Braving the Cold

Our view of the Rocky Mountains.

We have been in the deep freeze here in Alberta this past week. In fact, news people said Calgary was one of the coldest places on earth! With temperatures of -36 C (-33 F) with windchills that make it feel like -40 C or -40 F, I have been praising God for a warm home. Oh, and I have said an extra prayer of thanksgiving for all the oil and gas workers here in our province who work so diligently to provide the product to heat our homes and fuel our cars. I will never malign the oil industry!

We are a hearty people here in Alberta when it comes to braving the cold. While schools were cancelled Wednesday, kids only had one snow day before they were sent back to classes even though there was no negligible change in temperature. One young man even wore his parka over shorts! Road crews and pipeline workers continued to work in the blistering cold, as well as first responders who tackled house fires and car crashes. Water main breaks kept road crews busy. While we did enjoy the confines of our warm home, my husband and I bundled up to go to the recreation centre almost daily so he could work out in the gym and I could walk around the track. We won’t let the cold keep us holed up, although it will be nice to walk to the car without my nostril hairs freezing up. I’m told a Chinook is on its way, with local forecasts predicting temperatures to go from the -30’s to above 0 by Monday. I’m praying the wild barometric pressure that comes with these snow-eating Chinooks will not cause nasty migraines, but I guess I will tackle that inconvenience in favour of warmer weather.

It’s been 15 weeks now since my last chemo treatment and when I think how far I’ve come in that time, I am so very thankful! My hair is coming in nicely although I still wear my wig for warmth more than vanity this week. I call it my “hair hat”. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I feel more myself every day. Certainly there are days when I fight fatigue and I still have some nagging side effects, but those more challenging days are becoming fewer and fewer. I do find however, that I frequently wrestle with negative thoughts and irrational worries. I beat myself up over things I can’t do, rather than focus on things I can do. So to combat those thoughts, I try to celebrate my little victories perhaps with more gusto than a “normal” person would. I did an extra lap around the track yesterday and felt like an Olympian!

I appreciate all the continuing prayer and well wishes during this part of my recovery. I have two oncology appointments over the next two months. I always get nervous around doctors in general, but I’m hopeful they will see I have progressed well over these many weeks. I had a genetic screening test done this week to see if I carry the high risk genes in hereditary breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. Amazingly they managed to extract six vials of blood from me with no problems and no bruising! Having this genetic testing done makes little difference to me, since I’ve already been diagnosed with cancer twice, but to my daughters, it may play an important role in health decisions they may make in the future for themselves. If I do have those high risk genes, there is a 50% increased risk (compared to the general population risk of 10 – 12%) of them developing cancer. In a way, 50/50 odds are not very definitive. ANYONE can get cancer regardless of whether or not they have an hereditary risk or not. Even the geneticists admit that heredity plays a minimal role in developing cancer. Lifestyle, weight, and fitness plays a much bigger role in reducing the risks of getting cancer, but even the healthiest, fittest person on the planet can get cancer. That’s why more research needs to be done. There is still so little we know about the disease itself and few answers as to why it continues to plague thousands of people here in Canada every year. That’s why I support the research efforts of the Terry Fox Foundation, and why I will keep praying a cure will be found soon so that my children and grandchildren will never face cancer in their future!

As I look over the mountains this frosty morning and await the warm Chinook winds to blow in, I am feeling positive about my continuing progress towards a full recovery. God reminds me daily that He is with me. I look to the mountains and am comforted by these words:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121

Amen.

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Stayin’ Alive

It was a fitting song to start my workout this morning: “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. I could picture John Travolta strutting beside me, he with a paint can in his hand, and me with my water bottle.

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive…”

I sang the lyrics in my head, trying to keep pace with the beat, but I knew from my previous day’s exertion that walking any faster would wear me out too quickly. My goal was ten laps or two kilometres around the indoor running track at our community’s recreation centre. The day before I had managed seven laps, and almost passed out. I had started my walk trying to keep up with the rhythm of ” Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy. It was way too fast I discovered. I burned out and felt miserable and defeated. Today, I remembered yesterday’s lesson and kept telling myself that slow and steady was the key.

Well now, I get low and I get high
And if I can’t get either, I really try
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes
I’m a dancin’ man and I just can’t lose
You know it’s alright, it’s okay
I’ll live to see another day
We can try to understand
The New York Times’ effect on man…”

I raised my hands like ” Rocky” when I finished my eleventh lap, and praised God I had surpassed my goal. I’m sure I felt His hand push me forward, or drag me along, either-or, the last half a lap.

It’s slow and steady, daily progress. I didn’t think it would be this hard on this side of cancer. I had so looked forward to being done treatments, but I have been frustrated and discouraged that I still deal with side effects, and fatigue. I thought I would have bounced back by now, but unfortunately that has not been the case. I was ready to start 2020 with a clean bill of health, and be back to my “old” self. Well, “old” seems an apt description some days. Someone told me it might take a year to fully recover from surgery and treatments. I guess I’m not willing to accept that, or use it as an excuse to hold me back. Still, I’m not Super Woman, and I have to listen when my body says “slow down”!

Today though, I am celebrating small victories. Tomorrow’s goal: twelve laps!

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Looking Back to Move Ahead

Nothing brings about more introspection than the start of a New Year, but especially when it is also the start of a new decade. Today I have been reading some posts several young moms have posted on Instagram and Facebook. These young women, including my daughter and daughter-in-love, have commented on the past year, its challenges and blessings; how far they’ve come in ten years, and wondering what 2020 and the next decade holds for them. It was Ashley’s words that resonated with me in particular: “I used to question God and myself a great deal. What am I good at? What are my talents and gifts? I didn’t fit any of the categories we lock ourselves into at school. But after this decade I know. Through Christ, I am a conqueror. Through Christ, I am the perfect mom for my two babies. Through Christ, I am becoming the wife I was meant to be to the most incredible man I could ask to spend my life with. Through Christ, I will pick myself up after these past ten years and experience all the joy, chaos, sadness, laughter, and pain that this next ten has to bring with an open heart.”

Powerful words that carry such promise, such hope, and such expectation for the decade ahead! More importantly, her knowledge that Christ is her strength and her Guide through all the years ahead. Oh, that all of us could say that with as much confidence as she does!

I’ve often quoted from Lucy Maude Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” as fitting words to start a New Year: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”  I didn’t know at the start of 2019, what I would experience over the year. Had I known, would I have stepped so eagerly into it? It has been a challenging year. Certainly not at all how I expected to spend it, battling endometrial cancer for most of it. I had made different plans for 2019, never expecting the challenges I would face or how much my faith would be tested throughout the entire experience. Thankfully, the Lord was so very patient with me, and never left my side! My family and friends rallied around me, and all our relationships were strengthened as a result of facing adversity together. I was touched by their prayers for me. I saw the activity of God around me, and experienced His healing touch. He healed my body, encouraged me through His Word, and sustained me through prayer. If I were to sum up 2019, based on everything I experienced and learned about God, my family, friends and myself, through all the ups and downs, it was a great year all things considered.

2020 is a New Year with no mistakes (challenges, upsets, etc.) in it yet. I pray it will be a year filled with more joy than hardships, more laughter than tears, and a year filled with precious memories that will last a lifetime!

Happy New Year!

(Start the year and decade off right by reading these Encouraging Verses!)

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