Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Accepting a Different Kind of Christmas

Today is day 7 post-chemotherapy, and this is the point where everything that goes in my mouth has a burnt taste to it.  My strength is slowly returning and I look forward to enjoying a week and a half or so of feeling pretty good before my 6th and final treatment on January 11th.  I am coming down to the last few injections into my expanders that are needed for the over-expansion process.  The hope is that as soon as I can build my immune system again after the final chemo, I will be able to undergo my second surgery in which the expanders will be replaced with implants.  The expanders feel so foreign to my body that this second surgery is eagerly anticipated.  I continue to receive physical therapy treatment on the same days that I have my expansions in order to help reduce the muscle spasm of the pectoralis muscles. 

In the time since I last updated my journal, we have enjoyed a lot of family time.  Blake’s mom, Ivy and her husband, Jarrett’s visit from Oahu, HI has been a welcome change from the routine we have come to know since this journey began.  We celebrated Koa's 4th birthday with a winter luau complete with a Hawaiian plate of Kalua Pork, Mac Salad and Rice.  Christmas has provided some variety as well with Blake able to take some time off work allowing for more time to just be still and take it all in.

For me personally, this Christmas has been about acceptance.  I realize that most of the time my mood is based on how accomplished I feel.  The accomplishments usually include how organized my house is, how much time I spend with my kids, how consistently I have exercised, and how much time I spend with the Lord, just to name a few.  With the notorious hustle of the holidays, it is also about how many thoughtful gifts I can give.  Chemotherapy has definitely affected my ability to accomplish and has, therefore, set me up for a real season of feeling down.  Although I continue to be far from mastering it, my weakness during this time has been a good lesson in accepting what the Lord has for me.  I wasn’t able to give as many gifts this year, but between the Ulman Cancer Fund supplying gifts for our kids and trying to treasure the time spent with my family more, it turned out to be a pretty great Christmas.  Although we have received some free house cleaning, it can be quickly undone with the kids’ toys/games strewn all over and that is okay. My overall fatigue makes it hard to spend as much time playing with the kids but we have been blessed with rare occasion of having both sets of grandparents to love on our kids this Christmas.  I desperately miss the burn of a good workout and the high of a good run but have been able to take a few good walks recently.  As far as my time with the Lord, it has been more about being still and reflecting on all that He has brought me through in the last few months. In my acceptance of my lack of accomplishment, it has been more clear than ever that Christmas is simply about accepting the greatest gift given to us, a Savior come to earth as a baby.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wasting of Our Earthly Tents

This has been of week of reminders that outwardly (our bodies) are wasting away. It started last Tuesday when my dear friend, Sara ended up at the Bowie Health Center with excruciating pain in her right side that turned out to be a dermoid cyst on her ovary. Then I got news that my neighbor and friend, Kim underwent emergency surgery and had been hospitalized for acute appendicitis and an appendix rupture. Sunday's church sermon was beautifully preached by Pastor Pat about our broken bodies, and my story of breast cancer was used as an example. I sent two care packages to women who are undergoing surgery for breast cancer this week. Then I watched a video of the amazing Tim Webster's recent testimony about the loss of his wife, Lara to brain cancer. This Saturday I will attend a memorial service for another friend, Bobby Snow that went home to heaven just last week after battling brain cancer as well. Frankly, I am overwhelmed by it all. The health concerns of my loved ones hit me in a whole new way these days.  

However, I am encouraged by several things that I got from listening to both Pat and Tim. First of all, Christmas is proof that God is here and that He cares. My journey has undoubtedly taught me that as well. Just as He showed up as a baby born in a manger as was prophesied long before it happened, I have seen Him show up for every step of my journey. And His care for me and my family is unmistakable. Tim mentioned that the suffering of losing Lara has made him long for Jesus' return and to be in heaven. Although I cannot identify with his loss, I can identify with his groans and longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling (2 Cor 5:2). The affliction of my physical body that I have experienced excites me for heaven where there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more heartache. I believe it hurts God to see us have to endure the suffering that comes when our or our loved one's physical bodies break down, but I believe He also wants us to long to be with Him and bring glory to Himself through it.   

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Mother's Love

I remember her saying it so many times as I was growing up. "You won't understand until you have kids of your own." This week I have been talking a lot with my mom about their annual Christmas letter since it will no doubt have to include sharing about my journey. I have been thinking about how the last 4 months have been for my mom as she has had to watch her child go through something like this. Since I received my diagnosis, I have praised the Lord that it is me having to go through it and not one of my kids.  Being a mom is the hardest job in the world not because of all the physical work involved (which there is plenty) but because of all the emotion involved.  God created us with such strong emotions to begin with and then we are given these gifts that we just can't help but love with this amazing self-sacrificing love. When something happens to cause them pain whether physical or emotional, we're frantic. Then tack on the fact that we are powerless to take that pain away and that makes us completely desperate. I know my mom must feel desperate at times, like when she has to watch them inject those crazy chemo drugs into me (especially the bright red one). This makes me so grateful that she too trusts in a Faithful God.  

My mom has taught me so much about relying on the Lord and praying for every detail of life no matter how small. She has also taught me so much about being a mom. She has always given so much of herself to make sure I know how loved I am.  It has been no different as I have walked this journey. Since there are many times I am unable to care for my kids, my mom is constantly filling in the gaps. And seriously if it isn't me or Blake, I want it to be her. She spends every Tuesday and Thursday helping me with the kids and takes Koa to school so I can avoid a germ-filled preschool. She keeps the kids at her house from Wednesday through Friday on the weeks that I have chemo so I can get the rest I need. As I mentioned, she sits by my side at the infusion center as I'm hooked up to IV bags receiving my chemotherapy treatments. These are just the beginning of all the things my mom does to help me get through each day of walking this journey.  More times than not when using the expression "You won't understand until you have kids of your own" it was when I was being denied something. But I am hoping she knows that I do understand. I understand what she has been feeling over the last few months and I understand why she does all that she does. More importantly, I want her to know how grateful I am for all of it.