Walking with Friends Through Cancer

It’s my friend’s birthday today and I just keep thinking about her and all she did for me 8 years ago as I walked through scary times with a cancer diagnosis. This is one story that made me smile in the middle of facing my biggest fear.

(summer 2009)

My friend had her blinker on, ready to pull in to a prime parking spot when all of a sudden, a man jumped into the space saying, “We’ve been waiting a long time to park here.”

Where did HE come from?

It was all very odd and, frankly…a bit maddening! The beach was humming and parking spots were hard to come by.

My friend rolled down her window and took me by complete surprise as I heard her shout, “Oh FINE. I’ll just keep driving around my friend who has cancer and is going through CHEMOTHERAPY!”

Our new foe quickly answered back, “Well.  MY friend only has ONE leg!”

It was just the comic relief I needed.  I could not stop laughing at the outrageousness of the exchange I was witnessing. Two people determined to look out for their suffering friends.

It was my first week of chemo and my friend was making sure I was being taken care of.  She had gone with me to get my hair cut super short in anticipation of it all falling out in the next couple of weeks. We had gone out for lunch at a local deli and now wanted to walk on the beach.

Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

What a beautiful Biblical promise! As we purposefully pour our lives into others, God fills US up.

Humility is a fascinating concept. On the one hand, you have to humble yourself to accept help from others. It is very hard to admit you need this assistance. One definition says, “Acknowledging that achievement results from the investment of others in my life.”

Likewise…if you are the one helping someone, you are also showing humility in that you’re putting aside your own interests, schedules and plans for the sake of another.

It’s two sides of the same coin that Christ uses to keep us from pride.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

It was a wonderful day with my friend.  After we circled the parking lot a few times, a spot finally opened up for us RIGHT next to the man we had just encountered. We pulled in and humbly unloaded our things. And…

yes… his friend really DID have only one leg!

 

 

 

Volleyball, Mudslides and Cancer

I KNOW you’re on the edge of your seats, waiting for updates about my life… or at least that’s what I like to tell myself.

Well, I’ve got some!

Let’s start with the basics and see how this unfolds.

Volleyball. What can I say? Apparently, I am a HUGE fan. I had no idea I would love this sport so much!

Cory had an all-day tournament this past weekend. I missed the first match because I was definitely taking my sweet time getting there. I was just so happy to be in the car all by myself, sipping on Starbucks and switching stations back and forth from classic rock to worship music. My definition of solitude!

I made it JUST in time for the second match (is that what you even call it??)… which we won. A match is a total of 3 games, playing until a team wins two. Our little group of parents are super-dedicated to cheering the boys on. After each game in a given match, we switch sides to make sure we are in the best spot to effectively root for our team.  Have I mentioned how stressful this sport is?? The boys really have to work together to execute the perfect bump-set-spike situation. VERY technical! Cory is an outside hitter and is growing in his confidence to nail the ball on the final hit. He’s doing great, especially considering he hasn’t played since Jess was in middle school. Hah!

We made it to the championship round, competing for the bronze. It was wild, three games happening simultaneously, inches apart… like a war-zone with volleyballs coming at you from all directions.

We lost the first game, but came back to win the second by a landslide. The third game would decide it: first team to score 15 would be the winner.

We were smokin’…11-4.  The boys looked unstoppable!

And then…

An injury.

The captain of the team jumped, dove (and possibly collided with someone or something…it all happened so fast) and went down grabbing his ankle. He was HURT and would not be able to finish the game.

This young man is the most outstanding volleyball player, but along with that, he holds the team together like nothing I’ve ever seen. He’s super encouraging to the guys, coaching them after each play… the heart of the team.

We never scored another point.

It was a sad moment, but sweet to see how this team supports each other as the coach led them in praying for their injured captain.

Now we wait to hear if he will be able to play in the games this week.

Ahhh.  Such is life.

In other news… our road is hanging in there.  We are driving on it as if everything is just fine. The sunshine had lifted the “doom and gloom” feeling, but now rain is in the forecast for the whole week. I overheard Ed chatting with a friend about possible repair options this summer, so… I guess that’s the plan: Pray for it to hold ‘til summer!

And…finally, (well, I had more, but apparently rambled on about volleyball more than I thought I would)…

I go to Stanford this Friday. This is the next procedure in the schedule my doctor has set up. I’m not looking forward to it AT ALL, but I’m thankful for the close monitoring.

I’ve been praying Ephesians 3:16-19 over myself and my family recently. We are working our way through some hurts and situations with no idea of outcomes.  We DO know that God is with us and he offers strength, encouragement and hope to whatever parts of our life are injured. He holds our “team” together and we need Him like crazy!

Ephesians 3:16-19…    “I pray that out of God’s glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Here is an example of how I would take these verses and pray them over Cory:

“Lord, I pray that out of your glorious riches you would strengthen Cory with power through your Spirit in his inner being, so that you would dwell in his heart through faith. I also ask that Cory, being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all of us, to grasp how much you love him; to know how wide and long and high and deep is your love for him. I pray that Cory would KNOW this love that far exceeds anything in his life. Fill him up with more of you… And may his volleyball team win!!” (Doesn’t hurt to ask!)

Praying these verses encourage you! Make them your personal prayer and try praying them for someone else.

I’d love to hear about what God is doing in your life. Have a blessed week and may YOU be filled to the measure of ALL the fullness of God!

 

 

 

 

 

So Much Waiting

“Not one person has liked or commented on my Facebook post today,” I lamented to Eddie as we wound our way over the mountain freeway to Stanford.

I had linked to my latest blog post Friday the 13th asking for prayer for my upcoming procedure and out-of-whack emotions.  Having no-one respond was clearly not encouraging, and I began to wonder if everyone was as over my ongoing medical journey as I was.

We pulled into Stanford with not much time to spare— surprising I know, considering who was driving!  Ed dropped me off in the crazy valet parking line in front of the cancer center. I was grateful to miss the claustrophobic parking garage which Ed said was more chaotic than ever.

I was a last-minute add-on to the surgery schedule, so, unfortunately, I was given a 1:30 time slot which meant I was STARVING!  This was to be an “exam under anesthesia”, making sure some recent findings were not cancerous.  In MY mind, we would be back on the road by 5:00, eating wherever I wanted.

It was an uneventful check-in, weigh-in and starting the IV.  If you’ve followed my blog at all, then you know IV’s are extremely challenging to get going on me, so I was thankful.  No pain and only one stick!

Eddie was allowed to come back and hang out with me in the pre-op room.  It was kind of a ghost town back there, with only 2 other patients waiting their turn.  The nurse began timidly updating us to the possibility of a delay with my doctor who was stuck in a surgery that was running late.  I didn’t panic, I mean, I was hungry, but a little delay is not that big of a deal and we had found a TV station running a marathon of Seinfeld episodes.

FOUR EPISODES LATER, I was STILL waiting. Everyone was gone from pre-op except my nurse, Eddie and me. The nurse was getting a bit antsy to shut down the unit and get off work. She was probably starving too!

After another hour, she moved me to the recovery room, wished me luck and clocked out, leaving me with more waiting and no TV.

FIVE HOURS after checking in, I was finally being wheeled to the Operating Room.  My doctor explained she had been stuck in another doctor’s surgery, basically twiddling her thumbs waiting to do a tiny procedure.

TWENTY MINUTES later I was back in recovery.  As I came to, I felt so good!  This was the first time in recovery that I wasn’t nauseas at all.

Meanwhile, everyone was trying to track down Ed- who had no idea I would be out so quickly.  Poor guy… he was trying to spend the $5 meal ticket Glenda from Guest Relations had given him as a sort of apology for the long wait.  Problem was, all the food places had closed!

My doctor personally found him down in the pharmacy line, which was also closing!  She informed Ed that she had taken 2 biopsies and would call us with the results.

We were on the road by 7:30 and eating corn chowder at Mimi’s by 8.

So much waiting!!

Waiting to eat, waiting for surgery, waiting for likes/comments on Facebook, waiting for biopsy results, WAITING TO BE PAST ALL OF THIS!

Are there benefits to waiting? Can anything good come of delays in life?

I love this definition of faith:  Faith is waiting to let God work.

It’s a surrender to letting the plan God has for our lives unfold in his way and in his timing.

Romans 1:17 ends with the phrase, “The righteous will live by faith.”

Or… we could say…

The righteous will live by waiting to let God work.

God is doing so much in my life through this season of waiting on him.  It’s not easy, but it’s definitely beneficial.  There’s a deepening in my relationship with him that I’ve never experienced. He is showing me the depth of his love as my Heavenly Father. 

As we headed home, I once again clicked on Facebook and realized I had accidentally tapped the privacy setting on my post, making it visible only to me.  Within seconds of correcting this, so many friends and family were responding with encouraging comments and promises to pray.  The timing was perfect as the prayers carried me through the week until I heard from my doctor yesterday………..

The biopsies came back as not cancer!

My prayer for you is that you would live by faith.

Live by waiting to let God work.

As I’ve said before…He’s worth the wait!

 

 

 

The Unexpected

Expectations. That’s what it boiled down to for me. It wasn’t what I expected.

My doctor had set up a schedule of doing some type of follow-up every 3 months and this was the kick-off appointment. In my mind this was an easy, quick “scope thing” to take place in her office. I wasn’t worried about it at all.

I have to pause here and say… why does it seem I so often write those words? 

My good friend, Janet, decided to tag along as we rarely have large chunks of time to talk. The drive to Stanford was an easy, smooth one (hopefully Janet would agree… if anything, I drove too slowly for my speedy friend) and we were able to chat about everything. I think she was surprised at how chaotic the underground parking was and how long my little hike to the cancer center is.   Gotta love a bit of sympathy!

I was quickly checked in, leaving Janet to enjoy the music of an amazing guitarist in the waiting room.

First stop— the dreaded scale.

Thankfully, the weight registers in kilograms and as the nurse began to convert it to pounds, I assertively held up my hand and instructed him to NOT say another word. No reality check desired.

He led me down the usual corridor, BUT walked right past the usual room. I hesitated, but obediently followed him, wondering why we seemed to be off the anticipated script of this appointment. The nurse swung open a door officially labeled, “Procedure Room” and one peak inside set off an internal alarm that I, again, had under-estimated this appointment.

He took my vitals, and my blood pressure was much higher than normal. Anxiety was getting the best of me! He then asked if I had done the prep for the procedure.

My response, “Wait. WHAT?”

No one had mentioned anything about a prep.

Hmmmmm. A conundrum of sorts. He left to consult with the physician’s assistant with my parting words trailing after him, “Plead my case. I don’t want to do it!”

Within minutes the assistant arrived, armed with the prep. It wasn’t optional.

I will spare you the details of THAT ordeal— just know it was extremely awkward and SUPER NOT FUN!

My supposedly-less-than-invasive-procedure went okay until the end when my doctor stated she found something needing to be biopsied.

Seriously??!

She’s hoping it’s just scar tissue, but was unable to say for sure… thus, the biopsy.

It was over and I wanted to escape before I fell apart. At the front desk checking out, I was biting the inside of my cheek, trying to distract myself enough to not cry as the receptionist scheduled my next appointment.

Janet was chatting with the guitarist (as only my sweet, friendly, musical friend can do) and I made a bee-line out of there, signaling to her that I would meet her outside. As we stood in the sunshine, I tearfully gave her the play-by-play.

I stood there wondering why everything affects me so much. Why do I cry at every appointment? Why can’t I be tougher and have the much needed attitude of “let’s just get ‘er done?” It’s really not that big of a deal, yet my emotions are always so heightened.

I know I continually fight the thoughts of what a cancer diagnosis could mean. I have the history of watching my mom pass away at the young age of 46 along with my own 2 year battle through it. It’s a tender, scary piece of me that needs constant re-alignment, which brings me back to my opening word: Expectations.

Expectations are a set-up for failure and disappointment. For example, I have such HIGH expectations of Ed, probably because he can do SO many things SO well. I’m notorious for leaving long to-do lists of what I want to have accomplished. I need to offer LOVE without a to-do list.

The focus of my expectations in all areas of life has to be God.

I can expect God to walk with me through EVERYTHING.

-through pain

-through healing

-peaceful times

-fun times

-family issues

-hard days

AND….

I can expect His love. God loves me without a “to-do” list. The ONLY thing I need to do is accept His love

I have never felt more loved by God. It’s like I have a new understanding of how much He loves me.

I Peter 5:6-7 (narrated by Me) says:

Humble yourselves therefore (accept God’s love for you. Allow Him to love you and direct your life) under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you (lift you out of your situation or encourage you in it) in due time (in HIS timing). Casting all your care (worry, anxiety and… even EXPECTATIONS) upon him for he cares for (absolutely loves) YOU.

So…

You can expect God to keep reaching out to you in love. It’s who He is!

And…

You can expect me to continue being high strung and dramatic about every single doctor appointment. It’s who I am. Hah!

And… just for fun… THIS was my favorite recent text from a favorite friend of mine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Setting the Scene

Surgery was scheduled for 7:00 a.m., which doesn’t sound horrible until you factor in a 5:00 a.m. arrival time and a 90 minute commute. It was a night of no sleep and we were out the door by 3:30 — after I took a shower and applied mascara! I’m not sure why I wanted to wear mascara, but at the time, it seemed like a priority.

My friend, Brook, came up with the brilliant idea of starting 12 games of Words With Friends to distract me from Ed’s scary driving over Highway 17. I think Eddie would say he’s a confident driver who has the road memorized from years of commuting, but I literally can hardly take it and it’s best if I escape with an app on my phone.

We arrived in record time (no traffic plus Ed’s driving) and began our hike to the cancer center in complete darkness.   Kind of strange they don’t light up the trek. I would swear it is a 2 mile walk, but it comes up 0.4 miles on map-quest… BUT… that doesn’t include getting to ground level out of the parking garage… so… 2 miles!

SO many people were checking in for surgery. We were all politely trying to race one another to the front desk. Sensitive but determined. Hah!

Ed wasn’t allowed to come back with me for the initial prep, which is totally great because he definitely doesn’t need to be there for the weigh-in! I couldn’t believe how many beds were lined up down the narrow room— probably 25 on each side, separated by only a thin drape which meant that while Ed wasn’t hearing how much I weigh, everyone else was.

The nurse began obsessing on my wedding ring because I could not take it off (ties in with the not-wanting-Ed-to-know-my-weight comment). She also was fascinated by my diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that greatly increases the chance of developing colon cancer.

I just now googled Lynch Syndrome to get the exact definition and I can’t believe what a textbook case I am. It says that people with Lynch may have:

  • Colon cancer before age 45 (I was 44)
  • A family history of colon cancer (for SURE)
  • A family history of endometrial (uterine) cancer (check and CHECK: it’s in my family AND I had it)

AND…..

  • A 40 percent chance of developing a second primary colon cancer within 7 years of the first.

IT’S BEEN EXACTLY 7 YEARS!

I am in shock.

AND…

I should have stopped reading there!

It goes on to list the other cancers people with Lynch Syndrome get.

Pause for a freak-out moment.

I’ve heard all of this before— had genetic counseling— and then life went on. But, realizing I’m a classic case following the script to a tee is quite disconcerting.

(My freak-out moment is interrupting my originally scheduled post!)

What does knowing all this really change?

What do I choose to set as the backdrop of my life?

(These next few sentences are greatly influenced by my cousin Ron and also Ann Voskamp.)

Picture seeing a play in a theater. The theater itself is just a room. Possibly cold, dark and ugly, BUT… the backdrop dictates what you are seeing.

I am choosing to view my life through the backdrop of:

God is always good and I am always loved.

Everything in my life is set against those premises. And… the backdrop always remains unchanged. It’s an outlook of gratitude knowing Jesus is walking with me.

Well, I’m completely off my original script of writing about the surgery.

So… more to come about that day, Ed’s driving, and my need to lose weight! Hah! Way too dramatic over here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.)