Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Encouragement From All

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Journal entry 5/22/16: It is the night before surgery (Sunday) and I literally feel like I’ve stepped off a boat and am trying to get my land legs. I’m not dizzy, so it must be stress. This happened the other day too. I feel restless and tired and yet I couldn’t take a nap this afternoon.

I’ve received so many cards, text messages, phone calls, and gifts this week – I can’t keep them all straight. So many hugs, promises of prayer. It is all surreal – I just had no idea of the love out there.

I’m trying to remember the last few days, but they are a blur. On Thursday a friend took the kids and told Jerry and I to go out to eat. We went to the Post and I ate my favorite there – Fried Egg BLT with Spicy Maple Bacon. Sooo good. I tried ginger beer and didn’t like it, but Jerry did. It was nice to be out, just the two of us doing normal things. I’m finding in the midst of this chaos, it is the everyday rhythm that keeps me going.

Friday Kayla and Zach went to school for Field Day and I spent the day with Abby. We didn’t do too much, except shopping, which we did some damage! We ate at IKEA like we did when she was little. It was fun to spend time with just her.

When we got home, I started getting calls. First from the surgeon’s office telling me that I have to go in early before surgery, so they can insert a wire where the small non-cancerous legion is located. I have to be awake during this procedure. I’m not happy about this.

Next, I get a call from the geneticist. She tells me that all six genes tested for cancer came back negative including BRCA1 and BRCA2. Praise God! BRCA2 came back noted as a “variant of unknown significance”. This basically means no genetic link to cancer, so I’m free and clear! This means that chemotherapy is very unlikely. Final genetics results with details in just three weeks.

Friday night I melted down. We had not done much cleaning for Kayla’s birthday party the next day. I worried about dealing with the mental fatigue of all of this. I pick the worst times to melt down. It was 10:15pm and Jerry had not started making the cakes yet. He started at 10:45pm, oh well. Thankful for Laura who came early to help put up decorations, clean bathrooms, and do dishes. Dawn helped with the food when she got there also. The party was a lot of fun and Kayla had fun. It was a nice diversion for me and helped me get through the weekend.

The day of Kayla’s party, Jerry had been home for five minutes from running an errand earlier in the day and I came outside and said, “What’s that on your car?” There was a gift from Erica – she’s so sneaky – a prayer shawl made of Solomon knots – a new stitch she just learned. Love her.

The prayer session after church was so nice. A few friends and Mom came, and Pastor Tim led the session. He prayed over Jerry and I and anointed us with oil. Although I’m nervous about the surgery, I feel immense peace. I am grateful for such a loving church community.

Today, the last day before surgery, my women’s ministry ladies came over with a large laundry-sized basket filled with gifts. Each gift was individually wrapped with a long ribbon attached to it. They said that after each milestone of treatment or every day or whatever I wanted I could pull on a string and open a gift. They told me that each gift was meant to encourage me. Kayla counted the strings – wow – 40 gifts! I’m honored and in awe of this gesture. Can’t wait to open one tomorrow.

There is so much to write but I must get to bed. I’m overwhelmed by the love and support of so many. God is good.

Praise God No Matter What

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Journal entry 5/17/16: I’m waiting for the call about the MRI biopsy results. Very much hoping it is this morning. Praying for no more cancer. I keep going to the bathroom. I’m a little shaky, yet I can’t keep my eyes open like my body wants to shut down.

I think God is telling me to praise him no matter what – regardless of the biopsy results. I will – but I don’t know what that looks like – what to do or how to act. But for now, I’m going to write down the verses that people have given me or those that have been revealed to me.

Revealed to me:

  • Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is a hard truth – but isn’t it true that we win either way?
  • A constant for over a year and hanging on the wall in our living room: Philippians 4:13 (ESV) “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
  • To remember that it is not what we can see in this world that matters, but what is unseen. 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
  • That God’s purposes are beyond our understanding. And even though he does not want us to suffer or be in pain he will work all things out for our good, for those of us who are his children. Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Tim S. / Rachel: comfort in anxiety. Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I do not have to accept anxiety but pray and receive the peace of God which is beyond my understanding.

Mom: One of my favorite bands is Jars of Clay, named after the following verses, which Mom reminded me of: 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Beth and Lisa L: Lisa said that she was praying and reading her Bible and this verse made her think of me. Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Laura E. texted me this verse reminding me of who God is, even in this storm. Psalm 46:10 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

Beth: reminding me that God sees me in all things. Psalm 139:1-2,12 ESV “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

My friends and family, giving me spirit-filled words to lift me up and remind me that I’m not alone.

The phone rings and the MRI biopsy results are good – no cancer in the two spots sampled! One was a benign spot. The other is an interductal papilloma – a “high risk breast lesion”. They will remove this spot separately from the cancer lump and it will not affect anything. Certainly not a case for mastectomy. I am overjoyed! God is good! Somehow getting this good news breathes new life into me.

Lori and Diana pick me up and take me to Panera to celebrate. We laugh about silly things. Talking and eating and sharing with them soothes my soul.

Community Around

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Journal entry 5/12/16: Today feels impossible. This cold makes me feel achy and tired. Took a nap for a couple of hours but didn’t really sleep much. Feeling run down affects my outlook on life. I just want today to be normal – no doctor phone calls, no tests, just a normal day – but that hasn’t really happened. I get the MRI results on paper in the mail and call to preregister for the MRI biopsy, which is tomorrow. This cold reminds me that I am not 100%, nor will I be for a long time. I have no desire to go outside even though the sun shines. Jerry texts me about talking to a social worker or a Stephen Minister (a person trained to help those with major life issues from a Christian perspective). No, I guess there will be no normal – at least not anytime soon.

For years I prayed for community. When we lived in our apartment, we lived 30 minutes away from church, so we didn’t get to know people well. When we moved to our house and started having kids, I remember family visiting and just one person making us a meal, but no one else was there. We truly did not have friends that lived close enough to stop by. (Most of our friends lived 30 minutes or more away.) I remember holding one of our sweet babes, alone, and crying out to God, begging him for community, for love, for people who would carry us in difficult times and we would learn to carry them. For someone, anyone, to knock on the door, send a text, call on the phone. The silence was deafening.

Here, now, amid this darkness and pain, our community rises to meet us. People call me, and I don’t want to answer the phone. People text me every day. Cards start coming in the mail.

Hugs and stories from other breast cancer survivors come to my attention. Sister Rachel texts every day and later when I start radiation she calls me every day. I appreciate it all, but I don’t know how to respond. God giving me such good gifts of love, hope, people stepping forward into my pain. God, answering my prayer for community – even when I could not accept it. God, building this community around us over the last five years and beyond. Always Him, always God, working all these things out. Community stepping in all around us.

Somehow, I know that I can make it through this day and the next.

Email of Hope

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Journal entry 5/11/16: I received an email from my pastor today and his words offer so much hope. Here is what he wrote (used with permission):

Hello Jen,

I hope you are sensing God with you during these days.

This morning you came to mind and I had a thought that I pass on to you from the Lord. It is this. You are a writer, and one of the challenges in writing is writing about something meaningful, something that will make a difference to others. You have that “gift.” I know calling it a “gift” seems like a real stretch, but bear with me.

The word is this: keep a diary. Record what you are experiencing; your emotions, your faith, your God moments, your anger, your struggles, your doubts, your revelations, everything. Then, when you are delivered from this, write about it so that others might learn and grow from your experiences. You may already be doing this, if so, please consider this as confirmation of what you are doing and why. I encourage you not to waste this opportunity. God wants to use you. You have a purpose in all of this and a future. What Satan meant for evil, God means for good. It may seem at times to be slim consolation, but such writing will give you a way to process what you are experiencing, as well as a way to record your experiences for you to write about when all this is behind you. And, it will be behind you. (Emphasis, mine.)

You know that you have many people praying for you and your family. I trust that this word is, in part, a result of those prayers. I look forward to how God is going to use you.

In Jesus,

Pastor Dave

 

As I read this, I cry an ugly, howling cry because I know he is right and I know that I can’t stop now. I reply and thank him, tell him that this confirmed what my dear friend Char told me yesterday. That I’m already writing, that God is with me.

Pr. Dave’s confidence that one day this will all be behind me gives me hope. Hope to share with others, so they can learn and grow and share the hope that I have.

Wilderness

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Journal entry 5/11/16: I read Psalm 63 in my devotional Bible today, verse 3 where it says “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Do I really live that way? Is God’s love what I focus on solely? The devotion says that whole weeks and seasons and years can feel like wildernesses – yes, that is where I am right now. It seems with each test and day going forward I’m entering the dark of this wilderness.

The MRI results are mostly good, but also sketchy. The left breast is completely fine – praise God. The lymph nodes on both the left and right side are not enlarged which, which generally means it has not spread. Awesome news! But there is a separate area that they need to look at further. There are many things this could be – benign things. So, I have to go for an MRI guided biopsy. I’m so upset that I have to do another test. For now, I’m scheduled for more than a week out, but hopefully I will know today if they can get me in sooner.

These tests are so scary – I feel lost in the woods. God, please let this new area be nothing and that we go forward with the current surgical plan.

I’m trying to stay positive, but it is hard to not think the worst. I know God is with me. I like what my friend Jamie said on my Facebook page, “They are starting to see that the cancer is leaving.” That has been my prayer from the beginning – complete healing.

I think back to Psalm 63:3 – how can I focus on this love – a love better than life – a life that IS life. Surely this love can lead me through this wilderness – keep me alive.

Devastated

I stare at the screen in disbelief in the half light. More invasive treatment, cancer in the lymph nodes, chemo, treatments for the next six months, and then two months of radiation. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. Devastation is the only word I feel for my cousin – my age, just months older – with this terrifying new course set before her.  I choke on the words as I tell Jerry and I sob.

Doesn’t every survivor think that this could have been them? Or someday it still might? Her prognosis looked way better than mine and when we talked weeks ago, she was upbeat. She’s always been stronger and more positive than me.

We spent so much time together when we were young – she could take any situation and make it fun. Once we were in a boat near her cottage and we got stuck in a channel where we had to lift the boat over obstacles along the bank. It was terrifying for me, but she smiled and laughed and never showed any fear.

As much as I’ve been through with my own cancer experience – surgery, radiation, mental anguish, I can’t wrap my head around one more person telling me they have cancer. Every.single.day it feels like there is someone else. And I wonder how and why and do we need one more stinking reminder that this place is not our home?

I pray in the shower…what can I do to help? I’m so far away. I’ve always been an avoider and yet it seems that each passing day God is calling me to enter the pain of others and I admit that it is harder than anything I have ever done, save my own pain.

“Why is God allowing my suffering? Will God heal my hurting? … Will I make it through this? How you answer these questions in the midst of your pain will shape your view of God, yourself, your life, and eternity. These are the most important questions you will ever answer, because pain often alters the destiny of our lives for better or for worse.” I am Strong by John S. Dickerson. (Emphasis, mine.)

The pain of watching yet another person in my life go through this terrible disease is almost too much to bear. But I’m convinced that God is good, he never changes. And I know that my cousin, my friend, will get through this. I am here, and I love you.

All information in this post used by permission.

Mother’s Day and A Vision

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I’m having a pretty fabulous Mother’s Day and am trying to stay in this moment, but this weight, this cancer, is so heavy at times.

I’m trying to be still and know that he is God. So hard to do. I see these faces I love and I think – will I be leaving soon? All information I know thus far says no – but getting this disease reminds me that we are guaranteed nothing. And in that realization, I have moments of stillness and I wonder what that means. I do not know God’s timing, but I know he is healing me and I know he is with me and loves me. And I know my goal sooner or later is Him – not a place, but a person – HIM. How do I live out these waiting, uncertain days? I try not to think about the C word or dwell on it – but live, just live life. To find the stillness in the uncertainty.

Flowers and hugs at church. A lovely friend saying, “God isn’t just saving us – his word isn’t just for us, but for healing too.”

Listening to the end of the For King and Country CD – there is a monologue where the speaker talks about love – how it’s the only thing that remains. And I close my eyes and I see Jesus in a yellow pink glow waving love around me and saying that love is everything and all things; that he loves me. This means everything; I stand in awe of my creator.

I can’t ask, “Why cancer?”, but I want to. I want to know and understand, but the only thing I know – the only thing he has revealed to me is that his power, God’s power, will be demonstrated in my life. Resting my spirit in his peace and power today.

Doctors and Tests

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

We went to the first appointment with the surgeon and I truly believe she will be excellent. She felt normal tissue on my left breast, which is encouraging. She recommended plastic surgery where I am getting the lumpectomy because I am so small. This surprised me. I didn’t think she would be taking that much tissue, but she is the expert. She recommended a mammogram on the left breast also, genetic testing, and an MRI. I believe I am in good hands.

I had my c-word necklace on that day. Not cancer, but a four-sided necklace with the words created, cherished, celebrated, and chosen on it.

Each word refers to a Bible verse as a reminder of who I am in Christ:

  • Created – “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14.
  • Cherished – “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have chosen you with loving kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3.
  • Celebrated – “He will take great delight in you…he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17.
  • Chosen – “The Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 14:2.

I have to remember that these c-words more than trump the c-word that is cancer. The surgeon said she liked my necklace. I have to remember that my life is a living testimony. I need to hold onto these c-words and never let cancer overshadow who I am – who God has created me to be and the purpose he has for me.

After the appointment, the scheduler at the surgeon’s office scheduled every possible appointment I would need in the coming week or two. I was floored how she fit everything in so quickly for me. This was an answer to prayer. Elder Tim prayed for me that first Sunday, that tests would be scheduled quickly – God working in all these circumstances.

A few days later I’m at the MRI, Valium consumed, and IV inserted and gowned up. I am face down in the superman position. The tech explains the procedure to me and how the dye will be pumped into the IV later on. I can hear her talking through a speaker in the next room, but she explains that the machine is loud and if I need her to press this black bulb squeezer thingie attached to a coiled, black wire.

The test begins, and all is well, but the Valium has me a little silly. I’m tired and fighting to stay awake. Every time I look up to see where the tech is, I can see the IV and the coiled up black wire and I am startled every time thinking that the dye is black going through that coiled wire. I start laughing! Why should I be afraid of black dye? Needless to say after the MRI, I sleep most of the afternoon.

Each day I talk to a doctor or tech or someone regarding cancer. It is starting to wear on me. It has only been eight days since diagnosis.

I start a Facebook page for people who want to follow my journey and pray for me. I am surprised when more than 100 people join the private group. What should I say or do on this page? God help me.

Be Still

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I’ve never liked being still. Most of my years I’ve moved quickly through school, activities, work life. But in recent years, now that I’m home with the kids, I’ve begun to slow down a bit. I’m an acts of service kind of person meaning that one of the ways I show love to others is by doing things for them – dishes, laundry, making lunches. But even just a few days after diagnosis, the mental toll is slowing me down. I see that this is God asking me to slow down. Today was a profound reminder of this. My friend Laura texted me Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

Yes! Not only do I need to remember to be still, to slow down in all this anxiety and uncertainty, but to also give all praise and glory to God. It is illogical, but I can still praise Him in this illness, these tests, this waiting, this cancer. He is still God and I’m glad I’m not!

As I went to read from my devotional Bible the next morning, the text was this exact Psalm.

God is reminding me that he is on the throne and he holds me in his hand. Nothing is too hard for him.

So, for now, I’m trying to be still as I wait, to not focus on the diagnosis, but focus on the One who holds me through all this.

Overwhelmed

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I was apprehensive to go to church today because I knew that people’s response may be overwhelming. But in the end, it was fine. Countless friends encircled Jerry and I offering prayer and support in whatever way we needed. It WAS overwhelming, but in the best possible way.

Three ladies I don’t know very well came forward to tell me their own breast cancer stories and how well they are doing now. It made me think that if they can get past this, so can I. That I can live to tell about this and praise God for how far I’ve come. (I learned later that two of the three had nearly the same diagnosis, doctors, and experience that I had.)

During communion I prayed for God to heal me. After the service, I asked for the anointing oil because oil represents the Holy Spirit. Pastor Dave anointed me with oil and prayed for me. He said in his prayer that God’s power will be shown in my life – a common theme I believe God is showing me. This blog, these posts, are a testimony of God’s grace, healing, and provision for me.

I believe God can heal me and will choose to as he sees fit. And as I’m praying to him for wisdom, he is showing me the anger I so regularly feel. How it’s infected my everyday life, become too much a part of me. I’m praying for this repetitive anger over me to be gone. It seems key to my recovery somehow.