Eucharisteo 2017

Thanksgiving reminds me to point my thoughts toward the practice of giving thanks.  Eucharisteo.  This idea that Jesus had this tendency to give thanks prior to asking The Father for something.  In her fine book, 1,000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp shares her story of an early life heartbreaking loss and how she went about the next couple of decades going through the motions of faith, but holding herself back, not really trusting this God she’d had decided was not trustworthy.  Eventually, she leans into her faith, deciding God may be worth trusting afterall, and she throws herself headfirst into this gratitude experiment.

I took that ride along with her as I read the book, dutifully making my list of things to be thankful for:  my exquisite, blue-eyed fairy daughter, the way sunlight beams in and makes rainbows just when I need to be reminded of my beautiful friend Laura who left this world way too soon, the nicest Malbec with a new friend, a Steelers last minute win, the way missing someone lets you know your heart still works, perfect black heels, feeling cozy and safe, laughing until I cry, not getting a parking ticket even though I totally deserve one, my pregnant friend’s pregnant lady glow, my hair growing back fuller and better than I ever thought it would.

Yo, I don’t have cancer right now.  (Or maybe ever again.)  How about that.

When I’m cranky and frowning and sniffing the air and crossing my arms and frustrated and disappointed…I think of Ann.  And I think of Jesus.  And I am reminded to give thanks.  Not just because that’s the example we have – but because this practice…this eucharisteo…it is a powerful force, infusing us with life and love.  It fights against fear.  It fights against apathy.  It helps you to decide not to give in to bitterness.  It keeps your heart soft and ready for whatever is next.

Get this book

People often ask me what to do for people who have cancer. I have written about this several times on this blog. But I want to add a new suggestion. This little book is awesome. 





I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember who gave it to me. Chemo brain is a real thing. Seriously, it is called post chemotherapy cognitive impairment and it can last pretty much forever. I remember lots of things perfectly fine, but certain things are just blank. So, whoever got me this book, thank you! I really like it. I don’t usually have high hopes for small, cute looking, spiritual themed books. Which is kind of silly because some of my favorite books have fit that description. But there are a lot of dumb ones out there.  With pat answers and encouragement from writers I can’t relate to.  

Again, I wasn’t expecting much. But this book has brought a tear to my eye each time I’ve picked it up. I am only 12 pages in, but this lady knows what’s up.  One of her first pieces of advice was about what to do when someone comes up to you and starts to tell you a story about someone they know who had your same kind of cancer.  And you start to tense up because you are concerned about how you’re going to react when they tell you that they died. Just the fact that she would bring that up makes me know that she has been through what I’ve been through and she has thought about how to handle it well. 
Anyway, this book is great.  Get it for someone you love who has been recently diagnosed.  

Into the Void? Maybe not.

Sometimes when I write, I wonder what the point is and what impact the words have.  I’ve blogged for fifteen years (and wrote horrible diary entries for about 10 years before that…seriously, they are so dramatic and self-obsessed and boy crazy and just terrible) and if I calculated all of the time spent typing away, it would be thousands of hours easily.  And for what?  A few laughs, a few “likes.”  So what?

I wrote a book and no one told me that the easy part about writing a book is writing the book.  Someone has to care enough to publish you and then they have to care enough to promote your book and then you just hope and hope that your little book might somehow find its way magically to the people who will like it.  It’s a process through which I only got through the very first step – writing the thing.  It sits, like an unwanted hamster whose owner went away to college, in this laptop I’m typing at now, gathering cyber dust.  I don’t have the time and I don’t want to spend the money it would take to get it out into the world.  What I have to say can be said here.  People trickle in, 50 here, 100 there.  Hi, Friends.  Mom.  Connie.  Aunt Barbara.  Random person seeking cancer treatment tips.  Hello.  Welcome.  I’ve made peace with my little audience.  I write for people who love me, to share how I’m doing.  And I write for strangers who are scared and overwhelmed and using their fingertips on a keyboard or touchscreen, seeking answers, information and hope.  This is the hope stop.  You’ve found the right place.  It’s going to be ok.  Ok?

But even so, sometimes I feel like I write and the words fling out of me and into space, into the void, never to be reflected back to me.  That’s what we really want, as writers, right?  We need to tell the story, real or imagined, and we want it to fly out and bounce back to us.  We want to see something in the reactions of our readers.  Some writers want to get their readers to buy something.  Some want you to be scared.  Some want to make you feel sad about injustice.  Some want you to recycle.  Some want you to believe the same things that they do.  Some want you to laugh (guilty.)  Some want you to hear their story and feel compassion for people like them.  Some want to impress you.  Some want to inspire.  What do I want?  I want you to read what I write and when you’re done, believe in yourself a little bit more.  I want you to know that we can get through hard things.  That you can get stronger.  That it’s possible to survive pain and bad news and chemo.  That you can even have fun, like 98% of the time. I want to make the hard things in life a little bit less scary and a little more manageable.  I absolutely believe that if I can do it, you can do it.  I’m honestly not especially talented at anything.  I just believe in my brain and my body and my heart and I don’t give up.

The other thing I want you to come away from my writing with is the understanding that I have faith.  I approach all of this with an unshakable belief that I’m God’s kid and He watches me and walks with me with Great joy.  He has my best interests in His plans, and my only job is to trust Him.  He isn’t keeping track of my mistakes with a clip board full of wrong doings and scheming to find ways to punish me for them.  He’s cheering me on, urging me to do my best, and He’s always up for getting ice cream after the game, win or lose.  There are other aspects of God.  He is holy and so perfectly powerful we cannot bear to look upon His face.  But I am so enamored of the side of God that I am certain would laugh at a slightly inappropriate but witty and well timed about flatulence.

So, I want you to laugh, I want you to believe in yourself, and I want you to understand that pretty much everything you like about me comes from my trust that the Creator of the Universe chuckles occasionally at my antics and loves me like crazy, even when I am not especially well behaved.

Today, I got some evidence that this is happening.  I got the coolest care package from the coolest group of young ladies.  A woman who has known me since I was born shared my story from the last few years with her church prayer group, and they have been praying for me for a long time now.  One of those people runs one of the church’s youth groups for girls and one way or another she ended up sharing one of my blog posts that talked about getting through these tough things with faith, with the group.  Since then they tune in from time to time and read my stuff and talk about it.  This gives me so much joy.  I have mentored younger women since I was in college and continue to do so, most often, currently, in the form of trying to be the best boss I can to a small army of rockstar young women who comprise most of my team at work.  Helping women who I am a little further along in life than (ahem, old) is a real passion of mine.  I’ve been SO WELL mentored by the greatest women, ever.  It’s been instilled in me.  Basically, if you learn something (a skill, a process, a method, a way of thinking, a way of looking at something) what good is it really if you don’t turn around and teach it to someone else.  Sometimes there is a shortage of “the teachable” but when you find them, they are attracted to potential “life teachers” like magnets.  It’s a beautiful thing when the mentor and mentee find one another.  It usually flourishes eventually into a friendship and mutual learning – and these relationships have been some of my greatest joys.  Just about everything I know is because some smart person was generous enough to share with me.

So, to discover that I’m having an impact, 30 miles away, with a bunch of God following girls I’ve never met is just the greatest thing.  They sent me notes and the notes gave me tears over and over.  One (or several?) of them made a jar and put little note cards in it.  The top of the jar said “Who you are…” and the note cards said “amazing” and “beautiful” and “inspiring” and “role model.”

Holy cannoli did this encourage me.  I honestly had been feeling a bit down on myself, for not trying more persistently at “making it” as an author.  This picked me right up today!  I’m so full of love and joy from these notes (and the treats and sweet gifts they sent!) As a recipient of these blessings, I feel honored and humbled and invigorated to keep at it, sharing what I have to share.  And it reminds me, with great intensity how important it is for us to encourage one another.  Share with people the impact they have on you.  You’re probably sitting on a lot of unexpressed gratitude and appreciation right now.  Think of three people you couldn’t be where you are without – thank them!  Tell them how they impact you and how you couldn’t be you without them.

Cancer has given me terrible things.  But the beautiful things it has given me so outrageously outweigh the bad.  When life gives you lemons, like cancer…well, I’m Lemonscarlet, and I’ll be over here with my amazing friends, making lemonade.


Q & A

I’ve been meaning to dust this old thing off for a while, and even more so wanting to switch the whole thing over to Word Press like the rest of the world, but until I get 10 free hours and 50 other things done first, here we are.

So a few months ago, my doc notified me of some funk in my lungs that he wasn’t sure was cancer.  So we kept an eye on it.  Eventually we decided we were tired of keeping an eye on it, and we thought we would crack me open and scoop that sucker out.

Lung surgery is about as icky and painful as you might imagine.  They put a camera down my throat and into my bronchial tubes and injected dye into the tumor.  Then they went in through my ribs on the left side and back.  They performed a lung resection, removing a portion around the mass and sewing it back together.  I woke up with a chest tube sucking blood and gunk out, snaking across the floor to a little plastic suitcase I had to carry with me to the bathroom.  I took one look at that thing and said “Leave the catheter in so I don’t have to go anywhere.  And can I have more pain medication, please?”

I left the hospital in a few days, stayed home recovering, staring at my cat and working from home.  Then I got a colonoscopy because, why not?  🙂  Three days later I headed to LA for a work trip and some fun catching up with friends who insist on living way out there.

I got home late last night and headed straight to the doc today to find out that the funk was, in fact, cancer.  Sigh.  This is my THIRD time having cancer.  Sometimes I honestly cannot believe this is my life.  On one hand, I can’t believe it’s my life because I’m 38 and super active and eat pretty healthy and I have cancer.  And not one of those “good” cancers that just needs to be treated and probably won’t come back.  One that keeps coming back and attacking different organs.  And on the other hand, I can’t believe it’s my life because I have persistent stage 4 cancer that keeps trying to kill me, and yet I just ran my fastest two miles of my life 2 weeks ago, had major surgery, got on a plane 13 days later, and the same day was swinging around my friend’s loft apartment on aerial silks like an acrobat.  An enthusiastic but mostly unsuccessful, hysterically laughing acrobat.

I stayed out until 1am in Hollywood at the coolest jazz club I’ve ever been to, and managed to get up the next day and make it through a full day of meetings that I actually fully enjoyed.

I’m three and a half years into this cancer experience.  (I will refrain from using the word “journey” because even though it totally makes sense and often it seems like the only apt word, I just really hate it.  You can totally use it if you want.  In fact, if you want to send me a card, good luck finding one that doesn’t have the word “journey” in it.)  Anyway 3+ years in and the third round is on.  Treatment for now is “watch and wait” but chemo may be in the future.  My goal is to get through the Spring and Summer without needing treatment and then, come September, if it’s back to the chemo bar, then back to the chemo bar we shall go.

People ask me the same few questions, so I will post them and the answers here for you:

Are you ok?  Yup.  I am.  I’m not thrilled.  I would plan things out differently if it were up to me, but that is God’s job.  Most of the amazing stuff in the Bible I would not have been able to plan out, so I leave that to Him.  I am not always happy.  I am not always filled to the brim with joy.  But I am definitely ok.  And even when I’m not, good, familiar company, delicious healthy food, a song I love, a trip to the beach or maybe a nice Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc cheer me right up.

Are you scared?  Generally, no.  Sometimes I get scared about a specific thing, like an aspect of surgery, recovery or a chemo side effect, but between prayer and bugging my nurse friends, I usually get over that stuff quickly.  As far as being scared to die, I want to live as long as I possibly can.  And I feel hopeful that it might be quite a long while.  But heaven awaits. Then the real adventure begins, I am very convinced.

Are you mad?  Nope.  Occasionally, I am mad if I have to miss something I want to do, but I have been fortunate to minimize that. I get upset if I feel like I’m letting everyone down because I can’t do as much as I am used to being able to do.  I get frustrated when I can’t be as productive as I would like to be.  I think you are only mad about this kind of thing if you somehow think that you don’t “deserve” what is happening to you.  I do not believe that challenging circumstances are punishment, and therefore the whole “deserve” it idea is very foreign to me.  No one deserves it, and yet we all do.  And, also…there is SIGNIFICANT growth and maturity and strength that comes only from suffering.  I basically don’t put a whole lot of weight to the words of those who have not truly suffered.  It’s the only way to show what you’re made of.  And it makes you tough as hell if you let it.  I don’t choose my suffering but the results of it, when faced with the proper attitude are a blessing you can’t get another way.

Do you need anything?  There is not anything specific that I need right now.  But occasionally, I let my friend, Kait, know if there is anything that would be helpful.  If you know me, you almost definitely know Kait.  🙂  For example, sometimes lending me a book is very welcome.   (I’m all set with books right now, fortunately, thanks to a few thoughtful friends.)  🙂

What is the hardest part?  Not knowing if or when it will hit again.  I struggle with long term planning.  Like…you should plan a vacation a year ahead.  That is stressful to me.  That’s when I know I’m in a different life than most people.  You don’t not plan a trip to Fiji because you MIGHT get hit by a bus.  But I honestly would not plan an expensive trip six months out.  More like…can we go next month?  Great, I’m in.  Long range planning makes me nervous.  The other hard part is people I love worrying about me.  This worrying business is endless.  They worry about me, so I worry that they’re worrying, then they feel bad that they’re making me worry.  Everyone stop worrying, ok?!  Just pray and trust God.  Seriously.
How do you do it?  I don’t know.  Focus on what’s right in front of me.  Appreciate each day.  Refuse to miss out on something amazing.  Buy every shade of red lipstick ever invented.  Basically I choose to throw myself into all that I do, reject fear, love as hard as I can and embrace the adventure. So, who’s with me?

Two dragons

I had a CT scan on Friday.  We had a really busy and fun weekend, during which I ran my best 5K race ever.  I’ve never run a 5K in less than 40 minutes, and my time was 38:41 with a 12:27 pace.  I know it isn’t fast, compared to most runners, but, honestly, I was thrilled.  My follow-up doc appointment was scheduled for Monday.  I didn’t have any anxiety (or scanxiety as we cancer fighters call it) all weekend, but for some reason, an hour before the visit, I started worrying and couldn’t stop.  When we got there, I noticed that they called every person back before me, even if they had arrived after.  I started pacing, near stroke-level panic, realizing they might be putting me as Dr. Mehta’s last appointment.  This could all be a total coincidence, but there was something I was sensing that turned out to not be totally unfounded.

Being a cancer patient does all of these strange things to you, and one of them is it creates this extreme, urgent desire to read people.  You read everyone from the receptionist to the lady who takes your vitals to the nurses, and most definitely the doctor.  I wonder how, when they teach about bedside manner in medical school, how they handle this.  Do they tell the prospective doctors that patients waiting to hear news will be filled to the brim with anxiety and reading every facial expression, every word, interpreting every delay, every bit of data.  She looked at me sympathetically – something is wrong!  He frowned at my results – I’m dying, like, tomorrow.  I even read the “system.”  They didn’t email my blood work – I definitely have diabetes, leukemia, high cholesterol and zero white blood cells.  Often my interpretations end up being wrong – at times, what I thought was a sure sign pointing toward bad news was nothing more than a computer glitch.  But not this time.

He gave us the good news first.  Liver looks great.  Abdomen looks fine.  Tumor markers are very low.  But in my lungs, a previously unchanging nodule (a normal thing that lots of people have) changed.  In 6 months, it seems to have grown from 4mm to 7mm.  My doctor said he really doesn’t think it is cancer, but because of my history we have to be sure.  He said he could send me for biopsy but that it really is so tiny, it would be tough to get a piece of it and a lung biopsy is no picnic.  He mentioned a chest tube and I started getting tunnel vision and feeling light headed.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I will do whatever has to be done.  What. Ever. Has. To. Be. Done.  I promised myself I would never shy away from a procedure or treatment no matter how much it would hurt or scare me.  Frankly, I’m not scared of anything like this.  I won’t like it.  I might even hate it.  But I do what it takes.  I’m not going to get sicker because of a lack of courage.  Now…given the honest recommendation of my oncologist to wait, I’ll take it.  We’re waiting to see if it grows.  If it doesn’t in two months, we’ll check again in another two.  If it grows, we’ll do the horrible sounding biopsy.  If it’s cancer, we’ll “scoop it out” (ugh) and proceed with chemo, I assume.  After all of this, he said he thinks it’s 98% not cancer.  That surprised me.  I thought we were talking 50/50.

So how am I doing?  Not great.  Not bad.  I have truly, truly been through the emotional wringer with all of this – it has this ripple effect that touches everything else in your life.  I have experienced such highs and lows through it all – I’ve felt more alive than ever in my whole life, and I’ve also felt like death doesn’t sound so bad.  I’ve felt so fully loved, so much hope, so much gratitude, and also disappointment, anger and sadness.  I’ve been shocked both by unexpected kindness and unexpected failures.  Cancer amplifies life.  Takes you soaring one day and plummeting to the ground the next.  I’m kinda beat up, honestly.

But I think the “beat up” that I feel is more the hangover that I’m experiencing from that 45 minutes in the waiting room and exam room where I knew something was wrong, and got the “bad news” vibe before I actually heard what this news was.  I suppose there is something chemical in the brain that happens – adrenaline, cortisol, something that just floods everything.  The news honestly isn’t dire at all.  As my mentor said “2%?  There’s at least a 5% chance there is something worse in my body I don’t even know about.”  That really helped me gain a little perspective, actually.  But my brain thought it was dire for 45 minutes, and it’s still there, in that “oh shit” space, even though the data says otherwise.

I dug out a Tim Keller sermon this morning, because I know I have to think my way out of this one and the best way to do that is to listen to people smarter than I am.  It was a good reminder of what I know to be true in terms of God’s goodness, His sovereignty, His purposefulness.  It also reminded me of my own responsibility in my emotional life.  There is this little fable or whatever I’ve read once or twice about there being two wolves that live inside you (I think of mine as dragons) and one is anger/frustration/unhappiness/bitterness and the other is joy/contentedness/peace/love.  They fight for control.  Which one wins?  The one you feed.

The bad dragon loves self-doubt, fear of failure, unforgiveness, performance-based acceptance, blame and shame.  I need to feed the good dragon with knowledge of God’s love and care, restful, energizing experiences, wholesome food, tough exercise, you tube videos of news bloopers, grace, people who are encouraging, fair, loving and consistent, healthy vulnerability, challenges I am capable of meeting, good books, pleasant company and prayer.  Help me feed the good dragon, ok?


Dealing with the weeds

It’s been a good, long while since I have posted.  That is
for a few reasons.  Primarily that since my chemo ended and my last scan
revealed NED (no evidence of disease) I have been, well, getting on with my
life.  I ran in the marathon, had my 38th birthday, visited San Juan, Puerto Rico with one of my besties.  
Life post-chemo is strange.  On one
hand, it is quite celebratory.  It’s a
gift to be done with getting poison injected into my veins every two weeks.  It’s incredible to begin to heal and feel
like myself.  It’s a relief to know that
pretty much, each day I will feel a little bit better until I’m back to
But there are things that need to be addressed.  Shifting from survival mode back into some
version of a normal life where you live like most people do but also have to find out
whether your cancer came back every 3 months, is a very complex transition.  There are relationships that need to be
attended to – with cancer and treatment, it’s kind of an “all about me” world
that is not meant to be sustained. 
Shifting back to reclaiming responsibilities from daily chores to emotional
support of other people is both fulfilling and challenging. 
During chemo, you ignore so much. 
Basically everything.  Your routine
that keeps everyone on track, your child’s behavior, your marriage, your toenails, the health
of your friendships, your bad habits, the cardboard boxes piling up in the
garage that need to go to recycling.  The
perfect example of what I’m talking about happened when I went to unearth a
cooler from the garage and the precariously stacked mountain of cardboard
literally came tumbling down. 
Crash.  Mess.  Sigh. 
If we aren’t careful everything can come crashing down, having not
been tended to for so long.  Really need to get a pedicure on the calendar, people.  
I started my yearly garden recently.  Little seeds are sprouting and flourishing,
but all around them, weeds threaten to choke them.  I find myself in a daily battle, pulling them
out at the root, protecting my tiny seedlings. 
Why do the weeds grow so fast and strong and tall while the snow pea
seedlings need so much care?  I don’t
know, exactly – I’m no horticulturalist; I just grow a mean zucchini.  But I recognize the potential negative impact
of ignoring the garden for so long. 
My life garden has more than a few weeds taking over right now.  And it needs attention.  I can’t be sure, but I think it would be
easier if I’d had the kind of cancer that tends not to come back.  I could just deal with the trauma I’ve
experienced and move on.  But this cancer
lurks.  It hides and then pounces, making
another go of taking me down.  It almost
doesn’t seem worth the trouble of pulling out the gardening tools. 

But, in Christ, we have hope. 
So much hope for so many things.  There
is hope that I’ll live plenty long enough to completely screw my life up 🙂 
so it
seems sensible to put in the effort required in order to avoid that.  I want to be my best self, be the best mom,
the best wife, the best employee, the best friend, the best version of myself I
can be, no matter when my expiration date is, or if or when I’ll have to fight
this monster again.  In fact, should I
have to fight again, I want to be my best self to be ready. 


Return to (sort of) normalcy

About 6 weeks ago I had a CT scan that showed no changes – NED which is cancer talk for No Evidence of Disease.  No tumors, lesions or anything funky.  For now.  This is great news.  It guarantees nothing as far as the future goes, but it basically means I’m in remission for now.  I’ll gladly take it.

This weekend has been really nice.  We have spent a lot of time outside, getting some Vitamin D and playing and reading.  75 degrees and low humidity agrees with me.  I feel more like myself.  Today, at one point, Cass had three neighborhood friends over and I was discussing books with a neighbor who works at the library.  The sun was shining, the kids were squirting water guns.  I looked around and thought – holy crap, am I lucky.  I live in a beautiful place that has had clear blue skies for a week now – not the norm for the Burgh.  I have gotten back into the swing of things at a job I love.  And, the past few days I’ve spent time with some of the best people we’ve met since we moved here.

I was thinking back to how, before we moved, I prayed daily for almost a year for good friends and neighbors wherever we moved.  Three years later, I can honestly say, those prayers were answered better than I would have been able to plan myself.  God has given me people I can count on.  People who care.  People who step up.  People who share honestly, celebrate victories and mourn defeat with authenticity and grace.  People who encourage and empathize, use emojis in just the right way and enjoy a nice Lemon Shandy. I have always had great friends.  Lots of great friends.  And I’m full of gratitude that, while relationships I formed in high school and college shine brightly to this day, I have been fortunate enough to stumble across such funny, fun, grounded people in my 30s who get me and let me get them.

I’ve also had some success in my marathon relay training.  I spent March and the first half of April quietly panicking and thinking about what a moron I am for trying this, and how I must be insane for thinking I could run alongside world champion runners a distance further than I’ve ever gone.  But on Sunday, I had a breakthrough moment in my training.  I was on my third mile (my distance for the race is 4.2 miles) and my goal for that workout was 4 miles.  I realized, looking at my phone, calculating the distance and time that, not only was I going to make it, but my time was better than I thought.  It was the first time in my training that I celebrated as I was running and thought, maybe even said out loud “I don’t totally hate this!”  It was 80 degrees, I was running in a parking lot made of black top encircling a middle school building and a slightly shady guy was controlling a drone that seemed like it might be sort of following me.  Which was weird.  But I was happy.  Really happy.  And not scared.  And not mad.  And not sad.  I feel full of life.  I feel restored.

Throughout this last battle with cancer and my frenemy, chemo, I never lost hope or gave up or went into unbridled rage or anything.  But I’ve had a lot of difficult emotions to sort through.  And dark clouds of fear and disappointment and frustration and anger have lurked nearby and even taken up residence right above me at times.  You can’t do cancer happy and carefree.  But joy is a fire that burns within us.  Sometimes the flame dies down, but those embers never go out fully if our trust is in God.  My joy is growing, fanned by gratitude and the blessing of a break from the really hard times.  It feels exactly like crossing the finish line of a race you didn’t think you could do.  It doesn’t mean there isn’t another race on the horizon, but you can look back and go “I did that!”

Who knows what’s next?  Maybe I’ll do another triathlon. Maybe I’ll get my book published.  Maybe I’ll take up water polo.  Or something quieter like sewing or photography.  Maybe I’ll go to all of those normal doctor’s appointments I have put on hold, like the dentist.  And organize that karaoke night I’ve been meaning to.  My rendition of Shoop by Salt N Pepa is legendary.    



Healing, as needed

One could characterize the circumstances of the past few years of my life as unlucky, unfair or unfortunate.  And in some ways, they have been. But what stands out most to me is the outrageous levels of love and support I’ve received from my tribe of family and friends as well as the way God orchestrates things to encourage, embolden, strengthen and heal.  I just had a glorious overnight with Lisa Pratt Slayton, my mentor and lovely friend who has done so many kind things for me and taught me so much, and Jennifer Schlieper, my beautiful, creative, thoughtful friend who has been my truth speaker and healer many times.  These women didn’t know many months ago when this weekend of tattoos and rest was first conceived how bad I’d need it.  Neither did I.  But God did.  
I had a very hard couple of weeks recently, emotionally.  Coming down from the heightened senses of battling through chemo takes a toll. I had a lot of dark, foreboding, fearful thoughts that were quite difficult to shake or to share.  I felt like a dark cloud was above me.  I was always on the verge of tears.   
But the past 24 hours have been full of healing, hope, laughter, love, truth and encouragement.  Between the prayer breakfast – a room full of hope-filled leaders, all of the blue shirts on all of you beautiful people, the drive out of the city and through the country, the conversations of real things, the skillful hands of a top-notch massage therapist, a good night’s sleep in a cozy Inn…the cloud has lifted.  The skies are clearer.  Shalom is closer.  I can flourish again.  I even did my training run today.  Slow as molasses, but run, I did.  Thank you to each of you who had a hand in all of this.  I am so grateful.

Fighting Blind

Fighting cancer with surgery, radiation, chemo, etc is this whole lifestyle.  You put your head down with determination, you think positive, you deal with physical pain, exhaustion, you combat the side effects with medicine, home remedies, rest, prayer, massage, warm baths, lotions, creams, healing foods, tea.  You wish the bad days away and hold onto the good days, dreading the next chemo.  But basically, you’re getting through it.  You have a timeline.  You have a specific goal…get through the next chemo, and ultimately, get done with chemo.  You can’t wait to be done.  You’re jealous of those ahead of you – if someone has just one fewer treatment than you do, you are insanely envious of them.  Oh, to have just 3 instead of 4 left!!!

But then you get done.  And a few things happen.  The first is relief and celebration.  It is AMAZING to not have to schedule your life around chemo treatments and how your body will be handling them.  As the nausea, heartburn, neuropathy, cold sensitivity, joint pain, fatigue begin to subside, and as the nails, hair and taste buds start to grow back, you have a different feeling that can take hold.  Fear.

You’re done fighting.  Now we have to see if you’ve won or not.  And the enemy could show up again anytime, without much warning.  The future is filled with scans and blood tests and hyper vigilance.  Healthy, cancer fighting foods, exercise, stress reducing behaviors, avoiding exposure to nasty chemicals.  It’s easy to get swept away by the fear and the stress that every thing you do is either inching you toward or away from cancer.

This is the part I struggled with the hardest, mentally and emotionally the last time we crossed the chemo finish line.  Chemo – it takes quite a toll.  But the time after, it’s a different kind of challenge.

Primarily, it’s a challenge of faith.  This is where we have to just take God’s big, strong hand, and choose to let go of our fear.  All this time, we prayed and trusted Him we’d get through the chemo.  Now we have to trust that, no matter what, He’s got us.  He’s in control.  He’s all over this.  It doesn’t mean your cancer won’t come back.  Maybe it will and maybe it won’t.  But we’re called to a life of adventure, a life of uncertainty.  A wild ride of a life where we’ve handed the keys over the the Big Guy and believed this was the best way.  It is the best way.   We can’t control it anyhow, so why not just rest in the knowledge that the best possible tour guide, navigator, driver, event planner and travel companion is in charge.  Gratitude and trust can stamp out fear.  I’ve experienced it many times.  You simply can’t be thankful and afraid at the same moment.  One has to win out.  Light casts out darkness, not the other way around.


Almost but not quite

Yesterday, I got unplugged from my Wonder Woman Power Pack, also known as the stylishly bedazzled fanny pack that I would wear home for 46 hours, after completing my bi-weekly infusion at the clinic.  The fanny pack contained a very powerful drug that has caused me all kinds of side effects.  And as of now, I am DONE with that drug and the rest of them.

It is a strange time, the days following the END of chemo.  Partly because, although the drugs have stopped dripping, the side effects are just ramping up.  You’re thrilled to be done, but still have a couple weeks of pain and suffering to endure.  You want to bust out the champagne and celebrate but your body is just not ready, so it’s a little bit anti-climactic.  The celebrations have to be delayed as your body begins to react to the latest (last!) round’s effects, head downward, then slowly, the trajectory changes and you’re on the upswing.  Can’t wait for that feeling!!  And as the the celebrations – woohoo, have I got plans!

It’s particularly strange because the last chemo treatment tends to be the worst, so you’re headed into slightly unknown territory at a time when your brain and soul just want to shout from the rooftops, sing at the top of your lungs, paint the town red, dance it out, party like it’s 1999.  So, this period of time requires a little patience.  I remember being very frustrated by this the last time I finished chemo, back in March of 2014.  I was so ready to get back to feeling normal, and it seemed to take FOREVER.  It was several weeks by the time I really started feeling more like myself.  You feel like the worst should be behind you, but you have to come to terms that it simply is not.

Right now, I’m tired, foggy, groggy, and I have quite a significant rash spreading in new places (it’s taken up residence on my neck and eyelids this week.)  My anti-nausea meds have kicked in and are doing their job, thankfully.  My skin is so dry, it’s crazy – my elbows look like they belong to an elderly gorilla.  Some unidentified person kindly sent me some products from Amazon to help soothe these issues (identify yourself so I can thank you!!!!)  I have these crazy infected finger and toe nails – I really need these to get better ASAP so I can start really training for the relay of the upcoming marathon.  My face is flushed and feels warm.  The rash on my hands looks like burn marks.  I have some sores in my mouth that make chewing tough, but I do have some medication for that, thankfully.  Slight heartburn has started, but I have meds for that, too, so we should be able to knock that out pretty soon.

So, right now, while all I want to do is celebrate, I am forced to downshift into a lower gear, rest, recharge, and continue to let others take care of me and my life for a little while longer.  I will be fighting the side effects and impatience.  I need your love and laughs and thoughtful kindness now more than ever – send me those funny YouTube videos, words of encouragement and anything else you think I need to get me through.  The end is near, but we’ve got a little ways to go!

While all of that is a little difficult, I continue to be incredibly grateful.  I have had some wonderful people step up and check on us, making sure we have what we need to get to the finish line.  I have had thoughtful coworkers put my needs above their own, and some who have sent powerful words of encouragement and promises to keep praying.  Some food has been delivered so I don’t have to cook – thank goodness!  I have gotten cards with kind words, letting me know we aren’t alone in this.

Well, I’m pretty sure my cat is nibbling on my lunch in the other room.  His way of letting me know I’m not alone, I suppose, haha!  Thank you to those of you who have kept up the support and care in these last weeks.  We are so appreciative of you understanding that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.  Thanks for being in this with us all the way.  Love to each of you!