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Happy Birthday Dad….

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 79. He died 10 years ago by his own hand. That’s not something you ever think you’ll say….

My dad was a golfer and an artist. He was..uh… how should I say? passionate? about politics. And sports. He loved hockey and football and Notre Dame. He worked for General Motors his entire adult life and once had an opportunity to try out for the Detroit Tigers. He had a laugh that was infectious. As he got older, he always talked about wanting a Harley. He didn’t think he’d ever drive it anywhere, but wanted to keep it in the garage, crank it up and just listen to it run. I try to imagine what my dad’s life would be like today, had he not made that fateful choice… He had one grandchild when he died. Three more have been born since. All girls. Gosh, he would love them all. I can’t really see him riding a motorcycle, but I do see him driving a scooter around town. I can imagine him, gray curly hair too long, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, puttering around town on his scooter to go get coffee from the gas station. Enjoying life.

I say he chose death, and he did. But there had been a definite, drastic metal breakdown somewhere around 10 months before he died. I don’t know what happened… but he was filled with fear and anxiety. There had to have been some sort of mental illness, dementia, or stroke that impaired his ability to think rationally. I knew by the way he talked something was going on. Much of what he said was irrational. And it ultimately caused him to feel like death was a better option. It was the only escape.

I understand wanting to escape. I’ve been there myself… I find myself there regularly, actually. Death isn’t my option though… I escape into Facebook or TV or books or sleep. I know what fear and anxiety feel like too. Anxiety so strong that no matter how hard you pray, it just doesn’t seem to help. In fact, it feels like the harder you pray, the worse it gets. The enemy is strong. The one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He certainly did that for my dad. He’s tried to do that with me. He tries to do that with those I love.
I want to say I’m not having it! I’m done! No more Satan!! And I do, but I know he will remain… he will continue to plague us. I’ll never be grateful that my father chose to end his life. But I’ll forever be grateful that I have a Father who can redeem that act. That while the thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus’ purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10). That I KNOW He’s there, even when I don’t feel it. My dad knew Jesus. I don’t know what went through his mind regarding Jesus in those final months…

The enemy is strong. But my God is stronger. If I just believe. And trust. And surrender to Him. He is my Shepherd. With Him, I have ALL that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).

Not a day goes by that I don’t wish my dad was here… but the loss of my dad by suicide will cause me to be more aware. Aware that there may be more going on than I realize. Aware that comments may not just be ‘talk’. Aware that there is pain that feels greater than the fight. But also aware that my God is great. And He is mighty to save.

I love you, Lord ; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord , who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. –Psalms 18:1‭-‬3

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Posted in My Cancer Journey, Uncategorized

My Cancerversary and My Brokenness

It’s 11:47pm on August 30, 2017. I’ve been thinking about this day for days… but then spent most of the day oblivious to what today actually was. BUT… I want to at least acknowledge it… It’s my cancerversary!!

7 years ago tonight, I lay in my husbands arms and cried…. I think. Maybe I didn’t. I might have been numb. But I know I lay in bed just trying to envision how my life was about to change. At about 4pm that day, August 30, 2010, I was told that I had breast cancer. Wow, it seems like 100 years ago. And it feels like yesterday. I was terrified. More terrified than I had ever been in my life. With no idea what the coming months would bring, of course my thoughts went to the worst case scenario. Months of side effects of chemo, nausea, vomiting, hair loss…. then death. I mean, it was cancer, right? And this is the case for many many many people… and my heart breaks for them and for their loved ones. But, for some reason, here I am. Still here 7 years later to tell my story.

People probably think I’m crazy when I say cancer was the scariest, yet best time of my life. A time when all else fell away and I was left with what was most important. God. Family. Friends. Life. God drew me close in that season. Let me rephrase that…. I drew close to God in that season. He’s always there, just waiting for us to draw near to Him. Well, I did. And it was the most peaceful time I can remember. Now, don’t get me wrong. it SUCKED. But deep inside, there was peace. A peace I cannot explain. Peace amidst the chaos and hell that is cancer.

So months went by. Chemo, radiation, surgery. Back to normal life. Except nothing was the same. I was left with a new normal.. not a bad normal, just new. But just like the Israelites of the Bible… I forgot. I forgot where I’d been. I lost site of what God had done for me in that time. And I wasn’t ignorant to that fact. I knew I slipped away. Slipped back to life and relying on myself. That peace was gone. But I knew what it felt like so I missed it even more. So I prayed… prayed for a way to get back to that peace. Get back to that closeness I had with God in that season (but also making sure God knew, I wanted this, but NOT by having cancer again).

So, enter 2017. I rung in the new year with a kidney stone. That should have been my first clue. Fast forward a few months to some female stuff… I’ll spare you the details… but that landed me in the hospital overnight with the possibility of an emergency hysterectomy (which, thank God, ended up not being necessary). That was June. July… oh blessed July. July left me broken. Literally. One Friday morning in early June… I fell. Tripped, I should say. Going UP a set of 3 steps into a friend’s house. I put my arm out to break my fall… and it did. But it also broke my arm in the process. 42 years old… my first, no…ONLY broken bone. Ever! ER visit. Pain meds. Splint. Follow up with orthopedic surgeon. He originally thought it might heal on its own. So follow up appointment a week later revealed that, no, it would not, and so I needed surgery to repair my break. Did I mention I broke my humerus? My funny bone? Yeah… well. Not funny. So here I am, 6 weeks post surgery. (OH! did I mention my 13 year old broke her toe a week after my surgery??) So here I am, 6 weeks post surgery. I have had virtually no pain. Some short lived moments, but really nothing too bad. But, just like with cancer, don’t get me wrong. This summer has SUCKED. Splints and surgery and no driving. No pool. Lots and lots of down time. Really, I had nothing else to do. Other than scroll through facebook or read. You see where this is going, right? I told God I didn’t want cancer…. but I wanted to draw close to Him again.

One day, a fellow church member told me a story that he had heard. He said that many many years ago, when shepherd would lead their sheep, they had to keep an eye on them to make sure they weren’t wandering away. If a sheep wandered too far from the fold, the shepherd would break the sheep’s leg. The sheep, then, was forced to stay close to the flock… many times even being carried around the neck of the shepherd. He thought it was an odd story and wasn’t even sure why he was sharing it with me… but I knew it meant something. There was something about being ‘broken’ and having to rely on my ‘shepherd’ in this season. A week or so later, I was reading a book. A fiction book, I might add. And the same story about the shepherd breaking the sheep’s leg appeared in my book. It had a little more explanation…. the carrying of the sheep by the shepherd caused the sheep to rely SOLELY on the shepherd. The sheep could do NOTHING apart from Him. It relied on Him for its very existence. Without the protection of the shepherd, the sheep would surely die. Devoured by the lions that were prowling around waiting for something to eat.

So this season of brokenness has been hard. Really hard. Not cancer hard. But broken arm hard. I haven’t had that peace that I had when I had cancer, but I’ve had different blessings and different levels of closeness with God. I’ve spent more time with my kids. More time with my husband. I’ve had more time to sit and listen to the leaves and the birds. More time to sit and talk to God. Time to appreciate my friends and church family with all the rides to and from here or there, and meals so I wouldn’t have to cook. With nowhere to go, I have had the blessing of stillness. I didn’t see that as a blessing every day mind you…  it was hard to be stuck at home. And even though I have friends who carted me around, it’s different when you CAN’T just go when you want to.

Honestly, I am still learning what God has been trying to show me in this season. It has been hard, but it has been good. It isn’t over and I know God isn’t done. There have been many mini-seasons in this season on brokenness. Every doctors appointment led to new freedom, but new challenges, too. New things to adjust to. Physical therapy is coming up next, so I know there will be more freedom. And new challenges. And soon, my arm will be completely healed and my mobility will return to normal. And life will return to normal. But again, my normal will be different. Everything we go through makes our normal different, doesn’t it?  If we go through something and we stay the same, we haven’t learned anything. We haven’t allowed God to work. I know, without a doubt, He works ALL things for good. Even broken arms. Even cancer. Even disaster. Even death. He works ALL things for good. It doesn’t make them fun or easy… and there is usually pain involved. But, I, like my broken arm, will be stronger, BECAUSE I was broken. Sometimes healing just takes time, sometimes it takes intervention. Sometimes its easy, sometimes it requires metal plates and screws. Either way, it has changed me. It is, yet, one more reminder that I must rely on my Shepherd for my very existence. I must trust Him and stay close to Him. He is the only one who can protect me from the prowling lions. I know He’s got me… and He’s using every experience in my life to teach me that He is good and that I  MUST stay close to Him.

Do I think God broke my arm? No. But I know He is using my brokenness to bring healing. To my bone. To my heart. And to my soul.

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I AM the Screwtape mom

Scrolling through facebook today, I came across this blogpost. It contains an excerpt from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I have not read this book, but I think I may. I thought this ‘letter’ was spot on. This is not a new concept, and it was nothing surprising to me, really. I think it was the simple way it was all worded that made me realize…. I AM this wife and mom. And, honestly, it was hard to read. But, at the same time, it gave me hope. Hope in the realization that everything in this letter that describes ME, is not ME at all. It is the enemy. And he is a JERK. It gave me hope that if I will FINALLY put my hope and trust in my Father, I will be the wife and mother HE created me to  be.

Can  I be transparent here?

Luke 6:46 says, “Why do you call to me Lord Lord, when you don’t do what I say?” At least once each day I find myself calling (in desperation), “Lord, Lord! Help me! Why? How?” Do I listen to hear what He says? Nope. Instead, I listen to the first thing I hear. The voice of the enemy. The words of this letter. And it beats me down. Again and again and again. And I continue to go around and around this same mountain. Over and over and over. Which reminds me of a verse. Deuteronomy 2:3 tells me “You have circled around this mountain long enough, now turn north!” I’m tired. Tired of fighting this battle. Tired of being tired. As I go back to Luke and continue reading, in 6:47-49, Jesus says “I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

So… I’m done with this mountain. I think it’s time to rebuild and I’m turning north.

 

Here is the letter…

My Dear Wormwood,

I was thrilled to hear you have been making progress with the mother. You have a good lead, from what I hear. She’s feels over-worked, unappreciated, and discouraged? I’m so glad to hear it. If you tread carefully, this can be a great opportunity. With the kids waking her up every hour last night, we already have an advantage. A tired Mom makes for a more emotional Mom, and an emotional Mom is a vulnerable one.

I do have a few tips. First, aim your best efforts at her marriage.

As you know, we cannot do much with a unified marriage. Luckily for us, a cranky and exhausted wife can do wonders to change that. We must convince her that her husband is no longer the friend and ally she first married. Instead, we must reveal every sin and selfish habit, especially drawing attention to his thoughtless actions (mal-intended or not) against her.

Sometimes it’s the less obvious things, things the husband doesn’t even realize, that we can use to offend her the most. When he comes home from work and dumps his things on the counter nearest the door (instead of hanging his coat or putting away his keys), let her think of it as a direct assault on her work as a homekeeper. When he treks mud in with his shoes, let her think it is because he does not love her. Such extremes of thought may seem ridiculous to you or I, but to the exhausted mortal woman, it can seem possible. Your goal is to make her think the husband does not notice, or even better, that he does not care about her efforts at home.

Secondly, do what you can to keep her focused on her troubles and pains. Remind her how much her back aches, how draining the children were all day, and how many undone tasks still beckon her. Do not let her wonder what difficulties her husband faced that day or whether his back might also be aching. Valuing others above oneself is one of those silly, though strangely effective, tactics of the Enemy. If she stops to make him a cup of coffee, the next thing you know she’ll be rubbing his shoulders and flirting with him on the couch. It can progress out of your control if you’re not careful.

Along those lines, be sure the Mother starts to value productivity above everything else. Have her wake up early and work non-stop until bedtime. If the husband relaxes in the evening with an hour of computer gaming, be sure the wife notices the pile of unfolded laundry or unswept floors. Do not let her grab a book and relax alongside her husband. Diligence, often one of the Enemy’s virtues, when overdone can be used to our advantage as well. Convince her that as long as there is a shred of work to be done (and there always is), no one should be resting. Then, as she folds and sweeps and he sits, you can introduce the sweet bitterness of resentment.

A word of caution here. Remember, the love of a husband can be dangerous to our cause. If he senses her unhappiness, he may begin to help or (even worse) show her affection. This is where previously planted seeds of resentment can be guided into full bloom. Make her think that his displays of affection are because he “only wants one thing”. Do not let her view his help with the dishes (or kisses or cuddling) as having pure motives. If he shows his desire for her, convince her that she is being used, not loved. As we both know, the ultimate Act of Marriage can bond them together in a way that can undo much hard work on our part. Because of this, do not allow her to prioritize that Act on her mental to-do-list. It is in our best interest to keep the wife busy, busy, busy and be sure she’s far too exhausted to consider it by the end of the evening.

Now, onto the children. Lovely little opportunities for us, the children, especially the little ones. We all know that children are a favorite tool of the Enemy. He calls them Blessings and Gifts and calls parents to lay down their lives for them, just as his Son did. Insane, I know. We must convince her that the obnoxious little people she has charge of are not really worth her sacrifice. When the Mother first dreamed of having children, she probably imagined large, innocent eyes and chubby, happy grins taking up the majority of her days. Do your best to shatter those expectations.

Instead, draw attention to how much they take from her. Let them take and take and take… And need and need and need, until the Mother feels totally spent. Let them start crying at the same time for the most irrational of reasons. Let the noise bother her. Let their bad behavior surprise her. Do your best to make the day-to-day monotony of diaper changes, meals, and baths seem simultaneously overwhelming and beneath her. Let her think of all the better, more important things she could be doing with her life, if only she didn’t have the children.

Don’t let her think about the future responsible, faithful adults she is raising. Society changers, friends, workers, husbands or wives… Don’t let her think of them as life-long companions who will love her, converse with her, and care for her in her old age. Oh, and definitely don’t let her think about the grandchildren she might be able to see in their little grubby faces if she looked hard enough now. No, no, no… Thinking ahead to when her work bears fruit, as the Enemy calls it, is always a bad idea. Keep words like ‘heritage’ or ‘legacy’ far away from the runny noses and jelly stains of the day to day.

If there is any last piece of advice I have for you, Wormwood, it is to keep the Mother looking to her husband or family for her fulfillment and comfort. We know that the Enemy is always watching and willing to take the burdens of his children, but if we divert the Mother’s attention well enough, this fact can be forgotten. Make her look to her husband for worth and affirmation. Then, when he lets her down (as he is sure to do), she will be ours to torment. Yes, the worst thing that could happen would be for her to turn to Him with her needs and inadequacies. Once she realizes that the Enemy offers a peace that transcends her situation, our work could be utterly compromised.

Your Malevolent Uncle,

Screwtape

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Dear every cancer patient I ever took care of, I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

Here Comes the Sun

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Dear every cancer patient I ever took care of, I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

This thought has been weighing heavy on my heart since my diagnosis. I’ve worked in oncology nearly my entire adult life. I started rooming and scheduling patients, then worked as a nursing assistant through school, and finally as a nurse in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. I prided myself in connecting with my patients and helping them manage their cancer and everything that comes with it. I really thought I got it- I really thought I knew what it felt like to go through this journey. I didn’t.

I didn’t get what it felt like to actually hear the words. I’ve been in on countless diagnoses conversations and even had to give the news myself on plenty of occasions, but being the person the doctor is talking about is surreal. You were trying to…

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Posted in My Cancer Journey

Think Pink?

October. Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink everything and everywhere. In October all things are either pink or pumpkin spice it seems. This is my 6th breast cancer awareness month as a cancer survivor. My first was 2010 in which I was just starting treatment. How was I a ‘survivor’ if I was in treatment you ask? Well, wandering the halls of Duke when I was first diagnosed I saw something that said you are considered a survivor from the moment you are diagnosed. Made sense to me, so I have been ‘surviving’ cancer since August 30, 2010. Coincidentally, I started chemo on October 8 of that year. I thought it was kinda cool that I was going through treatment during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As cool as cancer treatment can be anyway. It was like a big cancer party all month! First treatment, lost my hair, went trick or treating as a cancer patient. I thought that was hilarious. My friends were not amused 🙂

So, pink. In the breast cancer world some love it, some hate it. Some bathe in it. I like it because it reminds me of my battle. It reminds me of those still in it. Of those in it again. And of those who aren’t here anymore because of it. It is a part of who I am. Not the pink, but the cancer. And no, I don’t need the pink to help me remember… those days will definitely not be forgotten. But they do slip from my mind more than I ever thought they would. Like it was another life. It is the strangest thing. But that is just my experience. I know there are others out there, even in my own circle of cancer sisters, whose experiences have been very different. They are reminded every day of their battle, when they look at the scars where their breasts used to be. Or when they look at their children. They think about what life would have been like without cancer because they would have had more children and couldn’t because their BRCA gene positivity caused them to lose not only their breasts, but all their reproductive organs. Or they are reminded every day because they are STILL battling, still in treatment. They may have recently been diagnosed. Or their cancer has returned. In my circle I have 2 friends who have had a recurrence. One is still battling, the other has been gone from this earth for one year this past week. Left behind a husband and 2 little boys, parents, sisters, extended family. She is healed… and we are beyond glad for her. But that doesn’t make it any easier. And I know there will be more, sadly.

On Facebook, I changed my cover photo to a breast cancer survivor banner. I changed my profile picture to the one picture I have of myself bald. This month, I dyed my hair pink, as did both of my children. All to remember. And to remind others. I don’t do these things haphazardly. I am fully aware that most in my circle (and by circle, I mean those women who I knew or met through my battle. We battled together or very nearly together) caught their cancer early, as did I. But sometimes it spreads. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to who and why. And it sucks. And as grateful as I am to still be here, and as much as I want to live a long long life, when a close friend’s cancer returns, or they die… it makes you feel a little guilty. Why am I still here? Why her and not me? We had the same cancer. Same treatment. I thank God that I am still here, I do. I still have work to do, apparently. He has a plan for me. I pray that I can fulfill those plans. To honor Him first and foremost, but also to honor those who aren’t here anymore. I do believe and trust that whatever work they were to do on this earth was completed and they are now celebrating in eternity with their Creator.

I also sometimes feel bad that breast cancer awareness and pink everything seem to be SO popular. There are sooo many kinds of cancer. And we are all affected. We all have friends, family, neighbors, pastors, children who have or have had or have died of cancer. Breast cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer…. I wish all cancers got the same ‘notoriety’. ‘Publicity’? There is no word that fits. But mostly, I hate that it’s an issue at all. Not long after I finished my treatment, Duke opened their beautiful new cancer center. It is very nice and I love it. I wish it had been there when I was going through treatment. I am so glad others have this great place to go, but it pains me every time I go there how busy it is! How sad it is that so many people NEED a place like that. And it affects everyone. EVERYONE. All genders, races, socio-economic statuses. Adults, children, babies. Wives, husbands, parents, grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles. Cancer does not discriminate.

All that to say… I think pink this time of year. For myself, for my breast cancer sisters. I do pink because breast cancer directly impacted me and my life… and still does. But I also see it as a general cancer awareness. A reminder to everyone… it could be you. Your wife, your husband, your child, your friend. At any time. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. And we are not guaranteed an easy life. So make the most of this life you’ve been given.

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Run Wild…

Music speaks to me deeply, so I thought I would share my new favorite band and song. This is for King & Country. The song is “Run Wild”. Here is the link to the lyric video.

Run Wild

As I’ve been listening to the song, which says “Run wild, live free, love strong, you and me,” I started thinking about those words. What does it mean to run wild, live free and love strong? Especially in today’s world, these words could definitely be misconstrued. Well, at the end of their CD there is a monologue in which they talk about this. This is what they said…

Run Wild

To risk everything

To hold nothing back

To lay it all on the line

Your reputation

Your success

Your comfort

It’s that moment when fear is overcome by faith

 

Live Free

It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever  and wherever you want

But rather, it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity

And Finding freedom by connecting with the creator who conceived you

Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time

Feeling the blood course through your veins

Finding the truest version of yourself

By knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself

 

Love Strong

Because you were first loved

Because without love we all perish

Because the earth and the stars can and will pass away

But love

Love will always remain

 

If you’d like to listen, click on this link. This is a song called O God Forgive Us. But this monologue begins at about 4:00 of the track.

O God Forgive Us

So my advice for this day?

Run Wild

Live Free

Love Strong

You and Me

 

 

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Wilderness

I wrote this post back in 2011 while I was battling cancer. It contained a stern warning for me. Did I heed that warning? I thought I did, but 4 years later, I find myself in the world, forgetting what God has done, and worshipping my golden calf. There is no doubt in my mind that the Israelites and their story show up many many times in my life for a reason. I think of this post often and God leads me in reading different parts of their story… Over and over. It is so relevant to my life. My cancer story and my current life. There will be more to come on this subject… For now, click on the following link to read my post.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kandacepoindexter/journal/view/id/51be307a6ca004ec10006543