You Raise Me Up

(I’m backing up to the day I received all the pre-surgery pathology news and how that day unfolded as the lowest point of the 3 month ordeal.  This was the Monday following  car trouble).

I was headed over highway 17 for a doctor appointment at the Stanford Clinic in Los Gatos. I had allowed no extra time as this is generally an easy commute. As I came down the backside of the summit, the traffic stopped and was backed up due to roadwork. Siri offered the brilliant idea of taking Old Santa Cruz Highway to save 10 minutes. I foolishly listened to her, ending up lost and eventually back on 17 heading the WRONG direction. By the time I turned around and got headed in the RIGHT direction, I was SO much farther back in the line-up. I was going to be 30 minutes late!

I tell you all this, simply to have you feel my pain. Misery loves company!

I phoned ahead to the clinic and they were very gracious and willing to work me in. This doctor appointment was completely unrelated to my current medical crisis, but just happened to land in the middle of it all. This was my yearly check-in with my gynecological oncologist because I had had uterine cancer.

My gyn-onc is SUPER young and SUPER cute and looks exactly like Josh Groban…you know, the charming guy who sings, You Raise Me Up.  As Dr. Groban (haha) entered the room, he solemnly looked at me and said, “How are you?”

“Oh brother,” I thought, “he’s read the report.”

This is the report from the ultrasound that I was supposed to call about but didn’t due to car trouble.

LONG PAUSE

Then he said…

“So they’ve found some cancer and will need to take a large part of your colon out.”

Awkward silence.

I didn’t cry, although I could tell he was anticipating that because he did another…

LONG PAUSE.

He began going over the report with me and I just kept thinking, “This is not his specialty. He could be wrong.”

I tried to explain what my doctor had been talking with me about and he replied, “Well.   MAYBE that would work. I mean, they do a lot of crazy, sci-fi stuff up there.”

In other words…

Doubtful, sister!

The rest of the exam was uneventful— always a good thing when seeing a cancer specialist— and I called my gastro oncologist the minute I was in my car, leaving a message about wanting ultrasound results.

As I pulled into my garage an hour later, my phone rang and it was my doctor. She began explaining the test showed pre-cancer with definite hints of stage 1 cancer. She then stated that I had two options. The first one (and I quote)…

“We could remove most of your colon.”

I couldn’t breathe.

OR…

… remove the mass, rectally, and test it further— which was her recommendation.

Ummmm.   YEAH— the second one!

She ended the conversation with, “It’s not bad news… YET.”

I hung up the phone and cried A LOT and realized I wasn’t taking breaths. I was screaming in my mind,

“You HAVE to breathe!  Take a breath.”

This was the lowest point of this journey.

Eddie and I spent a lot of time talking that night. Sometimes you have to embrace the potential bad news— let it land and then give it right back to God. Ed allowed me to share my fears and grief and after awhile, took my hand and prayed over me.

This day happened before my sweet friend had given me the amazing word picture of walking with Jesus.  As I’ve gone back and thought about these hard moments, God has given me an add-on image of my relationship with him. Now, I’m not a poetic person who uses analogies on a regular basis, but this is seriously helping me walk through life with a different attitude.

So… here goes….

I picture the same scene of me as a little girl walking with Jesus, only now he has lifted me up on his shoulders. I think of Eddie and all those camping trips to Yosemite where he inevitably ended up with Olivia on his shoulders as we hiked. Sometimes the heat and dust were unbearable, but Ed never seemed to mind. Olivia would wrap her arms around his head and cup her hands under his chin. She would playfully enjoy the excursion and her view would be so different up there—complete trust in her dad to carry her along as she enjoyed looking at Half Dome, the Merced River and the valley.

THAT’S my new addition to the image of ME trusting Jesus. He is carrying me. As Josh Groban beautifully sings,

“I am strong, when I am on your shoulders.”

Jesus is my strength as I allow him to carry me through this.

Isaiah 12:2 “The Lord is my strength and my song.”

And… speaking of a song…

It’s only fitting that I end this post with Josh Groban’s, You Raise Me Up.  (My doctor looks SO MUCH like him.  Kinda freaky.  Haha.)

(I like this version because it reminds me of my dancer, Jessica.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filling Cups

I originally wanted to name this post, “Ugh!” I met with my Stanford surgeon yesterday to go over the pathology report and my first reaction was… “Ugh!”

There was cancer found in the tumor, which means I’ll be having a lot of follow-up appointments. Every 3 months I will have some type of procedure to make sure cancer has not returned. This will go on for 2 years, and then I can stretch out the appointments to every 6 months for another 3 years. Ugh!

And each appointment will include blood-work.

Double UGH!!

To me, it was a blow. Right back to square one. I’ve JUST in the last 2 years been able to stretch out follow-up appointments to once a year.

My doctor also stated if a mass comes back in the same spot, we will have a discussion about removing my colon.

No words.

And… to top it all off, it took me over 3 ½ hours to get home from Stanford.

So… there’s the cup-half-empty version.

It’s really bothering me that my first reaction was a negative viewpoint, because it is such good news! Though it was a large tumor, the cancer was small and contained. I have clear margins and my lymph nodes are fine. I dodged a bullet and have the opportunity to be closely monitored by some of the best doctors in the world.

Cup-half-FULL!

Last week a friend gave me a beautiful word picture to help me reframe the way I see things. She said when she prays for me, she envisions me walking with Jesus. Don’t panic. NOT dead as in heaven walking with Him, more of a comforting picture— like a dad with his daughter. She said, “Picture Eddie and Olivia from behind, walking away hand in hand.”

THAT has stuck with me.

I have this mental image of me holding Jesus’ hand as we walk toward a tree. We stop and play under the shade of it, with leaves crunching at our feet and falling all around us. I am small and He’s big, smiling down at me. I picture me standing on his feet, facing Him and holding both hands as He walks… literally stepping where He steps.

Such joy and laughter.

He is my closest friend.

He ENJOYS me, and I LOVE being with Him.

Every time I feel wrong attitudes or negative outlooks creeping into my thinking, I stop and re-create the mental image of me spending time with Jesus. It’s my way of choosing joy. Choosing a cup that is filling up, rather than emptying out.

It’s a special, intimate walk with a good friend.

As I walked toward the cancer center yesterday, out of nowhere, a leaf floated down and landed on my shoulder.

It was my cue to remember the falling leaves of the tree Jesus and I are walking toward, and the assurance He is holding my hand every step of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keepin’ It Real

Sometimes I am too sequential for my own good, so it’s hard to write this post because I haven’t finished talking about my surgery and what led up to it.

But… I need to just write from my heart today, in real time, with real current struggles.

I am SO uncomfortable in SO many ways right now.  I’m 10 days post-surgery and the discomfort is at an all time high.  It is discouraging, to say the least!

I have several buggy issues going on and I cannot seem to get relief. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say— my butt hurts! Sorry!

The physical discomfort is affecting everything else at this point. I’m behind in everything (no pun intended- haha) and participating in the fair this week has maxed out my schedule. I am unable to exercise, and I’m not home long enough to clean house. Jessica had a rough week, which means I’m feeling it emotionally. I received a random phone message from radiology wanting to schedule a CT scan and I have no idea if this is a mistake of if my doctor ordered ANOTHER one. I have tons of curriculum to review for our homeschool co-op starting next week. There’s just A LOT of discomfort over here in A LOT of different areas!

This morning I decided to go back to square one and religiously follow my doctor’s post-surgery directions. I have been somewhat haphazardly following them because I felt pretty good last week. I think it has caught up to me, and in order to get relief, I must go back to the basics.

I could insert a whole devotional on that topic alone!

I was driving home from the store, armed with the “basic relief pack of supplies” when Olivia called me. I could tell she wanted to say something, but was struggling to get it out. Finally, through tears, she began telling me how she was playing worship music and begin crying and talking to God.

Now Olivia isn’t a perfect child… I could tell you stories of some pretty big stuff we’ve had to deal with in her life… BUT… she is a super sensitive kid who genuinely loves God with all her heart.

She said to me, “It was amazing, mom. I kept saying I trust you, God, and could not stop praying and crying.”

The minute I walked in the back door she wanted to play the song she had been listening to. She could not stop hugging me and crying and saying how much she trusts God.

This brought me SO MUCH comfort!

I took it all in as a personal message to ME from God. He is with me… and my whole family. And even though it’s hard and uncomfortable, I want to keep saying— I trust you, Lord.

Just like Olivia.

So… I am heading out the door to help with the football snack bar this afternoon, followed by sitting through the JV and Varsity games.  I pray I am blessing to others and can bring a little bit of encouragement and comfort to their lives.

It will be a long afternoon, but… I choose to worship God and in spite of momentary discomfort, I will say, “I trust you, Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Car Trouble

Friday could not get here fast enough. It had been a long week! Besides doctor appointments, I had met with some friends the night before to try and diagnose my laptop and phone issues. After spending hours on it, the consensus was to make an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar, and the sooner the better!

Ugh! Such a bummer!

So, Friday morning just seemed like a perfect time to soak my troubles in a bubble bath. I rarely get to do that, but my stress level was high and the tub was calling my name. Ed had left for work and Cory was finally out the door for school after coming back twice for forgotten items. The girls were asleep so, to me, the timing was perfect.

I had JUST put some fancy conditioner on my hair when there was pounding on the bathroom door. “Mom. MOM. I crashed my truck!”

I was out and dressed in seconds—conditioner still in my hair— to find Cory on the phone with Ed.

He had gone off the road, into a ditch and hit a tree on our property.

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I was thankful he wasn’t hurt and no other vehicles were involved, although his truck was basically not drive-able. He had saved up his money to buy the little Ford Ranger and that truck had brought him so much joy.  But… no time to think about that now. He needed to get to school ASAP because his two hardest classes are first.

We hopped in the mini-van, conditioner still in my wet hair, and off we went. We live at the end of a mile long dirt road, and take country roads to get to Cory’s school. It’s a fairly quick drive with no cell reception. We were almost to the school when Cory noticed a car coming towards us that looked just like Jessica’s gray Tahoe.

“Is Jessica coming back from working out or something?” Cory asked.

“No, Cory. Her car is in the shop and she’s home sleeping.”

It really did look like her car and as we passed it, I looked in my rear view mirror and then said, “Hmmmm. That’s really strange. That Tahoe has the exact same sticker on the back window as Jess.” Cory and I had a moment of how-weird-is-that, but kept driving to school.

I dropped him off, and after writing a quick note explaining Cory was late due to “car trouble,” I was heading back home.  As soon as I got to the beginning of our mile long dirt road and had cell again, I noticed a text from Ed saying, “Call me ASAP.”

Ed answered his phone immediately (THAT alone is a miracle) and calmly blurted out, “Jessica’s car was stolen.” Ed was using his I’m-completely-being-serious-voice and I suddenly began to panic as I made the connection.

“Ed. I JUST passed her car and it was heading to our house. AND… our ‘clickers’ for the gate and garage are both in the car with our address on the registration.”

I FLEW down our road, wondering what I would find at home.

The girls were safe and no-one was around.  I called Eddie back to find out what he knew about the theft.

That morning our friend, Bob, who runs the shop, had arrived early to start filling out the work orders for each vehicle.  He had noticed a guy across the lane at GM dressed as a mechanic, whom he had never seen before.  Not thinking much about it, Bob placed keys in the cars needing service and hung the orders up in the shop.  An hour later, the Chevy mechanic went out to get Jessica’s car and drive it in.

He couldn’t find it.

The mechanic and Bob searched the whole lot and the Tahoe was nowhere. Reviewing the surveillance video showed the GM imposter mechanic simply getting in Jessica’s car and driving off the lot. He stopped for a moment at GM and picked up a hidden, white bag full of stuff and away he went.

We were floored.

Jessica’s car was stolen at the SAME TIME Cory had crashed.   And… Ed was literally trying to call me with news of it being stolen AS I was passing her car on the back, country roads with no cell.

I could not stop shaking and did not feel safe.  The rest of the day was a blur of dealing with insurance, calls to the police and renting a temporary car for Jess.

I had made a deal with myself to call my doctor on this day to find out results of the scan and ultrasound if she did not call me first.   There was NO WAY I was calling.  For whatever reason, bad things seem to happen in 3’s and I wasn’t risking the odds to possibly hear a bad report!

I would call on Monday!

Nine hours later the car was found.  The police recognized the sticker on the back window— you know, the one I SHOULD HAVE RECOGNIZED— and pulled the guy over ONE BLOCK away from the Chevy dealership where it was stolen!  The guy had been on quite a joy ride and the car was filled with cigarette ashes, beer cans, red bull cans, maps, registrations, umbrellas and trash.  He only had it for 9 hours, but it looked and smelled HORRIBLE.  Chevy kept the car for a few days and completely detailed it, however… they still charged us for the oil change— hah!

I noticed something very interesting as this day unfolded.  I seemed to be the ONLY one in my family who panicked.  While Cory had pounded on the bathroom door to get my attention after the crash, he was actually sweet and pleasant as we drove to school, as if everything was just fine.

Jessica was super calm as I broke the news to her about her car, although she scolded me for approaching her as if someone had died.

Both of them were completely confident in their dad’s ability to direct the situations.

Eddie handled ALL the necessary phone calls and paperwork and would tell the kids the next thing they needed to do.

Even when he pushed them a bit out of their comfort zones, like Jessica interacting with the rental car people, they would do it because Ed had gone before them making the arrangements.

Jessica and Cory know their dad loves them.

They know he wants the best for them.

They trust him implicitly!

I’m growing in my ability to trust my heavenly Father that same way.

I John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

We made it through this “stranger than fiction” day and you’ll be glad to know that both clickers were still in Jessica’s car when we got it back, and, in case you were wondering…

I did finally get the conditioner rinsed out of my hair!

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Food

My doctor had ordered an ultrasound as the next test following the CT scan, to collect more information. In medical terms, it is a sigmoidoscopy, which is a fancy way of saying rectal ultrasound.

Now you understand why I am choosing to simply say… ultrasound.

This particular test had to be done at Stanford and required a liquid fast the night before (as well as some other unpleasant prep instructions, of which I will spare you the details).

The afternoon before the ultrasound was super busy, and I missed my last opportunity to eat something, which was okay, sad— but okay. That evening I was attending the recital of our good friend Jack Wilkins. I JUST have to mention his name because one day he WILL be famous and remember, you heard about him here first! Hah!

But seriously… he’s an amazing vocalist!

Following his performance, there was a celebration including an all out taco bar. I couldn’t believe it.

I was so hungry.

I missed my last chance to eat.

And… MEXICAN FOOD!

Realizing it would be in my best interest to slip away, I went to find Jessica to let her know I was leaving. Of course, I found her in the food line with two other friends who in unison said, “Why aren’t you eating?” Talk about adding insult to injury! How could they not remember my plight?!

I waited a few seconds for it to click, and simply said (as I tried not to stare at their heaping plates of food), “I could make you feel really bad right now.”

Still nothing.

“Guys. I can’t eat tonight, remember?” They felt sorry for me- which always helps- and I made a quick, silent exit leaving everyone to enjoy their food without me hanging around pouting.

It was a long night of drinking super yucky stuff and no sleep. At one point Eddie took a sip of the yucky stuff and reported, “That’s not so bad.” I wanted to slap him. A sip is one thing, 32 ounces is quite another!

We left for Stanford the next morning, allowing 2 ½ hours to get there and park.  I was hoping the extra time would encourage Ed to drive the infamous highway 17 at a slower pace.

Didn’t happen. We arrived in record time!

Walking toward the hospital we passed a lady who looked familiar. I took a few more steps passed her, and then it hit me. Calling out her name, she stopped and we had a moment to catch up. She was undergoing quite a few tests and the doctors had no explanations to offer. My heart went out to her and I promised to pray.

After checking in, we were in the waiting room when my referring doctor from Santa Cruz came out to say hi. It was great to see him, and he was super reassuring.  This is the same doctor who, 5 years earlier, had broken the hospital rules and wheeled me out of recovery without permission— with a nurse hollering after him, “You can’t do that!” He had even swung by the staff lounge and loaded me up with all kinds of snacks before delivering me—wheelchair, snacks and all—to my get-away car.

The procedure was fairly uneventful and I was ready to go home. Ed, however, was nowhere to be found. The nurse finally reached him after several attempts, and hanging up the phone said to me in an asking-sort-of-way, “He’s visiting someone in the hospital?”

I had no idea who that could possibly be. He had not mentioned anyone.

Finally, he showed up and began telling the story of sitting outside eating a salad when he saw our good friend, Judy, walking by. Pastor Ray, her husband, was a patient and Ed had a chance to see him and hear what was happening in his life.

It would now be a waiting game for me until my doctor could analyze the two tests.

Earlier that morning I had received an email from my good friend, Rhonda, who is someone I totally admire.  She said a lot of amazing things, and ended it with this encouragement:

Jesus says, “I am the restorer of all things you feel like you’ve lost.”

I have faced some big losses in my life (my mom’s early death, infertility, cancer), but through all of them and even BECAUSE of them, God has restored my faith more than anything.

I Peter 1:1 says, “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.”

THAT is what has been restored to me.  A precious faith.

My emotions still swing all over the place, but bottom line…

I trust Him.

It’s a precious faith I have received.

And, speaking of things being restored…guess where we stopped to eat on our way home from Stanford that day.

Chevy’s.

As in… Fresh Mex.

Mexican Food!!

“The restorer of all things you feel like you’ve lost.” Hah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Our meeting was coming to an end and I felt very strongly that I should read the scripture passage of Psalm 139 to the ladies gathered around the table. These verses have always meant so much to me because they were my mom’s absolute favorites. The whole Psalm describes how God knows EVERYTHING about us and created EVERY detail of who we are.

My mom had a ROUGH childhood of neglect and abuse with parents who had many addictions. She would tell the story of being seven years old and taken to the bars on lower Main Street with them.  There, she would sit on the floor next to her parents as they gambled and drank. Around midnight they would put her in a taxi and send her home. The house would be pitch black as she entered and she would have to grope in the darkness to find the chain hanging down for the light. She would tell of not being able to find the light chain and just sitting in the first chair she bumped in to, waiting for her parents to arrive hours later. She would sit there shivering from the cold and fear, too afraid to get up to find a bathroom and many nights wet herself.

7 years old!

As I’m writing this and reading over Psalm 139, verse 12 makes me cry as I picture her life and how these words must have ministered to her:

Psalm 139:12 “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

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As I closed the evening in prayer for the ladies in my group, I prayed verse 14 over them, which says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I must have repeated that phrase five or more times in my prayer, probably trying to remind myself more than anyone else.

That evening at home, my daughter, Jessica, was struggling with a lot of emotions. She has recently graduated from a performing arts college and is in that very difficult time of transition. Big dreams, little money. It’s that “when-do-I-take-the-leap-of-faith” vs “be-super-practical” time of life. Exciting and TERRIFYING. We talked for about an hour and then I began reminding her of who she is in Christ. There is SO much I could say right here, but I’ll sum it up with this:

Jess is a gift, an OVER THE TOP miracle that came when I completely surrendered my plans for a family to God.

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As we finished talking, I began to pray for her and again found myself repeating the phrase, “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” We cried together and affirmed our faith in God for BOTH of our situations.

As I walked out of her room, I noticed I had a text message. Someone very close to me had sent it in response to me asking for prayer for my unfolding medical stuff. The text simply read,

“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

 

It was God’s word to my mom.

 

It’s His declaration to Jess.

 

And it’s His message to me.

 

Psalm 139:13-14 “For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”