Monthly Archives: February 2010

Locker-Room Phobia

I’m not one to avoid going out if I don’t have make-up on.  I quite often throw on a coat over my PJ’s and slide in to some big boots to drive my daughter down to school.  I’m just waiting for the day that I, for some unforseen reason have to get out of my mint green mini-van at the school in front of professionally dressed parents in my old, well warn PJ’s with a pattern that resembles lucky charms. 

The day is coming.  And I am prepared.  Seriously. 

But here’s what I’m not prepared for.  Ever. 

It strikes a fear in me like no other.

Are you ready…’s THE LOCKER ROOM.  Yes, the locker room. 

I feel a bit like I’m back in 5th grade and you start to hit puberty and you realize you are changing, but aren’t sure changing is really ok, so you dread being naked in front of 20 other girls after gym class. 

It’s that kind of fear. 

Now, I’m not so fearful of the normal women’s locker room.  I don’t fear damaging anyone for life when they might see my scarred and nipple-less breasts, but I do worry about the shock factor.  Like, whao….I was not expecting that.  Because frankly, lets just be honest here.  Breasts without nipples is a bit scary.  

Even I was scared after my initial reconstruction.  It just looks, well, different.

But here’s what really gets me nervous.   The locker room at the water park in town where I take my kids, that’s what makes me nervous.  You see, my children are used to seeing my body.  But other children aren’t.  And there are no family changing areas there and no curtains to hide behind.  Just me, the locker room and young children all curious and wondering why I look so different.   I caught a teenage girl staring the other day.  And I’m quick.  Super quick.  You’ve not seen someone change from a bathing suit to a shirt as fast as I can.  The problem lies in how wet the shirt gets.

So the other day I came in to this locker room and started helping my kids get ready.  And there stood several women from my children’s school. 

Lovely.  Just lovely.

I am wrapped in a towel, I look horrible, dripping wet, and they are standing next to me chatting.  One of them says, “are you an Angling Mom?”  I look slowly at this woman and smile a nervous smile, as she proceeds to say “you drive a green mini-van.”  Yes, yes I say. 

I really want to melt in to the floor at this moment.

I can’t believe the predicament I’m in.  I have three children yelling and screaming at me to get their clothes.  And my kids, bless their hearts, don’t get it.  And Jeremy would get really angry if he thought I was being all self-conscious about my body in front of the girls.  So I’m draped in a towel in front of women that RECOGNIZE me.  Shoot.  What to do.  I did what any other laid back mother who recently went through reconstruction surgery for breast cancer would do.  I LEFT my children to fend for themselves and I found a bathroom stall to get dressed.  Thank goodness my 3-year-old didn’t run off. 

I just couldn’t bear to change right in front of these women who may/may not know I’ve had breast cancer. 

If I were being really truthful, this really is one of the hardest thing for me to deal with emotionally.  It sends me in to a pathetic emotional downer.  I dread it before we go and I dread it as we leave.   It takes me a day or two to recover. 

Until the next locker room trip.

But like everything else,  I will not let fear keep me from enjoying life.   I will conquer the locker room for the sake of my children’s water park adventure.  But man, am I so tempted to skip it. 

Can any other breast cancer survivors relate.  You’ll make me feel SO much better if you tell me you can.  Or better yet, overcame your locker room fear.

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Girl Crush: Lady Wisdom

Proverbs 8 (from the Message Bible)

Lady Wisdom Calls Out. Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling? Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?She’s taken her stand at First and Main, at the busiest intersection.Right in the city square where the traffic is thickest, she shouts,”You—I’m talking to all of you, everyone out here on the streets!Listen, you idiots—learn good sense! You blockheads—shape up!Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well, I’m telling you how to live at your best.My mouth chews and savors and relishes truth— I can’t stand the taste of evil!You’ll only hear true and right words from my mouth; not one syllable will be twisted or skewed.You’ll recognize this as true—you with open minds; truth-ready minds will see it at once.Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money, and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.

I love reading from The Message Bible. It states it like it is. Easy to read and relevant for us today. But doesn’t this shock you a bit? Can you imagine a woman on the street corner yelling this in your face? I can guarantee you that I would not take kindly to someone yelling in my face “blockhead….shape up!” But that’s what Lady Wisdom does. It’s in the Bible. It’s an “in your face” challenge for us to listen up and wise up!

If you’ve read Proverbs before, you’ve probably picked up that there are two types of women portrayed in the first several chapters. There is a secretive and sleek seductress who is waiting around every corner, and then there’s Lady wisdom, standing out in the open blatantly yelling truth.

One of the 4 freedom’s the Free Methodist Church was founded upon was the avoidance of secret societies. This means we do things openly. We don’t form secret groups with secret codes and secretive ideas and thoughts.

I think this founding freedom is good for us to remember. Like the woman in Proverbs, not much good happens when done in a secretive fashion unless it’s a surprise party. Most of the time when you put your hand up and say something in a hushed tone it means somethings not right. Lady wisdom speaks with honesty and speaks openly. She speaks with love and respect. She doesn’t lead others astray. She doesn’t focus on knowledge…that’s just heady stuff. She focuses on the truth of God’s Word. She desires for her life to be more like Him.

I know which one I want to be! How about you?

Prayer: Lord, please keep my words pure, help me to speak cautiously with You as my guide.

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On Fasting During the Lenten Season

Read Proverbs 4:18-27

There’s just something about fasting that seems entirely too demanding. Or maybe legalistic. Many of us have fallen away from the practice. Some of us grew up with strict religious backgrounds and we were forced to fast, so instead of desiring to be with God, it just made us scared of God….like he was looking down on us like a naughty child just waiting to slap our hands for reaching for a cookie. Some of us grew up with no fasting at all. Fasting, what’s fasting? We couldn’t dream of giving up a meal, let alone several items for 3 weeks! And deep down, we are really skeptical. We ask questions like “Is this really necessary?” and we really doubt whether we attempt something like fasting if we’re really able to do it.

Well, fasting really shouldn’t be about either of those things. God doesn’t command us to fast. There was lots of fasting in the Old Testament, but not so much after Jesus. It was a practice, not a requirement, and Jesus himself fasted on occasion. So should we fast? Yeah, probably. Should we look at it as a requirement? Absolutely not! Choose for yourself to resemble this verse in Proverbs 4:20-22 over the coming weeks as we approach Easter:

“Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice.Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart!Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.”

I love the passage “tune to my voice.” I tune in to a lot of things. I tune in to the T.V. I tune in to books and magazines. I tune in to facebook. I tune in to twitter, but struggle with finding the space for God’s voice in my life. I’m in a generation of information overload, yet I don’t get nearly enough of God’s voice. Sometimes I wonder if I’d really recognize it if I heard it.

Prayer: Lord, help me to remove the clutter in my life to really hear and know you. Amen

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An Asprin a Day Keeps Breast-Cancer At Bay

Wow!  Here’s a study that looks interesting.  I may need to add asprin to my daily regimen.  Or maybe an every other day regimen.   I’d definitely be thinking about this study if you have family history of breast cancer.  Check it out.

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The Cure for Acne

My three year old was cuddling with me before bed last night and he discovered my zit.  Now, to give you some background in to how we have handled the breast cancer and mastectomies and all the surgeries with our kids is to tell them mommy’s “nana’s” were sick.  They had an ouwee and the doctor had to take them off.  So here is the conversation about the zit (which I have been battling ever since my hormones kicked back in after treatment… I can say I’ve been to menopause and back thank-you very much….lol!)

Elijah: “What is this Mommy?” (concerned and picking at the same time)

Me:  “It’s an ouwee Elijah, don’t pick at it” (pushing his hand away)

Elijah:  “oh” (trying to pick some more, looking at it closely) “There’s another one”

Me: “Thank-you Elijah, I have a few.”

Elijah:  “Mommy, maybe you need to go to the doctor and have him cut them off.”

Me and Jeremy:  (Laughing and looking at each other)

So I guess what we have taught our children is that if it’s sick and it’s an ouwee, you may as well go to the doctor and have him/her cut it off.   He made it sound so simple.

If only a zits and cancer were really that easy to treat.

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Your Opinion Please: All clergy, or anyone that wants to share a thought!

24,000 women under the age of 45 will be diagnosed this year with breast cancer.  When women have breast cancer under the age of 40 it is almost always invasive and travels faster.  A woman’s survival, if diagnosed under the age of forty is less than a woman who is post-menopausal.

Community was really important during my breast cancer journey.   I’m working on a book and one chapter is focused entirely on the benefits of  Christ-centered community.  So I’m throwing a question out to all my twittering, blogging and facebook pastor friends.  If a young couple came to you (and I’m focusing more here on young mom’s with small children) and she had been diagnosed with cancer and was going to be going through a long year of treatment, and she had no significant community in her life, what would you tell them and what could your church offer them?

No right answer here….and tell me honestly if your church has nothing to offer.  Super short and super long comments accepted!

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Snow Day

At 7:00 am I love snow days. Jeremy comes in and turns off the alarm and I get a few more minutes of sleep before Meleah climbs in to my bed and squirms and coughs and makes little sounds because she’s wide awake and doesn’t want to go out in the living room by herself. So then Elijah starts to wake up and starts his ritual of playing with my ears. I would love this except he starts to get really in to it and pulls super hard so I have to keep swatting him away. And by noon I begin to wonder why I was looking forward to a snow day because:
A. I didn’t really get to sleep in.
B. Even as I speak I am breaking up some fight.
C. I have to constantly think of something to do.
D. My middle child won’t leave me alone till I go outside with her.

So today we made Valentine’s cookies. I hate making sugar cookies. If it requires a cookie cutter I am usually not all that excited. I’m really a spoon and plop kind of girl. Or better yet, plop it in a pan and bake it into bars kind of girl.

But today we made frosted Valentines cookies and I will have to say the frosting is divine. I make a wicked sour cream frosting with lemon juice and lemon flavoring instead of vanilla. I’m a huge lemon fan.

Thought you might enjoy seeing our snow day cookie making party. Lots of licking going on.

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The Day Jeremy Cried

I feel like reminiscing about hair today.  I hated losing my hair.  I hated losing my breasts too.  It felt like every thread of womanhood was being stripped from me.  In all honesty, it felt a little like I was being punished for being a woman….if that makes any sense to anyone at all.  I know it isn’t true, but it’s how I felt.  Every once in a while I have a crazy conversation with Jeremy that goes like this:

Me:  “I wonder what they did with my breasts after they cut them off.”

Jeremy:  (with patience, because I ask this a lot) “Jen, they have an incinerator for that.”

Me:  “Oh yeah, I forget.”

And then I go in to some sad thought process that resembles a dog licking its wounds.  Like I just can’t get over losing my breasts and their horrific demise.  Jeremy needs to kick me in the butt sometimes to get me to come out of this self pity I can slumber into quite often….like right now, because I was talking about hair, not breasts….sigh.

So like the breasts, the hair things was a big deal to me too.  However, unlike the breasts, I had some hope my hair would return, not like my breasts.  And it did.  My hair came back.  I remember the first time I climbed out of the shower and actually had need to wrap a towel around my head.  It was a sad day when I couldn’t do this anymore and even sadder for me when I would go to wrap a towel around my head out of habit.  It always reminded me I was bald and I had cancer.

When I was preparing for chemo the nurses sat down with me and told me about all the side effects of the drugs.  I think it was Taxotere that was the one that really made me lose my hair, but I remember them saying it may only thin.  This makes me laugh a sarcastic little laugh now, because I think they give you false hope with this little comment.  I remember thinking, “Oh, my hair is so thick, I’ve pulled hair out by the handfuls after pregnancy, surely I will be one of the few who only thins.”  How wrong I was.  If you did Taxotere and did not have huge bald patches, please let me know.  I suppose it also depends on how much they pump in to your system. 

I remember it took about two weeks for the chemo to take effect with my hair as well.  I remember thinking “yes!  It’s not falling out!”  I so wanted to believe this.  So in preperation of the possibility I cut my hair shoulder length.  So then one day I was in the shower and I realized I had a big clump in my hands.  At first I thought I could handle it.  For a few days I tried to shower with the never-ending clumps.  But you know something….it’s really difficult to get hair out of your fingers when you’re losing mass amounts.  So I called my cousin and she cut my hair super short.  I thought this might mean I wouldn’t have hair everywhere.  But a few days later I had big bald patches and I still had little pieces of hair everywhere in my bathroom.  So Jeremy and I made the decision to shave my head.  

Here’s something I will never forget about doing this.  We laughed and had fun with it.  But the next day, my dear Jeremy hit bottom.  He will tell you this was probably the hardest day of my diagnosis for him.  Some men are breast men, some are hair men.  Jeremy is a hair man.  He has always liked my hair and he likes it long.  It was a sad day for us. 

I had some denial issues when I was diagnosed.  Dealing with my hair was one of those areas of denial as well.  I think it probably would of helped for me to pick out a wig, but I couldn’t do it.  I remember going in to a place that had wigs and trying on a few.  I almost cried.  They looked SO bad on me I can’t even tell you how horrible they looked.  I arranged to come back and have the woman cut the hair on this wig to fit my preferences, but there was a snowstorm that day and I canceled and never went back.

Instead I went a few days later to a few stores to look for scarves.  That’s when I realized the style was long thin scarves and there were virtually none that would cover my head completely.  So then I went to Goodwill, where I found a surprisingly large selection of colorful scarves.  So I was a scarve woman.  But the cool gypsy look with big earings got really old.  And since the day I had enough hair to go without one, I have not worn a scarf on my head.  I’m still living in the happiness of hair.  Even my eyelashes came back.  Not that I had much to begin with, but they are there, and I can wear my mascara on more than three measly eyelashes.  Another time I’ll tell you my experience with false eyelashes…..

I’ve met a few women along the way who have worn different styles and handled hair loss differently.   I have a blogging friend who wore Halloween style wigs in bright blue and pink.  Very fun.  I met one woman at the beach last summer who had lymphoma and refused to wash her hair for months in hopes of not losing it.  She had super long hair.  And when I met her it was short and wispy, but she did have hair!  I think she just didn’t wash it and she managed to keep some all the way through. 

How did you handle your hair loss?  Did you wear a wig?  I kind of wish I had gone with a funky white-blonde wig, just to be totally different.

The recommendation I guess I will make… do what makes it feel right for you.  I think hair gives us confidence.  If you need that, get a wig.  If this is your chance to do something crazy, go for the brightest, pinkest wig ever.  Be your own Lady Gaga.

But it will be a while.  I hate to tell you this, but it will be.  I lived in denial.  I should have just adjusted and made the best of it.  Someday I’ll tell you about the day I called around for hair extensions.  Jeremy thought I was crazy.  It takes close to six months after chemo for your hair to really start coming in.  But it does, I think it’s pretty rare that it won’t.

Here I am with the super short cut.  Hoping not to lose it all!

Here’s Meleah helping Daddy shave my head.

I look happy, but I am not.  Just trying to make the best of it!

Here I am with my crazy kids at almost exactly 6 months post chemo at Christmas time.

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World Cancer Day 2010

I can’t believe it.  How weird is it that my diagnosis cancerversary is the same day as the World Cancer Day.  And I didn’t even know it?  Not that I was thinking about this two years ago when I got the phone call?  But how did I miss this last year?

So I think it’s so nice because I get to tell you WHY there is a World Cancer Day and I will do this every year on the day of my diagnosis.  So you wanna know why?  To help reduce these cancer causing risks:

  • Stop tobacco use and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke

  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure
  • Maintain a healthy weight, through eating healthily and exercising regularly

  • Protect against cancer-causing infections

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30 Days of Girl Crush: Esther

(Esther 4:12-14, the Message)  When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”

I know what it’s like to be given the diagnosis of cancer.  No matter how bad the cancer is, whether stage 0 or stage 4, the diagnosis incites visions of our own mortality.  It just does.  

I’m not all that eager to live dangerously.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to live fully, but I don’t want to live dangerously.  I want to travel and see my kids graduate from college, but I don’t really care to skydive or go deep-sea diving with sharks.  The rush of cancer was plenty for me.

So reading about a woman who chose the “mortality rush” of her own free will really wigs me out.  I mean, c’mon, this King of Persia was highly risky.  He’d already banned his previous wife from his presence for not showing up when he called for her.  He loved to seek counsel from mean arrogant morons like Haman.  So for her to show up to him uninvited was like asking for your own head on a platter. 

But if she doesn’t show up, and the King takes counsel from Haman and has all the Jews murdered, well, then, she’s toast I suppose anyway.  So it was now or later.  Just because she was Queen doesn’t mean she’s safe.

When I read the Bible, I love being able to identify with the humanness of the characters.  So here’s what I love about Esther.  Esther takes three days to finally approach the King.  What happens in those three days you ask?  Prayer and fasting of course!  If it were me, I’d get it over with.  Can you imagine those three days of waiting.  Wondering….will he kill me….or not?

And then, when she does approach him, she requests that he have dinner with her.  And she invites Haman?  What’s that about?  Maybe this showed respect?  I have no idea?  Haman is the one plotting to have them killed remember, so why did she ask him to join them?  So then, either she chicken’s out, or she’s waiting for the right timing, but she invites them to dinner for a SECOND night.  Like one scary dinner wasn’t enough.  This woman goes back again.

It just makes me nervous reading it. 

And then there’s the way God works things out.  Because the King couldn’t sleep he had his very boring daily diary brought and read to him and those accounts reminded him of a time that Uncle Mordecai actually saved his life.  So the next day he asks Haman how he should thank the man who helped the king.  Haman thinks the king is talking about him, so he ironically says “carry him through the streets on chariots dressed in purple robes.”  So isn’t Haman surprised when the King tells him to go do that with Mordecai.

So then, Esther has her opportunity to tell the king the truth about Haman and his plot to kill all the Jews, which would include her. 

I’ve had some scary things happen in my life.  Cancer being by far the winner of scariest of all.  I just don’t care to feel that rush again.  But sometimes God calls us to do scary things.  I think about the situation in Haiti recently.  If I were a doctor I would think I would feel compelled to go, but man, would I be scared.  Not even the ground is solid there.  I don’t know what scary thing you’re facing today, or in the future.  Maybe you know you have to do something and you have to wait.  Esther had the good sense and the “God connection” to know to wait for His timing.

But the central message we get through Esther, her courage and her wisdom and her deep trust in God, is that God does have a plan for our lives.  He is capable of working OUT horrible situations and he’s capable of working THROUGH horrible situations.  There is a difference.  And sometimes we really want Him to work things out and He doesn’t.  This really sucks.  I know I wanted them to tell me they made a mistake when I was diagnosed.  And I really get angry when I hear someone else has died of breast cancer.  I just can’t believe God allowed it. 

As much as I wonder this, I still know that the God who cared for Esther’s well-being, still cares for me and for you, and as much as situations don’t always make sense, we cannot fully fathom how the puzzle fits together and how much good sometimes comes from the most horrible of situations.

Prayer:  God, show your love for me even when nothing makes sense.

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