What A Celebration!

In July, I wrote a post about “Laughter being the best medicine“.  Well, I had a huge laughter-filled dosage of feel-good medicine last Friday when friends and family gathered to celebrate with me my cancer-free diagnosis and end of chemo treatments.  As each person came through the door, I was surprised by the colourful wigs they wore, or the peach colours they sported to celebrate with me.  I laughed uproariously at the get-ups and by the end of the evening my cheeks hurt from smiling!

My husband gave me strict orders not to “overdo” it, so I was relegated to sitting in my chair, my “throne” as I called it, and people came to me rather than me mingling too much with the throng of well-wishers.  I was still totally exhausted by the end of the evening, but it was sooooo worth it!

My friend, Elaine, wrote on Facebook: “To celebrate a dear friend’s end-of-chemo, I wore a wig tonight…What fun to be around so many neighbours, fellow grads, former students, colleagues and kindreds. A friend and I were deep in discussion for much of the evening, catching up after too many years, but we could hear laughter erupting all around us. It made me smile. What joy to see my friends’ children growing up into such sweet young men and women.  Lynn D, thank you for the reminder to celebrate. Always. Whether the milestones are minor or major. Let us truly live life in all its fullness, and gather our loved ones–and strangers–close.”

Elaine summarized the entire evening so well!  We did a head-count and fifty people had gathered for my little soiree!  My children were there as official hosts of the party.  Thankfully, they also tackled the cleanup afterwards!  My four precious grandbabies, kept us entertained wearing their “My Grandma is my hero” shirts, all the while downloading on left-over Halloween candy.  My brother, church family, and friends, all came with appys to share.  Most came in costume or wearing wigs, but all were as eager to celebrate with me as I was eager to celebrate with them.  Each and every one present had prayed and encouraged me throughout my chemo treatments, and they continue to pray now that I’ve started the radiation treatments.

As I sat regally on my living room “throne” being waited upon, I was humbled and slightly overwhelmed by the attention.  I had been so reclusive through chemotherapy, avoiding crowds in order to not compromise my immunity, and this marked the first time since June, I had been around a large group of people in close quarters.  I had missed the one on one contact.  I had missed giving and receiving hugs and handshakes.  I had missed seeing these precious people in person, hearing their laughter, listening to their stories and feeling the camaraderie of being amongst so many people who love the Lord with all their hearts.  My celebration party may have been the reason we had gathered, but I wasn’t the centre of attention.  Jesus was.  As I listened to my friends and family immersed in a myriad of different conversations, I realized that the main purpose of our gathering was to acknowledge His Presence in our lives, whether we realized the intent or not.  The party was a great excuse for each of us to gather to have fun, enjoy one another’s company, and in so doing, give praise, to thank Him for loving and sustaining us through good times and through challenging times.  We were celebrating Life!  I got misty-eyed when I was impacted profoundly by a sudden thought, surrounded by so many I know and love, that this must be what heaven is like!

On Sunday, I went to worship service at my church for the first time since June.  Still on an emotional high from the party two days before, I was so thankful to be surrounded by my church family again.  However, surrounded as I was by people, I hardly noticed those around me.  My focus was entirely on Him!  I wept openly when we sang, “Christ alone, Cornerstone!  Weak made strong, in the Saviour’s love…”  After coming through the storm, for me this was indeed my personal song of Celebration!

 

 

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Pacing Myself

I have had four radiation treatments this week. So far no discernible side effects except for the ongoing fatigue that continues to plague me following chemo. It is very frustrating to want to re-engage in “normal” activities and not have the strength or stamina to do it. So, I pace myself. I set small goals everyday and try to accomplish at least one new thing each day. It’s slow, steady progress, but admittedly it’s sometimes discouraging that an activity or chore that I once sped through to complete, takes more time now to accomplish. Sometimes I give up entirely and just admit defeat. I have discovered there really is nothing so pressing or important that it can’t wait until the next day.

Hmmmmm…why didn’t that revelation impact me sooner?

Fatigue is the number one complaint my oncologist hears from her patients. In my case, I’m still getting over the effects of chemo, and from what I understand, radiation also causes fatigue that lingers for several weeks after treatments end. I told my kids that I will need their help decking the halls for Christmas this year, and like Thanksgiving, it may be a “takeout” dinner. I guess we will see.

My radiation treatments are my focus now. My daily schedule for the next four weeks revolves around the forty-five minute drive into the cancer clinic at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, the treatment itself, which can take half an hour or more based on wait times, and then the forty-five minute drive home. Since my treatment times vary each day, any other activities have to fit into that schedule. I’m one of the fortunate ones too. We talked to a Hutterite lady who had driven from near Grand Prairie with her elderly father so he could get his radiation treatments. That’s a seven hour drive! They were planning to stay in Calgary during the week, and drive home for the weekends. She sighed, “The good Lord does not give us more than we can handle.” I didn’t have the heart to correct her misinterpretation of that Bible passage, but wholeheartedly agreed with her when she adamantly stated, “He will be with us through it all!”

Tonight I’m gathering with friends and family to celebrate my getting through chemo, and to praise God for His ongoing watch-care over me. It will be wonderful to be surrounded by so many who have journeyed with me over these many months.

Thank-you, readers, for your ongoing prayer support. Please pray my fatigue will lessen, and that there would be no other side effects from the radiation. I’m looking forward to finishing those treatments on December 3rd, so I am counting down the days! I found out I get to ring another school bell that day! Yay!

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Healing from the Heart-side Out

I have been slowly, but surely recovering from my last chemo treatment.  I have discovered that with each round, it’s taken a little bit longer to come out of the “fog”, and I have been impatient and frustrated I haven’t bounced back as quickly as I had hoped.  Part of the frustration, is the very real fear of having another cancer reoccurrence.  Admittedly, there have been times I have listened to that inner, pessimistic voice (the enemy) who discourages rather than encourages me.  It’s a very real battle, that affects me in some ways more than any chemo side effects do.  It becomes a heart issue of questioning what I believe about God and what I believe He can or cannot do.

Mark 9:23-25  ““‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

It is normal for all cancer patients after diagnosis to be somewhat hyper-sensitive to any new or lingering symptom after treatment fearing that it might be cancer making a comeback.  Any ache or pain, or tummy upset or ANY bodily discomfort is cause for worry.  Even though I’ve heard from two doctors now that I am cancer-free, the fear of reoccurrence has been something I’ve thought a lot about.  I’ve said it before, but I am sure I have a form of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to some extent.  The thought of going through more chemo, nearly paralyzes me with fear.  Apparently, I’m not alone.  Fear of a cancer reoccurrence  is something I must acknowledge and recognize, and give completely over to the Lord to deal with in order for me to fully recover.  I need to heal from the inside out, and allow God to heal me from the “heart-side out”.

Leading up to my doctor’s appointment yesterday with my surgical oncologist, I fretted over a few nagging discomforts that haven’t dissipated, but have grown worse with each round of chemo. I haven’t taken my own advice to stop “Googling” my symptoms, so prior to my appointment, I had worked myself up into quite a frenzy.  When the nurse took my blood pressure, it showed on the outside, my fears on the inside.  She asked if I took my blood pressure medication that morning.  I had, but my BP was still through the roof! Thankfully, the good folks at the Tom Baker Cancer Center in Calgary, understand their patients, and when I met with the doctor, she patiently listened to all my concerns and addressed each of them in turn, especially reassuring me that none of them indicated a cancer return.  “You are cancer free!” she said again, so I felt encouraged and more than a little relieved, and my blood pressure went down…considerably.  Then she gave me some practical suggestions how to handle some of those nagging aches I was experiencing, so I would be better able to cope with the side effects that still lingered, without immediately jumping to the conclusion that my cancer was back.

My husband reminded me on the way home from the appointment that I went through much the same thing of doubting myself being cancer-free in 2001.  In fact, for several months I wondered what to do with myself after my cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments in 2001.  I had fully expected to die and the thought of a life after cancer actually had me quite baffled.  What eventually put me on the road to full recovery was engaging in new challenges that took the focus off of me and my circumstances, to allowing myself to open God-sized doors of opportunities, I never thought to open before.  I wrote a book, that led to two more.  I started blogging.  I got my Masters degree, and I took on new ministry roles at my church.

I start radiation treatments on Monday.  In about a month, I will be finished with all my cancer treatments.  I can’t continue to focus on the years ahead with negativity and wonder when or if I will ever get cancer again.  That’s out of my control and I can’t dwell on that.  Instead, I would like to expectantly wait for God to open some doors for me that I’ve never considered walking through before.  I know that being fully healed and recovering will require some heart changes in me too.

My husband grinned and jokingly suggested, “Maybe this time, you should think about getting a Ph.D.”  I don’t know if he saw the change in my expression or not.  He had to have noticed that familiar glint in my eye, as I pondered the possibilities.

If God calls me to it, why not?

 

 

 

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