Miserably Oblivious

I woke up that morning feeling miserable from the very get-go. I was hot. I was cold. I was clammy. I was anxious. And my back, sides, and ribs hurt like they hadn’t hurt in months. The nerve pain was back along with the muscle spasms, and my side hurt like I had come out of surgery. I took my morning doseage of meds and thought to myself that in about 20-30 minutes I would feel better.

After lying back down for 30 mins I began my morning like I always do… getting dressed and slumping in defiant rejection at the “desk” to work through a seemingly unending task list, and then a couple of hours later I would venture out into public, ready to document the official work day with pictures galore! I’m good at avoiding office work when I have to! 😉

After just getting dressed I was winded. My heart was racing, I was perspiring again, and felt amazingly like passing out. Again! What was wrong with me?! I was weak, again! So I sat down to give myself time to recover from my last endeavor! And when I caught my breath I started off to tackle another task with all of my cunning abilities. 😂 At least I never exaggerate…

Maybe I’d feel better with some fresh air. I shakily stepped out into the sunshine, and was quickly reminded that I don’t do well in the heat. Struggling just to stay upright, I grabbed ahold of the railing and it was a small, soft voice in me that whispered, “You should pray for your kids.” Well, of course, I should pray for my kids! What mother wouldn’t?!

I stepped inside and the thought kept crossing my mind, “Pray for your kids!” I don’t remember what all I did over the course of the next few minutes but the next thought that crossed my mind was, “When was the last time that you KNELT DOWN ON YOUR KNEES and prayed for your kids?!” Well, now that was embarrassing. Like knelt on the ground?!!? Surely the Lord knew that I had trouble with that… physically!

The hot flashes continued. The shakiness, weakness, and anxiousness grew. What was wrong with me?! I had not felt this awful since coming home from the hospital after those horrific chemotherapy treatments. I would go to bed and stay put for days. I couldn’t go to bed. I kept thinking about kneeling.

I tried to sit down and do office work. I only managed to open a few pieces of mail. I tried to tidy up but found myself falling into the nearest chair. When WAS the last time I knelt in prayer? Surely God could see what a miserable day I was having! Surely He didn’t expect anything magnificent from me that day?! But, the voice was right. I needed to pray for my kids. And I knew that somehow it wouldn’t be right without kneeling before my Heavenly Father who had shown me so much grace through perilous times, and has been so overwhelmingly patient with me!

Have you tried kneeling on a hard linoleum floor when you feel faint?! I wouldn’t really call it “kneeling.” More like “lean on the bed and slump down to the floor until you’re no longer on your feet” type motion! I’m sure it would’ve made a great video!

Romans 8:26 says “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” I didn’t know what to pray for so I prayed for each of the kids, and hoped that the Spirit was making intercession on my behalf because my mumblings probably wouldn’t have made sense on a good day!

I managed to get back up on my feet, and although I still felt miserable physically, the anxiousness has passed knowing that I had listened to that small voice I heard earlier.

My daughter-in-love texted me that evening. They were safe. Their home, family, and belongings were safe, but a mere two blocks away was devastation. Tornadoes had torn through their town and many were left without homes and businesses.

God can send us reminders. God can still speak to the soul, prick at your conscience. Will you heed His voice? I know if wasn’t this mamma’s lame little feeble prayer that saved my kids; it was the Lord, unheeding whether I had prayed or not. But it was a bit unnerving when I look back on that day… what it took to get me down on my knees before a holy God. I’m so ashamed. And in the end, I’m tearfully grateful for God showing me His mercy, grace, tenderness, and patience. Again.


Do Not Flinch!

This was my Facebook post five years ago today…

Somedays I wake up & hear the drs words as clear as anything ringing in my ears again, “I’m sorry but you have cancer.” In my reading today I was also reminded that I am the clay & He is the potter. “It seems sometimes that the clay will be ruined in the molding, but the purpose of the Potter is the object of the molding; do not flinch, do not resist, but pray.” Dear Lord, help me not to resist or flinch on this journey!!!

I was reminded that just because my journey has changed, it doesn’t mean that my Lord is done molding me. I’m grateful that I don’t have to endure chemo right now. I’m thankful that the radiation is over… for now. I’m ecstatic that I’m not preparing for another surgery! But I don’t want to take anything for granted. The cancer cloud will forever hand above my head. I know full well that the disease can return in the blink of an eye, and God could so easily change my life’s course again.

So, today, I want to praise the Lord for all that He has done in my life, for the impossible mountains He helped us climb, for the sheer cliffs that He saved us from, for the discouraging hopelessness that He comforted us through, for His care, His loving embrace, and for His unending grace and patience. God IS good. ALL the time!

The Red Stool

A little girl was 3 1/2 yrs old when her mom & dad split up. She didn’t understand; she only knew that she was going to live with her grandma along with her mom & siblings on a very cold, lonely, miserable winter day.

Her mom had been upset and abrupt with her, and she felt so alone. Her dad wasn’t home anymore; he could always make her feel better. There were so many tears & emotions, and there was a solemn, cold feeling that she had not experienced before.

The big farmhouse kitchen was all set, ready for the noon meal, while grandma tried to console her momma. Her momma’s crying scared her. No one knew what to say. Her little sister was screaming and her older brother stood silently in the corner with a solemn stare. It’s as if her and her siblings were invisible, but silently crying out for comfort.

And that’s when grandma noticed. She noticed the scared little girl trying to hide behind a stool. She leaned over and kindly asked her bewildered little granddaughter if she liked that red stool, and when she whispered, “Yes”, grandma asked if she would like to have that red stool to keep for her very own! Wow! Grandma helped her up on the stool, and assured her that this red stool belonged only to her, not anyone else. And that red stool became almost a life raft for her. No matter what changed in their lives, no matter who might leave her or let her down, she always had her red stool that she could cling to. And her grandma kept her word throughout the years, offering her her red stool at every meal without fail. It took a kind grandma to recognize that a small child was filled with fear and gave her something that offered stability in a time of so much uncertainty.

That red stool is long gone, but there are some sweet, forever memories that are etched in that little girl’s heart and mind forever. Today we, that little girl’s grown children, want to give that red stool back to her. Only this time instead of it being a life raft for her, it’s a reminder that God is good and gracious. He won’t leave us, regardless of the circumstances. Today that little girl has walked many paths over the years. Now she is the center and foundation of many more lives; those of her husband, her children. And her grandchildren. She has offered a stability to those around her in times of uncertainty for them. The tides have changed. Happy 50th anniversary, Mom & Dad!

I Survived

I found this journal entry; written on the day I left the hospital after what we prayed would be my last chemo treatment. Just brings back soooo many memories as if it were just yesterday! There’s probably no point in me posting this, right? Wrong! It’s a good reminder to me… of so many things! God’s graciousness. His comfort. His peace. It reminds me to be thankful for all of those little things like being able to get out of bed or walk to the bathroom; to be thankful that I’m no longer so weak that I have to wear Depends.My life got so humiliating! It reminds me to be thankful for friends and family. I’ve lost so many dear friends to cancer, leaving grieving families behind. And my heart aches for them, and at the same time wondering why God chose to leave me? So much has changed in the last 2-4 years. God brought us through it all. My latest cancer in 2017 was synovial sarcoma. It doesn’t respond to chemo; otherwise, I would have been going through more chemo this last year. That will bring you back to reality. Really quickly! So, read this journal entry and think back about what all God has brought you through in your life. Then take some time to thank Him. I don’t think we do that enough… just say “Thank-you!” And hug your family and friends. You never know when God might call them home.

I’m out of the hospital and on my way to get my LAST (hopefully LAST EVERRRR) Neulasta shot. You know, the one that makes your bones go into overdrive in order to make your bone marrow go into high gear … in order to… so that… & all that jazz. It hurts. That’s all that really matters, right?

We spent last night at a brand new hotel as sort of an attempt at celebrating; they gave a decent LLU discount, which was nice! But, as is usual, I forgot how rough those first few days are. I was trying not to lie on my left or right sides; the right side messes with the port and IV lines, the left just pulls those IV lines too far. Then I’d remember … I didn’t have any of those lines attached anymore & I’d do my best to take advantage of every square inch available. It’s my wifely duty.

And then I’d wake up crying. Don’t ask me why. It’s an art I’ve perfected; being scared to death and crying. Whenever. Wherever. For no particular reason. Last night I had a reason though; I was scared. I had nightmares. I couldn’t move. I wasn’t completely aware of where I was, & I felt sick. Unbelievably sick. Then my dear husband came to my rescue… again. Seems he’s been doing a lot of that lately! It was a rough night but far more relaxing than any night you could spend in the hospital!!!! Larry set his alarm so he could give me meds around the clock; waking up after several hours of no meds right after chemo can be rather disturbing. Trust me. 😉 And so, we both begin our day exhausted… but forever grateful that this is …the last!!

Rounding the Corner. It Would be Different This Time.

Two weeks ago I found myself back on the 9300 unit of the Loma Linda University and Medical Center. Three days earlier I received a call from my husband, who had been sitting in the emergency room all day with my daughter, saying that his doctors wanted to admit him to the hospital for observation. His liver was failing for no apparent reason. Other than his recent knee surgery, he only gets sick once every six years “whether he needs to or not”, as he would cheerfully exclaim!

My brain and emotions were in turmoil. My husband is never sick! It’s always been me. He’s always the one taking care of me, helping me get around when my back would go into spasms, giving me my daily doses of meds so I don’t forget or take too many, cooking meals when I have trouble standing, holding me upright when my legs are weak, and helping me in to the vehicle when that first step seems insurmountably high! Now the tables had turned. It was my turn to sit with him in the hospital. It was my turn to make that 4-hr round trip to take him his phone charger, toiletries, extra clothes, and pickup some decent food for him. It was my turn to endure the incredibly uncomfortable bedside seats. It was my turn to ask questions. It was my turn to worry. Yet be strong. It was my turn to put on a brave face for the kids and assure them that everything would be okay because none of this was a surprise to Him.

Stepping aside for just a moment, let me backtrack and give you a little bit of history. My husband runs a non-profit organization that leads work crews for non-profit camps, working on whatever projects they need. Traditionally, the first two weeks in January are some of the busiest weeks. This year was no different. Ordering supplies, making sure to stay within budget, shopping around for the best deal, guaranteeing that supplies are on the ground in preparation for the crews, organizing everything with the camp, assigning workers to different projects, assigning crew leaders, ensuring that quality standards are met at all the various sites and projects, leading meetings, answering a barrage of legitimate questions, and on, and on, and on. And to top everything off, I had another CT scan coming up with another appointment scheduled with my oncologist. The last CT scan that I had had showed a new tumor in between my heart and my lung.

I knew he wasn’t feeling well. His coloring was off, looking kind of pale. He’s normally so tan, with a naturally darker skin pigmentation so it’s harder to tell when he’s pale. He hides it well! But by mid-week he had a definite yellow hue, there was no question about it. The whites of his eyes were a bright yellow. He was itchy, nauseous, and tired. I hadn’t seen him so sick since… well, ever, really! We decided where he should go, he made arrangements to hand-off the crews to various crew leaders and made sure there were enough supplies to last throughout the rest of the week, and my daughter started the long drive to take her daddy to see doctors that would accept our health insurance.

Long story short, he was admitted to the hospital for liver failure and the only open bed was… (wait for it…!) …on the cancer unit. The same unit where I spent weeks for heavy doses of chemotherapy. The same unit where I would curl up in the bed, lying on my side so as to not mess up the IV lines, and whimper in pain. The same unit where I had roommates who were literally dying and cried when my husband would pray with them. The same unit where I clearly remember pleading with the Lord to please make it stop. The same unit where nurses gave me “the red devil” intravenously. The same unit where I couldn’t go to the bathroom by myself and where I threw-up in bed. The same unit where I hallucinated, seeing people that weren’t really there and talking nonsense.

I told myself that I would be fine. I had to be fine. I had to be strong. We rode the same elevator I had ridden so many times before, carrying the same weekend bag I had carried innumerable times prior. We pressed that same number 9 button and stepped off onto that same carpeted landing. Nothing had changed over the years. We rounded that same corner, and walked down that same unbearably long hallway (that, for anyone else, probably was only a few feet!), turned the corner to the medical oncology wing and came to those same double doors with those same “Please be quiet” signs posted at eye level.

Everything was fine. I had my three grown children with me. I wasn’t the patient this time. It would be different. Wouldn’t it?

Those doors opened and a flood of memories, scents, and noises came rushing back as if it were replaying my story just four short years ago. But I could overcome! I walked around the nursing station, found my husband’s room, and proceeded through the doors until we came to the first bed and discovered a familiar, smiling face that I had been missing for what seemed like weeks. We were also met with the very familiar sounds of football! My dearest husband was keeping himself entertained by watching football! I should’ve known!

Hugs were exchanged, I got the most recent update on my husband’s health, and we all somehow managed to find a place to sit, though I will admit that that was a difficult feat in a room that’s shared with another patient and all kinds of equipment, wheelchairs, computers, IV stands, and chemo pumps. The bedside table became a stool as did the overnight bag! My poor husband was doing his best to be content in his situation, though his coloring was no better and we discovered that his unsoothable itching was a result of his jaundice. The boys watched a motorcycle race with their dad and I stood up to stretch. I thought if I took a few steps that it would help alleviate my back pain.

If I would have just continued sitting there I might have been fine. But standing up I saw the bathroom door and I was transported back four and five years ago where getting to the bathroom was just misery. I saw the whiteboard where nurses would write the date, their names, and sometimes a short, uplifting message for the day. Again, it was like a time machine. I went back to when I was the patient and staring at that white board was sometimes the only thing I could do. I could smell the soap, I could feel the IV and the needle in my port, I could feel the pressure of the IV lines on my port, I could feel the needles of the second IV in my arm, I could feel the tape and the bruises. I could smell the saline when it hit my blood stream, I could feel the injections in my abdomen, I could feel the nausea, and smell the plasticy and sanitary pink bucket that they would leave on my bed to throw-up in. I remembered the socks, the leg contraptions they would place on my legs when I was bed-ridden. I remembered all the pain and suffering and … all of a sudden it was hard to breathe.

I tried pacing to try and catch my breath. My heart was racing. I tried plugging my nose so I couldn’t smell. I put lotion on my hands and placed my finger under my nose so all I could hopefully smell would be my girly-smelling hand lotion. I tried standing in the corner so I wouldn’t see anything that might take me back to those horribly trying days. And I prayed. Hard! I didn’t want to cry! I was stronger than that… or, at least, I wanted to be! I pinched my lip. I pinched my arm. I bit my cheek. Anything to stop the memories and the tears in a vain attempt to regain control. But the tears kept coming. And the shaking started.

And that’s about the time when my family started to notice that something was wrong. That’s when my daughter quietly pointed out that Mom was having a hard time. That’s when my son offered to drive me back to the hotel and that’s when my husband got out of his hospital bed to comfort me. ME! The not-sick-one! How was this even happening to me?!!? I hit a new low. My KIDS were having to take care of ME! My sick husband was pulling me close to him, praying for ME! I was quickly losing this battle so I leaned on his chest and cried uncontrollably. It’s not supposed to be like this! I was so scared. And mad. Infuriated with myself. What was wrong with me? I wasn’t the patient! I wasn’t hooked up to any IV lines, the nurses remembered me and were excited to see me again. And I was having an official, full-blown meltdown!

That night ended by going back to the hotel room, (that, by the way, the Lord so graciously & generously provided) curling up in a comfy bed, lying my throbbing head on a soft pillow, closing my swollen eyes, shutting out the world, and falling into a deep and restful sleep. God knew I needed rest.

The next day we went back to that same hospital. The same room. And I prayed that somehow the Lord would give me strength. I wanted to be with my husband. The same struggles were there but He answered my prayer so bountifully that day; not only did I not cry, but doctors decided to discharge my husband that afternoon. We were all able to come home that day!

Our plans for those few weeks certainly didn’t include any of the above. But they were God’s plans and through it all God so graciously reminded me of a few things:

1. We don’t have to be the one that “keeps it together” in hard times. God is there to take control if we’ll just let Him. I thought that I had to control it, and I failed miserably.

2. It’s okay to have a “meltdown.” It’s a good reminder that we’re just human. We can’t control everything. And that God is the ultimate comforter. I didn’t have my husband beside me that night in the hotel room; the worries and memories were overwhelming, yet God allowed me a sweet, restful night.

3. Life is scary. Life is short. We need to trust Him, and we need to use what time we have here to glorify Him. Live for Him. Impact eternity.

4. God’s in control. He’s always in control! We can’t see the big picture because we don’t need to. But God can see the big picture, and He’ll guide us through life’s maze. And some sweet day, my life’s maze will be over and my dear, sweet Heavenly Father will be there to greet me. And I’ll be able to take His hand only this time He’ll guide me to Heaven because on October 16, 1981 I knelt and prayed for Him to forgive me and save me from Hell.

5. It will be worth it all. All of life’s trials and sorrows are painful to maneuver through right now. But some sweet day it will be worth it all when we see Jesus! Keep that song in your heart today.

God is Good

I’ve completed my radiation treatments! I feel normal! I get up in the morning and begin my day just like anyone else. After crawling out of bed and scuffling into the bathroom, I manage to drag myself into the kitchen to get something to drink or eat. Then I head back to my bedroom to crawl under my warm covers to drink my tea or eat my yogurt, or whatever my hands have found. It’s when I get back to the bedroom that I start to notice anomalies… I’m short of breath. How did that happen? I haven’t done anything! My aching back has now become supremely painful and the shooting pain in my ribs has jolted me out of any bleary-eyed state I may have been in earlier. But, I make it back under my covers, with pillows propped precariously to try to support the various areas of most discomfort. My feet are starting to thaw with the warmth of the bedding, but I find myself gasping for air and wincing in pain. I must not have the pillows arranged properly. Maybe the back discomfort is just my imagination … it will go away eventually, right?!

No, the back pain doesn’t go away, although a tender back rub from my husband will often calm down the spasming, knotted muscles. No, the shortness of breath doesn’t get better, due in part, I suspect, to the surgeon’s removing part of my left lung. Some days, weeks, or months, my husband isn’t home and I have to continue on without him.
But every morning the pain and discomfort remind me that I cannot make it through my day without God. Those aren’t new or profound words. They’re words we hear all the time. They’re words that we might flippantly remind ourselves of occasionally. But how good is God when He reminds me every morning that I can’t possibly survive another day without His help? 
I’m so thankful that He patiently reminds me and doesn’t give me the responsibility of remembering! Because we all know how well I remember things…! 😂

Scars. The Untold Story.

My surgery incision sites can’t be seen if you were to just look over at me. I have to work pretty hard and use a mirror in order to see some of them! Sometimes I’m glad I can’t see the scars; it’s a scary reminder of what was there and what can so easily come back. On the other hand, I can see some of the scars if I just look. I can feel the pain or numbness left behind from the surgeries. Either way, I have scars from this life that I could never have predicted. There have been valleys that my family and I have gone through but there have also been mountaintops that we’ve navigated. Regardless of the emotions and where we were on our journey, they are all memorable and they’ve all shaped me into who I am today.

Sometimes the scars scare me… quite literally, and I find myself crying or shaking. Sometimes the scars create an inexplicable feeling of gratitude; the Lord has allowed me to live and guided us on a journey I never could have survived on my own.

The scars remind me that I am nothing. We are totally dependent on Him.

The scars remind me that God’s plans are best because He can see the full picture; I can’t.

The scars remind me that no matter how hard and tedious we plan the day, or the next month, or the next five years of our life, that our lives can change in an instant.

The scars remind me of death. It’s inevitable for each and every one of us. No one is immune.

The scars remind me of Christ’s crucifixion; He took my sins and died in my place so that I could accept the gift of salvation.

The scars remind me of what Christ endured for us… you and me! The pain.

The scars remind me of life; the life that I had, the life that I hoped to have, the life that I’m living now, the breath that I took this morning. We so often take such a miraculous thing for granted! How is it that such a technologically advanced item like the human body isn’t a marvel for the whole world to behold in awe? How did we get so used to accepting such wonders and finite detail as “routine?!”

The scars remind me of childhood. Remember falling down and skinning your knee? Remember when your mom would ease the pain and fix it? Moms are gifted that way; taking the pain away and making us feel comforted.

My scars remind me that other people have scars too and they’re not always of a physical nature. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing (or have experienced) pain or fighting through a valley. I was reminded of doubting Thomas in John… refusing to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, saying he would have to see the actual wounds and scars before he would accept it. Why are we the same way with others? Unless we can see that you are physically sick, we won’t sympathize with struggles that person might be in the midst of? They may have been through terrifying, forever scarring valleys, yet we may not have seen the struggle firsthand so we expect them to continue on in life as if it were all one big mountaintop and are quick to judge if they falter. Sometimes I wish we could see people’s hearts!

My scars tell stories. They make me step back and think. They make me pause. What makes you pause? What makes you marvel at the little miracles that we see every day? What makes you stop and thank the Lord for your mother? What makes you seriously question your plans, or gives you the ability to trust Him and His plans for you?

I have scars… not something that everyone has. But God has used those scars in my life. What is He using in your life? Let Him use those “scars.” Let Him remind you, teach you, guide and comfort you. Just look. We just have to take the time to actually LOOK at the scars. It’s okay to be afraid or scared because there’s a Heavenly Father willing and ready to help and comfort you. It’s okay to be thankful and praise Him for what He’s done. It’s okay to step back and be in awe of what He has created and provided. It’s okay to enjoy life and remember to take nothing for granted.

Look at your scars today. What’s God trying to tell you?

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20:27-29

Instead, Wait

Waiting. It’s become the story of my life. Waiting and waiting some more. 

  • I waited for the doctor to tell me the diagnosis. 
  • I waited until after he said “cancer” to cry. 
  • I waited for a hospital bed. 
  • I waited for the nightly treatments. 
  • I waited to go back home to see my kids. 
  • I waited while my husband took care of me before we could go to an appointment. 
  • I waited for tests to come back clear.
  • I waited for my oncologist to open the scan results on his computer. 
  • I waited to hear “it’s back.” 
  • I waited for it to strike. 
  • I waited for the surgery day. 
  • I waited for the epidural. 
  • I waited to see my husband. 
  • I waited for the medications. 

You get the idea, right?!? My life used to be the same as everyone else’s. I used to get up in the morning and live my life; go to work, help the kids, cook, do laundry, etc. And, if we were lucky, I might be able to prepare for a family vacation. We’d carefully plan months ahead of time so that we weren’t being unfair to employers and co-workers, so that family could plan accordingly, and our family had something to look forward too! 

Cancer changes all of that. You can’t plan. You’re left hanging. Waiting to hear test results before you can decide if you can go on vacation. You wait to see how well/poorly the treatments go before you can decide if you’re well enough to go to work. You wait to see if you can pay the bills that month because the savings account has been cleared out paying medical bills and treatment costs. We’ve experienced so many disappointments in our lives since cancer. It’s become a family joke… don’t plan a family vacation cuz cancer is going to come back! It took away our highly anticipated 8-week sabbatical that we had been preparing for for well over a year. It took away a week long family reunion, it took away precious time I had with my children. It took away some very rare, carefree moments that I was so desperately looking forward to. 

As I sat in bed, wondering when the pain would subside, wondering if life would ever have those carefree moments again and if we would ever have the luxury of planning again, I came to the realization that I was waiting … yet again! But this time 

  • instead of waiting for my medications, I was waiting for my daughter to come home! 
  • Instead of waiting for my husband to care for me, I was waiting for him to return to the couch to sit beside me and hold my hand. 
  • Instead of waiting for the doctor’s office to call, I was waiting for a text from my sister. 
  • Instead of waiting for sleep to close my eyelids, I was waiting for my son to come home for a visit! 
  • Instead of waiting for the doctor to give me a dreaded treatment plan, I was waiting for him to tell me that surgery was successful. 
  • Instead of waiting for my kids had to leave again, I was waiting for when they’d come home next. 
  • Instead of waiting for the day when my husband had to leave for work, I waited for the day when he’d return. 

Life with cancer has been difficult during the best of times. Even when things look clear you’re waiting for it to rise up and strike again, and then you spend precious time trying to mend the emotions and get yourself back on track. It is hard on the family members; the stress of not knowing, the worry of knowing, the anxiety of the questions left unanswered. We can’t plan definitely for tomorrow; we can only temporarily think plans through. Only God holds the future. Instead, we can wait. 

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. -Psalms 27:14 

Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. -Psalms 33:20 

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him… -Psalms 37:7

Learning a New Me

It’s been awhile! Today I sat down in my yellow chair, reflecting on my life since cancer. The treatments are over, my hair has grown back, I’m no longer in a wheelchair or bedridden, and my tests and appointments get a little further apart with time. However, with all of those acknowledgements, I find myself raw. It seems like a crazy spiral that I know (somewhere in my subconscious) isn’t real nor is it long term. Yet here I am, two years later, still wondering when I will be able to turn my life around?!

A normal gas engine for a regular vehicle can idle anywhere between 540 up to 1000 rpms. You know what “idle” means, right? It means “not active, not in use.” Your vehicle is just sitting there, waiting for instructions from you since you, the driver, are in control. When an engine is working harder, the rpms climb. When you drive up a steep grade your engine needs more power. Well, that’s me. My person is stuck in high gear. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, thinking, or feeling; I’m in the “screamin’, all-in” mode. My anxiety levels are high regardless of the situation or circumstances. That’s bad. My emotions are at extremes. That’s bad! My anger is quick to boil over, the tears are constantly threatening to spill over for no apparent reason, the fear is always looming, never subsiding, the irritability seems to be set off by more insignificant things.

I feel like I’m on high alert all the time; will I say something offensive? Will my frustration show? Will I cry? If I start crying, will I be able to stop? Why am I crying in the first place? Whatever happened to the easy-going old me? How do I learn who the new me is?

My oncologist said that it’s not uncommon for cancer patients to suffer from ptsd. It’s a daily battle. My ptsd was brought on by cancer and major life changes have not helped my situation at all! But my heart aches for so many others out there that are hurting, facing similar battles with anxiety and ptsd that I am for different reasons – losing a loved one, life threatening diseases and traumatic treatments, etc. And well-meaning people (yes, even Christians) can oftentimes make it worse by throwing around terminology and phrases that don’t help. Here is a list of phrases I recommend avoiding telling someone who is struggling:

1. “You need to just put your past behind you.”
Well, I would if I could, but my past (cancer) is what defines me as who I am today. It’s what makes me who I am today. That can’t be ignored. I look in the mirror and I see a different me. God directed my family and I through our past and He gave us grace. It’s to be remembered. Not forgotten.

2. “God won’t give you more than you can handle!”
Au contraire! Yes, He will. With the sole purpose of drawing you closer to Him. Ptsd is a daily battle that all kinds of different people have to deal with who are from all walks of life and are various ages. There’s no one situation that fits for everyone.

3. “You just need to trust Him.”
Yes, I do. Do you really think I’ve been trying NOT to? In the same breath, so do you. Don’t give advice that you’re not willing to take. Are you trusting Him with your child(ren)? Are you trusting Him with your broken down vehicle? Are you trusting Him with your finances? Your job? Your marriage? Your friends and relationships? Your Christmas budget? So many people throw this phrase out there as a good ol’ fix-it for anything that ails you, but it rarely comes across as sincere simply because very rarely in life is everyone trusting Christ as completely and wholly as we ought to be. Oftentimes this phrase only comes across as caring if the other individual has been through the same ordeal as you have experienced. Don’t minimize their trauma and the battle. Work on your trust. Don’t worry about someone else’s.

4. Religious cliches… combining 2 and 3…
It is often easier to discourage someone by throwing these comments out there because these statements often make an individual feel inadequate or that they are not living as spiritually as they need to be. Quotes like this can be more discouraging and you don’t want to make the individual feel like God is judging them in any way because of a valley that they are struggling through.

5. “It’s because of the meds that you’re taking. You need to get off of them.”
No one can fully know or understand a person’s medical history and have no right to change, doubt, or create doubt about a person’s prescriptions. There are oftentimes legitimate physical needs for medications and since you’re not a doctor you cannot assume that any of the medications that someone is on is either “bad” or not working. Leave the medicine to the professionals.

It’s hard to try and figure out who the new you is. You used to enjoy certain things in life and now they no longer bring the same joy. It’s changed. Worries and anxiety seem to hang over your head when you used to be able to live life seemingly carefree beyond the normal stresses. It’s changed. People look at you funny or avoid you. Why? Did you lash out at them and don’t remember it? Do you act differently? It’s changed.

Struggling to understand who you are again is a task that no one prepared me for. No one prepared my family for. There are times where I cry in despair, feeling I have no control over my new path. There are times where I cry from fear, of what I might do or from the unknown. There are times where I cry from being overwhelmed; life changes, or the constant threat of “the cancer” returning. And there are times where I cry because of the known. I know I’m different now and sometimes grieve losing my old self. I cry because I lost a year and a half with my kids; my kids were getting older and high school graduation was coming that year for my oldest and the following year for my second child. I can see my time coming to an end with them under our roof. And then there’s the inevitable… I cry because I’m alive. I cry because I’m not the one in the hospital bed on IV lines. I cry because I feel guilty that I survived.

I know that I have issues that need to be worked on. But I’m far from alone. How many other housewives, or cancer survivors, or widows, or widowers, or adult men, etc., get up every morning psyching themselves up to fight the mental battle anew that morning? It’s a battle that so easily feels like you’re losing. It’s a battle that Christians don’t talk about, or if they do they impart their misplaced good intentions. It’s a battle that is way too often judged and the souls that are fighting it are often left alone on the battlefield to fend for themselves. So today, I encourage you to pray for those who struggle with mental and anxiety battles. Encourage them. Love them. Don’t judge, scrutinize, or try to give advice. Just listen for a change. Just be there for them. As James 1:19 states, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…” Sometimes a sympathetic ear makes all the difference and is the small boost of help that they’ve been looking for. After all… God listens to us.

“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” Jer 29:12