Round and Round

I had to look up the word “penultimate” when she sent me the text. It means “second to last” and she was referring to my Round 5 of chemo. Sue was encouraging me by pointing out that I am nearly done chemo. The finish line is close but I’m still in the throes of battle and I admit these few days have been challenging. It seems every round has a new spin on unpleasantness. Neuropathy pain in the first round, a blood clot in the second, mind-numbing tiredness and nausea in the third and fourth rounds. Today, five days into round five it’s all about dizziness. The bouts of light-headedness overtake me so suddenly I have to negotiate my way around the house very carefully. I weeble wobble from room to room. I sort of look like Tim Conway in his comedy sketches where he portrays an old, feeble man except nothing is funny or laughable about what I’m going through. I shuffle around in slow motion, arms outstretched to maintain my balance. Climbing stairs is a cardio workout. My husband follows me, prepared to catch me if I should lose my balance. Combined with continuous joint discomfort that the last doctor is now calling myalgia of some sort, I don’t do a lot of moving. It frustrates me, but I’m okay, all things considered.

Yesterday my young friend who has been battling Stage Four metastatic Breast cancer for a few years, posted a picture of herself starting new chemo treatments after doctors discovered progression of the disease on her liver. She’s been battling like a super hero since first diagnosed while at the same time homeschooling her three young children and being a supportive wife to her husband. With a smile and thumbs up, the picture of Sarah yesterday got me so choked up I started to weep. She has to be the most courageous woman I’ve ever met! She is a prayer warrior. I am in awe of her strength and abiding faith. Gentle readers, please pray for Sarah as she battles fiercely on once again!

There are several others whom I have prayed for over these many months who bravely face their cancer diagnoses and their subsequent treatments with hopeful resolve and unwavering strength. Each one of them have admitted to me that if it were not for their walk with God they would not know how to get through each day. I understand. Clinging to His Word, every chemo round is a new opportunity for transformation. I can’t help but change! I hope my physical health improves with each treatment, but I am also counting on God to use this experience so I can be used for His purposes in ways I never thought of before.

I hope I am more empathetic and show more compassion to those who struggle with health issues. I hope I don’t try to compare my journey with theirs. One thing I have learned is everyone’s experience with cancer is different. I have reacted to my chemo treatments differently than another who is on the exact same drugs as me. My personality, support system, health care providers and a host of other tangible and intangible things affect how I handle my treatments. My personal, familial history also affects how I respond in every circumstance. I hope I am modelling more spiritual maturity now than I did nineteen years ago. My goal is to be as encouraging as I can be to others no matter what their individual journeys may be like. They are heroes in their own right. I just want to applaud and cheer them on!

My prayer life has definitely changed as a result of my experience with cancer. How could it not change? I have sought prayer for myself and others and have seen God answer prayer in miraculous ways. I have expected God to intervene in every instance and I’ve not been disappointed. It doesn’t mean God answered according to my will but His. It’s being okay with that. Relinquishing control is a daily surrender.

My relationships with family and friends have changed. I pray I never take them for granted. I am so blessed! Cancer continues to teach me that I am not meant to go through any hardship relying on my own strength or thinking I am alone. I can be “real” and share my ups and downs with them knowing they will immediately pray for me. There is a tendency for me to put on a brave front and not show my vulnerability. My family and close friends allow me to let down my guard and share openly about the challenges I face going through treatments. I’m not Super Woman, I’m just me. I’m scared, I hurt, I get discouraged, but God is bigger than my fears and anxiety and He’s surrounded me with people who remind me of that every day!

I continue to covet all your prayers, dear readers.

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Join Me In Support of the Terry Fox Foundation

A year from now, God willing, I intend to be in Victoria, B.C., participating in the 40th Anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope run. I know one of the key organizers of the “Great Canadian Hair-Do” event, and when I told Linda I plan to be there on the Island next year, she asked if I would consider being one of the guest speakers.  I have a year to prepare, but I already know what I want to say.  After two go-rounds with cancer, I am one of the many thousands of cancer patients who have benefitted from the Terry Fox Foundation, through their efforts to create awareness and raise money that goes towards cancer research.  If you look up other cancer charities that vie for your charitable donations, the Terry Fox Foundation surpasses them all statistically in that 79 cents from every dollar raised by the Foundation goes directly to cancer research.  That’s important to me!  I want my children and grandchildren to never have to personally experience cancer in their lifetimes.  I believe in a future where all cancers are once and for all eradicated.  I pray in my lifetime that there will come a day when all cancers are easily treatable and preventable due to breakthroughs in cancer research.  Terry Fox had that dream too.

Would you join me in making that dream a reality?  If you haven’t donated yet, knowing every dollar counts, please support the Terry Fox Foundation this year.  If you haven’t signed up for a run in your city this year, would you set a goal to run in one next year, or join in one of the many other events that support the efforts of the Terry Fox Foundation?

In 2014, I wrote a blog post about Terry Fox – A Great Canadian.  I reblog it here:

“I was a young bride and studying at the University of Calgary on my way to finishing my education degree.  My husband was going back and forth from Calgary to Comox, B.C. to visit with his mother who was battling cancer.  We did not know that cancer would affect us so much then or later when his mother lost her battle in 1981, my mother would lose her battle with the same disease in 1990, and I would be diagnosed with breast cancer eleven years later.  To say that cancer has touched this family would be a drastic understatement.  It is no surprise then that one of the people I admire the most is Terry Fox.

Terry Fox is considered one of Canada’s greatest heroes of the 20th Century.  Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1958, and raised in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Terry lost his right leg at age twenty to cancer.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity and remorse, the young athlete decided to run from coast to coast in order to raise awareness and money for cancer research.  He began by dipping his leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980, with the goal of dipping it again in the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, British Columbia several months later.  He ran an average of forty – two kilometres a day, a unique running style evident in a hop-skip approach that took tremendous effort and stamina to maintain the grueling pace.  No one had ever done anything similar to the task Fox was undertaking.

At first there was little media attention for the young runner, and his “Marathon of Hope”  but slowly and surely word of the courageous young man began to spread.  It began as idle curiosity and then spread to admiration across Canada.  Communities welcomed him and others began to prepare for his arrival.  It was like a national cheer or wave starting at the east coast and spreading to the west.

I remember watching the news reports and catching the “wave” with millions of other Canadians who cheered on his progress.  Terry and I were the same age and I marveled at his determination and strength.  Then on September 1, 1980 just north-east of Thunder Bay, Ontario after 143 days, running 5,373 km. (3,339 miles) through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, Terry was forced to abandon his run.  Cancer had spread to his lung.

I remember the interview he gave so vividly as I watched the news on T.V. that day.  His voice was hoarse, arms crossed over his chest as he lay on a stretcher, tears in his eyes; he promised he would return to the run as soon as he was able to.  Terry had raised $1.7 million dollars for cancer research during his run.

Unfortunately Terry died on June 28, 1981 at the age of 22, one month before his 23rd birthday, but not before becoming the youngest person ever to be awarded the Order of Canada.

Two-and-a-half months after his death, the first Terry Fox Run was held on Sept. 13, 1981.  More than 300,000 Canadians took part in the event at 760 sites across Canada.  The run raised $3.5 million.  Since then the amount raised in over 30 years of Terry Fox Runs is well over $600 million!

Fox’s heroism inspired other Canadians to similar feats in the name of charitable causes.  Steve Fonyo, another runner who had a leg amputated to cancer retraced the same route as Fox and completed the run in the name of cancer research.  Rick Hansen, a paraplegic athlete, made his own trek around the world in his wheelchair to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.

In 1982, British singer/songwriter, Rod Stewart, wrote the song “Never Give Up On a Dream” as a tribute to Terry’s Marathon of Hope and proceeds from the song went towards cancer research.

Terry’s goal was to persuade every Canadian to donate one dollar for cancer research.  Now the run has become a global event with over two million people running world-wide in organized Terry Fox Runs.

I’m not a runner, I’m a writer, but if I can help raise awareness through this blog, I will have done my part.  I encourage my readers to click on this link and generously donate to the Terry Fox Foundation  today.”

 

 

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Planning

We experienced our first frost last night. It is not unusual here, tucked in so close to the foothills of the Rockies as we are, to experience frost in early September. Winter is coming! We Albertans coined that phrase long before Game of Thrones ever did! The leaves are starting to turn into their vibrant colours of fall, and as much as I love and will long for summer again, Autumn in Alberta is so glorious!

Today I’m not as focused on my cancer journey, or all the woes associated with it. The lingering effects still remind me the battle is not yet won, but I’m more immersed in making long-range plans. When I battled cancer in 2001, I never thought about the “what next?” aspect of the journey. I had been so consumed with the battle itself, and I will admit, I didn’t know if I’d survive it, that when the battle was over, I had no idea what to do next. I had made no real future plans because I didn’t know if I had a future. I had come to terms with my mortality, and I was ready to go to my heavenly home if God chose to take me. It came as a bit of a surprise to me that there really was life after cancer and I was totally unprepared for it!

For many weeks after my last treatment, when my hair started to sprout again, I debated what I was to do next. I prayed for direction and God answered.  My life had been on hold during the treatments, so I slowly re-entered the routines that had been established before my diagnosis. I re-engaged with caring primarily for my young children again, especially luxuriating in having the energy to play and participate in their activities. When my church asked me to help with the youth group, I eagerly jumped in and planned a “Fear Factor” games night for their Christmas social. (I love looking back at pictures from that night; most of those wonderful youth, including my daughter, are married with their own little ones now.  Seeing them as precocious teens, and engaged in their lives then brings back so many memories for me. I am blessed to have many of them interact with me regularly on social media still.)

For years, I continued to work with the youth, until I was asked to serve as Children’s Minister at my church. I served in that capacity several years until I felt the Call from God to go to seminary to get my Master’s degree in Religious Education. In the midst of that, I planned my oldest daughter’s wedding in 2005.  After finishing my studies, I finished writing my first book, which led to two more books to complete the “Wounded Trilogy” series. God directed me each step of the way, opening or closing doors, growing my character in the process. I hadn’t expected or planned for “life after cancer”, but I embraced it wholeheartedly! I told people I was a “thriver” not merely a “survivor ” of cancer.

It should not come as a shock to anyone who knows me, that I fully intend to re-engage in and embrace life once again when I’m done with this unexpected detour with cancer this time too.

But why wait?

In a little over six weeks, I will have finished my treatments. We are hopeful I will get the all-clear from the doctors. We have certainly prayed towards that end so I am going to remain optimistic about that outcome. As far as I know right now, my last chemo treatment will be October 7th, and I’m already planning a party for November 1st to celebrate with family and friends who have prayed and supported me through these many months. We intend to PAR-TAY!!!

I know I’ve been a bit of a recluse through treatments to ensure my immunity levels are not compromised by being exposed to viruses and the like, but I have welcomed visits from family and friends during my recovery days whenever possible. This past week I spent a laughter-filled day with a precious friend. For over thirty-five years I have relied on her in a variety of different ways as a mentor, a confidante, and an always faithful friend. She has cried with me through two miscarriages, and rejoiced with me when my rainbow babies were born. She has fed me, laughed with me, and commiserated with me through all of life’s challenges including supporting me through my two bouts with cancer. I honestly don’t know what I would do without her in my life. Thanks, Shirley, as always, for your practical wisdom and devoted friendship. ❤️

Although I know I won’t be in full wedding-planning mode until the New Year, I have already started to catch the excitement, and I find myself more and more on the wedding sites finding decor and ideas for my youngest daughter’s big day. Yesterday, the groom’s mother, Sue and I shared a picnic lunch she had prepared as a surprise for me.  As we shared a meal together we talked of wedding things and how blessed we are to be able to join our two families together next year. How awesome is that? (My big prayer request is to have sprouted a full head of hair by July 2020. 😁)

I know I have two more treatments, but whenever I have a window of opportunity to spend time with my grandbabies, or go for long drives, or even take in a few days of camping before the first snow flies, I intend to take full advantage of it!  I will revel in spending quality time with family and friends and enjoy the next few weeks taking in the splendour of the Autumn colours. My goal is to think as little as possible on the two battlegrounds still ahead of me, but instead dream and plan for the days, months, and years after the battle is over. Of course I know God determines my next steps regardless of what plans I might make. My life verse, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9), indicates my submission to His direction in my life. I don’t know how many days, months or years He has numbered for me to live out, but I don’t intend to waste the ones left I’ve been given.

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