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

 

 

 

Roar. Roll. Hush.

General Thoughts

“It’s hard to capture all that beauty, isn’t it?”

The lady striding behind me on the long stretch of sand saw me crouching down and angling my phone to get 500 pictures of endless waves in my first five minutes on the beach. You can easily spot the New Yorker’s starving for warmth and let loose near sun and waves on a beach in March. I laughed and agreed with her comment.

The lady smiled and kept moving on her walk. It truly was impossible to capture the beauty. Joyfully so. Really, how many images of waves do you need to get “the picture”.

You can’t easily capture their wild, roaring beauty. I put the camera in my pocket and decided to just walk and watch. One wave swelled up as another one disappeared in a violent crash against the sand. Others softly crept up to my toes and rushed away.

So what is it about waves?

Roaring waves psalms ocean

Those same waves that roar? They have boundaries. God said so. Waves were rolling at me like they wanted to gobble me up. But they were listening to the Creator, and the conversation I overheard went something like this.

“Roar. Now roll.”

And those waves did what they ware told. No harm to me; there was a boundary to the roaring, treacherous, beauty-filled waves.

roll

And then He said, “Hush.”

Can you hear the whisper where you are? He’s in control of the waves. He lets them roar. He talks with them, commands them, and tells them to hush.

hushed

Troubled wave watcher? Listen to the conversation going on between God and your troubles. Those treacherous waves He allows to roar in your life? You may be tossed for a time, but can you hear Him? The Lord of creation speaks in waves of love and invites you to be a part of His conversation.

Listen to the roar. Trust God to roll things away and not roll you over. Now hush.

***

Working through the waves of cancer? Head on over to the “What I Did that Helped” page. When you sign up to receive my blog posts/emails, I’ll send you a free summary of the ways I’ve been navigating through stage IV cancer.  Currently I’m anchored in the “All Clear” safe harbor.

Looking for faith-infused encouragement for cancer patients? Download my FREE e-book journal – learn more by Clicking Here.

Crushed? Run.

Cancer

sustain me notes on cancer faith infused encouragement for stage four cancer patients

I was working in the office yesterday sipping on carrot juice and waiting for The Phone Call. You know, the one every cancer patient ponders after scans. Pinned mentally between thinking you feel really good but knowing one sentence could change everything. Again.

I dialed the office number at 11:01 AM to ask if they had results per my doctor’s instructions. I was hoping, as I had bartered so with my younger daughter that morning, that since they had not called the day before, it meant there was nothing to be concerned about and everything to feel hopeful about.

“Let me get your message over to the team,” said the receptionist. “Someone will call you back shortly.”

PET scan for stage four colon cancer after treatmentTwo days earlier I had chatted with the doctor before going in for the PET scan. The scan was the one year mark from my second round of radiation (more targeted this time, just on the mass in my iliac artery) and chemo (no port in my chest this last time, just a daily pill) to lasso stage four colon cancer.

“If this test comes back clear, we won’t need to have you come back for another year,” the doctor had said. “The window of concern is from one to two years after treatment.”

I was one year out from treatment. Would the day’s test set me free for another twelve months or reel me in backwards? God, will you please keep me moving forward? I’ve been wounded enough, right, please? But what if going backwards physically is Your choice of “forward” for my life? How much of this is on me to juice and follow the wellness plan, and how much is about me claiming – no, crying out to You – Your promises, and how much is about Your complete control of my life and my submission to Your plan? And what about the hundreds of thousands of other people suffering and dying from cancer? What is this all about? Deep down I know the answer for me. Maybe it’s the answer for you, too. It is all about God’s loving plan for my life. However He chooses for that to play out in life or in death. Wounded thoughts. Crushed hopes? Grace-filled, personally invested, merciful God. No matter what.

The cell phone buzzed and pulled me back to the present. It was the doctor’s office.

“Mrs. O’Connor? Your scans were clear. Everything looks normal.”

And my day went back to … normal. Just like that. Work issues… personal concerns… family needs… but no cancer. Normal.

psalm3418 verses about crushed in spiritAre you crushed maybe between physical illness, or spiritual wounds, or brokenhearted over personal battles that you never signed up for? The Lord is close. Don’t run away. Turn around and run. As fast and hard as you can to Him. He is near you today. His Word, as the songwriter says, will not fail you. Not in life. Not in death.

Speaking about turning and running to the Lord, here is one of my favorite songs about turning to Jesus in times of trouble. Sometimes we have to choose to focus our eyes on Him to hold off the crush of life. The words encouraged my heart all this week, along with reading from Psalm 34. Hope the words and music from this song lift you up a little today too.

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Verse 1: O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!

Refrain: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.

Verse 2: Through death into life everlasting, He passed, and we follow Him there; O’er us sin no more hath dominion—, For more than conqu’rors we are!

Verse 3: His Word shall not fail you—He promised; Believe Him, and all will be well:, Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!

Written by Helen Lemmel, 1922. Arranged by Sharon O’Connor.

Before we go our separate ways, a question. Have you been rescued by God from troubles? Upheld by His love in great difficulty? Would love to have you share briefly here in the Comments a verse of scripture or a meaningful quote for others in need of  encouragement. Let’s help each other thrive through the “crush”.

Sharp Silence. Hidden Gifts.

General Thoughts

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It’s Saturday morning. So naturally, like you, I’m sipping on coffee and thinking about sorrow.

Wait. What?

Tom and I walked in the woods the other day. It was bitter cold. Snow crunched under our feet and the air burned our lungs. It was perfect. There was a sharp silence all around. We ventured off the path and cut up through the woods exploring new avenues between the old, black trees. Winter’s work had removed the overgrowth. New paths for travel were sparklingly clear. We had to work a little harder to move from the trusted trail. I learned if I put my feet exactly where Tom stepped ahead of me I did not slip as much. He did the hard work and I only needed to follow. I was so intent on keeping up with him I almost missed it.

“Look!” he said.

Tom stopped and pointed past my right shoulder. I turned to see a doe. She was watching us from a clearing just past the edge of the woods on high alert, poised to run. A flash of brown behind her jumped into the next batch of trees, a fawn taking flight. The doe took a tentative step away while keeping her head toward us. Then we saw another flash, this time of white. An albino fawn was there for a moment longer, and then all three deer were gone.

“Have you ever seen one of those before?” I asked Tom. I wanted the white deer with brown spots to come back.

“Not up close like that,” he said.

We stared for a minute more and then turned to make our way back onto the path and towards home. It was a lovely diversion. You don’t see the hidden gifts unless you step into the woods where they dwell.

Facing cancer today or another serious illness? Then you know all about diversions. And they’re not always lovely. There are no imprints on the hard path showing you where and how to land safely. The silence of anticipation turns into a raging storm of emotions and tests and surgeries and treatment. Then it gets silent again as you try to heal and recover and step into your new normal. Maybe you’re dealing with a return of cancer. Sorrow walks with you for a time. And time again.

pleasuresorrow

Don’t you think it should get easier? Doesn’t it take your breath away when it gets harder?

Rest for a minute before you push forward today. Lift up your weary head to look around the woods. Life is joyfully teeming under frozen soil. God is working, creating life, healing brokenness all around you. In you. He’s preparing you for something good. Some purpose only you can fulfill in His plan. Trust Him. Call out to Him. He’ll lead you safely through deep woods on your walk with sorrow.

Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord:Lord, save me!” Psalm 116:2-4

Have you cried out to God in distress during illness? How has He answered your prayer? Maybe share a comment here? You might leave an imprint for someone else in the woods to follow.