Chemo Card

My emotions were brimming over as we walked through the entrance to the happiest place on earth.  I was on the brink of one of those hysterical, out of control cries of rejoicing.  We were here.  We had set our sights on the magic kingdom as a point of celebration.  Disneyland with my family was where I wanted to go when chemotherapy was all over.

It had been a difficult summer and fall.  Eddie and I had tried to find many ways to laugh and just lighten the load.  He had accused me many times of “playing the chemo card,” to get my way.  It seemed to be working for me!  Part of my “playing the chemo card” was in getting what I call “chemo prizes.”  These were several significant gifts from Ed, beginning with an iphone at the start of my treatment.  In fact a friend of mine very wisely stated that I should receive six chemo prizes since I had to have six chemo treatments.

Disneyland was my fourth chemo prize.  I wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel for the first time, and have a memorable family vacation.  We all needed something to look forward to in order to make the ending of a very long season.  Life is hard and when there is reason to celebrate we should seize those moments.

Esther 8:16 says, “…it was a time of happiness, joy, gladness and honor.” Our trip was all that and more.  We had a great time together.  Everyone enjoyed the rides, shows, parade, fireworks and especially the snow.  It was life-giving to getaway, realizing all we had made it through.  God had been with each one of us in a very real and special way.

Psalm 40:1-3  “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

As I walked around the amusement park all week wearing my “I’m celebrating” button, it truly was a happy occasion.  Lots of laughter accompanied us.  This was a wonderful chemo prize!  And… if I play my (chemo) cards just right, I still have two more prizes to go.  Watch out, Eddie!

(This event took place Dec. 2009)

Chemo Blessings

I am done!  Chemotherapy is over.  I made it.  What began as a frightening, arduous time has ended as a blessing.  Chemo, a blessing?  Yes! I can honestly say it was.  Let me explain.

When I made the decision to have this treatment, the one possible bright spot was that I would get skinny.  That has been a constant quest of mine in the last ten years.  In my mind, chemo would make me so sick that I would whither away to nothing, coming out of it 20 pounds lighter.  This “blessing” eluded me.  I really think I am the only person in the history of chemotherapy who gained weight.  In fact, I am at a personal, all-time high in the weight department.

In a very well-delivered message on “How to Discover God Through Your Struggles,”  Dr. Ron Dunn stated that many times blessings come wrapped up like curses.  He goes on to say that this is something God has sent my way to do a work in me that He could not do otherwise.  Also, he throws in the phrase, “Surprise.  It’s God.”  I love that!  It perfectly describes how I feel about chemo.  This medical curse became a vehicle of blessing.

First and foremost, God has flooded me with grace to walk through each phase of the past few months.  It really hasn’t been horrible.  When I talk to other people about what they are going through, I think to myself, “Chemo is a breeze compared to that.”  It’s because god has poured out His grace on me for my situation.  He’s with me and I feel it.  It has literally been “by the grace of God.”  What a concept!

My family and friends have taken such incredible care of me.  This benefit was somewhat expected, but they went above and beyond any idea I had in mind.  I could count on one hand how many times I cooked dinner over a four month period.  People graciously brought food to our house time and time again.  Babysitting was easily taken care of and my children never missed any of their extracurricular activities.  There were many cards, phone calls, flowers and gifts sent my way to encourage me, too.

I can’t talk about the people blessings without pausing for a moment to highlight my husband, Ed.  As one of my doctors so perfectly expressed it, “Everyone should have an Eddie.”  There is no-one like him.  He handled everything, never letting me feel guilty about what I wasn’t able to do.  He is the epitome of patience.  He cooked, cleaned, and made sure we were all taken care of.  Many times he sacrificed his work schedule to be at appointments with me.  I know it must have added a lot of stress to his life, but he never (and I mean, never) complained.  Unbelievable!

My children were pretty amazing throughout everything, too.  Jessica, the oldest, had to be right in there with Dad to keep things running smoothly.  She babysat,  helped Cory with school and made sure Olivia had plenty of playtime.  Her level of responsibility was commendable!  Cory always had encouraging words and hugs for me.  His tender heart took many hits throughout this process, but he learned to rely on God and pray for mom.  Olivia’s smile and funny little comments about my hair and eyebrows  were treasures to this mom’s heart.

Doctor appointments held their own unexpected surprises.  I loved my chemo doctor.  It got to where we would begin and end each time with a hug.  What a wonderful, inspiring man God had watching over me.  I also met the most caring group of fellow cancer patients.  We would be together for hours during the infusion phase, having a chance to just talk and visit.  It took on the characteristics of a very much needed support group.

Psalm 84:5-6  “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the valley of Baca (weeping) they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools (or blessings).”

That verse makes me smile for many reasons.  Chemotherapy should have been a valley of weeping, but God surprised me with pools of blessings.  He made my desert walk a place of springs.  I am blessed because my strength is in Him.

While I would have loved the expected outcome of shedding a few pounds, this pudgy, cancer survivor is very much aware that I am blessed.  God has done a work in me that possibly could only have been accomplished through this means, and I am forever grateful.

(written one year ago.  today is my first anniversary of being cancer free)

Control Freak

(from a year ago… I wrote this as I was a little more than half way through chemo)

It’s the Monday before my fifth treatment on Wednesday.  My life has taken on this new, abnormal chemo-pattern.  This is the day I begin fighting anxiety and start having “nesting” instincts.  It’s a sort of panic to get everything in order – all my ducks in a row- before the next infusion.  I almost hyperventilate over EVERYTHING.  My poor family has to endure all the stress and flipping out that I do.  By Tuesday night I have worked myself into a frenzy, accomplishing nothing – well, except for bringing a spirit of discouragement to my husband and kids.

I have come to realize that the stress is my way of trying to regain control of my life.  It’s my futile attempt to show that I have a say in how things are going to go.  Our church is currently going through an eight step recovery type emphasis.  The first step, or choice is – realize I’m not God.  The actual confession reads, “I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing… my life is unmanageable.

That statement has so resonated with me.  Everything about my life is unmanageable right now.  I can’t control my health, my family, my schedule, my image, my house… not one thing.  As I realize this, it brings both a sense of freedom as well as fear.  Matthew 5 says, “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” I am admitting that I am powerless to do it on my own.  I am spiritually poor.  I need other people, and I need God.

Now I’m longing for the “happy” part of the promise.  Letting go means letting God.  That’s a tough order for a recovering control freak such as myself.