Milestones on the Cancer Journey

So I had major abdominal surgery six weeks ago. It’s the thing that launched this crazy situation we’re in. We thought the surgery was The Thing to worry about getting through. Little did we know that was a cheerful, sunny walk in the park that led to the scary, poorly lit, ivy covered, rusty gate marked CANCER that we had to walk through. I have this tendency to wave my hand dismissively at that surgery. The surgeon who performed it did an excellent job and while his bedside manner made me want to hide under the covers, he removed not only the mass that caused this mess, by not screwing anything up, he also removed many obstacles for me. The connection could have leaked. I could have ended up with a colostomy bag (eeeeewwwwww.) There could have been a massive infection. All kinds of things could have gone wrong which could have jeopardized my life or delayed treating the cancer for six months.

I have been pain free from my surgery for about three weeks. I had a very fast recovery which I attribute to largely to God answering about one million people’s prayers and a little bit of my sheer, mule-like will. See, the doc not so politely noted that I am not a particularly thin person and lingered on the notion several times that due to that, it would probably take me a very long time to recover. To which I thought “Awww,that’s so cute how you don’t know who you’re dealing with, here.” And I basically said “Hey, you do the surgery right and then get out of my way.” Jagoff.

So, naturally, I was zooming up and down the hallways by the second day post-op, sweating and muttering swear words under my breath like a crazy person, with that stupid IV tower clunking along, just to spite him. I walked three times as far each day as they suggested I try to and they released me from the hospital 3 days earlier than expected. Take that, Doc. Also, I registered for a 5K that will take place a couple of days after my final chemo treatment. I will be there. I will finish. Even if I have to crawl.

Some of this post is about the will to accomplish that which seems difficult, overcoming obstacles and basically telling a guy with 12 years of post-secondary education who would go on to essentially save your life, to shove it. But it’s also about milestones.

Successful surgery. Awesome.

Getting discharged early. Great.

First “solid” food. Yum.

Returning to work to be with my crew.

Mort the Port is installed.

Starting treatment.

But the best thing, by far, happened yesterday. It’s been six weeks since I was allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. That is, well, most things. Including a 40 pound preschooler. She’s been patient and understanding that she can’t torpedo down the hallway and launch her adorable self at me. She’s been gentle and careful. Until this moment…

Cancer is funny.

Oh, calm down. Yes, yes, we know. Cancer is terrible. Trrrrblll. It steals, kills and destroys. I could make a very long list of how cancer is very unfunny. Sad. Scary. Depressing. But! Also…funny.

First, there’s the silliness that happens when I come out of surgeries and procedures. My first procedure, I came to talking about chicken tenders and an octopus. My big surgery, I spent the hour or two post-op groggily but loudly and insistently explaining to any of the medical staff who would listen (and those who chose not to) in the recovery room that I was ready to be moved up to my hospital room. A surgeon would hurry by and I would be like “Sir! Sir, I’m ready to go to my room. Excuse me! Hey! I’m all set here.” And when they seemed like they were going to take the guy next to me first, I started saying loudly “I need a transport here. Right here. I’m next. Transport. Can you transport me? How about you?” Obnoxious.

I find my scars to be funny. I have a big scar on my belly button and one on my upper chest area. It’s a good thing I ain’t no super model. Because it looks like a blind, drunken monkey stitched me up. Here is the one on/in/near my belly button. Are they kidding me?! You can’t even tell what’s going on here, can you? This is my belly button now. Awesome.

People say weird things when they find out you have cancer. Of course some people say incredible, wonderful, encouraging things. And people assume a lot of things. That I’m already bald. That I’m not working. That I’m going to die. That I can’t have more kids.

I have funny conversations with people. Especially about how I’m now going to maybe possibly be vegan/paleo/vegetarian/dairy-free/all organic or whatever.

Hospital stuff is funny. Like these legs things.

And this thing. That looks like a throw back from wilder days.

And this. Because it’s fun to freak out the nurses when you’re asleep.

Thankful for Cancer

What!?

Thankful FOR cancer? Yup. I know, it’s crazy. Let me explain.

Do I enjoy having cancer? No. I am praying like crazy every day that all of the cancer cells are gone and they never come back. I am kind of mad that I have cancer. I mean, it’s totally not, like, fair. Not that anyone deserves it. No one does. Or maybe we all do, depending on how deep you want to get from a theological perspective. But I definitely hate it that I have cancer. I hate it that my life has been so totally disrupted. I mean, I’m busy. Not just busy getting my nails done or something, but busy raising a daughter to be a (hopefully) really great person. Busy raising the operating budget of a large nonprofit organization that helps homeless people. Busy kicking everyone in my league’s butt at Fantasy Football. You know…important things. I do not like feeling tired. I am nervous I will lose my hair (but maybe just the hair that enjoys to appear on my upper lip? Please, Lord!) I hate it that I have to be so “all about me.” I like to help other people with their problems. It’s unnatural for me to be the recipient. I hate all of this medicine I take. I am tired of doc appointments. My hands and feet don’t feel normal. So…don’t get me wrong. Cancer blows.

But I’m still thankful. I mean, what good does sitting around crying and worrying about it do? Bitterness is dangerous. It chokes everything around it. Have you met someone you would describe as bitter – embittered by some bad thing they feel happened to them? Do you want to hang out with them? Me neither. Some emotions like fear and sorrow are legit, of course. It would be inauthentic to pretend they don’t exist. But, in my opinion, they ought to be acknowledged, invited to stay for a short while and then politely asked to leave so there is room for better emotions like hope and peace and confidence. The long and short of it is this: God is working together all things for my good and His glory. Sometimes it takes a little effort to bring our minds back to that truth. But what a solid place to live from!

I am thankful to be thinking about the things I am thinking about, in terms of who God is, who we are and how we are to approach life. See previous blog entries for a lot of thoughts about that. I am thankful that it is possible to have HOPE every day. I am thankful I am not sicker. I can drive and walk and work. THANKFUL for that.

I am thankful that this has pushed me to think seriously about what I eat and what products I use. I have learned a lot. I have also confused myself and stressed myself out quite a bit. But I’m learning new things.

I am thankful that cancer has brought a few familiar faces back into my life. We all let friendships fade for any number of reasons. But serious illness snaps us all to attention and reminds us how much we love some of the best people we’ve had the blessing to know.

I am so thankful for the kind things people have done for me. Seriously! So much niceness! So much thoughtful generosity. Just this week:

-meals delivered to or prepared at my house by people who are encouraging my new, developing eating habits.

-someone saved me a parking spot with their car. like “here, I’ll give you this one so you don’t have to walk in the cold.”

-home-roasted coffee beans, delivered to my desk

-lovely visits over lunch at favorite restaurants

-treats dropped off with sweet notes

-offers of child care

-wine deliveries

-a text that meant the world to me

-people sharing my blog with others – I can’t believe anyone but my mom reads this, so that is pretty cool.

Being thankful for something that on the surface is very bad.  It’s the stuff Scripture is made of.  The last shall be first, the first shall be last.  Weakness leads to real stregnth.  To receive, we must give.  Jesus won it all by the humble act of losing everything.  Rejoice in ALL circumstances.  (Not just the ones that involve cake and ice cream or healthy babies or a sale at Anthropologie.)

I am thankful for the perspective that comes from a diagnosis like this that points to toward valuing each moment and each day a little more. Seeing more clearly, noticing things I haven’t before. Directing my thoughts toward things that are worthy of my brainspace. “Did I make it count, today?” I ask myself. Was today as rad as it could have been? Did I love as fully as I can? Did I let go of the things not meant for me, and cling to the big, wonderful things? Did I trust God more today than yesterday? Did I yield my own will to His? Did I look for the opportunities set before me? I may have many more days on this earth. But if I have one or 100 or 20,000…I’m living like I mean it, yo. That is something to be thankful for.

Perspective

So they are saying that 10,000 people died in the typhoon that hit the Philippines.  Can you even fathom that?  It’s a half full hockey area, roughly.  When I read numbers like that in the same sentence as the word “died” I kind of automatically shut down and decide to think about something else. My brain finds it difficult to compute.  My heart doesn’t have the capacity for the level of grief that such a situation requires.  My spirit rages at the seeming injustice.  I look heavenward and give God the stink eye.  

Seriously, what the hell?
One could say the same about cancer.  In fact many people have.  To me.  And I’ve thought it once or twice.  But here is what I’m coming to understand little by little.  God is going to bring about justice one day.  He is going to make right all that is wrong.  He is coming to rescue us.  Sometimes I question this as we all do.  Why not now?  Why not in this way or that?  Why does anyone have to suffer?  Why so much blood spilled?  Why can the bad people…the really bad ones triumph, ever?  Why does the weather get to take out thousands of people?  Why miscarriages?  Why devastating injuries?  Why cancer?  Just fix it.  God can fix it – why doesn’t He?  And quickly before the next terrible thing happens!!
If you think I have easy answers here, go read something else.  I’m just a person who frets and fumbles around like everyone does.  But I do have, for whatever reason, at this particular time, a surprisingly solid amount of hope and trust in God.  And, here’s what I think:  
-We can’t know the full truth, the full extent of the reasons for these things.  So don’t think you can grasp it fully.  I’m pretty sure we can’t.
-We do know that God is good.  One because scripture says so, but also from a logical perspective, we can conclude that if He created us and everything, He is the standard.  The creatED cannot judge the creatOR soundly.  He says He’s good.  He makes the “rules” if you will.  From our limited human perspective we cannot rightly approach the throne of God and say “You there, your plan doesn’t fit the Hallmark movie with the happy ending I imagined myself living so therefore 1. You are bad and maybe even 2. I no longer believe in you.”  That’s dumb, right?  I mean it just doesn’t make sense.  If you don’t want to believe in or follow God because you don’t like how things are going…it’s like saying soccer doesn’t exist because you didn’t win your game.  There are more logical reasons to not believe in God (I would argue that, ultimately, they don’t hold up logically, but if you’re going to quit believing or never start – come to the table with something a little more interesting than “I don’t like how things are going.”  Lame.)
-It’s possible that there is another belief system that is more representative of the absolute truth of the universe/life/etc.  But here’s why I don’t buy them.  They all either have 1. a relative truth like “my truth is x and yours is y and we’re all ok.” or 2. require us to follow particular rules to achieve some ultimately good thing: enlightenment, zen, heaven of some form, your own planet – yup, thats a thing.  On the first point, it does not resonate with me that what is true “for me” is not true “for you.”  We can perceive things differently and we might conclude certain things differently.  But one of us is right, or neither is.  If our views are diametrically opposed, we cannot both be correct.  If there is a group of goldfish, and I say there are 7 and you say there are 9, we can’t both be right – one of us counted wrong.  Or maybe we both did.  But there is a correct answer.  My thought is – lets try to find it and not be jerks to each other in the process.  Secondly, It does not resonate with me that we can earn our way to heaven.  Follow rules and receive X.  You know what people do with rules?  Figure out how to get whoever is charge to believe they are following the rules while bending or breaking them as much as we think we can, undetected.  I.e. it’s ok if you don’t get caught.  Or only do it on the weekends.  We manipulate our way around rules.  We do the bare minimum.  We don’t follow them full-heartedly rejoicing in the glory these wonderful rules bring us.  We plod along begrudgingly, hedging our bets on what we think we can reasonably get away with and then label ourselves a “basically good person” and hope that whoever is in charge…God, Buddha, Oprah…will agree.  You see how that’s kind of crazy, right?  It simply can’t be about rules.  God is smarter than that..  
-So what’s it about then, if not rules?  Well, I say it’s about trusting God.  And that’s about it.  He doesn’t want our thinly veiled good behavior.  He wants our authentic hearts – messy, broken and wounded as they may be – following after Him believing He’s got this figured out better than we do with our terribly limited perspective from our pinpoint on the globe and on the timeline of history.
Look, if The Bible is true, and I do think it is, ( it’s fine if you don’t) it tells us that God’s way of saving us from our selfish, messed up, manipulative selves is to lovingly sacrifice the greatest thing He had to give – His son.  (Are you tempted to quit reading here?  I would be.  I know it may have started to sound cliche and boring there if you’ve spent any time around weird Christians who spout the Jesus died for you stuff without warning.  But give me a chance here.)  
The Jesus died for you part…It’s Him saying “look how much I love you.”  
Do you have kids?  Would you ever send them to the cross for someone else?  Nope.  That’s crazy-level love.  Unfathomable.  Just like we don’t “get” the cancer, the typhoon, the unemployment, the pimple the day of the prom…we don’t get God’s ways. But we can be confident that in all things, He works for the good if those who love Him.  Because He gave His son.
A little preachy today, I know.  You don’t have to buy it.  It’s wrought with questions and “what about…”. It’s taken me about half my life thinking about these things to come to this particular place.  And its not even close to the whole truth.  The Bible says that we now see, but like we’re looking through a glass darkly.  We see some, clouded, but not all.  We squint, fumble for the light switch, ask our neighbor what they see.  We get frustrated and put the glass down.  We shut our eyes and are content to just listen instead thinking we’ll never see it right.  We give up.  But I say, keep squinting.  It’s worth the trouble.  

Cancer, nutrition and enough information to bury a small country…

In my fight against cancer, I have a few weapons. The first is God. It’s ok if you don’t believe that. I do, and I believe He is sovereign over all of this. Moreso than God being a weapon with which to fight, He is the overseer of the whole thing. And the One I can rely on to walk me through the fear and confusion. And that’s a good thing because man, is there a lot of confusion!

The second is my doctor and Western medicine. I’m a fan. Chemo brings dying people back from the brink (sometimes.) PET scans detect cancer early enough to do something about it. Pain killers help people fight through another day. I believe in all the wonders of the modern medical community. I believe God has given us knowledge and information and wisdom that can save lives through scalpels and pills and laser machines.

But I do NOT believe it is the end all, be all. Which brings me to my final weapon.

The growing (and holy moly is it confusing, inconsistent, conflicting and overwhelming) body of knowledge around nutrition, lifestyle and a more holistic view on the body and its systems. I am all for this. I am game for making big changes in what I eat and don’t eat, what products I use, what activities and technology I engage in, my sleep patterns, consumption of medications, exposure to potentially dangerous materials, etc. I am very willing to attack this beast with all available to me.

But.

Everything is in conflict with everything else. Paleo. Vegetarian. Vegan. Macrobiotic. Fasting. Supplements. No supplements. Vitamin D3. Vitamin B6. Dairy free. Organic only. Wheat free. Gluten free. Sugar free. No artificial sweeteners. No packaged/prepared foods. Not too much fruit. No fruit. No grains at all. No corn. Nothing genetically modified. No salt. No cheese. No red meat. Lots of red meat, but only if it’s lean and grass fed and grass finished. No cows, but goat products are ok. A little honey. No honey. Lots of honey. Potatoes. Only certain potatoes. Any vegetable. No tomatoes. Bottled water. Never bottled water. Only reverse-osmosis filtered water. Lemon water. No citrus. No pasta. Only rice pasta. Lots of beans. No legumes whatsoever.

This is the point where I begin to feel like the world is spinning. I can’t sort it all out. Who is right? Who can I trust? What if it’s different for everyone? How will I know? As a friend recently commented…I eat a bite of dairy and I’m like “great, I’m screwed.”

So on one hand, I want to say “Eh, I trust God, so whatever.” But no. I mean, I do. REALLY, I do. But I feel some responsibility to figure this out. To some extent. And when I get better, the fundraiser in me is going to turn into a dragon and out of sheer outrage is going to find the money to fund the research around this stuff so we can KNOW what we are supposed to eat!!!

Back to fighting traffic

In Pittsburgh and the surrounding vicinity, there are many neighborhoods to choose from.  My family recently moved from the South Hills to an area east of the city.  There are many good things about this location, but the biggest baddest thing is fighting the traffic at the Squirrel Hill tunnels every morning and evening.  Many writers before me have waxed philosophical about the lack of explanation of the origin of this nearly always present traffic – there is never an accident, roadblock or lane closure.  Just a strange phenomenon of people slowing down, quite abruptly, as if the tunnel has in some way startled them, as if there are not actual signs not only alerting us to their presence but actually instructing us to maintain our speed.  The part that really get me is that this happens each day during rush hour.  We must assume that the vast majority of these travelers embark on this westward journey regularly.  And still the tunnel scares them, and still they slow, and make us all late.

What does this have to do with cancer?  Not much, except that I am finding it stresses me out less.  When you get such a diagnosis, things become clear that were once less defined.  Being late is bad, but not, like catastrophically bad.  Sitting in traffic stinks, but compared to injections, blood draws, nausea and endless copays – meh.  Turn up the tunes and be glad you’re not in a CT scan machine, I say.  
Additionally, I’m in this traffic (no, not RIGHT now…) because I am going to work.  I am going to work because I feel good enough to work.  I get to make the choice to go to work or not.  I could be a lot sicker.  
So, instead, I’ll be grateful to drive a little slower through the hills and valleys of this beautiful place where we live and appreciate the fall foliage.  Unless you cut me off, ya jagoff! 

Chemo, my frenemy

Chemo is a funny thing.  It’s making me feel way worse than cancer has, and yet we have to assume it’s helping me.  It is difficult to willingly allow someone to put poison in your body.  One of my poisons is made of platinum.  I know, I’m fancy.  But that’s a metal.  And it’s in my blood.  That’s weird.

So far, chemo has made me tired, achy, irritable and nauseous.  It makes my hands and feet feel weird.  And I can’t drink or touch anything cold.  Most of the day, today, I was horizontal.  And it sucked.  My tummy is wonky.  I just don’t feel like myself.  So I did a lot of this.

But that wasn’t really working for me.  So I rallied.  And off we went.
We even rode a mini train.
I’m not saying that getting out and about is the right move every time.  It’s probably not.  But I felt I wanted to test my limits.  I wanted to see how much of this el-crappo feeling was real physical stuff and what was me just letting the cancer and chemo get me down.  It’s definitely some of both.  But it turns out, today, I had a little more gas in the tank than I felt like I did. So now I’m home and in need of rest.  Time to recharge the super powers!

Chemo Smackdown-O-Rama-Fest: Round 1

Morning of first chemo treatment.  Most people wear sweats.  I say, intimidate Stupid Cancer with fierce style.  It’s easier for me to stay upbeat and my usual charming self when I’m looking presentable.  Leopard print all the way.

We arrived at the treatment center and got hooked up via Mort the Port to an IV of pre-meds.  (Steroids and anti-nausea stuff.)  We then met with my doc, Dr. Mehta.  He gave us good news: my cancer has NOT spread.  They hadn’t assumed it had but its good to know concretely.  Also my blood work (white blood cells, etc. were all in normal ranges.)  **These are answers to prayer.**  When God answers our prayers so clearly – its worthy of a moment of our time and consideration.  We have to pause, acknowledge, give thanks.  He does not always answer with what we are looking for – sometimes the journey is longer than the one we planned for.  But sometimes we get a simple gift like this.  I am grateful.  I give thanks that this cancer hasn’t spiraled out of control.  There is an army in my body fighting it, and it’s doing an amazing job.  I’m thankful for my surgeon who did a difficult surgery well and removed what was visible.  Thank you, Lord for all of your provisions.  

So then we got hooked up to the real stuff.  Chemo.  Oxaliplatin is the big dog of chemo drugs that I’m taking.  So into Mort the Port it went.  It took about two hours.  It was uneventful.  During that time, I read funny texts from friends, watched videos on You Tube, ate some cheese and carrots and talked to Kevin.  They have a snack bar at the center.  It’s not very healthy which I think is weird.  A poor diet does not help in the cancer battle.  But I guess with chemo patients, whatever you can get down the hatch is good.  And sometimes that is Lance brand neon orange peanut butter crackers.  Blech. I tired to imagine how I could politely suggest some organic fruit or air popped non-GMO popcorn.  But…I want them to like me.  So I’ll bring my own snacks and Kevin can eat the cupcakes.
So they also gave me my oral pills.  I have to take five in the morning and five at night.  This drug is called Xeloda.  
Kevin meticulously filled my giant pill box for me.  He will almost certainly do this for me every week.  The fact is the man is significantly more responsible than I am in such matters.  That’s why he’s the precision baker and I’m the chef with full creative license.  Recipes, schmecipes.  So Kevin is the family pharmacist.
The infusion was complete and we left.  We were both hungry so we went to Mad Mex.  a friend’s response: did you really think Mexican was the best choice immediately following chemo?  Fair question.  First of all, I got black beans and rice and tofu in a dry tortilla so it wasn’t like I got the drippy, crazy meat-filled enchiladas.  I passed on the margaritas, too.  πŸ™‚  But I really haven’t felt super nauseous.  Just a little bit queasy.  So far, eating helps.  So bring on the tofu!
What I have had in terms of side effects in the past 24 hours have been with neuropathy/very high sensitivity to cold food/beverage and touching stuff that’s colder than room temp.  
The very bad thing that happened was when I took a huge swig of iced tea before I knew what would happen.  Awful. I felt like I drank Drano.  It scared me.  I had no idea what they meant when they said “cold sensitivity.”  It was pretty horrible.  Like trying to swallow a raisin that suddenly turned into a tiny porcupine.  All scratchy and spiky out of nowhere.  Also, strong tasting things like olives, vinegar and sharp cheeses do something weird to my mouth.  It feels like biting into a giant lemon.  That “sour” reflex is in overdrive somehow.
On the tactile front…touching something cold is like grabbing onto an electric fence.  It’s very strange to have your own body mess with you like that.  I’m so grateful to not be vomiting all day like some people do with chemo (fingers crossed on that one!)  But it’s weird and inconvenient to have to adjust what you eat, drink and touch.
Right now I’m feeling ok.  I’m a little bit apprehensive because I know that it gets worse before it gets better.  The last day has told me that I cannot predict what’s coming next and I don’t like that.  This may be the toughest one for me out of the 8 rounds, simply because its all a mystery.  Everything is fine and then my body betrays me.  I’ve spent 35 years in it.  It’s like if a good friend who has always been kind and dependable suddenly starts acting like a total bitch.  
So this is where we give ourselves a moment.  Acknowledge the difficulty.  Acknowledge the frustration.  Choose to accept it.  Then turn our thoughts and our hopes heaven-ward.  People say I’m strong.  I am.  It would be false humility to argue that.  I was raised to be strong.  I have experienced success that galvanizes my trust in my own abilities.  Whatever you’ve got, bring it.  I love a challenge and I plan to win.  It’s my job to get people to understand why they should give their hard earned dollars to help unemployed, homeless drug addicts.  I’m not selling sports cars to men in the midst of their mid-life crisis or pacifiers to desperate new moms.  Lets just say I’ve chosen a field where it’s not an easy sell.  A former supervisor once said about me “she could sell snow to the Eskimos.”  Well I’ve never tried.  But I would probably give it a shot.  
But I can’t do it all.  
I’ve gone as far as I can go on my own strength at the moment.  So “I lift my eyes up…up to the mountain.  Where does my help come from? My help comes from you – maker of heaven…creator of the earth.”  
So, I lean into God today.  Giving Him my anxieties and worries.  Believing He will provide whatever is needed at the most appropriate time.  Sometimes that comes in the form of a good test result, help from a loved one, a cheerful card, an unexpected moment of peace.  

On the Eve of Chemo-Smackdown-O-Rama-Fest

I have been the receiver of a lot of love and support as of late.  I was thinking that it might be helpful to list the things that have been helpful, touching, appreciated, fun, needed, etc.  Maybe someone will Google “How to help someone with cancer” and this will be useful.  that being said…here are a few of my favorite things:

Prayer.  Seriously.  We (I and much of my crew) believe in God, who heals, who is with us, who comforts us.  Pray for me, but pray because connecting with the Creator is good for YOU, too.  
Food.  It is hard to cook.  Surgery takes a toll.  So will chemo.  I have a couple of freezer meals from kind people – it’s a relief to know they are there.
Checking in on my husband.  He is strong.  But he needs community, too.  The man is my hero.  Buy him a 6-pack of Guinness or just tell him he’s doing a great job.  
Offers of close friends/fam to shuffle my child off to do fun stuff.  Take her, please.  I love being near her.  But.  She’s an extrovert like me – she likes to go out and do stuff or hang with a cool loved one.  I can’t be super awesome to her right now.  So when you are, it rocks.
Texts to start the day with an encouraging word.  Morning after a tough night can bring hope but sometimes it’s just so blindingly bright and glaring and looks like a big uphill climb.  Under the covers, its warm and dark and quiet.  my heart has simply been unwilling to start the day sometimes.  Your words (you know who you are) are the “oomph” I’ve needed many times.  
Cards.  Holy moly, the cards.  I know how hard it is to get to the store, find a card that doesn’t suck, buy the card, locate a stamp, find the address.  Remember to mail it.  I get lost halfway most of the time.  So every card…I appreciate the full follow through.  You put me to shame!
Gift cards – so handy.  So generous.  I’ve also gotten some lovely personal gifts and I sincerely primarily appreciate the thought that goes into that.  I am amazed by how thoughtful and kind people are!   Gifts are never, ever expected – I have everything I need, really.  But your generosity has blown me away.  I feel so loved.  
Actually coming over and doing a chore or two.  This one is weird.  See.  It is basically impossible for me to call you and ask you to clean my house or do my laundry.  That’s tacky!  This whole experience is humbling me but I still can’t quite do that. It’s also so…vulnerable.  A couple of times, close, wonderful people have basically gone ahead and done stuff and it has been hard for me to be ok with it, but also…amazing.  There may be no greater expression of love than cheerfully cleaning someone’s toilet.  Not just anyone can wash my skivvies or scrub my kitchen floor.  But those in that tiny inner circle – you are awesome.  My advice is: everyone needs a few of those people…don’t hesitate to be that person for someone if you can.
Screen communication – immediately post surgery I had an appointed “PR” person.  This was so helpful.  She updated people and fielded questions.  I highly recommend this practice.  One less thing to worry about!
Asking me constantly what I need.  It changes!  Daily!  I am not going to call you and say “bring me some tea bags!”  But someone was wise enough to ask me constantly.  And…I really needed that tea.  πŸ™‚
Visits.  It makes me feel fantastic when you are kind enough to offer to visit me.  Hanging in my PJs, sharing a soy latte or coffee with a funny friend – the best way to spend an hour or two.  My two 60-something uncles stopped by one afternoon and we had such a great conversation.  Just text first so I’m not haggard.  That is stressful.
Music.  A couple people made me playlists.  It’s a really creative, fun way to show the love.  
Make me laugh.  Let me make you laugh.  I’ve got some pretty good tales of hospital mishaps and bathroom incidents if you’re up for them.
Stay positive.  I feel positive.  It’s wonderful to hear positive stories and why you know I’ll kick this things butt.  I love being reminded of the goodness of God.  I appreciate hearing that I have encouraged someone.  These are all helpful.
I share these thoughts not so anyone would feel compelled to do anything for me.  But to share my appreciation for all that has been done, and to provide insight into what might be helpful to others who are sick or recovering.  I know that in the past, I have often not known what to do.  I know better now – so I thought I’d pass that along.  

Learning from cancer

So I’m reading a lot about suffering, struggles, sickness, etc. It’s heavy stuff. But it’s hopeful stuff. I’m making my way through Tim Keller’s excellent book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering.

Dr. Keller is a giant of the faith…super smart, wry sense of humor, a man who has had his own share of struggles. Yes, please. Give me a man who loves Jesus, has a PhD and has been through cancer – triple threat, Baby. (A far cry from the days when, to me, a real man was any guy who drove a Jeep, wore Birkenstocks and listened to Dave Matthews. Ick. If I met my 16 year old self now, I would basically hate her.)

So Tim Keller talks a lot about how our culture tells us that adversity, suffering and struggle are bad – they are something to get past so we can get on with real life. Suffering such as dealing with cancer is a life disruption, a snag, an interruption from our regularly scheduled programming. But reality – biblical, real life? It says this is IMPORTANT. It’s not an accident, it’s not punishment and it’s not to be squandered. Which brings about another one of my cancer boyfriends (i.e. spiritual advisors I have never personally met) John Piper – now, he’s said some, in my opinion, unnecessarily annoying things on some controversial subjects, but I choose to ignore those, and focus on the wisdom I think he does possess. His challenge to someone like me is “don’t waste your cancer.” Intriguing, no? It’s a whole new way of looking at this kind of situation. Here are some of the more interesting ideas:

You’ll waste your cancer if…

-you don’t believe it was designed for you by God. (Whoa! Can that be true? I think it probbaly is. It’s ok if you don’t. But think about God’s soveignty – if He’s in control of everything, He can choose what to allow and what not to.)

-you consider it only to be a curse and not a blessing. (Again. Whoa. My cancer can be a blessing. It’s hard to think this way, I know. But I can see how this is possible. It’s not easy to believe that might be true. But it’s worth some consideration.)

There are other interesting and challenging ideas in this piece. See them here.  http://m.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/don’t-waste-your-cancer-1383847.html

In other news, Mort the Port is healing well. I am gaining confidence in movement – at first, it just felt icky, and I did not want to move at all, worrying that I might dislodge it or something, but that is improving a lot. Chemo begins Thursday. I am pretty confident, however, it should be noted that I have a pattern that I’ve noticed. I don’t worry about upcoming doc appointments, I don’t think too much about them. I arrive in a sunny, calm mood, and suddenly unexpectedly intrusive, embarrasing or painful things are happening that I have not mentally or emotionally prepared for. So, I’m trying to consider that they will probably tell me something disappointing, ask me to take me clothes off or hurt me with a needle in a way that I was not expecting. I will report back later in the week, on what the unanticipated experience of the day is.