Introspective Insights

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

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.

Diana’s Scare

Last year at this time I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through numerous tests, surgery, and radiation therapy. During those days, I wrote constantly. I’m compiling those journal entries into the beginnings of a book. 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.

Diana is my dear friend. We met through church and got to know each other through Women’s Ministry where we served together with three other wonderful ladies for two years. Now we work together, we’ve taught a couple of bible studies together at church, our kids are nearly the same age. We share many things, but what we didn’t expect to share was two very different cancer scares.

Diana texted us that Thursday evening, anxious, upset, asking for prayer. They called her back for an ultrasound and second mammogram. We prayed from our own virtual corners offering her comfort and reassurance. I just knew she was going to be OK. We later learned that her tests all came back negative for cancer.

That same Thursday night I am in bed reading. I am engrossed in my book, I mindlessly begin rubbing my chest just above my right breast. I feel something there…hard, oval shaped. I’ve never noticed it before. Jerry checks it, he is surprised too.

The next day when I put a bra on, I don’t feel it…it’s as if it sinks as my breast lifts. Is this all my imagination? I call my primary doctor anyway and she orders the mammogram and ultrasound as soon as possible. By Wednesday I have had a mammogram, an incredibly long ultrasound, and a needle biopsy in two different areas. By Friday I know the news and it is not good.

Diana repeatedly tells me how she feels guilty. “How could it be you and not me?” She is a compassionate and loving person. She cannot comprehend how she was dealt the scare and I was dealt the real thing.

We taught a Bible study months later and she told the class her story, which is a part of my story. It was October. I finished treatment just two months before. The only person who knew my whole story was Jerry and my journal. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to talk. My eyes filled with tears as she told her part. My throat began to close and burn. “Can I do this?”, I thought.

When she was done, I paused…30 pairs of eyes on me. I told her what I know in my heart is true – that without her concern and her obedience in reaching out to us in prayer, my radar would not have been up. I do not believe I would have found that lump or even been looking. She was part of God’s plan to save me.

We need each other. We are here on this earth to love each other, lean on each other, pray for each other, share our burdens. Diana’s faith and perseverance in asking for prayer are part of my story. When you share who you are, honestly, brutally, lovingly, you invite healing and connection in ways that you may never know.

Throwing Myself Against the Rocks

As many of you know, last year around this time (April 2016) I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through numerous tests, surgery, and radiation therapy. During those days I wrote constantly. Since then, I’ve started to compile those journal entries into the beginnings of a book. This post is a portion of that 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 starting near the end of this cancer journey, because while it seems that I am finished, the truth is that this word “survivor” is only beginning to dig its talons into my mind. It’s August, just 10 days after radiation therapy ended. A mere four months since this nightmare began.

I am starting to get a glance at what cancer can do to the survivor. My body is beginning to heal, but my mind is beginning its spiral into the dark. Yet I don’t really understand the storm still coming.

Me at Camp Arcadia

It is evening at Camp Arcadia on the beautiful northern shore of Lake Michigan. I am struggling, feeling awful about myself – all the weight I’ve gained, the aftermath of surgery, and four months of recovery and radiation treatments. Feeling tired and sluggish beyond comprehension. Yet, I’m in this beautiful place – one of my favorite places in the world. The sun is on it’s way down, but it is still fully late summer evening light.

I am sitting on the raised patio six feet above the pounding surf. Beach hazard in effect, surging waves battering the seawall in front of me. At that moment, the despair envelopes me like a black cloak. I envision myself jumping in, imagining the consequences. The current pulling me under the water and the waves pushing me up, slamming me onto the rusty, jagged, metal wall, rocks, shore. My body continually battered, bloody, lifeless, crushed, smashed over and over. Normally the horror of such a thought is immediately rejected, but the heaviness is too great and in that moment the image replays over and over. I hear Jerry and the kids looking for me, yelling my name. Searching, but not finding.

It is a terrible way to die and I know I can’t do it. I press stop on the mental replay and I choose to walk away, the roaring still in my ears, images fresh and horrible in my mind. I cannot tell Jerry what I’ve just witnessed in my mind’s eye. This week has been challenging enough, the last few months heavy with despair, tears, anger, listlessness, fear.

The next night I am on the shore again, waves crashing again realizing that forward movement seems like jumping into those waves only to be battered and carried along where I don’t want to go. And isn’t that what has happened these months? Death and illness – cancer – sweeping over me, pulling me down with the undertow. Going forward doesn’t seem like an option. I am stuck here for now in the mental anguish of this pounding surf.

But these waves, these breakers, the verses come back to me – Psalm 42:7:

“Deep calls to deep

at the roar of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves

have gone over me.”

All the breakers and waves HAVE gone over me. I’m battered and beaten mentally, physically. And YET deep calls out to deep. I’m drowning, but the God of the universe calls out to me in my deepest parts. And these waterfalls cover me and what happens when I emerge from all this? I don’t know as I feel that the emerging is the painful process of right now.

Seeking the Light

I recently wrote a post for my church’s blog. Read the introduction here and click on over to check out the full post.

There is a mourning, a fog of sadness that covers me when I take down the Christmas decorations. For five weeks the sparkling silver, red, and green have overtaken our house. Lights twinkling in the darkness, glowing, guiding me during my early morning reading. But today, it will all be put away. The white cold, stark days begin. Days of waiting until we can decorate again. And as much as a dread the undoing, I crave the cool, clean crispness of January unfolding forward into spring, summer, and beyond. [read more…]

Perspective Changed

My husband is a sweetie and indulges me with jewelry whenever he can. Every once in awhile, I need to get my jewelry repaired or resized. It is then that I get the chance to wear items I don’t usually wear. As I put on my original wedding set, I am reminded of the first time I saw it – how it looked like nothing else you could buy at the time. The center round stone and teardrop side stones look like a flower with petals around it. The center stone is one of the clearest and most beautiful diamonds I’ve ever seen. The jeweler even remarked about how pretty it is as we stood in a sea of precious stones! I’ve been wearing my anniversary set for so long that I forgot about how remarkably beautiful and simple my original set is.

I often pursue the next, shiny thing without pausing, looking around, appreciating, and remembering what I have. Isn’t that how life is? We forget about the gifts we have because we don’t remember or write down all that God has done for us over the years. Our perspective changes when we focus on God and look around at the abundance we have already been given. November is almost here. Let’s prepare ourselves for a month of gratitude by soaking in all that is before us.

Learning To Love

In the last couple of weeks, God has put people in my path that are challenging. Challenging to the way I think, do life, and my perception of what is right and wrong. While this feels like something new, the reality is that God has done this throughout my life. Last week, he presented me with these two people and I avoided the inevitable. So of course, I knew that I would be presented with it all again. Today, I felt like I got it right. I chose to love and engage in tough interactions. I let myself be open and listened and was surprised at the questions I received. I know an element of this post is vague, but that is on purpose. The point is that I’m learning to love others in ever expanding ways. The truth is that I didn’t want to interact, or learn, or be open, but that is what growing and changing is all about.

Pain In The Preparation

When I look back over my life, I see valleys and mountains, just like anyone else. And it occurred to me tonight that those valleys of pain were the places where God was working on my heart, preparing me for the next, big step. Of course, when I was wallowing in that low, I couldn’t see it that way, but hindsight always offers its wisdom at the proper time.

I remember going to work each day at my corporate job and asking God why I was still there when my heart was at home with my children. I remember breaking down one day and pouring my heart out to my best friend asking her why we all believe that lie that as women we can “have it all” – the career, mommy hood, and all other sorts of nonsense. And in those trying times, God was showing me how to be content no matter what happened, to be grateful for those moments, to choose to see him in the details around me.

When my situation changed and I came home, it was in a way I never imagined or could scarcely explain to others – amazing evidence that God cares about the details in my life and I only need to trust him.

So if you are in a time of preparation and the way is painful, look around and see God smiling at you in the little things – always looking for him, because he is there.

Growing Old is Relative

The day started normal and routine until I stepped out of the shower and felt the shooting, excruciating pain in my shoulder as I lifted my arm. I tried to turn my head, which elicited the same type of pain. Somehow a horrible knot developed in my back and it wasn’t loosening up. My plans for the day mutilated and the to do list scratched out.

I attached the heating pad to my back and read Abby a book. We sat together, she played quietly, I read silently for awhile. It seemed that the busy day that was previously planned, was now peaceful.

The paper cut on my finger started oozing blood, acidic drainage started burning down my throat, my shoulder still riddled with stabbing pain. My attitude dropped, irritation crashed over me and in that moment I yelled and snapped and the tears began to blur my vision. I had no reason to be so upset, but maybe it was fatigue, the too long to do list, fear that I would not follow through that made it all seem hopeless. I rested, I tried to do a few chores, the heating pad went on again and I wondered if I could make it through.

My bible study leader called me. Amazingly, at 41 I am one of the youngest ladies in the group. She tells me that she wished she had such great faith when she was so young. I laugh at the idea of being young, with these pains and irritations today, the sunspots on my face, the dark circles under my eyes. And as we talk, I realize that this growing old and how easily our circumstances affect us are all relative.