Round 2

I have always called having cancer a battle. I like to visualize myself in a boxing match, sparring with a far bigger adversary than myself. According to the tape, as they say, cancer may seem to be the bigger opponent with a longer reach and a brutal right cross, but it cannot defeat my plucky spirit, as well as the fact that I don’t fight alone! Sure, it’s unfair, but I have no intention of losing! I have an arena full of cheerleaders. I have prayer warriors standing toe-to-toe with me. I have family who are my greatest fans. I have a medical team who attend me. I also have in my corner the greatest Coach in the universe, the Holy Spirit, Who leads, guides, and directs my steps. My footing is always secure. I cannot stumble. I cannot falter. He encourages me in the Word. The odds may seem stacked against me, but with this stellar Team I cannot lose!

So, it’s Round 2 of 6.

I have a few battle scars from Round 1. Lost my hair in the scuffle. Cancer fights dirty. My joints are aching and have some nerve damage but I didn’t get knocked down. I think I won that round so I’m pretty confident going into Round 2.

As the nurse checked the IV that was feeding cancer destroying chemicals into my body, we talked a bit about my previous experience with fighting cancer in 2001. “Wow!” she said. “First breast cancer and now uterine cancer. We women are so much more complicated than men, aren’t we?  But with all the stuff that can go wrong with us internally, I wonder if it’s worth the grief having all these lady parts sometimes.” I smiled and just said, “I have four beautiful grandbabies. It’s worth it!”

My children and my grandbabies make me want to fight as hard as I can to defeat cancer. I want to make more memories with all the precious people in my life.  It’s worth the fight!  It will be a hard-fought battle to be sure, but as my husband keeps saying, “It’s short term pain for long term gain.”  Glad he’s in my corner too!

I was blessed to be with my church family in corporate worship this past Sunday.  I know I took some chances going when my immunity levels are so low, but I needed to be there amongst my family of believers.  So many are praying daily for me.  The message from the Pastor was so timely for me too.  It was like he was just confirming that all I’m going through right now is but a slight detour, as he calls trials and tribulations that come into our lives.  Detours are not fun, they are not convenient, but once negotiated, we can experience a victory of sorts that leads to joy.  I wrote a blog series about the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is our response to circumstances that come our way in life.  For instance, we can be happy when we get a new job, or if the news from the doctor is good, or if all our children are healthy and walking with the Lord.  Joy does not come as a result of our circumstances but from the ongoing relationship we have with the Lord.  His love sustains us and gives us joy when we don’t get the job, or if the news from the doctor is not good, or if a child is sick, or if we have a prodigal in the family.  Joy is not dependent on our circumstances but solely dependent on our walk with the Lord.

It’s hard for me to be happy in my current situation.  I know there will be a lot more war wounds before this battle is won, and I can’t say I’m looking forward to my body going through those beatings this round and the four more to follow.  But, I can honestly say I have JOY.  God is good.  God is Sovereign.  He is in control, and I lean on Him for strength!

So, I’ve walked joyfully into the ring again, ready to do battle, because if God is for me, who (or what) can be against me?

 

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:15, talks about a women’s long hair being her “crowning glory”, her “pride and joy” in the NLT translation, and her hair given to her by God as a covering.  Proverbs 16:31 calls gray hair a crown of splendor, attained in the way of righteousness; Luke 12:7, says that the very hairs on our head are numbered by God.  Lastly, King Solomon, in Song of Solomon 4:1, complimented his Beloved that her hair was “like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead”.  I suppose, in that time, that was high praise indeed for a good head of hair!  Not sure shampoo commercials in this day and age would agree…

Since the day I found out I would need chemotherapy to battle uterine cancer, I have known that my hair would fall out.  Chemo drugs are powerful medications that attack rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs also attack other rapidly growing cells in your body — including those in your hair roots. For most women, this can be the most traumatic side effect caused by chemotherapy because hair makes up such an important part of a woman’s outward identity, closely linked with her self-esteem.  According to one recent survey, women will spend close to $55,000 in a lifetime on hair products and treatments.  I don’t know if I will spend that much money on my little “flock of goats” but I do know that I do spend an inordinate amount of time brushing, shearing, and pampering them!  I guess it’s because I do spend such time fussing over my hair that I felt the loss profoundly when my hair fell out in 2001 after my first chemo treatment, and how I wept when I saw my hair fall out this time around too.

I thought I was more prepared this time.  My daughters came with me wig shopping last week, and they selected a “sassy” look for me that is so different from my usual style and colour that I was instantly smitten by it.  Still, we hoped that by some miracle, I would not need to wear it.

Over the weekend, and a very busy weekend it was too, my hair was still mostly intact but hanging on for dear life!  I was blessed to be surrounded by my entire family on Saturday for a family dinner, and then on Sunday, I watched with delight as my youngest grandbaby, Atticus was dedicated to the Lord!  Once again, the whole family gathered to support my son and daughter-in-love as they vowed to “train up Atti in the way he should go”.  It was a glorious morning, followed by a wonderful BBQ with Atti’s maternal grandparents, great-grandparents and family.  When I got home, I got out of my Sunday attire, and changed into my jeans and a t-shirt and noticed immediately that my hair had finally lost its grip on my scalp.  I thought I was prepared for this eventuality, but it still came as a shock to see with every brush stroke, lengths of my hair pulled out with ease, thinning my mane considerably.

It was a tough day yesterday.

Today, however, I woke up and was determined to praise God in all circumstances even while my hair stylist, Bev, shaved my head bald.  My oldest daughter had come with me for moral support and she tried to hold back tears but was unsuccessful.  In a matter of minutes, my “crown of glory” was lying on the ground at our feet, and I was looking at a new reflection of myself in the mirror.  Then we smiled.

I join the ranks of men and women who proudly wear the bald badge of courage as we fight the cancer battle.  One day, God will bestow on me a new “crown of splendor”, a brand new head of hair, but more importantly I hope to attain a “crown of life” – referred to in James 1:12 & Revelation 2:10; bestowed upon “those who persevere under trials.” 

Until then, my wig will have to do.

 

 

 

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Laughter is the BEST Medicine

You don’t have to be around me long to know I love to laugh.  I have been told that I have a very distinct, and hearty laugh.  My husband has spent over forty years in the pursuit of trying to make me laugh every single day.  I don’t know who’s more thrilled when he succeeds, me or him, but when I laugh, it just tickles his fancy too and before we know it, we’re reduced to tears and both of us are chortling uncontrollably.  It’s a happy marriage.

My three children have learned to accept our frequent fits of laughter and though they don’t always understand what their parents find so funny at times, they explain it away as one of our many parenting quirks and find it endearing, although sometimes embarrassing, especially when we laugh hysterically in front of their friends.  They don’t realize that most of the time, we find THEM funny!  Sorry kids!

In writing, there are times an unexpected pun or a misspelling of a word, that changes the whole meaning of a sentence, will catch me off guard.  I’m a grammar hound when it comes to media.  I can’t help cringe and chuckle at the grotesque misspellings I discover in commercials, ads and social media.  Occasionally spellcheck will have me giggling for a day at the nonsensical word it comes up with to use in a certain context.  Even when reading or writing the most serious of articles, I can be reduced to fits of laughter because of a spellcheck or misspelled faux pas.

I will admit there have been very few times in my life, when I didn’t find something to make me laugh at least once during the day.  Whether in my writing or interacting with my family, friends, or seeing something in media or on television; life definitely makes for some very funny moments IF we choose to see them.  Case in point:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and now I’m battling uterine cancer.  That in itself is definitely NOT funny.  In fact, after my breast cancer diagnosis, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to laugh again.  I was in a battle for my life and the usual twinkle of merriment in my husband’s eyes was noticeably dimmed as we struggled as a couple to come to terms with our new reality.  My children ranged in age from five to fifteen then, and I begged God to help me see the plan and purpose in this for me and my family.

Days before my mastectomy surgery, I sat down at my computer and began to write a long letter to a friend asking her to pray for me.  I was terrified about the upcoming surgery and I honestly wasn’t sure I would survive.  I was deeply depressed and I was facing a crisis of belief.  After the initial diagnosis I had “camped out” in Scripture, trying to find comfort in the Word, finally coming to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before His Passion.  I wrote to my friend, “I feel like Jesus did when he prayed to His Father: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39.  After I had written that, my daughter who was fifteen at the time, leaned over my shoulder and began reading the letter.  She stopped when she read the scripture passage and gasped.  Then she started to giggle.  She couldn’t stop and soon tears were streaming down her eyes and she pointed at the screen.

I had thought my letter poignant and filled with pathos.  To see my child dissolved in laughter, was the least I had ever expected the letter to illicit and to tell the truth, I was more than a little upset by her insensitivity towards my dire health circumstances.  She was certainly old enough to understand the seriousness of the situation, and we had been very open with her about what I was about to face.  Then she pointed again and said, “Think about it, Mom…your surgery…a cup being taken from you…CUP?…bra cup…?”  It dawned on me the literal meaning she had picked up by reading the verse that I had connected to my particular circumstance and I started to laugh.  Before we knew it, we were hugging, laughing and crying uncontrollably.  After our laughter quieted, my oldest child, who had been bottling up her pent up emotions until then shared openly her real fear of losing me.  After reading my letter, she knew that if we could laugh, if God could allow laughter into our lives about something so very serious and at that VERY moment, she knew everything was going to be okay!

It was after that conversation, I revised my letter to my friend and changed it’s original sombre tone to one of upbeat positivity and I shared what had just transpired between my daughter and me.  I asked my friend to pray of course for my upcoming surgery, but to also send me jokes, funny videos and humorous anecdotes throughout my recovery process.  Then I enlisted all my other friends and family to do the same, and from that day forward my email correspondence included every manner of frivolity that made me laugh and lifted my spirit through my surgeries and the chemotherapy treatments that followed.  My request went viral, and soon strangers from all over the world, were sending me encouraging scripture verses as well as fun, family-friendly jokes, riddles, puns and videos.  My husband, once again continued his quest of trying to make me laugh every day, so even on the day I asked him to shave my head bald after the first chemo treatment, I was laughing while he cried!

I don’t make light of the awful experience of cancer or the devastating consequences and treatments that accompany the disease.  I would NEVER wish the diagnosis on anyone, but I believe God used humour to encourage me through that most difficult time in my life then and He continues to use it through this diagnosis now.  Someone asked me how I can stay so upbeat and I responded, “I can laugh or I can cry, I choose to laugh.”

For me, laughter was, and still is, the best medicine.

(Modified from a post originally published on InScribe Writers Online)

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