Thankful for Cancer

I am thankful for my cancer!

Through these trials, I have learned how to live daily, break down my stress quickly, and equip people to know how to love others well through tragedy and loss! My cancer has given me a very unique ministry to develop a rapport and relationship with other patients, survivors, their family and friends. My cancer has opened up doors for me to share my faith in Jesus Christ with doctors, nurses, technicians, advocates, teachers, patient receptionists, phlebotomists, patients, family, friends, and strangers. My cancer has shown me that while I am weak and vulnerable, my God is mighty and strong!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Four Shades of Purple

purpleTwo days ago I had my six month oncology appointment. The timing for this appointment was perfect because about 10 days earlier I’d found a lump (node?) I’d been watching. While, I wasn’t too worried about the lump, I still wanted to make sure the doctor checked it out.

Before I left the house I said to Todd, “Please pray for me, because I feel like there is someone I need to talk to this morning!” He smiled, kissed me goodbye, and said, “Of course!”

During the drive, I thought about this mystery person. I wondered if this person was a man or a woman, a patient or a waiting friend, perhaps a doctor; or maybe even a Starbucks barista. I began to pray that God would show me who to talk to and what He wanted me to do. The thought immediately crossed my mind to take 2 copies of my book, Good Grief! with me since I was already planning on dropping one off for the Chaplains at the hospital.

As I parked the car, I signed the second book, “You are not alone!” and out loud said, “Okay God, who am I supposed to give this to?” Immediately, the picture of a woman wearing a purple scarf on her head crossed my mind. Okay!

Walking toward the entrance, I smiled as I remembered nearly one year ago walking through the same entrance with chills running down my spine as I thought, “THIS is where they are going to fix me!” I felt that same excitement walking in the doors on Monday, and I got a little bit giddy. I perused the waiting area to see where the line began to get my blood drawn, and then I saw her. In a sea of 60 men and women, there she was… the only person wearing a scarf on her head. And, guess what color her scarf was? Four different shades of PURPLE!

I checked into the blood draw area, and went to find a seat right behind her, not having a clue what to say to this woman (who by the way was in the middle of a conversation with someone else). I really should have prepared to talk to her more. I opened my mouth to speak and I’m still not even sure what I said as I fumbled through some sort of “I’m not sure why, but I felt like I needed to give you a copy of this book I wrote… there was something about God in there, and oh yeah, I’m a 3 time cancer survivor.” Any semblance of eloquence shot right out of my body in that moment!! HA! I’m sure she thought I was nuts. But, I figured, if God was going to place this woman on my heart this morning, He could use even my bumbling to reach her wherever she was at, in spite of me.

Over the last few weeks, our LIFE group has been studying Warren Wiersbe’s, Be Joyful Commentary on Philippians. This past Sunday, this quote really stuck out to me: “Instead of finding himself confined as a prisoner, Paul discovered that his circumstances really opened up new areas of ministry.” YES! This is often how I have looked at my own cancer.

I think part of the reason I could be giddy at a Cancer Center is because I see and look for the opportunity. Without my cancer, I would not be able to build a personal rapport with other cancer patients, survivors, and even doctors. Before I was first diagnosed, I could sympathize with men and women affected by cancer, but I could never really empathize with them. I now have a deeper level of ministry because of my cancer, and because of these circumstances.

Therefore, I will walk alongside others who have struggled with cancer. I will continue to share my story and in the process do my best to point others to a loving, compassionate, merciful God, whose heart breaks for what they are going through. And, I will allow God to use my cancer for good because I refuse to allow myself to be a prisoner to cancer, and I refuse to allow my cancer to dictate my response to life.

Q. Have you ever felt imprisoned by your circumstances?

*Photo via Flickr, Shaire Productions

Life in Perspective

There isn’t anything that can get me emotional quicker than a child fighting cancer or a life-threatenting disease.

You know those days where you are just not having it, where everything seems to be going wrong, where you are tired and could stay in bed all day long? Maybe it is a bad day at work, a rough day with the children, one Murphy’s Law after another. Well, nothing puts life and my bad or frustrating days into perspective quicker than taking my eyes off myself and looking at what others are going through.

We are currently praying, praying, PRAYING for the following families.

Will you join us?

1) Jenna is a 15 year old sweetheart who just started Cycle 3 of chemo yesterday, and she had a ROUGH day. Please pray for Jenna and her family. Once she is done with Cycle 3, she is expected to have another 3 cycles of chemo, and the family knows the longer the chemo goes, the more difficult this will be for their sweet girl.

2) Sophia is a 22 month old precious baby girl with Down’s Syndrome, who has also been recently diagnosed with Leukemia. She started Cycle 1 yesterday. Please pray this chemo will eliminate all of the cancer in her bloodstream.

3) Silas is a 4 year old boy who has an aggressive form of liver cancer. After 10 cycles of chemo and 6 weeks in remission, his cancer came back and he is now in need of a liver transplant. He will be starting chemo again to buy him some time so the doctors can figure out how to proceed.

4) Isaac is a gorgeous baby boy with CHARGE Syndrome. In his 143 days of life, he has spent 103 of those days in the hospital, where he currently is once again. It appears his medical condition is getting worse.

Friends, please pray for these sweet, precious, amazing children. The good news?!?! Every single one of these children are being raised by parents who love Jesus and know that God is the Ultimate Healer, source of Comfort, and Provider. Please pray that GOD will meet their financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Please pray that God would HEAL these children and that HIS glory would be displayed through their lives!

Letters to My Loves

The day before I began chemotherapy for my 3rd cancer, I wrote three letters; three goodbye letters.

One to Todd. One to our daughter. One to our son. With an anxious heart going into my first round of chemo, I knew the only deaths that had occurred with this drug, happened because of fatal allergic reactions during the first infusion. Though the statistics were logically in my favor, my life seems to be a statisical anomoly. There was a joke among patients receiving the rituxan that if you live through the first infusion, the rest will be a breeze. The closer my infusion date came, the less funny that joke seemed to be.

So, in the event that something catastrophic happened, I wrote the letters. It was one of the most painful and heartbreaking, yet most powerful experiences of my life. I told them each just how much I loved them, how I cherished them, how my life has changed for the better because of each of them. Then I told them of my greatest desires for their future and how I hoped they would handle my death, continuing to keep their eyes on Christ. By the time I’d written my last letter, I was completely worn out and emotionally exhausted.

But then, I began to reflect on the letters I’d just written. On a daily basis, do I act the way I’d just written? Do I cherish my family on a daily basis or do I once again somehow take life for granted? Do I stop to notice the small things that make me smile or am I too busy worrying about things that really don’t matter? Do I stop to steal hugs and kisses? Do I stop everything I’m doing just to snuggle with one of my children – or do I waste my time, filling my day with things that are completely meaningless? Do I react in love and kindness – or do I find myself short tempered because I am being selfish? Am I truly living Fully Alive, and leaving the legacy I someday want to leave; or do I just think I am?

Writing these letters was intensely painful and humbling, yet the perspective was incredible. Most people won’t even allow themselves to “go there” – but I challenge you my friends, my family… go there. Write your own goodbye letters to your spouse, your daughter, your son. Experience and allow the pain, don’t fight it. Perhaps you will learn something new about yourself in the process. Or perhaps you too will be reminded not only how precious your life is, but how precious your family is. So often we take our next breath for granted, even though not a single breath is guaranteed.

With my first bout of cancer, I did not care. With my second, I found myself angry. With my third, I opened my hands to God in surrender and asked that He would be glorified whatever happened.

So, here I am today, two years and nearly one month into remission. I had that allergic reaction I feared. And God still sustained me; to the point where my first dose of chemo, was my only dose of chemo! After that infusion, the cancer was 100% gone. Now, that’s a big God right there!

In the last 13 years, I have gone from being told I could only have 2 months to live if the cancer returns, to now being told this cancer is not even close to life threatening. I have suffered physically and received spiritual benefits. I have gone from being encouraged to do aggressive treatment, to learning that often times no treatment is a really good option. And, I have gone from educating 25 oncologists about my cancer, to having a doctor whose wife has the same diagnosis. Small world. Big God!

Through each bout with cancer, I have learned:

God is still God.

He is still good.

Cancer was never in His original design.

My body is His, and I trust Him.

I will serve Him here on Earth for as long as He will allow.

To read more about my story and how I have found purpose through these tragedies, along with our child-loss, check out my book Good Grief! It is currently only $3.03 on Kindle!

Q. What have you learned about God through your own tragedies?

Cancer: Oh, there is Your Sting

Yesterday I wrote about how I didn’t care about being diagnosed of cancer when I was 22 years old. I was young, unmarried, and could clearly understand Paul’s famous words, “To live is Christ, to die is gain!” Death had little sting, for I felt I had little to lose.

Interestingly enough, my view of death changed dramatically once I relapsed. (Remember, I had been told if my cancer ever came back, I could only have two months to live?)

When I received the news, I was newly married to the man of my dreams. My husband Todd was away with his job, and not expected to be home for 3 months. I did the quick math, called him up and basically told him if he wanted to see his wife again (this side of Heaven), he’d need to come home.

All of a sudden, I realized how much I stood to lose if the cancer caused my death.

I was no longer “okay” with dying because I now understood and felt that unconditional love I had only once only dreamed of. I now had an incredible husband whom I loved more than I ever thought I could love another person. I now had a marriage and the life-long partner I wanted to grow old with. My idealistic childhood dreams were coming true, and now my cancer was seen as a threat to those dreams.

I no longer felt peace that Heaven would be better because I was living in a pretty amazing “here and now”. I could not imagine a life without this man (even though in death, I may or may not be aware of the concept of time). The thought that he could re-marry and someone could “take my place” was devastating for me. I didn’t want someone to take my place, I wanted to keep it, hold onto it and protect my place. I fell into fear, anger, and an almost depressed state, believing the cancer could tear me away from this man I so loved, cherished, and adored. Cancer had now become the enemy and death was not something I was okay with. I no longer saw death as something to be gained, but something that would destroy what I thought I wanted more, at least for now.

My view of Heaven didn’t change. I still believed it to be everything I’d read in the Bible. But I became selfish towards death. Again, if it was all the same to God; I preferred to stay on Earth and live out this dream first. I knew I would go to Heaven eventually, so what was the rush? Why hurry?

I had finally bought into society’s view of death and had become fearful of its sting!

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 3 of this series. My 3rd relapse with cancer, and once again another perspective.

Q. Are you fearful of death’s sting? If so, why?