Saturday, November 23, 2013

bouncing back

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 20:1-7

Yesterday was my surgery day...the day my breast cancer found a new home in the pathology lab.
Goodbye and good riddance.
Words cannot express how I felt yesterday.  As ready as I could be to get this behind me, I still wondered how I would feel afterwards.  In as much as I had questions, I had an innermost peace.  Truly a peace that was beyond understanding.  I know that peace came from God, showering mercy over me.  In doing this, He was not only making Himself known to me, but also answering the many prayers of His children who were praying on my behalf.  My testimony through the days since October 16th is of His goodness and steadfastness in hearing and answering His children when they call out to Him.  God has carried me all through life, these past few weeks have been no different.  He is the constant when everything else is prone to change.
My day began at 8 in the women's imaging center.  I had to have a wire-localization procedure there in order for the surgeon to know exactly where to locate my cancer in order to remove it in the OR.  It is impossible to say enough good things about all the technicians and my radiologist...a good way to begin, though, is by simply saying they are caring yet knowledgeable.  Yes, they must put one through many uncomfortable positions and situations, but to do it with such grace, is a testimony to their character.  Many of them told me they would be praying for me.  I believe them.
All was going well.  The stinging as the needle goes in with numbing medication is the most uncomfortable part.  At least this time, I had an idea of what it would be like...did not make it any less painful, but it did help.  The thing about this procedure is that there is no way for you not to see what is happening to you. During the biopsy, everything happens under you and the table you're lying on.  During the wire-localization, you sit in a chair that is pushed up to the mammography machine.  There is a reason one sits through this, however, as was reiterated in my case.  About a minute or two after the wire was in, as I was just sitting in my chair waiting on the tech to get the machine positioned for the pictures needed to be taken to assure the wire was indeed in the right place, I began to feel very lightheaded and it became difficult to breathe.  As I began to tell the technician that I was no longer feeling okay, I also found it hard to form and speak the words.  It is called a vasovagal response.  Unknowingly to me there is an emergency button in the room.  As soon as I expressed a problem, my tech must have pushed it and more assistance arrived in a flash.  Lightning quick.  Including the radiologist herself.  The chair I was in was reclined and cool cloths placed on my head and neck.  They all talked me through it as they took my pulse and blood pressure.  Although I was feeling strong and okay with everything, my body was reacting to the stress of the whole ordeal, my radiologist explained.  She congratulated and thanked me for at least getting through the wire placement.  Apparently some people do not even get that far and it slows down the process quite a bit and it becomes difficult to get it completed.  After about 10 minutes, I sat up and smiled through the smooshing once more.  The worst part of the day was now behind me.  And, it wasn't even that bad.
A new experience followed.  I was transported in a wheelchair in a medical transport van to the pre-op area in the hospital.  Honestly, I am weary of all of these new experiences that I have lived a good, full 41 years without thus far, but they are for my good.  First biopsy...cancer diagnosis...MRI...X-ray...ride in a medical transport vehicle...and I do not believe the list will end here.  But, God is good.  He has led me to best local facility and people to help me outlive cancer.
Pre-op was impressed I had arrived in a timely fashion.  It only confirmed what they had said about the vasovagal episodes slowing everything down in other cases.  There were a few hours of waiting ahead of me, however.  Once I my IV was in and I had met and spoke with my anesthesiologist, I was allowed visitors.  After only an hour, I was again with people whose faces I recognized and whom I loved.  It did indeed help pass the time.  There was a TV in my room and I was allowed to have my cell phone.  Those helped, as well.
Trying not to get my hopes up too high, I watched for 2 o'clock with anticipation.  At 2:04, my surgeon walked in.  {commence angels singing}  The only thing left to do was begin receiving antibiotics and a "margarita", as my surgeon jokingly called the good meds to help me relax, via my IV.  It did not take long for the effects of the "margarita" to kick in.  Had a good chuckle or two at absolutely nothing and everything even before they were wheeling me out of my room to the OR.
All I remember after that is the placement of more blankets and probes on me.  I am not even sure they were completely finished with all of those probes before I was out like a light.  I awoke to the movement of my gurney moving me to recovery.  There, I heard the sweetest words all day long..."Your cancer is gone." and "What would you like to drink?" Music to my ears.
I felt fine, a little weird, but fine.  Pain was about a 5 on a scale of 10...which was remedied by an IV pain medicine rather quickly.  Tears of joy and thankfulness fell.  No more waiting, no more testing...the cancer found in my left breast was gone.  Recovery time.  Time to regroup and prepare for what lies ahead.  Surgery was behind me.  Through it all, God was, is, and will be good.
As I moved to post-op, my recovery nurse thanked me for being such a good patient.  My post-op nurse was also my pre-op nurse and told me that I had made it to post-op in record time and would be going home sooner than later if I kept bouncing back so nicely.
She was correct.  I was leaving the hospital before it was dark.  A few minutes before six, a mere 9+ hours after arriving, I was going home.  Free.

As the evening progressed, I felt more and more back to normal.  Yes, I am bandaged and wrapped snug as a bug in a pink ruffled tube top for the next several days.  But, I am indeed bouncing back more quickly than I could have imagined.  Again, I feel that it is in answer to many prayers being prayed on my behalf.  May God receive all the glory for every good thing along this path I have been walking the past 39 days...and will continue walking down in the coming months.
God is matter what.

Friday, November 15, 2013

And, so, I ran.

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27

Today was a day.  One I would rather forget for the most part, but there were a few moments of joy, for which, I praise God:
1. I awoke this morning.
2. My boys were troopers when I found out at 8:40 this morning that I was to be at my pre-op appointment at 9:30. (Office thought they had called me, but they had not.) Dressed and ready in minutes with no questions asked, no complaints. They are the BEST!
3. Made my appointment on time, without speeding.
4. Although rather nerve racking finding out walking in to pre-op appointment, since I needed another ultrasound, my doctor made the appointment on my behalf today since I was already on location.  
5. I was able to fit in lunch with my family inbetween appointments. My wonderful mother-in-law stayed with the boys while they completed school and then took them to the house and played games with them until I arrived home.
6. Upon advice I did not hear from my ultrasound technician, I tried my doctor's office even though they closed two hours prior and I was able to speak directly with her. She spoke words of encouragement and relieved some of the overwhelmed-ness (today that is a word) I was experiencing.
7. Although there are unanswered questions that cannot be answered without another biopsy, this time on the right side, my already planned surgery is staying on schedule.  The cancer will be in the pathology lab one week from today...and no longer inside of me.
8. My best friends are the best! Making me laugh, yet holding me accountable, in spite of the day I was having.
9. Tonight, being it was too late and icky to go out to the Y, I decided to run at home. And, so, I ran. I do not like running, but tonight it was awesome. Scott had some steel bars in his truck, so I used them as weights. Redneck? Perhaps. But I felt better. 
10. Definitely not least, even if listed last, God gave me strength for today. My toughest day yet since finding out I have cancer, but I made it. God is at work, therefore, I know the battles will come. Battles so tough that I may find myself saying more and more at the end of the days ahead...And, so, I ran. Ran for my own sanity and ran right into the presence of my God who provides all that I need each and every day. 
God is matter what!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

my happy valley

Deuteronomy 8:1-10
You must carefully follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase, and may enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to your fathers.
Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 
He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these 40 years.
Keep in mind that the Lord your God has been disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. 
So keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him. 
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; 
a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; 
a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper.
When you eat and are full, you will praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

sea of pink

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not His benefits-
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103:2-5
Expect the unexpected. Plan for the unknown. Save up for a rainy day.
We have all heard these things...probably even said one or two a time or so.
Is it possible? How do we do it? Should we, even?
There is a song that we used to sing back in the day based on Psalm 1 that comes to mind in order to begin finding the answers to those questions...
"Jesus is my Savior, I shall not be moved.
In His love and favor, I shall not be moved.
Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
I shall not be moved."
The other lines continue...
"In my Christ abiding...In His love I'm hiding, I shall not be moved.
On His Word I'm feeding...He's the One that's leading, I shall not be moved."
A true encounter with Jesus is life changing and life giving.
A daily, sometimes hourly, encounter with Jesus is life sustaining.
It is possible to continue walking on an unfamiliar path.
It is possible to get back up after falling into sin.
It is possible to keep on going when bad news comes.
How do I know?
Been there. Done that. Got the diagnosis.
Because of Jesus, life keeps on going. He changes me, while He remains constant.
On this newest leg of my journey called life, the one where I am seemingly drowning in a sea of pink, I can praise Him because I know Him. He is the One who loves me so much He died on the cross for my sins. He is the One who can heal. He is my Savior and Redeemer. He makes life with all of its ups and downs, enjoyable in the good times and bearable in the not-so-good times.
As Jesus says in John 10:10...
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. 
I have come so that they may have life 
and have it in abundance.
I trust Him.  Do you?

Weekend in New Orleans

Is it not simply wonderful when you are able to mark off another item on your list?  The latest checkmark went down on my list of "States I've Visited" beside Louisiana, number 31 of 50.  Mainly remaining are the New England states, with a few others scattered throughout the country.
The weekend of the 2nd, we went for a couple's weekend to New Orleans.  It was, in one word, perfect.
Perfect timing.  Perfect weather.  Perfect everything.

Beautiful day flying into New Orleans
Busy Mississippi River
Thought this was appropriately captured...there is literally jazz on every corner.
Someone loves LSU...Geaux Tigers!
A little street music to enjoy.
Pecan Cobbler with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream...delightful!
The first hot dog vendor I have seen with my own two eyes.
View for my morning workout...from the roof of Hotel Monteleone
Sunday morning walk through the French Quarter
French Quarter 
Le Garage thrift store had some pretty unique items...
...the most awesome thing about was actually a garage!
Outside of a museum sat this boat that helped rescue people after Katrina.
St. Louis Cathedral in John Paul II Plaza 

One of many working for tips along the streets of the French Quarter.
My favorite jazz/food/atmosphere experience...Cafe Beignet!
Melt-in-your-mouth, beignets and a hot chocolate...perfect ending to a perfect weekend!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

my love letter

Psalm 91
The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.
will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
He Himself will deliver you from the hunter’s net,
from the destructive plague.
He will cover you with His feathers;
you will take refuge under His wings.
His faithfulness will be a protective shield.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
the arrow that flies by day,
the plague that stalks in darkness,
or the pestilence that ravages at noon.
Though a thousand fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand,
the pestilence will not reach you.
You will only see it with your eyes
and witness the punishment of the wicked.
Because you have made the LORD - my refuge,
the Most High - your dwelling place,
no harm will come to you;
no plague will come near your tent.
For He will give His angels orders concerning you,
to protect you in all your ways.
They will support you with their hands
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the young lion and the serpent.
I will deliver him;
I will protect him because he knows My name.
When he calls out to Me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble.
I will rescue him and give him honor.
I will satisfy him with a long life
and show him My salvation.

"Allowing God’s Word to speak directly to our hearts is an act of obedience."  Jen Hatmaker