30 and done…will I walk this way again? Only God knows

30 and done…will I walk this way again? Only God knows

The trees stand against the sky forming this silouette and the dark sky is melting into colors of grays, pinks, blues.  They say rain’s coming today as it has so many times this winter.  And there are new beginnings in this day.

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She smiles when I walk in the office as I have for thirty plus times. And she tells me I can go on back to my changing room. And I see this closed door straight ahead I have seen so many times–the radiation room.  The thickness of the door is ten inches or more wide and the sign flashes “In Use”.  And on the door is this gold sign–Caution. High Radiation Area.

Today’s the day–my last of thirty–the last radiation treatment.

img_4465She told me this year made 21 years of walking cancer free. And there’s this invisible thread she and I share of being breast cancer survivors.  Another friend and her card read, ‘We are sisters in Christ and now we also have a very special bond!’ And so many other women who have shared their stories. All of our walks were very different in many ways, but this thread–it’s more than the sharing of a cruel disease.

The answer on the health checklist changes not only for me, but for my children, my grandchildren, my siblings, my family. Yes, I have had cancer. Yes, someone in my family has had cancer.  There is this history now and this thread of family pulls us tighter, closer.

And writer Carolyn Larsen calls this thread, “God’s thread.”

 

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The machine starts the normal buzz and on this morning it seems to last longer and the noise–much louder.  And I hold back the tears of thirty plus times here–with treatments and tests. My radiation oncology nurses are waiting as the machine comes to a stop–clapping and they hand me some necessary paperwork and a certificate of completion with my name engraved in ink.  And it reads I have ‘completed the prescribed course of radiation therapy with the highest degree of courage, determination and good nature.’

And I am unworthy and it’s not me who deserves any of these accolades–it’s so many others–it’s the woman who waits every morning for her husband to finish radiation treatments so she can drive him to his chemo treatment–fifty miles away.  It’s the man who sits in his familiar wheelchair with his cane carefully placed in his lap and humbly allows the nurses to roll him back into the radiation room.  It’s the mamas and daddies who reach deep for another day of courage as they count down another chemo treatment for their child. And it’s the doctors and nurses who day after day see people as much more than patients–they see with their hearts and smile every single day when somedays it would be much easier to cry.

And it’s God’s thread that connects us all.

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Cancer–it will forever be a part of my story.  Will I walk this way again–only God knows.  But that is not a worry of today or tomorrow for me.  For the power of our thread is strengthened by prayers lifted in faith and love. And I have felt each prayer spoken on my behalf and there are no words to express my heart of gratitude.

And the sliding door–it opens a little wider.  Today is a beginning. Not a start-over, a new beginning.  There is a difference–a big difference. And God’s mercies are new every morning. And He is bigger, greater than any disease.  And He is good.

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. Lamentations 3:22-24 (KJV) 

 

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

I have this scar—it’s about five inches long.  The place where my skin was broken and the cancer was taken out of me.

She wore a pink shirt and when she got ready to leave the cancer clinic she forgot which side of the building she had parked her car.

And another lady–she walked in.  Her face glowed and her head, it was covered in a yellow and blue scarf with the tiniest of flowers weaved into the colors.

Cancer does these things.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

He came into the house and turned around quickly, back out to his truck.  I forgot something my son-in-law said.  And when he came back into the house he handed me this pink ribbon pin.  ‘I got this for you’.  And I couldn’t get my voice to speak as it wrestled with my overwhelmed smile.

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A Mama this week–her message read, my family is praying for you.  Her message went on to say–‘even though the treatments are different, please know I am here to talk anytime you need to talk.’  And I broke.  You see, this Mama, she’s in her own battle with cancer.  Her young son, in the midst of chemotherapy.  And he is a warrior, a fighter, and he makes no bones about it nor does his Mama or Daddy or his family–they all love Jesus and their faith and hope is steadfast in Him.

And I think about her, thinking of others in the midst of her own storm and I am drowning in this undeserved grace.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

The mail comes and more than once comes this love.  A beautiful shirt handmade by a friend I don’t see very often but I know she’s always there–anytime–day or night if I need her.  And I will do the same for her.

And so many other heart gifts, words, cards, reminders of ‘I’m praying for you’, ‘We are thinking of you’

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We take our seats before worship songs begin and one of our Deacons is carrying this large Ziploc bag–filled with pink ribbons with pink pins.  And he hands me the pin and tells me one of the ladies in our church fixed the ribbons and he was giving them out to everyone.  And I can’t imagine the time she spent making these gifts. I look up and see pink ribbons adorning lapels and dresses and shirts and jackets and coats.  And in my heart there’s this pouring out of what seems to be like the breaking of the alabaster jar where heaven breaks and blessings pour down.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

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This week my aunt was rushed to the hospital on Monday fears she had had a stroke.  It was later determined she had a large mass on her brain.  God answered our prayers as the surgery on Thursday was successful, the mass was removed and my aunt is doing very well.  Our family is waiting on the test results and we covet your continued prayers.

It’s true.  Cancer doesn’t treat us all the same.  Our treatments and diagnosis may be different.  But there is this promise in the lifting of prayers in faith-believing. And the love we give to each other matters.  Love matters.

And cancer is cancer and love is of God.

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cornithians 12:9

one moment away: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

one moment away: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

My phone is sounding in it’s silent tone and I can’t answer it right away but I can see who’s on the other line.  My doctor.

And it’s about time for the call.  He told me last Friday it would be 7-10 days when he would have my report.  My report from the surgery.  My report that would tell us whether my cancer had spread–if it was in my lymph nodes–if more surgery would be required.

One phone call, one doctor’s visit, one moment of time.  And everything can change.  One phone call of a loved one’s death–one doctor’s visit with the diagnosis of cancer or disease.  And these moments of time are not always of hard news.  Some moments are of unwavering joy.  Joy of happiness.  Joy of answered prayers. Joy of healing.

One moment of time.  And everything can change.

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There’s this nurse’s voice on voicemail asking me to call my doctor when I get a moment.  A moment of time.  I hold my breath as I count the number of rings it takes for someone to answer.

‘We have received your report back and the cancer has not spread. It is not in your lymph nodes,’ my nurse explained.  ‘The entire area was removed in surgery, the margins are good and the doctor told me to tell you it is a very good report, a very good report.’ And she said, ‘We will see you on Tuesday for your recheck and talk about the scheduling of your radiation treatments.’

And I cried as I thanked her.  Praising God for His faithfulness, a grace that never fails.  Answered prayers.

One moment of time.  And everything can change.

And this week as with any week, God has blessed and I have so much to be thankful for.

To see my son again as a baby–Wyatt’s little feet pattering across the floor and his head adorned with blonde curls

Morning devotionals

My Daddy’s white handkerchiefs 

Hearing my daughter read the story of Batman and Superman to Kase and Drew, my grandbabies with their heart giggles. 

Clouds filled with moisture–eyes filled with tears

Songs that wake me up in the middle of the night–over and over, Thy Will be Done.

Answered prayers

Warriors of prayer.  Warriors of faith

Beauty in the healing miracles–Jacob, Drew, Jenner, myself and so many others 

I remember vividly the morning. I had spent the night at my daughter’s.  A light snow had covered the ground.  The phone rang. ‘Daddy has been rushed to the hospital and it doesn’t look good,’ my sister said in a trembling voice.

And in the mad rush to get to the hospital I reached for my bag and my knees gave way to the floor.  I can’t do this.  And in that moment of time–my life, it changed forever.

And I also remember vividly the announcement of my three grandbabies.  What a beautiful change these three have brought to my life.

My oldest grandbaby boy–eating dinner at Chick-fil-A. ‘You’re going to be a grandma in January or February!’ my daughter and son-in-law said with smiles that bursts through the restaurant walls.

My granddaughter–my son-in-law called wanting me to come to their house to see something.  Now it was hunting season so I thought for sure he had scored a big buck.  I kept waiting on him to lead me to the backyard to see this monster deer and then he reached on top of the refrigerator and there it was–this stick–positive.  ‘You are going to be Granna again’, my daughter said with a joy only an expectant mother can voice.

And my son calling, ‘Mom, we have something to tell you.  Jesi and I, well, we are pregnant.’   Not Jesi is pregnant, we are pregnant.  And this thing about my son–you don’t have to see his face to know his smile is wide.  He gets that from his Papa Lackey.

One moment of time and everything can change our lives here on earth.  But there’s this one promise, one moment of time that will change us for eternity.  And that is Christ’s coming.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 

1 Corninthians 15:52 (KJV)

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. 

Revelation 22:20-21 (KJV) 

One moment of time.  And everything can change.

 

 

the nurse was right: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

the nurse was right: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

Her name was Amanda and her daughter is studying to be an Exceptional Children’s teacher.  And my nurse, Amanda and I agreed on many of the same things–she, like me, doesn’t drink soft drinks–sweet tea is her drink of choice, especially Chick-fil-A tea, just like me.

But what we agreed on most was this, I am a blessed woman.   Yep, that’s what she said. She asked in surprise as she read my health chart, ‘No surgeries, ever?!  You are a blessed woman!’

I replied loud, ‘I know!’

And then she said, ‘You have a good doctor, a good surgeon.  He is a good Christian man, a man of faith and he will pray with you before your surgery.  And he did.  A most humble and thankful prayer.  One I will not forget.

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Photo courtesy of Jill Miller Woodie 

 

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I struggled to tell others at first.  It was difficult to even say the words, “I have cancer. Cancer.”  And on that Tuesday as my doctor explained my diagnosis and treatment plan I listened, carefully soaking in his every word so I could relay it back to my family.  My mind accepted the news.  It was my heart that took a little longer.

But as I shared the news with others in the following days I began to understand more of God’s grace and the power of prayer. And as much as it is hard, these storms, there is beauty in the suffering.  So many women and other cancer survivors have reached out to me in the last few weeks.  Many I didn’t know their story.  Until now.  Stories of individual’s battles and healing of different types of cancers–Stories only God can write.

“I am praying for you, 4 years ago I also had breast cancer, stage 1.  I can truly say I know what you are going through.  And God was with me every step of the way and I know He will be with you.  If I can be of any help in any way please let me know.  Praying.” 

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And on this Saturday afternoon I sit here and write–one day after my surgery and I am doing well, extremely well and I think of each of you who continues to lift my name in prayer.  Each of you who believes we serve an amazing God who carries us through the valleys.

My heart is overwhelmed, my heart is full.  Because of my family. Because of each of you.  Because of God’s faithfulness.  Because of His promise to never leave our side–His mercy.  His love.

This week as with any week I have much to be thankful for…..

For answered prayers,  as my daughter said, To God be the Glory! 

For nurses named Kim, Amanda, Sabrina and so many others I can’t recall their names

For Dr. Stephen Rosser, God has given you a gift and you have touched my life with your faith and tender care

For Iredell Memorial Hospital 

For friends who lovingly pray–I could feel every one of your prayers. For your messages, offerings of help–please know I love you all

For the gift of grape jelly, a cure-all for anything. Sarah–your grandmother was so right

For my church, who when one hurts, we all hurt. Blessed to be a part of the family of Hilltop Baptist Church. 

And for a young boy named Jacob Brown and his family.  For sharing your story, your fight against cancer.  Your faith and trust in God through your storm inspires and encourages so many.  Praying strong for all of you. 

Tomorrow’s my Daddy’s birthday.  He would have been 79 and tomorrow he celebrates his 5th birthday in heaven.  I can’t explain how much my heart hurts on some days–missing him.  And I know the rest of my family feels the same.  He was truly a gift because you see he wasn’t born out of my Grandmother’s womb, he grew out of her heart and I am thankful God chose him for our family.

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The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1 (KJV)

 

 

…hard thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

…hard thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

I am counted among the numbers now.

According to the U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, in 2018 an estimated number of 63,960 women will be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.  (breastcancer.org).

I once heard Pam Tebow, mother of Tim Tebow speak to an audience of women about the importance of giving thanks.  She told the story of how she was walking near a construction site and a piece of debris fell on her head. Her next memory was waking up in a hospital.  And she said of this experience, ‘this was not something I had planned and it was difficult but according to God’s word we are to give Him thanks–in everything.  So I am thankful He allowed this piece of construction debris to hit me on my head.’

In every thing give thanks.

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My cancer diagnosis–on a scale of 0 to 4, I am at a zero, the beginning stages.  And in next few days I will have out-patient surgery, a lumpectomy to remove the area followed by six weeks of daily radiation treatments–30 minutes per day, five days a week. If all goes well with the surgery on Friday, I will be back at work on Monday. And my follow-up treatments can be scheduled around my work on most days. And unlike chemotherapy, there are fewer and less severe side effects to radiation treatments.

In every thing give thanks.

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And this year I will hit a milestone birthday–never had any type of surgery, no medications so to speak.  Three overnight stays in the hospital, two of those–I brought my beautiful babies home.  The other was a one-night stay while I was in high school.  A. Long. Time. Ago. So to say God has blessed me with good health thus far is an understatement and a huge blessing.

I can’t begin to write the ways in which God has prepared me for this.  How I can look back over the past few months of yesterdays and see how He provided for today and the days to come.

And this week as with any week I have so much to be thankful for…..

My grand baby boy Wyatt celebrating his first birthday. 

Praying friends 

My daughter and son-in-law celebrating birthdays

Coconut Fudge Ice Cream

Pink ribbons 

My family

Birds at the feeder

Sweet tea with crushed ice

My church family

My cancer diagnosis 

Before the month of January ended my baby brother was rushed to the hospital and he fought hard to live.  And after he was released from the hospital he was placed on a strict diet, daily insulin shots, and other medication. Today, seven months later his diet is not as strict and he is completely off insulin.  When I explained to him about my cancer diagnosis, I told him I had nothing to complain about or feel pity for myself.  And what he said next humbled me to the core–‘if you think about it, no matter what, none of us have reason to complain.’

In every thing give thanks.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid.

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid.

You don’t know this and you may not even know me. And I may not know your name. But I want to thank you.

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid. Because of you.

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The morning darkness was still lit by the stars of Abraham’s promise. And before walking out the door I clasp the lock on my brave necklace—the butterfly necklace a friend gave me. I hope they allow me to keep it on.  

I count the trucks on the interstate. Some parked along the exits. A rest for the weary. Some with their wheels warm to the road. Not many cars traveling on this early morn.

And God is here.

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I find my entrance at the place that never sleeps. The volunteer receptionist—an older lady and she smiles at me. Her voice is a calm and I take my place in the waiting room and within minutes it begins to fill and I see them walk in. She’s wearing her pajama bottoms, her arms tightly wrapped around a red blanket. And her friend with her camouflage shirt adorned with the large pink ribbon.  I don’t ask their story. I have no need—the friend’s shirt speaks loud….I am here. I am right here by your side. I am fighting with you—for you. I won’t leave you. And they take their seats. Together, they wait.

And God is here.

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A few minutes pass and the doors swing open and the nurse in the blue scrubs calls my name. We exchange morning hellos and I notice how shiny the floors are and how the hallway goes on forever. We go into what looks like the emergency room and she explains she will take my vitals and I will stay there until another nurse comes for me. She’s a sweet lady. Our birthdays are six days apart—hers the 6th and mine the 12th. December babies.

Another nurse enters the area and with her is an elderly gentleman. She takes him behind the adjoining curtain and he tells her his bride of 53 years—she’s right outside the room.  

My nurse finishes my vitals and assures me I won’t have to wait much longer and before she leaves she softly says to me, ‘don’t worry.’  

And the man next to me —well, he’s still talking.  

‘Are you saved?, He ask to his nurse. And she said, ‘oh, yes sir I am.’ 

‘I quit church and join the Marines where they cussed some,’ he said. ‘My Mama wasn’t happy. But God let me live. I praise God for my salvation.’

And God is here.

It’s almost 7am and my other nurse arrives. Wearing a smock, black adorned with a million pink ribbons it seems. Her black hair pulled partially back into a ponytail. I learn she and her boyfriend ride motorcycles.  She promises the procedure won’t take long.

We walk down the shiny hallway again and there’s a young man mopping the floor. He’s the reason for the shine. And I say good morning.

Another room—this time smaller. And the nurse, she and my doctor explains the procedure steps. ‘You can keep your necklace on,’ she said.  I can’t help believe she knew it was part of my needed brave.

And as I laid there with my body perfectly still I watched as this tube carried my tissue and blood into the machine with the large button lit bright red, labeled biopsy and I thought about you.  Women who have been here before me.

My pain came and I prayed not only for myself but for Hannah, the young teacher with two small children whose fighting her own battle with breast cancer. On this morning her story—her pain helped with my pain.

To the dear friends and loved ones who has went through the same procedure, some more than once. On this morning your stories—your strength gave me strength.

To Elaine and Ann and so many other women who fought their battles hard and won the victory crossing over holding onto Jesus’ hands–on this morning your stories– your fight gave me fight–your faith deepened my faith.

And to Kathryn and Sharon and Teresa and Anne and Diane and Caroline and Sylvia and all of the women who fought hard and today your bodies hold battle scars as survivors—on this morning your  stories—your brave gave me brave.

And to every woman who is clinging to blankets going through chemo and mastectomies and lumpectomies and the families and friends and loved ones who wear pink ribbons and pink hats and pink shirts in support. Names I will never know. On this morning your stories—your courage gave me courage.

And God is here.

The nurse was right. The procedure didn’t take long. And my doctor, he’s done this before. More times than he cares to count or remember, I’m sure. His face is humble as he explains the biopsy results will be back in a week and once he receives them we will meet and talk. And before he leaves the room he scolds the nurse for riding a motorcycle in a pleasant, but very meaningful way and she smiles. 

And God is here.

Fifteen minutes or so pass and I am released. Well to drive. I made my way back to the car, the night skies now day blue. The car door shuts and in that moment the walls I had built around my heart over the last three weeks broke. And my tears flowed for every woman who has ever had to hear these words…..there is a chance you may have breast cancer.

And God is here. He’s always here.