The Good, the Bad, and the Better

As usual, and as is the case lately, my brain was working overtime worrying about nothing. My doctor visit on Friday relieved my fears, all was well, there was no mistake in his diagnosis or in the Pet CT. Still Stage 2, Follicular Lymphoma with a good prognosis. Whew, what a relief, I guess I hadn’t really let that go after all. I could just imagine Jesus sitting in the chair across the waiting room with a serene look on His face, shaking his head back and forth at me as if to imply, “Why do you torture yourself when all you have to do is believe what I tell you and trust in me.” I know this to be true, I KNOW this. But, I cannot always stop the stinkin-thinkin. Aren’t we all like that sometimes? Hoping for the best, but the worst looms before us like a giant lighted billboard that blinks on and off – “What if?” Those darn “what if’s” can give us so many sleepless nights. To believe in the lies of the evil one is a temptation. The scriptures this week highlights Jesus encounter with the Devil in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). But, Jesus knew all his tricks, and stood his ground, and kept his faith. We too, need to learn to tell the difference between the Holy Spirit who guides us in right paths, and the Enemy’s enticements and lies as he tries to lead us away from God. We need God to fight the enemy, we cannot do it alone.

My husband and I arrived at the Cancer Center at 9:15 a.m., and I was feeling really good on my second Chemo Day. I had been feeling good since Friday, not even taking any more pain meds. Sitting there with all the hands my friends had made for me, with lovely scriptures on each one, I just knew it was going to be a great day.

I am really getting sick of being wrong all the time, and I was wrong that day – not much was good about it. Remember, I said I was going to let the Benadryl do its job and relax me to sleep this time? That didn’t happen. As soon as the nurse pushed the Benadryl into my port, I started feeling strange. After a few minutes, I started getting very anxious, my legs were getting uncontrollably restless, I threw the covers off because the weight of them was annoying me, and my heart was beating fast. I felt as if I just wanted to get up and run out of there! Only by the grace of God and by reading my friends scripture passages over and over again, did I stay in that seat. I’ve never, ever felt that way before; I knew it must be the Benadryl, because that is all the nurse had given to me so far. She was working on a high priority patient across the way from me in a private room and didn’t have much time for me, I could tell. Trying to get her attention was frustrating me, which called for more prayer. As my sainted mother would say, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” So, I calmly waited for her to finish “shooting the bull” with her other, more important patient, not screaming her name out, like I really wanted to do. That sounded ugly, didn’t it? But, I was so freaked out and she was taking so long! Finally, as she flitted by my bed on some mission for him, I called out to her (keeping my tone pleasant) and told her what my problem was. She said that she had pushed the Benadryl fast into my port and that was probably what caused my reaction. She said she would make a note on the chart that next time, that whoever was my nurse, should push it in slower. But, she said, “there is nothing I can do about it now, you will have to wait for the effects to settle down.”

About a half hour later she came by with my first chemo drug, Rituxan, the same drug I had an allergic reaction to the last time I had chemo. But, the nurse assured me the second time you get the drug, you don’t get a reaction because you body knows the drug now. Well, I guess my body is a slow learner, because it did not KNOW the Rituxan, and I had the same reaction, burning deep in the delicate tissues of my throat, mouth, and tongue. Again, she was with the man across the hall. I debated getting up and going over there. Just be patient, I told myself, she will come by. Once more, it took forever, and, as I waited, I could imagine all of the ulcers and blisters forming in my mouth. I just sucked on some ice chips hoping they would help. When she finally passed by, in a hurry as usual, I motioned to her that I needed her. After telling her my problem she stopped the Rituxan drip and called the Charge nurse who came over and gave me another large dose of Benadryl. “Oh no!” I said. She told me it was necessary to stop the allergic reaction. I didn’t think the day could get any worse! Thank God the charge nurse called my doctor’s office about the problems I was having. His nurse came down and when I told her how anxious and upset I was feeling she said, “No problem, we will give you some Ativan and you will rest and the anxious feelings will go away.” “Then,” she went on, “we will start the chemo again, your body should take it this time.” As for the Benadryl reaction, in the future we will put a note in your chart that the nurse has to give you Ativan if you ask for it.” YES! I was so happy to hear that. So, around 1:30 p.m., I finally got my Ativan and I slept through the chemo infusions until 5:30 p.m., when my husband woke me up to go home.

Now to the better part. My husband had gone to get a blood test of his own and wasn’t there during all the craziness. So, during this time of anxiety, stress and worry, I read my scriptures, talked to my God, and texted my friends for some encouragement. All of them came through for me. The scriptures lifted me up with hope, talking to Jesus always calms me down as I imagine him present and working on my situation, and my friends came through like gangbusters with encouraging text messages, funny pictures, prayers, and cyber kisses and hugs. Even another cancer patient, an elderly lady, as we passed one another clinging to our infusion “poles” while heading to the bathroom, took one look at me and asked me, “Are you okay?” I tried to smile and told her, “No, not really.” She said so sweetly to me, “Honey, you got this, we both have got this, stay strong.” I know she was sent from Heaven to give me courage. She smiled an encouraging smile at me, then slowly began walking back to her recliner. Cancer is not anything you can do on your own. It takes your church community, relatives, neighbors, friends, co-workers, medical staff, loving pets, and even, sometimes, strangers to get you through it.

This scripture is for all those wonderful people who are helping me along the way – their light shines brightly!

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Who knew that a sore head was a precursor of chemo hair loss? I certainly did not, and, my Chemo team at the cancer center never mentioned this side effect to me. When my scalp started hurting on Sunday night, I thought I had gotten a little too aggressive while washing my hair. Then, on Monday night after my shower, I looked down and there was a lot of hair stuck all over my skin. I reached up and tugged a little and, sure enough, more hair came out in my hand. It was exactly two weeks to the day after my first Chemo injection, which was a little surprising because they told me it might be two weeks after the second injection that I would lose my hair. As I stood there contemplating what to do, all I could think about was that I was shedding worse than my two dogs. Picturing my bed sheets covered in hair every morning, I thought, “This hair has got to go!” Once I make up my mind about something, I swing into action; later is not in my vocabulary.

My husband, nice and comfy in his recliner, engrossed in something on his iPad, looked up in surprise when I said, “I’m shaving my hair, come on, you may have to help.” Because he’s kind, because he loves me, and because he knows the futility of arguing with me about anything lately, he got up out of his chair, followed me into the bathroom and helped me hack off my hair with the dog clippers. I know that a lot of women have issues with losing their hair, but, it wasn’t very traumatic for me. It’s temporary, I’m not embarrassed to wear the chemo caps and I did buy a wig for special occasions. I don’t get embarrassed easily. When I was younger, as I was preparing to go out, I would ask my son, “how do I look?” His reply was always, “Mom, why do you care what you look like, you’re married.” He obviously had no idea what goes on in a woman’s mind about her physical appearance. But, as the years went by, I would repeat his little “words of wisdom” to myself whenever I was in too much of a hurry to put on makeup before I went out. I would think, “I’m married, who cares?” Living out here in the country, getting all dolled up to go out is NOT necessary; so, in my mind, losing my hair is the least of my problems. Though I do strive to look presentable and not like the hag who gave the apple to Sleeping Beauty.

I do, however, have a new issue that is extremely problematic. This started around the same time as my sore scalp. My left foot, at least three times a day, with no rhyme or reason as to when it is going to happen, feels as if I have a broken bone and I can’t put any pressure on it. It is so dangerous when I am walking and it happens, because it almost trips me up. But, after a few minutes of waiting for the pain to go away, it is gone just as abruptly as it first appears. This is so weird, like everything else that has been happening to me. As my Chemo nurse likes to tell me, “everyone’s symptoms are unique to them.” I don’t much care for this uniqueness stuff. I’ll have to ask the doctor what is up with that.

I’ve been making dog food for the past two days. It takes a while, cooking and de-boning the meat and cooking all the other good stuff that goes into it. Yes, I make my dog’s food, and it is a pain in the neck, but they are worth it. It’s the kind of job I love because you can do it on “auto pilot,” like folding clothes, washing dishes, or driving. If there is no noise in the background my thoughts just wander where they will and very often God speaks to me during those wanderings.  He is always there, listening and encouraging us to go “deeper” into our relationship with Him. We do that by sharing our deepest feelings, thoughts, and concerns. It doesn’t even have to be “out loud.” God knows our thoughts and enters into them.

As I mixed all the ingredients in the giant stainless steel bowl I use to make the dog food, I thought of the past two weeks, all the surprising side effects (well, surprising to me) and how I was finally learning to deal with them. Because I was able to figure out the meds and how to take them, I have been feeling pretty good these past few days. The nurse was really surprised that I haven’t had any nausea, thank the Lord for that. Thinking of all that has happened, I know it could have been much worse. All the people who have walked with me these past two weeks made the struggle bearable for me – without them, things would have seemed so much harder than they were. God bless them!

My doctor’s visit was also on my mind. Anyone who has had cancer, or has had a family member with cancer, would know that doctor’s visits are always stressful. What will the news be, something new, something worse, something wrong? I was beginning to stress about it. What if the doctor was wrong about the mistake in the Pet CT? What if there was no mistake and I did have cancer everywhere? I knew I was being ridiculous, but the thoughts were tormenting me. “Okay,” I said to myself , “get it together for goodness sake.” “These thoughts are NOT from God,” I mused, “God is an encourager, one who gives hope, who fills you with courage, spirit, and confidence.” One of my favorite scriptures came to mind, “…be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). A scripture reading from my morning prayer also filled my heart, “Choose life, then, that your descendents may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

God is so present when we open ourselves up to Him, always ready to console us, and help us to discern truth, the truth that comes from God’s Holy Word. My little consultation with our Lord brought me peace once again, and strength for the journey and for my doctor’s visit. I will hold on to the Word whenever I am afraid, keep the faith, and trust that the Lord is always at my side.

Attitude is Everything

“Why do you have to make such a big deal out of every decision?” My husband has asked me this question a zillion times in our 48 years of marriage. “Because I need to know EVERYTHING in order to make a decision,” is always my answer. I’m a detail person; I need to know all the angles, the how, why, what, if, good and bad of every situation. So, you can imagine how I’m handling all the details in dealing with my cancer. I have lit-up the message board to my doctor’s office asking questions. I’ve never had cancer or chemo before, and even though I went to “Chemo School”, many of the issues I’m having weren’t addressed there. I have no idea what to expect from my body or from the meds. Many of the side effects and symptoms are worrisome, unexpected and scary to me, which is what I explained to the invisible “cyber” person at the other end of the message board when I insisted on speaking to a real, live person. I was tired of getting prescriptions sent to the pharmacy with little or no explanations of why I needed them or what was going on with my body. No one had even asked me what was hurting me when I complained of pain, they just ordered pain pills.

Part of my reluctance to taking the pain meds was that I didn’t know why I was hurting. Finally, on Thursday, the doctor’s assistance called me. Woo hoo, a real, live person! When I explained to her that my entire torso was in agony she said, “Well, that tells me two things, the first is that you are healthy and you already have a lot of white blood cells, so the Neulasta has overloaded your bone marrow with white blood cells and they are acting like a log jam in your bones and causing the pain; and, the second thing is that the cancer cells are dying, which also causes pain as your body gets rid of them.” Well, why didn’t they tell me that in the first place? So, now that I’m privy to all the information, I’m obediently taking the meds, every four hours as prescribed, and feeling better. They don’t take all the pain away, and by the third hour the pain amps up again, but it’s nothing I can’t live with. I’m simply thrilled that most of the pain is gone.

Standing in front of the mirror as I was getting dressed this morning, I was talking to Jesus about all of the stuff that has gone on these past few days that had me on edge or aggravated. On Friday morning, I woke up and discovered a tick embedded in my shoulder; yes, a tick – on my shoulder, ewww! Then, I somehow managed to break the hinge that connects my new iPad to its keyboard that I really, really, love. And, last night, just as I finished the final sentence of my new blog post, my computer’s hard drive died – for good. As I stood there, spouting my litany of complaints to Jesus, I happened to look in the mirror at the picture of Jesus I have on the wall just behind me. I placed it there a long time ago because I wanted Jesus’ face to be one of the first things I see in the morning when I stand in front of the mirror getting dressed. Jesus has such a loving, compassionate look of understanding on his face in that picture, I could almost hear him gently saying to me, “Jeanne, why don’t you tell me what you’re thankful for.” So, I resigned to do just that; but, before I could even speak a word of gratitude, here came another of my mom’s songs playing in my head, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought that Jesus and my mom were double-teaming me. In my heart, I knew that they were right, an attitude of gratitude was just what I needed to counter my “woe is me” gloomy mood.

Counting my blessings, there was a lot to be thankful for. I was definitely thankful to be learning more about how the Chemo works and to be in less pain. I received a special gift, when I was at my lowest point last week. A package came in the mail from members of our staff. Each of them had traced their hands on craft foam and written a scripture passage on the hands, a passage they had chosen especially for me. Entwined together in a long string, all the hands will be going with me to my next Chemo Day. My dear friends holy hands to lay across me with Sacred words of Scripture to heal me.

I was also able to spend some quality time with my son and his children this past weekend. Being surrounded by family makes me feel better and doing things with them gives me something to do besides worry about myself. My granddaughter and I love feeding the fish and the turtles that inhabit our 1 1/2 acre pond. We even spotted the elusive 2 1/2 foot long resident snapping turtle who came up from the depths to snag a slice of bread and some floating fish pellets. Now, that was an exciting sighting!

After watching boxing on television, my husband, son, and grandson were huddled over some kind of knife sharpening skills they were demonstrating to one another – not my thing, but just having them there together was a blessing to me. Not to mention, I now have the sharpest knives in town!

Each day comes with its challenges, but among those challenges there are so many blessings. Some of the blessings come in the form of lessons. So much still to learn in life. I have a feeling that cancer is going to teach me a lot of lessons about myself, about letting go and letting God, about not knowing, and not doing, about steadfast love, and faithful friends, about family, faith, courage and fear. Today, at this moment, I feel confident that, with God at my side, I can face the coming challenges. I am also confident that on those days when my spirit begins to dim and my inner peace is disturbed, our Lord will send earthly “angels” to brighten my day and give me new hope, whatever the circumstances may be.


ENDURANCE

These past three days have been a test, not only of my endurance, but, of my resolve to remain positive throughout this journey. Pain, can and does, dim our view of the positive aspects of life, where every molehill becomes a mountain we have to cross that seems insurmountable. This kind of thinking is so foreign to me. I have always tried to look for the blessings and the God given, sometimes supernatural grace that enters into even in the most difficult struggles of life. Gratitude can light up the darkness, when I have eyes that see through the spectrum of faith. Romans 8:28 is something I hold onto during those dark times, “We know that all things work for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

It started, with my weakened condition from the weekend and my trip to the Infusion center for IV fluids on Monday. Yet, even in that place, blessings abounded. There was a woman in the infusion chair next to mine getting her Chemo cocktail of deadly poisons. She seemed so put together, she looked nice, and she was smiling and texting on her iphone, apparently in a very good mood. I lay there in my recliner feeling awful and wondering how she could possibly be so cheery in this place. After about an hour, I couldn’t take it any more and I questioned her, “You look entirely too happy to be here, what’s your secret?” She looked at me and smiled compassionately, “Well,” she said, “Last year at this time I thought I would be going out in a pine box.” “It gets better,” she went on. She continued, “It’s rough at first, but it gets better.” That’s all I needed, a spark of hope from a stranger, a stranger who had traveled the same road as I was on and who had come out strong and whole. I truly believe God sends us earthly, angel messengers, so often, at exactly the moment we most need them.

One of the things no one told me about was that Chemo causes temporary insanity – well, it did for me, and I’m sure it will happen again. On the way home from the Cancer Center I told my husband, “I can’t deal with my hair any longer, it’s got to go; I’m getting a haircut.” He looked at me sideways, “What?” he asked, “Isn’t your hair going to fall out soon?” “Not soon enough for me,” I exclaimed. “It’s got to go!” So I called my beautician and told her I was ready for that “pixie” cut she had told me about. The insanity part is that my hair was already relatively short and its never any trouble because I just wash it and let the curls take over. But, on this day, my hair was looming over me like one of those “mountains.” My beautician thought I was jumping the gun with the haircut too, but she gleefully started chopping it off until it was only about 1″ long all around my head. My husband, bless his heart, took one look at me when I got home and said, “I kinda like it.” He is such a sweet man!

Did I mention I was stubborn? The doctor had told me that some people have more trouble with the Neulasta injection than with the chemo. It can make your teeth hurt and all your bones ache unbearably. Well, I had the audacity to think that I was not going to be one of those “some” people. Hadn’t the doctor also said that he thought I may just sail through Chemo because I was so healthy to begin with and in great physical condition? I was wrong – again – I’m a “some” people! Let’s get back to the stubborn part; I refused to take pain meds, thinking I could tough it out. I didn’t want the side effects of painkillers. Even though my friends all advised me to “take the darn pills” I fought it until I could not bear it any longer.

My husband was upset with me because I would not sit and “rest,” which annoyed me because he didn’t understand that sitting only magnified the pain I was in and caused me to focus all my attention on it. At least, when I was walking around the house doing this or that, my mind wasn’t focused on the pain.

Determining not to take the pills was foolish, and I knew that. Growing up with three brothers had toughened me up. I can remember when my older brothers, after I had done something to annoy them, would twist my arm behind my back and tell me, “I’m not gonna let you go till you say uncle.” Well, that was a challenge I had to accept, even though I knew they were bigger and stronger than me and that eventually, I would have to say “uncle” or suffer the consequences of a sore arm. So, in my mind taking the pills was giving in to the bully of pain running through my body. I wanted to conquer it by sheer will. As with my brothers, I lost that battle. Finally, around 6 p.m., in tears and so angry that I had to say, “uncle” to taking the pills, I gave in and took one. It took a while, but I got blessed relief. I have a call in to the doctor’s office to see if there is anything I can take that is an alternative to the pain meds. We shall see what he has in mind.

Now, to the blessings of this journey. Each day, there are friends, I like to think of them as encouragers, who will call, text, or message me. They check up on me, always assuring me of their thoughts and prayers. Many of them send scriptures to me that are SO very helpful. We don’t always talk about my cancer, but about mundane, “what are you doing today stuff” which is fine with me. I love to hear about what is going on in other people’s lives. I am genuinely interested in what’s going on with them and it certainly makes my day more interesting

Yesterday evening, just when I was at my breaking point, a friend texted me this beautiful prayer that was right on point with how I was feeling. No one can tell me she was not a God sent angel for me! This is the prayer she sent:

Praise God for all the wonderful people He has sent into my life!

THE LEARNING CURVE

I knew it was coming, and thought I was prepared for the exhaustion and the chemo side effects I had side-stepped by taking mega doses of prednisone this past week. It started on Saturday morning when I woke up. My mouth was sore from the ulcers, my teeth hurt, my tongue felt weird, my body was radiating low-grade pain from one area to the next, and my bones ached, a lot.

I’ve never been a morning person, never. On school days, when I was a young girl, my mom would try to wake me up by singing her favorite morning song to me, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” My momma loved to sing, she sang all the time. I used to love to sing along with her, belting out the old gospel hymns she taught me. But, on school mornings, I would stuff the pillow over my head and beg her, “Momma, please stop singing!” Should I be foolish enough not to get out of the bed after the first song, Momma would begin to sing, “Lazy Mary Will You Get Up,” incessantly, until I would, finally, throw the pillow to the floor, and petulantly stomp out of the room. Oh, if only I could have just one of those precious days back with my momma.

I think about and miss my mother even more so since my cancer diagnosis, than I did before. I know if she were here with me as I battle this disease, she would bring much needed sunshine into the difficult times ahead. But, I still carry her love in my heart, and her songs, and the many wise things she taught me.

Sorry, I digress; the topic of this post is supposed to be how I am dealing with the ever increasing side-effects of the Chemo and the Nuelasta Injection.. My usual morning blahs were nothing compared to these new feelings of being unwell.  It didn’t sit well with me and made me grumpy. Really, I had no idea how to deal with this new person I was becoming. Full of wandering aches and pains, what was I supposed to do with myself? Sit on the sofa and “rest” as my husband kept advising me to do.

“Morning prayer will get my head on straight,” I thought.  I grabbed my little book, Give Us This Day (Daily prayer readings) and went to sit in the recliner by the front window of my house which overlooks my porch and the Purple Martin gourd racks.  It is my prayer spot some days.  Opening the book to Saturday’s prayer, some of the lines from Psalm 3 jumped out at me. 
“…you, Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, who lift my head…I lie down, I sleep and I wake, for the Lord upholds me…I will not fear.”  Sitting there pondering those words of comfort, I heard the sound of birds singing near the porch, and glancing outside, I noticed the bright orange-red blooms of the azalea bush near the window.  Both made me smile and instantly cheered me.  I sat there for a moment listening to the birds and gazing outdoors.  “Thank you Lord,” I prayed, “In your Holy Word and in nature, that is where I find my peace.”  

I know that God loves me through nature; I am one with it.  It always connects me to God, leading me to prayer, praise and gratitude.  So this little hiccup in my prayer didn’t bother me.   I accepted what I call God’s “love tap,” my dose of nature love from the Heavenly Father, took it all in, and then asked Him to help me refocus on the rest of the readings.  My morning prayer time links me to God, in an intimate way, and helps me to become more aware of His presence and guidance as I face each new day and its mounting challenges. 

After prayer, I just really needed to be outdoors.

Overprotective Hubby, who seems to have appointed himself my guard, graciously acquiesced to my plea to be allowed to walk my dog. Of course, he insisted on accompanying me, as if I might try to make a break for it, escaping the bonds of cancer treatment by hiding out in a log cabin somewhere deep in the woods; hmmm, I kind of like that image.

Let’s just say we are both – not ourselves – at the moment.

Along with battling constipation from the meds, and the rest of the side effects, each time I eat, it feels as if a lump forms in my chest and it’s very uncomfortable for hours. It would probably be a good idea to follow the dietitian’s suggestion of eating 6 small meals a day. Stubborn person that I am, I like to try things my way first. When will I ever learn?

As I was preparing for bed, feeling pretty darn miserable and sick, an old time gospel song my momma used to sing started playing in my head. “You gotta walk, that lonesome valley, you gotta walk it by yourself, ain’t nobody else gonna walk it for you, you gotta walk it by yourself.” Momma had a song for every situation and I couldn’t help but think she sent this song to me – to let me know she was near, to bolster my flagging strength, and give me the courage to hold on to my faith and walk-the-walk, following in Jesus’ footsteps.

This Joan Baez Video of the song says it all:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItVmpBr7KLE

It seems as if the song of last night was a harbinger of worse things to come. I woke up on Sunday, still feeling awful, but managed to pull myself together enough to walk the dogs.  If Rosie doesn’t have her walks and Frisbee fetching time, nobody gets any peace. I don’t want to think that there might be a day when I can’t force myself to get off the sofa.

After lunch, I fixed myself a bowl of cabbage and rice soup thinking this, along with the meds I’d been taking for it, would alleviate the constipation.  Wrong, I was so wrong.  All it did was add gas and bloating to an already bad situation.  After four hours of excruciating pain that I thought I would surely die from, I got some relief.  If I never have cabbage, ever again, it will be too soon for me! 

After getting very little sleep last night and having dropped six pounds since Friday, I was thoroughly exhausted, depleted and dehydrated.  This morning after speaking to the nurse, I went into the Cancer Center to get some much needed IV fluids.  My doctor did tell me that the first few weeks of Chemo were going to be a learning “curve” for me.  How right he was!

The one lesson I am going to take away from this past week is that I will never take good health for granted, ever again.  And, that I should never forget to offer up prayers for others who are suffering the effects of addictions, mental disorders, diseases, cancer, and poor health.  May God in His mercy have pity on them, console them, and give them courage, strength, and peace.

BLESSED ASSURANCE

Yesterday, was the day my husband and I went to my oncologist’s office to get the results of my Pet CT and my Bone Marrow Biopsy. Sleep didn’t come easy the night before, what with the Prednisone pills giving me an anxious, nervous, feeling and battling issues of the effects of chemo on my digestive system during the long night. Not to mention the fact that the week before I had gotten a copy of my Pet Scan from the nurse and it did not look good. According to what I understood from what I read, the cancer had “lit-up” in my neck, throat, stomach, and organs. I assumed my prognosis was not looking too good and that this might very well be “my time” to meet the Lord. I spent days in prayer, asking God to give me peace with whatever His Holy will was for my life. By the time I got to the doctor’s office, I had peace in my heart. I was sitting in the waiting room meditating and this beautiful image of Jesus welcoming me into his arms came into my mind. Embraced by love, it was so comforting. I thought to myself, “Whatever the doctor tells me today, whatever the prognosis, I am going to be fine with it.”

When the doctor came into the office, he was all cheery, and told us that much to his surprise my bone marrow was free of cancer cells. And, that according to the Pet CT he was downgrading my diagnosis from Stage 3 to Stage 2. He went on to say that it was barely a stage two because most of the small cancerous lymph nodes were on the right side of my body and there was only one very small lymph node on the left side – when it is on both sides it becomes a stage 2. He assured me that he believed that the Chemo treatments would knock out the cancer, for good. I could not believe my ears! “But, doctor,” I said, “What about the Pet Scan and the cancer that lit up in other parts of my body?” He asked me, “What are you talking about?” I showed him the scan and what I had highlighted and he said, “Oh my goodness, whoever printed this must have printed someone else’s results on top of your results.” “You do not have cancer anywhere else in your body.” I cannot even describe the relief I felt in that moment. “Oh praise God,” I said, “I was so scared.” The doctor said to me, “I would be scared too, if that had been my pet scan.”

My husband and I went out to lunch to celebrate the wonderful, blessed news. Though the food tasted awful, as everything does at the moment, it was a joyful occasion and we were both sitting there with huge smiles on our faces, talking about the future and what we were going to do after Chemo was over. Perhaps rent a small cabin up north where it is cool in the month of August where I can recuperate. Of course, we must bring our dogs, and it must be somewhere where there are trails to walk in the woods, preferably near a park. I need to be in nature to pray and heal, to hear God’s voice. So, we dreamed and talked and laughed, and felt true joy in the moment.

Looking back at the anxiousness of waiting for the diagnosis, I pondered how so many times in my life I have worried about something, agonized over a family member, or had a hard time accepting something that I could not change. Always my prayer is “Lord, help me accept your will,” but I often fight Him about it. I argue and plead my case, trying to get my way, not understanding why God doesn’t move as fast as I want or the way I expect. In each instance, I have learned that God knows best, that sometimes time is what is needed, sometimes acceptance is what is needed, sometimes a new outlook is what is needed, and sometimes, God has a much better idea than mine. It often happens, when I finally surrender and give my all and say to Him, “Lord, I surrender to your will, do with me what you will, just give me the guidance, courage, and the graces I will need to endure or whatever it is I have to do in this situation,” that is when the peace comes. That is when surrendering brings joy – when, as St. Ignatius advises, I can become “indifferent” to the outcome and find peace of heart, mind, and soul.

LESSON LEARNED

My husband always cautions me that I don’t know when to “stop.” Oh, how I hate it when he is right! I must admit I do tend to overdo things – it’s part of my Obsessive Compulsive Personality. So, on the very next day after Chemo, after I went in the morning to the Cancer Center to get my Nuelasta Injection (it builds up white blood cell counts to fight off infection), I skipped lunch so I could meet with my two directees. Then I took my 1:00 p.m. allopurinol pill (this pill will stop me from getting Gout from the Chemo). By the grace of God, the sessions with the Directees went very well. But, I was beginning to get, as my mom would say “as sick as a dog” by the time they were over. I had a rough evening and night with painful heartburn that no amount of counteractions could fix. Thank the Lord that I woke up in the morning feeling a lot better. In hindsight, it was a little foolish of me to even think of scheduling anything at all on the day after Chemo. What was I thinking?! Well, what I was thinking was, “I’m not gonna let cancer change my life, I’m gonna do what I got to do.” But, I learned that I was wrong.

Lifting the experiences of the day before up for the Lord’s perusal in prayer the next morning as I thanked him for much improvement in feeling better, His word to me was, “Yes, Jeanne, cancer IS going to change things, but, don’t fret about it, I will be with you, ALL the way.” The Lord always knows just what to say to me to calm my spirit, to give me knowledge and insight. It is the knowledge that God is with me that gives me not only strength, but perseverance, courage, laughter and even joy at this time of not knowing, not knowing what’s next in my health care, or how cancer will effect the rest of my life. I have a peace about it; that, can only come from God.

HYPED UP AND FEELING GOOD

It’s a bright, new day today. 100mg of Prednisone must be some powerful stuff. For 4 days post Chemo, I have to take these pills every morning. It’s given to stop allergic reaction from Chemo and as an anti inflammatory. But, it’s a steroid and it really gets the heart beating fast and hypes a person up. So, I was feeling good today and full of amazing energy. I cleaned the entire house – for 7 hours! I tuned to my favorite country hymns station on Pandora – streaming from speakers in every room of the house – and sang along at the top of my voice as I worked. There is nothing like gospel music to lift your spirits. I pretty much turned the house upside down while the cleaning fit was on, which drove my husband out the door and into his barn for sanctuary. He peeked in later in the afternoon to make sure I was done and didn’t have any more jobs lined up for him to do.

I spent the rest of the afternoon learning how to use the Walmart app so I could order groceries online and my husband could go to the Walmart Pick Up Station to get them. What a great idea and just in time for my new issue. The doctor doesn’t want me to go to the grocery store because so many people have the flu this season. I love going to the grocery store. Something else I have to give up – for now – I tell myself it is just for now. Oh, and I must stay out of crowded restaurants, movie theaters, airplanes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools- well, you get the picture. And, no more hugging people or giving them the ‘handshake of peace’ at church. I’m a hugger, this new rule sucks big time for me, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with blowing kisses I suppose. According to the doctor, germs are pretty much everywhere, and I must avoid germs at all costs. So, now my OCD has a new project to obsess about – cleanliness. I’m already on it!