Weighty Decision

Cancer, Encouragement, General Thoughts

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,

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Scanxiety Rule #2

Cancer, Chemo, Encouragement, Healing after Treatment, Juicing, Radiation, Spiritual Care

Philippians 4:6-7 be anxious for nothing cancer scan pet scan scanxiety

“Wow. There’s a word for it. It’s called ‘Scanxiety’.”

“What?” Tom asked. I was staring at the computer screen. Tom was watching the Waltons and scrolling through Facebook. That’s how we roll on cold winter evenings with a warm fire flickering close by.

“Scanxiety. It’s an actual “thing” to describe how cancer patients may feel about going back for scans after treatment is over, even years later,” I said.

I was feeling a little wounded at the thought of scheduling my annual PET scan. The thoughts went something like this:

1. It’s not about learning whether or not they see any cancer, as much as it is about all that has happened before – a little emotional PTSD after the physical cancer-war armistice.

2. The doctors don’t “get”, or have time to get, my personal journey and all I’ve been through (and all ANY cancer patient and their families have been through, some far more than me). And I suppose it’s not their job to get it. The surgeries, colostomy, ileostomy, take-down, chemo, radiation, and physical after-shocks from medical treatment that still linger in a more muted way; determination to juice when cancer returned and refusal to do exactly what doctors told me until I had peace about my decision on how to proceed; God’s kindness in allowing the second round of treatment + juicing and supplements to show no cancer; fatigue and occasional mental block that I suspect are lingering gifts from medical treatment; a body that has done remarkably well in recovering but that groans and creaks in ways beyond “just being over 40”. And, finally, the mental and emotional exhaustion at the thought of maybe, possibly, having to cope with it all again if the scan shows something I don’t want to know is lurking in my cells.

3. The awareness that all of #2 is a small price to pay for the luxury of living and being in the lives of my family.

4. The realization that #3 is true, followed by an irritation that wonders if the physical and emotional price we deem acceptable is still way too high for cancer survivors to pay from successful – or unsuccessful – standard medical “treatment”. Isn’t there something about “do no harm” in some oath somewhere? Chemo and radiation do great harm on the march to obliterate rebel cells.

5. And finally, the plain selfish truth is that I’ve started… slowly… feeling like I’m not defined by the cancer. Calling to schedule a scan pulls me right back emotionally, mentally, and maybe physically, into still being a cancer patient. Which, I suppose, I still am. Drats.

“So what does ‘scanxiety’ mean?” Tom asked.

“It’s a noun that scanxietymeans the tension which builds, particularly among those who have or have had cancer, as they move towards their regular check up scan – hyper-scanxiety being the period as they await results.” I gave up reading and went into the world of the Waltons for the rest of the evening. And maybe a little Lawrence Welk.

A day or two later I finally called The City and asked if they could schedule my scan Locally. Tom’s advice, after listening to me spout off about my scanxiety, was, let’s schedule it where I feel comfortable. I should be able to get the scan locally and have results sent to the city; if there is a problem, we’d go from there. One piece of the scanxiety puzzle potentially solved – staying close to home. A bit of control in the uncontrollable.

“What is your name please?” the attendant responded when I called The City. I cautiously stated my desire to have the scan close to home. She went on to say, in a nice voice that sounded slightly like she had said this many times before, “You can ask to have the scan done locally; but the doctor here will determine if they will allow that request. If so, they will send the order to the place you want to have the scan. What is the name of that facility?”

I gave her the name of the facility. Three days later we’re still waiting for a response to my request. Clearly, they don’t follow Scanxiety Rule #1: Let’s not not call a cancer survivor back for three days… five by the time we get past the weekend… in response to a stressful scheduling phone call request.

Scanxiety Rule #2:Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

How about you? Do you deal with scanxiety when you have a scan coming up? What helps you most?

PS: This summer I moved the “Sustain Me: Notes on Cancer” blog over to this new site: http://www.cancersmarts.net. So if you’re seeing “Cancer Smarts”, that’s still “me”. Thanks for reading!

Happiness Held. Happiness Shared.

Encouragement

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

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 (NIV)

Sometime you may be asked to drive to the capital of a foreign city. If you are lucky, you will be invited to stay in a lovely chateau in that city so you can walk along streets lined with tulips for the annual festival. You will want to drink strong coffee in a mahogany-paneled restaurant filled with quiet French conversation on a sunny weekend morning. Two mornings if your schedule allows. After an invigorating swim in the chateau pool at the start of day.

“Do you want to go to the tulip festival in Ottawa?” my neighbor had asked a few weeks earlier. Ottawa was the city where she married her husband decades before I was born.

The question came as she wryly observed my clumsy weeding around asparagus and red currant bushes between her house and mine. Almost ninety, her clippers touched deftly on one plant and moved methodically on to the next. Pruning to promote healthy growth. I stealth-watched her movements. I needed to try and figure out, for the fourth year in a row, how she knew exactly what to clip and what to leave alone. Sixty-some years earlier she and her now-deceased husband had planted the beloved and still-bountiful bushes.

I was the novice who, with my husband and family, had purchased the fruit bushes and beds of flowers. A house was thrown in, too. The property became a home that nurtured us through the challenges of my cancer. Along the way we’ve appreciated the beauty and cycles of tulips and daffodils and irises and rhododendrons and Japanese lilies and elderberries and lemon balm and wildflowers and foxglove and peonies and rosebushes and garlic chives and blueberries and blackberries and garlic and rhubarb and regular chives and hundreds of other wild things, the names of which I’m still learning. The fact I can list off more than two of these – and identify them regularly around the yard – is miraculous.

“Sure! I like an adventure.” God? Thank you. For new adventures and strength to enjoy them.

I continued to watch her deliberate movements amongst the plants. She and her husband had shown us many kindnesses. On Sunday afternoons we had been treated to conversation, tea and her famous apple cake. The first time I had cancer we went for some of those visits with my fanny pack of chemo and chest port in tow. The second time cancer came, she knew I was considering other options to heal my body. She handed me a book about the Gerson therapy and the Gerson Institute Clinic in Mexico. “If you were my daughter, this is where I would tell you to go!” I trusted her wisdom. I followed a similar protocol for raw foods that I could do at home. But the book on Gerson guided my decision about whether to accept a more targeted radiation treatment for the mass that was threatening my life. And how to navigate to health afterwards.

Just then I spied some of the first asparagus spears of spring. I was happy. Like a room-without-a-roof happy. Who would have thunk it. A year ago I had juiced and ate as much of our asparagus as possible before the four-month MRI. It was the first milestone after the second round of radiation and chemo treatment ended and I had returned to juicing and raw foods. That was the “Your mass has shrunk 90% – remarkable” MRI. Seeing the spiky green asparagus stalks was comforting. They knew what to do from year to year. My stewardship had not disrupted their well-being. Yet. Their “being” had helped restore my health from cancer and treatment.

organic asparagus currants red currant berries red currant bushesWe chatted some more about our upcoming trip over the asparagus and currant bushes. That set in motion three weeks of gymnastics with the helpful local DMV. I needed an enhanced driver’s license. Did you know that if you take your birth certificate, and it is the lovely inscribed version from the hospital that you’ve dutifully preserved for over forty years, it’s no good? The government requires a special, plain birth certificate. I paid extra to have the certificate sent quickly. It worked. The border guard waved us through with a bemused smile after we gave the tulip festival as our destination.

If you’re asked to go see flowers in a foreign capital?

1. Thank God.

2. Say yes.

3. Enjoy pools.

4. Find flowers.

5. Drink coffee.

6. Cherish friends.

7. Be. Happy.

tulip festival canada happiness quotes about happiness