into a vacuum. No human has any guarantee for the future physically. He was listening though. I wonder sometimes why more of my doctors aren’t really curious why I’m doing so well. It is by the grace of God, clearly; after all, it is the food He created and gave us that is helping me – but it should not be a secret kept from cancer patients. I lament the chasm between the business of medicine and the art of nutrition and the willpower of people, self included, to be disciplined to do what is best for the body. But let’s give a little credit where credit is also due for the regular treatment I chose to accept. “The more targeted treatment obviously seems to have worked, and I believe the juicing and food are what may keep this under control going forward.”

He smiled. “Ah yes, juicing is healthy, but you really need to watch the sugar with that.” Wait. I meant vegetable juice with a few green apples. “Unfortunately,” he continued, “There is simply no evidence to prove this works to fight cancer.”

I raised my eyebrows with a grin and pointed to my belly. “Right…  there is no evidence.”

He folded his arms, looked at me for a moment and then gave me a big smile. We moved on in our cordial conversation and I left with an appointment for the upcoming procedure.

“Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” – Psalm 71:19-20

Other Thoughts from News and You’s:

  • News about local students donating scarves for cancer patients to the American Cancer Society – well done: http://www.wbng.com/home/Students-donate-scarves-to-local-cancer-patients-230222771.html?m=y&smobile=y
  • Healthcare and its astronomical costs and safety net is a real “thing”, especially for cancer patients. Our family deductible with regular health insurance was extremely high last year. One PET scan in the new year and a stent replacement and voila, deductible met. Don’t misunderstand, God is in control, and I’m grateful for a safety net, but individuals and families with solid jobs are facing real, hard decisions about how to afford medical care and fulfill their financial responsibilities. Interesting to see what is happening (or not) with healthcare. You may view this as something being forced upon our nation. You may see it as something legitimately helpful being made available to everyone by the government. Either way, the implications are very real: http://nation.foxnews.com/2013/10/31/breaking-docs-show-only-6-people-signed-obamacare-day-1
  • Sad news about Fleetwood Mac cancelling their tour due to co-founder’s cancer and treatment – best wishes for recovery: http://www.nbcnews.com/entertainment/fleetwood-mac-tour-canceled-due-singers-cancer-8C11477698
  • Speaking of “evidence”, there is a more serious evidence that we tend to agree or disagree on as humans. The proof for a Creator God who is keenly interested and invested in our eternal future. I pulled out a trusty 4Him CD last week and have been listening to their great music and lyrics on the way to work. Here is a song about the evidence and truth of the God who created you and loves you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRIwa3iHvL8
  • Do you vote? This week we will be given the chance to voice our opinion about casinos expanding in New York in the voting booth. I was listening to talk radio and the proponents for gambling expansion sounded very enthusiastic about the wonderful ways gambling can help our state and solve a number of financial problems. As a tax payer and voter, I do wonder, why do they feel gambling with all of its glamor and proven potential for personal and societal moral destruction should be pushed through so quickly and so extensively? Another proven revenue source – gas drilling – that also needs to be monitored (and is monitored heavily in the states it is helping), has been delayed from helping our workers, our homes, and our business revenues by five years and counting. Why such a different standard for implementation? Here’s an article from an independent candidate for mayor of Syracuse, NY, about gambling expansion. Please go exercise your constitutional rights and vote: http://www.syracuse.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/10/casino_gambling_in_ny_will_create_more_problems_and_solve_nothing_commentary.html
  • Lastly, please visit http://www.chloecards.net for unique cards designed for you to encourage cancer patients. Looking for particular wording for a greeting card and can’t find it? Email infoATchloecards.net and they (we) will create a card just for you!