encouragement

stress and cancer

Cancer Smarts: Twelve Things about Carrying Stress (and how to not let it break you down)

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

The truth in this statement is a little painful to acknowledge. I’ve been good at some things in life. Carrying heavy loads has not been one of them. The context for every person is different but the problems from stress are very real! Since I can’t quite tell you how to keep from getting cancer allow me to share some things I’ve learned about dealing with the stress-load of life as a cancer survivor.

1. You can’t do it all.

2. Let people help.

3. Do work that you love.

4. If you don’t love your work and a change is not feasible, do things you love outside of work to recharge and refresh and protect your sanity and joy.

5. It’s OK to be angry. It’s not OK to not deal with anger properly.

6. Know your personality. Are you energized by being with people, or away from people? I unashamedly make it a point to do things that nourish my body, mind, soul and spirit. Therefore I purposefully avoid things, people and places that sap my body, mind, soul and spirit. I recharge in quietness. You can actually take a free personality test right here to gain insight into your personality: https://jacobadamo.com/personality-colors-quiz/

7. Take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise gently in a way the helps your body and doesn’t hurt physically. Sleep plenty. Get fresh air. Soak in natural sunshine for 15-20 minutes without sunscreen. Walk barefoot. Be grateful.

8. Take care of your soul. When I don’t spend time with God through scripture reading and prayer I notice a difference in my outlook and the way I handle stress throughout the day. When I stop and start the day with time talking to the God who created me and knows every detail of my past, present, and future, I’m grounded. Settled. De-stressed. Focused. Loved.

9. Simplify your life.

10. Get things right with God.

11. Get things right with the people you love.

12. Show kindness and respect to the people you don’t love.

12a. Cheery fresh flowers make burdens lighter.

It’s all connected.

Cutting out a tumor can remove the cancer. What about the environment in the body that allowed the cancer to grow? Perhaps we need to find ways to nourish and heal the body beyond the standard cutting, poisoning and burning approaches of cancer treatment. I speak respectfully from personal experience. I went through treatment twice. The first time we were flat out running through a gauntlet of fear. The second time I was angry and I tried to use that anger to arm myself with knowledge. I felt less stress about the situation; I felt like I had some control in the chaos after I prayed with my husband. We did our best to make decisions armed with faith and good information. We were confident that, no matter the outcome, God was (and is) in control.

I am not telling you to not go to your oncologist (I did). I’m telling you that you’ll need to accept responsibility to really understand the impact of treatment upon your body. What are the pro’s and con’s? Are there ways to protect the body during chemo and radiation while helping standard medical treatment approaches to work better? What are you, the person who will go through this treatment, comfortable with, in conjunction with your doctor?

Once you pray and consider all options, you go forward one day at a time.

“Stress has a profound impact on how your body’s systems function,” says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science, and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson. Health experts are still sorting out whether stress actually causes cancer. Yet there’s little doubt that it promotes the growth and spread of some forms of the disease. Put simply, “stress makes your body more hospitable to cancer,” Cohen says.” The article goes on to share information about two kinds of stress – short term stress, and chronic stress, which is long-term and more damaging. Read the article here: https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/december-2014/how-stress-affects-cancer-risk.html.html

I believe there was not just one single thing that allowed cancer to thrive in my body. There were many little and big things combined that tipped the balance towards disease over a long period of time. It has taken time to tip the balance back to current wellness (by the grace of God). Stress is real and so are strategies to help cancer patients and cancer survivors manage the business of living well during our remaining time on earth.

Verses that help me cope with stress:

2 Timothy 1:7 NIV, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Psalm 20:1 NIV, “[ Psalm 20 ] [ For the director of music. A psalm of David. ] May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.”

Proverbs 18:10 NIV, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Psalm 90:14 NIV, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

How do you find help to deal with stress as a cancer patient or cancer survivor, or supporter?

PS: Something I love to do is take photos of nature. Here’s a fun picture from the countryside near where I grew up. Enjoy!

Racoon

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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 ]

Weighty Decision

Do you ever get weary of decisions?

Do you ever follow God through some wild battle and then almost give up the loving victory He has provided, or promised, in a short tangle of exhausting weariness?

Do you ever wonder, like I do, why we have to choose, some days, to embrace life on this earth and truly live? I mean, isn’t the fact that we’re “here” evidence that we’ve conquered the need to prove anything about forging ahead with life? Can’t we just exist in a calming place of easy duress-free comfort?

What if Heaven is not a place of lulling peace but joyful discovery and forging ahead using the trust and expectant victory we have learned to wield during our time on earth, through salvation in Jesus, to accomplish God’s plans for our eternity?

What if living on earth is preparing us to fully embrace and thrive on Heaven’s incredible shores?

Shouldn’t there be an Easy Button for simply being here?

What if we fail the day’s test and come close to falling apart under some dull persistent pressure?

Tom and I were watching an old Christmas movie and Robert Mitchum’s character said to the female lead, “What are you trying to do, crawl into a cave, and hide from everything that may stir you up?” Yes. Sometimes, I just may be trying to do that very thing. Show me the nearest cave, please!

I’ve been thinking a lot this week on something Jesus said about burdens and rest and learning.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Maybe we’re to walk among the weights of this world but let Jesus do the lifting of them. Connected to him constantly. Not removed. Not scrambling to fix and figure it all out (guilty). Choosing to rely on his strength and wisdom. Not flinching from the next burden because he stands ready to help us carry and move and set it safely down.

Maybe our burden is to lift the powerful Gospel Light. High. To push back the weight of darkness and despair creeping all around.

More friends this week are making decisions about their or their loved one’s cancer journey. The world’s in chaos more conspicuously than usual. The weight of earth’s difficulties seems almost unbearable if I strain against it on my own.

And the potential to help people in greater need, because of the ungodly troubles? Incredible.

What if these troubles, that Jesus told us would come, are simply a greater chance to draw closer to him under the yoke and work together to bear these earth-bound burdens and invite more people to join us on the journey towards our eternal Home?

What if he is waiting with urgent patience for all of us who love him to make a decision?

Did you see The Help? Skeeter’s mother had been fighting cancer of the stomach and the cancer of the culture throughout the movie. Ultimately Skeeter is freed to leave and chase her dream by the words uttered in her mother’s long southern drawl.

“Skeeter? I, have made the decision, to live.”

So what’s the solution on days we want to crawl into a safe cave and escape the bone-weary worries? In the moments when we’ve been stirred up enough for a lifetime and feel crushed by the weight?

Every day we are given breath we must make a decision. To step into the burden-bearing Light-lifting yoke with Jesus. And decide to live.

Romans, Romans 5, hope, endurance, perseverance, encouragement, attitude, Christ Jesus, God and Father,

 

 

 

 

Hanging in.

deer, deer in woods, three deer, doe and fawns, deer photos

A few days ago I walked in our woods looking for my deer friends. They don’t think of me as their friend so it’s clearly a one-sided struggle to find them. Leaves crunched loudly under my bare feet. A squirrel hurled acorn bombs and screeched from the branches above. I didn’t see the deer (the picture above is from another morning when for some reason they humored my attempts to capture their photo) but the walk was perfect.

A leaf twirled in front of me suspended by a cobweb. On its way to the ground it had been caught by one single string and twirled there between heaven and earth.

How long is God’s arm? Can he catch a leaf as it plummets towards earth? Can he save me, and you, from the awful challenges we sometimes face? Of course he can. But what if he doesn’t spare us from pain on this earth?

My mom gave me a book by Elisabeth Elliott titled, “Keep a Quiet Heart” (Revell, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995). Today’s reading was titled “How Long is God’s Arm?” She writes on page 55, “How do we reconcile God’s promises for protection with the fact that so many evil things happen in our lives? Can we believe God for protection?”

Can we believe Him when we’re holding on by a string?

Here is more from Elliott’s writing: “We must be careful to interpret Scripture with Scripture, and if we examine the record we find that God did not by any means always protect His people from harm. He has absolute power to keep us safe, both physically and spiritually, but His engineering of the universe made room for man’s freedom to choose – that is, freedom to will to obey or to disobey Him. This is a deep mystery. Man’s disobedience brought evil into the world, and all of us are subject to it. God does not cancel out its effects, even for His choicest servants (John the Baptist, Stephen, those nameless victims of Hebrews 11:35-57, for example). Nevertheless, we have the promises. Romans 8:35-39 is one of my most reread passages. I believe we can rest assured that we are invulnerable so long as God does not give permission for us to be hurt. If He gives that permission, He will not leave us alone. He goes with us through the valley, the deep water, the furnace. He will never, absolutely never, leave us or forsake us.”

The leaf was in a desperate and lonely spot for certain. But there was beauty in its predicament. A story to tell. There is beauty in your challenges, and mine, too. Jesus’ great love and strong arms keep us safely and securely in place.

Hang in there, friend. God is going to do something beautiful.

hanging in there by a string? sing Ephesians 5:19a-20 sing and make music, encouragement for cancer patients,

 

 

The Moment that Changes Everything.

“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