Friday, August 12, 2016

Miracles

Do you believe in miracles? I mean the huge, God given ones that are only allowed every once in a while but are so life altering that you can't help but pay attention? I do. I believe in them. I believe that God still performs miracles today. I believe that our lives are still important to Him. I believe he still walks with us on Earth and guides us to his heavenly home. Why? Because I have seen them. Repetitively. I see God's work in my life almost daily. Not in the little mundane things, but in huge, life altering things. Let me explain.

I prayed to God for a man who would love me unconditionally. A man who would see my potential, help me grow, and always be there when I fall. I met Dave. Our lives have been like a wave upon the sea. Sometimes powerful, sometimes weak. Sometimes out of control in the storm, other times, predictable.  But he is the man for me. He completes me. I cannot live without him. Ok, so I could if I had to. But I don't WANT to. He is the ying to my yang. We have walked many paths through our relationship to get us to where we are. I do not want to be without him. Ever.

Our boys....my pregnancies you have heard about. horrible. Scary. Early births, stuck babies......I'm a disgrace to the human population in giving birth. If I had lived in the early years, my babies would have all died, and me with them. What a wonderful thought (NOT!). But every day, my children are walking miracles.

Our daughter. I don't even need to explain the multiple ways this little girl is a miracle. From the way she came into our lives, to the little girl she is growing to be. She is my dream come true. And she knows it.

Finding my cancer was a miracle. For the years I had put off having a mammogram. And then to have one, finding this minuscule cancer that was removed two weeks later. Lord, continue  to help me walk in your Grace with this journey. I still meet people almost weekly, if not daily, that I can connect to. Look at me. I had cancer. i'm here. I'm present. I'm still living. And by the grace of God, I'm seeing my children meet milestones I was fearful I wouldn't see almost three years ago.

But my true miracle story comes from eight and a half weeks ago. What happens in two and a half months? A lot. Let me tell you. Oh, wait, I am. :) Two and a half months ago I thought my husband had pancreatic cancer. For those of you who don't know what pancreatic cancer is, think of the most horrible thoughts of your mind, and that is it. It's a death sentence. Most people do not survive for long. When pancreatic cancer is found, it is usually too late. Within months, that person is gone. Forever. Dead. I looked at my husband and our hopes and dreams and saw them slowly be ripped from me.

But never fear! I've been here before. I've had an abruption. I've almost lost three children. I almost lost an adopted child. I could have lost my life. I would.not.lose.my.husband.

What do you do when things in your life get hairy? I pray. A lot. For everyone, for myself, for those hurting.......so I prayed. I prayed that my husband was spared this journey. That there was another explanation. That he would be healthy to continue to do his gift from God......

Because you see, my husband is a physician that uses his God given gift to help. He doesn't care about insurance. He doesn't care about politics or policies. He cares about patient care and the health of his patients. He is interested in their lives, their children. He is a physician like you hardly see in todays world. He bucks bureaucracy and their ways. He stands up for what is right, what is not right now. He makes enemies that will try to tie him down, change his principals and sway his belief of what is right. But he remains firm, even when others try to take him down. We cannot lose him. So many people would lose fabulous care if he were gone. Life altering care. Life saving care. Life giving care. This cannot be. It must be a mistake.

Two weeks after his probable diagnosis of 70-50% pancreatic cancer we have an endoscopic ultrasound with biopsy. The results are mixed. They are still not sure he has cancer, but there may be something else. What? Asymptomatic pancreatitis? IPMN? What is going on? We are scheduled for another MRI weeks later. We go. Inconclusive. What is this mass? What IS it? what does this mean to our family? To his patients? To my husband?

We are scheduled for another biopsy but decide at the prompting of a good friend and other doctors to go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Let's find an answer. Because we can no longer live like part of us is dying every day. We have plans. We have things we want to do before we die. And cancer is no longer a part of our plan. I pray.

My friends pray.

My family prays.

A few select people are allowed into our inner circle. They pray.

This week we went to Mayo. People who are really sick go to the Mayo Clinic, right? People who can't find answers elsewhere?? Clasping hands like it was us against the world we maneuvered from appointment to appointment. My life line was in a group message to my family. My heart in my throat. But through it all, I hear God clearly. It is well.....with my soul. It is well.......

We go from appointment to appointment. Going through the motions. watching how a major medical operation runs and wanting to bring those ways back to our little town, to our clinic. Worrying about a mass that could mean death, but trusting God that all is well. It is well....with my soul...It is well...

Truly. Trusting. I remember being on the floor next to our dresser praying to God about my own cancer. Through the fear came the words... You will be fine. Trust me. Walk in Grace......And I tried. Now, I hear Him again. It is well....with my soul........I know that God has his hand on my husband and all I have to do is believe, trust, and pray. And so I do.

Seven appointments in two days. The Mayo Clinic runs like a well oiled machine. With super happy employees. Who are helpful and caring and smile with their eyes. I've spoken with patients in the hallway, I've talked with an Aunt who's niece was diagnosed with breast cancer. I talked with a man with Celiacs. I smile at everyone I pass. Because, well, it is well with my soul. God promised. I believe.

Dave has a 3x1cm mass in the head of his pancreas. If it is cancer or IPMN, we are looking at a whipple procedure. It is no joke. It is weeks, if not a month of recoup time. It is neither of us in the office. It is pain. It is watching our children go through their parents have a major medical issue once again. Money lost, family time lost, health lost. It will take him a year or longer to get back to where he is now. I know, it has taken me years to get back the strength I lost. And I'm still not where I was in 2013. I know this road. It's not good. But we will do it. We will walk it, run it, whatever. We will make it, together.

He gets his bloodwork. We meet with a PA. He has an MRI and more blood work. we are prepared for his procedure. One that will let us know what we are dealing with for sure. The dr walks in the room early the next morning.  Layered shirts and wrinkled khakis. Bright, squeaking running shoes. Short hair, glasses, and a hesitant smile. But he listens. He jokes. He asks if we know the results of the MRI from the day before. We do not. He breaks the news to us.

NOTHING. There is no mass. No bundle of anything. There is NO mass at all. It is GONE. GONE. Do you hear it?? It is well...with my soul...Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Gone. This mass that could have taken my husband's life. Is.Gone. Do you realize what this means?? Besides joking with him about sucking it up, my heart breaks in thanksgiving. My husband is healthy! He is not dying! I will be able to annoying him for decades to come! But wait...........

For real? I admit. I hesitated. I asked questions. I asked about contraindications. How does this happen? How does one come to rule out cancer and then be told the mass is GONE?? We agree to proceed with the procedure. Do another endoscopic ultra sound. Tell us what you see.

Hours go by. All I feel is peace. I text friends. Prayers have been answered. My husband has been healed. There is no cancer. I want to call the 7 year survivor of pancreatic cancer who purposefully pulled us to the side at last nights restaurant. A man who saw my survivor shirt and he wore a hat and we were instantly family. They leave a piece of themselves with us. He was not to survive a year at their 30th wedding anniversary. That night, they were celebrating their 37th anniversary. God sends people into our paths. We just have to be open to receive them.

The procedure is over. Before my husband comes out of anesthesia, he is helping our nurse who is having fertility issues. He's discussing a route and testing she and her husband should take. She is actively taking notes. Listening to his guidance. I am in awe. If I have ever doubted that he has a gift from God, it is put to rest. This man was made to be a physician. To help. To heal. To guide. Our nurse beams with hope renewed. My heart soars. Our doctor comes in to review Dave's case. There is no mass. He does not have cancer. There is no IPMN. This is, well, nothing. Anything that was there has been reabsorbed into his body. He has been healed by our greatest physician's hand. God has healed my husband.

Follow up in 3-6 months. Wow.......

So when people waver. Is there a God? Where are his miracles? I want them to see my family. To see me. To see my boys. To see my daughter. But mostly, now, to see my husband. Where there once could have been cancer, there was nothing.

NOTHING.

So for now, we sit with a hat that says Pancreatic Cancer Survivor, given to us from our new 7 year survivor friend. And we revel in the fact that God STILL preforms miracles. Look for them. They happen. And when in doubt, know all is well........


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Transparency

I think on my life and I feel like I have been mostly an open book. People see my struggles. With raising all boys, with adoption, with cancer. And then this week a friend has had two suicides in her close family life. And with them, a plea. To talk to our kids about suicide. To let them know that life is not an end all. That it ebbs and flows within weeks, months, years. So, I sat down with my two older boys to talk to them about life, stress, and suicide.

Right now, my boys are not under stress. So this discussion was open, raw, and with disbelief. I remember a time in my life when it was such. Who would allow someone else, or something else to have so much control over them? Who would think of losing their own life over someone else? Over a temporary situation. I can vividly remember thinking of those people as weak. Wondering why they don't walk away, find someone to talk about, or realize their worth. Until I was in such a situation.

I talked to my boys in simple terms about a young girl who loved a young boy. Who thought the moon and sun rose on him. And how he grew to not feel the same way. How he threw other girls into my face. How he told me I was worthless. How he broke my heart, shredded it, and threw it away. And how I reacted as a young girl. How I understood how someone could not walk away from someone who hurt them. Physically, emotionally, socially......how I cried out to friends and how many came to my aid. How at times, I felt the only way to escape the embarrassment was to end my life. How I learned that suicide is a long term fix for a temporary problem. As I fought my way out of that way of life with the aid of my family and friends, I realized how easy it is to fall under the spell of someone else. How a strong minded, willed, and independent girl had fallen prey. It was an ugly journey. I can assure you of that. My family and close friends will as well. But it is one, I luckily survived. And became stronger because of it.

Everyone has a story with them. A story that tells of who they are and how they came to be. Some stories they wish would disappear, like this one. But as it is, this story shaped my life more than I expected. From it, I grew stronger. From it, I knew how to do marital and couples therapy with a spouse that was being abused. Due to it, I was compassionate, understanding, and could deal with men and women who could not simply "leave" relationships behind. And I knew how to talk to my boys. About how life throws you curves and you learn to field them.

As I shared, my boys had a hard time seeing this young girl in the woman I have become. My boys have seen a mother who shares hardship and joy. Who apologies. Who loves. Who holds their hands through hard times, stands up for them, and teaches them to stand for others. But one who never gives up. So to tell them of my younger self, my feelings, and my fears, allowed them to see a part of me they had never witnessed; yet are old enough to recognize. With telling my boys of my own shortcomings as a child, by telling them of my feelings and actions, and those of my courageous friends, they could see and feel how suicide hits close to home. And it made an impact. For now, my boys know they are protected by their father and I. That we will move mountains to see them safe. All is right in their worlds. I pray it will always be so.

For now, I am praying for my friend's family. For the friends of her children who lost a classmate. For her family who lost a loved one. Because I know, how easily, it could have been me. Or maybe you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

closing ranks

I'm left wondering a lot lately. What is our world coming to? What kind of place am I raising my children in? Where are the lines we draw for our family and how do we deal with those that would cross them? Is it wrong that I want to pull back? To question if people are truly friends or if they have an ulterior motive. How can I ensure my four children grow up with a good work ethic, strong morals, compassion for others, and a belief in Christ?

The things I thought made the world go round seem shaken. I've spent my adult life caring for others. Giving to people who needed. My husband has been the same. But now, we find ourselves given out. Can that happen? Can you put so much of your own life on hold to fill the need of others that you simply forget you have a life to live as well? It appears you can. So, how does one regroup?

We bought a house in the country. The sounds at night remind me of my childhood. I feel a sense of peace when I pull in the driveway or sit on the back deck. We are secluded. Responsible to each other. A helpful family unit. Even through the logistics of moving three miles from our last house, we have come full circle. Back to our roots.

It is here I realize I am tired of living my life in a fish bowl. Of having friends only on the periphery of life. And of giving with no return. As selfish as that sounds. So, for now I am regrouping with my main players. Enjoying my husband and our kids. And putting out feelers for those friends who will stand by me. Because we all know my life is not for the faint of heart!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Be Mindful

I sit here in the silence watching the snow fall. It allows my mind to wander to journeys behind me and those to come. The roads that each of us travel to get to where we are. And then to evaluate where we are and is it where we wanted to be? Or somewhere quite different? On my mind is an upcoming surgery, a classmate who lost his wife to breast cancer, a friend who just gave birth, another friend trying to find his footing even a year after losing his daughter and grandson, a friend struggling through divorce, health issues, new jobs..........it all becomes mumbo jumbo in my mind. I don't spend a lot of time thinking of how I can change the world. Dave does that. Big ticket items. Huge ideas that would impact worlds. He is a larger thinker than I. I feel small and insignificant compared to the thought process of my husband. How he can make things better for millions of people. How he can change things for scores of humans.......I'm more on a small scale. And have always felt a little less than because of it. Because my thinking is more based on the small group of people in my circle. Those who I know are hurting, or celebrating, or I'd like to get to know better. I'm trying to learn my gifts that God has given me to use. What are they? How shall He use me? What shall I lean towards as the seasons change in my life.

I have stood for many things. I have fought for many things. I have defended many a person as well. But I've also said hurtful things. Done the wrong thing. And been less than I could of because I would not listen. I'm human. I learn more about life every day. But I am also forgiven. Not to continue to do the wrong things, but because of them, God forgives me and I move forward. To make new mistakes. :)

Today I wonder why me? Why was I chosen to live when someone else was not. Why am I on my fourth breast surgery while someone else is on their 13th or more. Why did my implants not become infected? Why did my nodes not have cancer? Why did I just need tamoxifen for 10 years and no chemo or radiation? Yes, I lost both of my breasts, but I feel like I GAINED so much more. How can that be? How can I be a support to women going through cancer when I feel that it has been one of the blessings of my life?!?!?

A blessing? Really? Have I lost my mind? No. Before cancer I was continuing on about my life in a self centered way. I went to church, yes. I have always been a believer and a strong religious person. But I wasn't seeing life around me fully. Not that I take ever moment morbidly now, but I enjoy moments more. For example, today, at church, there was a young couple with their tiny little boy sitting in front of me. He was small, only about 4-6 weeks old and so handsome with a head full of hair and big boy clothes on. His little momma loved on him. Rocked him, fed him, kissed on him....his grandma reached over from a person away and stroked his hair and his hand. His Daddy held his Mommy's hand through communion. You could tell she was exhausted. And the Dad, he kept searching her eyes to see what he could do. The Grandma held him but he became fussy so she handed him back to his Mommy where he breathed a sigh of relief and went to sleep. She rocked him in her arms throughout the service. Even though you could see in her shoulders she was tired. She never let on. After the service, I simply hugged her, a stranger, and told her I thought she was an amazing Mother. To continue on. She was blessed with this tiny little person she loved more than life itself, and it showed. She was simply amazing. Doing what any other mother would do? Possibly, but she did it with Grace. And as I prayed over her small family, I knew God has his eye on her and she will be just fine.

Just like me. Just like God has always had his eye on me. Through scary moments when it seemed I would fall from a cliff side, to dancing in the rain, God's plan has always been beautiful. Through the heartbreak and trials are blessings and heart filled rewards. Through reaching out to others, become friendships that seal. Through illness comes an understanding of others. A time to show strength, grace, and God's love as you walk.

I hope I always do that. Whether it be through gender disappointment, raising boys,
adopting, a working mom, a physicians wife, a cancer survivor, or anything else that comes my way, I hope I always show a humbleness to walk with God. Or be carried. Whichever. I hope I'm always mindful of those who came before, and are watching as they follow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On This Day

On this day a year ago (it was a Monday), I walked into the Radiology Dept of Good Samaritan Hospital to have a needle biopsy of the mass near my chest wall. Dr. Ryan Willis and I chatted about our children, sports, and anything else that came across our minds. The ultrasound lady was the same from Friday so she knew exactly where my mass was. Holding my hand was the patient advocate, Linda, who would become a rock for me.

Thanks to a family history of metabolizing meds quickly, I was given the full amount of pain meds allowed. But even it wore off towards the end of my procedure. In tears from the pain, it was finally over. I was sent next door with a titanium ball now in my chest to have a mammogram to check on it's placement. Only the machine was broken. I was scheduled to go back in the afternoon.

That afternoon as I had a follow up mammogram, my incision spot burst open and bled on the mammogram screens. I had a major fall apart which scared the girl doing the mammogram. As she dashed from the room, blood oozed down my chest to my stomach. I sat partially unclothed and cried. By the time she came back, with Dr. Willis in tow, I had pulled myself sort of together again. Lesson for the day? Mammograms with a barely closed incision hurt badly. Thankfully, I will never have to do that again.

One week later, at the plastic surgeons office, the bruising from that procedure remained. When I see pictures of myself before my mastectomy, two weeks later, it is still there. I jokingly told my surgeon to follow the bruises to know the right side to remove.

At this point, on that day, I was still unsure of where this road was headed. Where I was headed. I put my trust in God and moved forward.

Now, it seems like a life time ago. And at times, like it all happened to someone else. How life just goes on. And it does. And no amount of worrying was going to change the outcome, on this day.

What have I learned? That I can talk to three people as I lay partially naked in a room with a huge needle in my breast. That I can step away from myself, as a stranger is applying pressure to said wound and ask her about herself. To find out that she, too, had had a needle biopsy. And is a breast cancer survivor. Through our tears she admitted that no one had ever asked her about herself at this point in their journey. I'm thankful I did. She is one of my heroes, although she may never know. I learned I could trust deeper, depend on others, and move gingerly through the day as if nothing happened. I learned God has me in His hand and when I walk the walk He has placed in front of me, I have the best guide of all.

On this day, I am once again thankful for this journey and the people it has brought into my life.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another step...

Have you ever looked back at your life and wondered about the roads you were on and how you ended up in a totally different place? Are you happy with that different spot? Do you look back and see where you could have gone totally wrong and yet you landed here?? I think of that often when I think about what a single minded teen I was. Things were either black, or they were white. There was no grey area and that was my downfall. Because a lot of life falls in that grey area. But I just didn't get it. If you asked me a question, be prepared for the brutal truth because I had no idea how to be diplomatic. Thankfully, as years have passed, I have learned that skill (mildly). I know I hurt many feelings due to my own insensitivity and it makes me cringe.

Through life events, I've learned that everyone feels they must have an opinion. Sometimes those opinions are hurtful, almost always, they are not even asked for. I've received so many comments about having all boys. And then about adopting a daughter, and now about breast cancer. Each situation has been different. I would get defensive with the comments about boys, whether it was specific or a general comment. I would rally to defend my boys and others. Then I was protective of Elliana. I still am. "Oh, she's the one you adopted..." What? And you felt you had to say that WHY? She is our daughter. She has been in my arms since she came from the womb. I breast fed her, cared for her, went to great lengths to solve an allergy issue for her. She is ours in every sense of the word. But then, on the other side, I like to educate people on the birth order differences, and about adoption. My journey with breast cancer has been different. I don't mind the comments. Or the questions. I love being there to support others, to help guide them, to be a place to start when they are newly on the road.

So where does that leave me? Looking back. I often feel I can't move forward without looking backward. To truly appreciate what I have been given in this life. A patient told me this week that she feels that once you live your life to the potential God set for you; when you have done what he placed you here to do and are using the gifts He gave you, then he snatches you back to Him. That made me think....maybe I don't want to use up all my Godliness yet. ;) I'd like to stick around for awhile longer.  I'm kinda thankful I'm not perfect. HA!

This week I am reliving my cancer diagnosis days of a year ago. And looking back, I see what a blessing having cancer was for me. The ups and downs and twists and turns of this past year have strengthened my faith, increased my connection with family and friends, taught me to reach out in my community more, and reminded me that prayer is the best gift of all. It's almost like I have been rejuvenated in life and am looking at things so much clearer now. I pray I continue to walk in grace.

In a few weeks I will be joining three dear friends as we do a 3 day 60 mile walk for SGK. Each of these friends have a connection in my life that I have due to decisions that were made in my journey. Lisa and I have been friends since 1996 when I moved to North Carolina. She helped me plan my wedding, looked forward to the birth of my first child, we got piercings together on a girls weekend trip......I have a quilt rack hanging in my house that her dad made for me.  I have Christmas ornaments on my tree that we hang every year that she bought for us. She was my saving grace when I moved far away from my family for the first time. Dawn and I have had a connection since 2012 when we met through our adoption agency. We've been there for each other through the trials and tribulations of adoption, her father's passing, my cancer diagnosis....she has been my sounding board. The person who texts out of the blue to make sure you are ok. The voice on the other end of the phone. A meet up in DC where we felt like we had been friends for eons. A soul sister in life. Alexes and I knew each other on the periphery of life. But once the idea of a walk was brought up, she jumped on board with both feet. She has showed up at my house for no reason other than the fact she knew I was having a hard time. She has dealt with my mood swings, my ranting and raving, and my tears. She is my voice of reason. She is ready to do anything we come up with and gives herself 100%. She makes me smile and my heart sing. I am a lucky woman with these three friends. I cannot wait to have this life altering experience with them. We also hope to see our friend Amanda at the walk since it was all her original idea!!!

One year. Another step forward. Another journey after cancer. I wonder what is in store for me next!! Whatever it is, I hope God helps me to continue to walk in grace.......

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Out of the blue

I went in for a regular mammogram. Me, a mom of 4 kids ages from 13 to 18 months. I have no family history. No reason to fear. Other than fibrous cysts, there has been no reason for concern. Small breasted, healthy weight, exercise like crazy, moderation in everything in life, breast fed four babies.......no reason to be concerned. Until there is. At age 37, my mammogram was clear. At 42, it was not. I was brought in for another look. An ultrasound, another mammogram. And then a biopsy. I had breast cancer. Me. Who meets NO risks. Other than the stars aligned and here I was. This was last year. Last year. One year ago I went in for a routine mammogram. Which turned out to be anything but routine.

In a few weeks I will relive the days that led to my diagnosis. The biopsy, the waiting, the call, the dr appt, the scans. Nothing that anyone wants to endure, but things we remotely run through when it is expected of us. Appointments I went to without question. Demoralizing, dehumanizing, yet uplifting and prayerful along the way.

I remember someone telling me this journey would be at least a year. And they were right. One year ago I thought I was completely healthy. Normal every day things irritated me. I was frustrated by tiny things that mean nothing in the wide scheme of things. I was not fully involved in my own life. I was worn out, spent, and emotionally through.

Today, a year later, after a cancer diagnosis and surgeries and a pernicious anemia diagnosis, I find myself light years away. I am MORE involved in life. MORE involved in my marriage, in my children's lives, in my family, with my friends, with my community. We are not promised tomorrow, but we are given today. I have learned to live each day to it's fullest.

Do I ever get frustrated?  Yes. Do I ever feel exhausted? yes. Are my feelings ever hurt by others? Yes. I have learned so much this year. I am SO thankful for my cancer. For this is what I have learned Cancer cannot do:  It cannot steal my joy. It cannot take what I have to offer others. Cancer cannot stop teaching me life lessons. It has taught me to love deeper. Forgive immediately, cry freely, and to offer encouragement when it's needed. Cancer has taught me that every day is a gift. Every experience is to be met head on with JOY not with sadness. With each step my children make, I am smiling like a fool. Thankful to be in their memories and to be there every step of the way for as long as God allows. I no longer fear the end. I am a child of God and I will see him one day. Whether it is sooner or later, I have no idea, but I will live each day with no regrets. Do you do the same?

Cancer does not need to steal your happiness. It does not need to steal your friends or your life. I have seen friends fight huge battles and come out the other end further along in life than they were before. I want to do that. I want to continue to walk in grace. I want to be the face of God in my journey. I had breast cancer. I had both of my breasts removed. But I can come to the alter and pray for you, no matter what is going on in your life, because I am protected by my one true God. I will walk with you, no matter what your journey is. Because I have faced death and won. I have looked into my children's eyes and lived their whole lives with them, even though I take day by day. Lessons learned and passed on.

Sometimes life hits us like that, out of the blue. When we are normally going through things and something extraordinary hits us. For me, it was cancer. It made me rethink my life. My marriage, my boys, adopting the child of my dreams, my expectations, my bucket list. And I'm thankful that I sit here fulfilled. Although there are minute things I may have changed, each lesson has brought me to where I am. And I'm thankful for the journey. And I will continue to face life, out of the blue.