Category Archives: general….how I'm doing today

Because I’m Worth It

What can I say.  I’m a slacker.  How will I ever make it in the blogging world if I disappear for weeks at a time.  Somehow, a few of you stick with me.  Thank-you.

Last time I wrote I told you about my surgery.  Since then I’ve organized a “Give a Tent” drive for Haiti, had a mild case of lymphedema,  painted 1/3 of my house yellow, which meant 3….yes 3 coats of paint to cover the green and brown “dark” phase I went through a few years back.   I should have painted before the surgery, but there always needs to be a deadline for me.  That deadline is my dear college friends coming to visit next weekend.   Not that they would have minded the nasty paint job I did a few years ago, but this yellow and newly painted trim looks better.  There were many sick days during chemo on a dreary day in Michigan that I thought “why the h-e-double hockey sticks” did I paint my walls brown. 

Now my house looks like an Easter egg.  One light blue room, one light green kitchen and the main living are is called “hunny butter.”   Either that or this house belongs in Florida.

So one of my adventures over the past few weeks was filling in for the 2’s and 3-year-old class at church.  I love my kids, but here’s the truth:  It’s  not that I don’t like teaching other people’s kid’s, it actually that I’m scared to teach a class full of other people’s 2 and 3 year olds.  I mean, seriously, so much can happen.  They could cry the whole time, they could yell “you’re dumb” which is unfortunately Elijah’s new favorite word.  They could run around yelling and screaming and never listen to me.  I could make a total fool of myself trying to explain the concept of Jesus.  And my number one fear…..a happy little guy who bursts in to tears the minute mom or dad arrives for pick-up.

Seriously, I am afraid of kids.

So I was telling a dear lady at our church about filling in as a sub the day before during our tents for Haiti event, and she was this awesome 2nd grade teach for many years in the community.  Well, wouldn’t you know who would show up to help me.  Now, it was really sweet of her to show up, but now I’ve got 16 little eyes looking at me, including my own son who won’t listen to anything I say, and a professional child “whisperer” in my midst.  “I am going to look like a fool” I thought.

But dear Joyce filled in where I missed cues.  And I managed to teach those little munchkins something.  Here was out Bible verse.  It’s so easy, even you can remember it!

“I am wonderfully made.”  from Psalm 139:14

The actual verse is a bit longer.  It says this:  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.”

But it seems to be that those 4 words is the limit for 3 year olds when it comes to memorization.  And you need to spend several weeks saying it over and over again to them, and even sometimes they don’t get it.  I say Elijah….”what was your verse today?”  And he yells “Jesus”  which we all know is the universal right answer, and then I give him a few words and it registers to him finally what the verse actually is.

So, of course, this got me thinking, because I think a lot, about this little inconspicuous verse in the Bible.  It’s one I’ve heard for years, since I was a little whippersnapper in my own 2’s and 3’s Sunday School class with Mrs. Lee.

And I was thinking how forgetful I am, just like a 3 year old and a memory verse.  How through my teenage years I forgot that I didn’t need to be a size 6 to be special.  How I didn’t need to get the best grades to be important to someone.  That I could be really miserable at Math and really good at Art or Science and that was OK.  It made me unique.

I’m not sure what I did with the knowledge and wisdom of this verse but I’m pretty sure I packaged it up in the back of my mind and left it there to gather dust or mold. 

Because at some point during my cancer journey, it has dawned on me, since sometimes I miss the details, that I am, actually, in fact, important.  And, not only that, I am worth living for (if that makes sense).  What a novel idea.  I know, you guys, it’s the simple things that stump me.  But seriously.  It took cancer for me to realize my life is worth living.  That I am important to my kids.  I’m important to my husband, and my parents and my sister and my friends.  I wanted to live.  I wanted to beat cancer.  Why?  Because I was worth living for.  Because I am wonderfully made.  I have a purpose here on earth to love and be loved.  God knew this before I was even a tadpole. 

So I’m doing the best to not beat up on myself.  I try to remind myself that I don’t have to be a size 6 to be important.  That I may never understand physics or why x=y.  But I am important none-the-less. 

You may have had different reasons for fighting cancer.  You may have never fought anything in your life other than low self-esteem.  Don’t let it be cancer, like me, to wake you up to your own value and self-worth.

Jesus said this to us in Matthew 22

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”  All of the law and prophets hang on this.”

So whatever we do glean from the Old Testament law and prophet’s,  and what seems like a bunch of rules and regulations, Jesus came and said THIS my friends:  Love your neighbor as yourselfThis is the most important.  

Cling to this dear ones.

You are wonderfully made.

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Freak Out #11

Cancer HAS NOT spread to the bones.  Just thought I’d blurt it out right away.

Sometimes I feel like singing it. 

Most of the time I just feel such a sense of relief that I could just weep.  A good long cry for all the stress that’s been building up the past few days.

I want to thank everyone for putting up with my little scares here and there.  I suppose this is the life of breast cancer survivorship and I best get used to it.  I don’t necessarily like worrying friends and family, but I do count on you for prayers.  So thanks for checking my blog once in a while and putting up with my facebook updates.

Still don’t know how I fractured a rib under my armpit, but that’s ok.  It will heal.

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“Liep-ing” Tall Buildings with a Single Bound

There was no bone scan today.  Yesterday I arrived home to an answering machine message telling me there was a “global shortage” of isotopes.  Not to be confused with isotones…..those are slippers.  An isotope is a radioactive nuclear medicine they inject in to you so your bones will glow like this

So they needed to reschedule with me.  Lovely.  I wasn’t anxious about this scan till the drive home yesterday from our vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and I was good and ready to get it OVER WITH!  I was not happy.  I have to prepare myself for these scans.  I have to reason with myself as to why it is better to inject myself with radioactive material than to ignore a problem I would frankly LIKE to ignore.  Canceling my impending “radioactive injection” is not kind.  Whoever makes isotopes needs to hire a few more people.  Sheesh!

So I called Bronson to reschedule.  They couldn’t get me in till Friday.  So I called Borgess, the other hospital here in Kalamazoo.  They decided they could get me in on Wednesday, but I would be bumped if they ran low on isotopes.  I don’t like to use my cancer card, but I was pretty sure since this request was coming from my family doctor and not my oncologist they were not aware of my history. 

So I emailed my oncologist.  When all else fails, email Marcia Liepman.  I swear, she is superwoman in disguise.  Seriously.  Just uttering her name strikes fear in the hearts of men.  OK, I’m just kidding.  She doesn’t have that much power.  Only enough to “liep” small buildings with a single bound.  Hmmm…..maybe it is the other way around.  We should ask her husband.  Either way she is my amazing hero.

To make a long “he said, she said” story short, my appointment is on Wednesday.  It is “firmly” placed at noon on Wednesday.  I’m pretty sure I will not be bumped thanks to the lovely word “Liepman.”

So if you feel like saying a prayer for me, Liepman can “liep” buildings, but God can move mountains. 

I’m trying to keep busy as usual.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Fighting with Both Fists

I hate to think about recurrence.  But when a nasty cold and cough holds on for several months, I begin to worry.  That, and several blogger friends who were diagnosed around the time I was diagnosed have recently found out their cancer has metastasized.  It just hits me hard.  I think about them a lot and I start asking “what if” again.

Yesterday I decided I needed to find a new doctor.  You guys know I’m an advocate for being assertive when it comes to your health, and I really had just been letting my concerns with my current provider slide by.  But I can’t let it slide.  I need to be aware of my health.  As scary as recurrence is, I can’t ignore my health issues because I think I can’t handle another diagnosis.

I had driven by an office near my house several times and I noticed only one name listed as a provider.  My concern with my new provider is that they don’t really know me.  I have one doctor, but if I’m sick I usually don’t see him, I see one of several doctors who can fit me in.  So my concern is that someone is missing something.  Because I’ve seen two different doctors since I’ve been sick and I don’t feel like either one of them are taking note of my medical history.  Sometimes I wonder how long I would be passed around before they connected the dots, ya’know. 

So I went to this new doctor and I plan to stay.  I really enjoyed meeting with him, and talked to him about my concern that this cough and cold has been around for so long.  He said we should go ahead and get a lung x-ray.  It’s weird, because on one hand I want this, and on the other hand I don’t.  I don’t want to know that cancer might be back.  And to be honest, I’m 99.9% sure it’s not.  This could just be a cold that converted to allergies, but still, it worries me.  And thank goodness this doctor seems to get that.

I was honest with him, I might get annoying sometimes as I do freak a little about recurrence.  He’ll probably see me every 3 or 4 months for a while with little nagging things that I worry might be cancer.

But you guys know, I’m doing all that I can to stay free and clear of cancer.  And I can run 3 miles, which makes me believe it’s not in my lungs.  And I eat things like black bean brownies, and lot’s of fruits and vegetables.  If it’s back, I don’t have regrets that I didn’t do as much as I could possibly do.  I’m fighting with both fists.

Next week we leave to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for a much-anticipated family vacation.  I desperately don’t want to get bad news before this vacation.  I want to be cancer “emotionally” free for this vacation.  I want to live like cancer doesn’t exist for one crazy, fun-filled week!  

It’s sort of like winning an Oscar and being on top of the world and then finding out your husband has been cheating on you.  (Sorry, I just had to add this because I like Sandy)  It’s like working hard, flying high, minding your own business, then “bam” shot right out of the sky.  Cancer (like cheating husbands) are so rude!

So if you wouldn’t mind saying a little prayer for me.  That my sickness would go away.  That the x-ray would be clear. 

And strength.  Just in case I have to face this again.

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Reflections of Reconstruction, part 2

One very hard lesson I have learned in the process of reconstruction is that plastic surgery is painful.  My chest lost most feeling after the mastectomies so none of the recovery from any of the reconstruction surgeries has been very painful there, but the tummy tuck and the liposuction in my hips have been quite painful.  My dear plastic surgeon does not miss a thing I say.  When I told him I was sure I wanted the DIEP for the tummy tuck….he gave me a REALLY great tummy tuck.  On Monday, before my surgery, he asked if he could lipo the area to the side of my breast and I let him know he could lipo any fat off me he wanted…..so he did….lol.  I’m not sure he does this because he can, or because he feels sorry for me (and figures I could use the self-image boost), or simply because the extra fat was needed to boost my breast area…..but I think it’s fun that he did it for me whatever the reason.  I have certainly paid for it this week though!  Jeremy and I were laughing today about the moment I said “you can lipo anywhere” to him because the resident was standing behind my doctor and both of us noticed he had a little smirk on his face….and now I know why!  He knew what I was asking for….lol! 

Everything after the surgery was a total blur.  I remember waking up to incredible itching.  I can’t really describe it as pain, just itching all over.  I remember two women running in and out of the recovery area trying to help me and I feel bad because I don’t think I was being very cooperative.  I think I kept asking for Jeremy, my doctor and the anesthesiologist because for some reason I thought one of them could help me?  And then in between that I kept trying to get out of bed.  I don’t know how many times I tried to get out of bed, but I do remember them restraining me at least once.  I don’t think I’m going to allow them to do anything to me again unless they have a bag of Benadryl hooked to my IV…lol!  I don’t want to go through that again.  When some of the itching did subside, I realized one of the really nice women WAS a doctor and that is my first clear memory…..of her looking me right in the eye and saying….”you are having a bad allergic reaction.”  She also added that I am probably really allergic to opiates.  How about that…..note to self….avoid opiates…lol!   I do remember Dr. Dumanian coming to check on me and seeming alarmed…and he doesn’t normally seem alarmed by much of anything.  And I remember thinking how glad I was he was there, but I don’t remember how long he stayed or what he said.  I thought it was funny when they asked me if I wanted to stay the night?  I don’t remember answering them, so I guess they decided it was a good idea. 

And when I woke up in the morning I was greeted by Chase and Foreman from House and I got to show them my scars.  Seriously.  Would someone tell Northwestern that they are not ER, House or Grey’s Anatomy, because I swear the prerequisite for a residency there is that you must be either beautiful or good-looking.  To give them a little bit of the benefit….I will also have to say they’re very nice, there hasn’t been a mean one in the bunch.  The nurses too.  But in my fuzzy haze coming off narcotics I think I asked Jeremy if I was on House….lol.

I don’t want to say too much about how I feel about the work Dr. D did because I want to wait for the tape to fall off and it’s hard to tell.  But so far so good.  Digger is gone.   The shape seems really good, but the right side is still really puffy.  If it’s not swelling then there could be a problem, but I’m pretty certain it’s swelling.  And the huge red marks/bruises from the lipo are starting to go away and the pain is subsiding some…..but now those spots feel very itchy.  I was well enough to go Christmas shopping today and I even made gingerbread cookies with the kids. 

All-in-all, I’m glad it’s over, and I’m ready for Christmas and two fun weeks with my kids.  I don’t want to think about the next surgery for a while.

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Nip/Tuck, Recovery Day 2

I’m in a lot of pain.  I took my pain meds and got back in to bed this morning until it took effect.  Then I could get up and get Charis ready for school.  I’m actually surprised I’m so sore.  Hopefully it will only take a few days to feel better.  I had another itching attack again yesterday.  The Benadryl must have worn off.  So Jeremy and I got to a pharmacy and I got some allergy medicine and so far so good.  Hopefully it doesn’t flare up again today.  I hope they can find something else to use on me for the next surgery….because each surgery seems to get worse as far as the itching goes.  And yes, there will be another surgery.  There will probably be a few more.  Aghhh….the price of beauty.  I’ve had to decide if it’s worth it to me, and I think it is.  I’d like to feel somewhat normal and this is helping me feel that way.  I’m not about being bigger….just normal.

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Clergygirl Itches, Fights Temporary Insanity.

Thanks all who were praying today. I’m doing well. Digger indentation is gone and overall I can see a positive difference. The only hang-up I’ve had is itching. Once again I had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia and as I came out of my groggy slumber it became uncontrollable. The nurse and doctor tried to do as much as they could and were very patient and good to me. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced itching to that extent….all over your body…but let me tell you….the word insanity comes to mind. I become a very different person….a crazed person. I told Jeremy….when it is at it’s worst….I feel like yelling like a crazy lady and grabbing my nurse and begging her to help me. It really is not fun. It has now happened to me three times. After my mastectomies, then reconstruction, and now today. This time it came on quicker and was probably the worst I’ve experienced. I wanted to rip the bandages off and itch everywhere like crazy. I would have invited anyone in the area to itch with me…..lol. What a funny picture that would be.  Everyone picking a spot and itching. But it would be downright gross. But Jeremy will scratch for me. What a good hubby he is! So the Benadryl only helped slightly so they got some hydrocortisone cream and we caked it all over. Finally, some relief. They decided then that I should stay the night. Much of the itching is gone thankfully. I’m on some sort of prescription and we rotate the prescription meds with the Benadryl every few hours and it keeps the itching under control, so now I can rest some.

On a good note. Before I went in to surgery Dr. D used his marker to plan out his strategy. On the sides where it pooches a bit under my armpit he suggested lipo’ing the area and asked if it was ok. Is it ok?  Is it ok?  He could do lipo on me anytime, anywhere! I would never not say yes to lipo anywhere but my breasts….lol! So he lipo’d my back fat and the sides of my hips a bit and after a tough cancer journey he gives me perks like this. He is genuinely a very kind man and a great surgeon. I am so grateful to have a surgeon who I really trust and who is helping me feel better about my disfigured body.

And if I sound super chatty and happy in this post, I am….lol.  Thanks to a little magic pill called norco I am feel’in real good….lol!  I’m just hoping I don’t come back and read this and realize how loopy I was.  Because then I get embarrassed by my misspelled words and sentences that don’t make sense….lol!  I have a good excuse:)

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Fixing Me, Take 2

They’re going to wheel me in to th OR soon. Dr. D will be in to meet with me. Good-bye digger! Hello to symmetry! I’ll update later today.

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It’s my birthday once again.  Strange how I used to dread them like that horrible “poof” they give you at the optometrist when you know it’s coming and you really don’t want it so you flinch and pull-back with every movement because you just know it’s coming.   And it doesn’t usually hurt, you just THINK it’s going to hurt…lol!

I don’t dread it anymore.  I might feel a twinge of something when I’m 40, but I’m still south of that, so every year, every birthday reminds me I have one more year:

with my family,

with my kids,

with my friends,

to eat pizza and ice cream,

for long runs on warm evenings under a fire-ball sky in the summer,

to walk on the beach at Lake Michigan and watch the sun set,

to feel angry,

to feel sadness,

to see my Dad’s second book get published,

to love work,

to hate work,

to work through stressful situations,

to find reconciliation,

to encourage someone,

to make a mistake,

to cry,

to make love,

to get annoyed,

to empty the dishwasher,

to worship Jesus on a Sunday morning,

to sleep in,

to stay up late,

to watch another chick flick,

to have another birthday. 

Sometimes I fail to remember, when I get caught up with the business of life, that life is not down the road, but here and now.  My birthdays always bring me back to the present.  They are my reality check.  And I am so grateful to have another year.

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Steel

Sometimes I feel like if I made it through cancer, I can make it through anything.  And then, sometimes not.  Sometimes I forget that I am strong.  Sometimes I forget the foundation I have in Christ.  Sometimes the business of life gets going and I forget that God made me, and I am His.  I forget that I am a “daughter of the light.”  He lives and me, he is a part of me.  It is being in him that makes me strong.

I’ve been reading through Thessalonians right now.  What an amazingly encouraging book of the Bible.  I forget sometimes that Paul could be so encouraging!  Even in Jail.  (Thessalonians as a book of the Bible is really a letter Paul wrote to the people of  Thessalonica.  He was a follower of Christ who initially persecuted Christians but then became a follower himself and was jailed for his public faith at times).

So this past couple weeks has been pretty difficult.  We got some news in our family that we didn’t really want to hear.  It was bad news.  It was difficult news.  It’s the kind of news that takes your breath away and question if God really knows what he’s doing.  

Then, my own calling as a pastor was questioned again.   This happens quite often as a female pastor in an evangelical denomination, but it’s happened again.  It tries my patience and discourages me deeply. 

Check this out:

Convictions of Steel

 2-5Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.”

I love the use of the word steel here.  It’s about the strongest substance you can find.  The most secure.  The stuff skyscrapers are made of.  Ships battle storms on the high sea’s and they’re made of steel.  Strong stuff.

So cancer was tough.  Life is tough.  But Christ lives in me and that makes me….well, stronger.

 

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