Half Way There!

My daughter texted me a cute giphy, while I was hooked up to my IV yesterday for my 3rd round of chemo, of Bon Jovi singing, “Woah, we’re half way there!  Woah, livin’ on a prayer!”  For those of you less techy types, a giphy is a little snippet of a video, a meme, an animated sticker like an emoji to convey an emotion or celebration and the like.  Yesterday, Laurelle’s little pick-me-up was to celebrate my half-way mark of my chemo treatments.  It’s way more palatable to say I’m halfway there rather than remembering I have three more treatments to go!  Fractions have never been my friends but in this case I’ll take it!

I know that the next days ahead will be the challenging ones if the first two go-rounds are any indication.  I will be relying on prayer, and hopeful that the new pain meds I’ve been given will combat the neuropathy pain that has plagued me the last two rounds.

Yesterday, I took special note of the dozen or so individuals who were sequestered as I in our somewhat private cubicles at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary.  Each of us hooked up to our IV’s, some with family keeping them company during their chemo session.  My husband, sitting beside me, patiently waits with me and looks up seafood restaurants on his phone.  It has become our custom after my treatments to go for a fish feed dinner.  It is a way for me to get in a good meal that has staying power for me, and it is a date night at the same time.  Bless his heart!

I don’t know the names of the people around me.  I don’t know their individual stories.  They all wear their battle scars.  The ages are varied.  One young woman, accompanied by her mother I’m guessing, wears a ball cap over her bald head.  An elderly, but stately-looking woman is asleep in her chair, her wig slightly askew on her head.  Her granddaughter knits in a chair beside her.  A middle-aged man, jokes with the nurses.  He somehow forgot about his appointment and frantic family members finally found him outside having a smoke.  (I will never understand people going through chemo smoking.  Just sayin’.)  He’s obviously a favorite patient with the nurses.  He is upbeat and positive, with a hearty laugh.  His hacking cough however, bemoans his journey with lung cancer.  An elderly man is wrapped up in a blanket.  His face is puffed and his eyes dark-circled, indicating a hard-fought battle.  His sweet wife brings him a glass of water as she kisses his cheek and tucks the blanket around his legs lovingly.  These are the faces of brave warriors.  I bow my head and offer a prayer for each of them.

I know what each of those dear ones will face over the next week when the side-effects hit each one of us.  Each of our chemo “cocktails” will determine the extent of different side-effects but each of us will battle through it, as I will, because we have no choice.  The people who sit beside us are counting on us to weather the storm so we can memory-make with them a little longer.

Life is fragile, handle with prayer.  I embroidered a wall-hanging with that phrase when we were first married.  Looking around that room yesterday, my thoughts were on the fragility of life and the fact that if it were not for the prayer warriors in my life, praying that morning and everyday for me, I don’t think I could face another treatment, let alone three more!  Prayer sustains me.  I am “living on a prayer!”

My friend sent me a wonderful verse today: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  Isaiah 61:1-3

I would never egotistically think that my mission today compares to Isaiah’s then.  However, I gladly claim the promise of sharing a “crown of beauty” an “oil of joy” and a “garment of praise” with those I have contact with in person and online.  It is a hard journey, but God is ever faithful.  He is with me.  He answers prayer.

I can rejoice because I am halfway through my chemo treatments and everyday I AM LIVING ON A PRAYER!

Just for fun, and since I’m a Bon Jovi fan from way back, I’m posting the “Livin’ On a Prayer” video for those of you who would like to rock out with me…and I dedicate it to Cathy M….

Posted in Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are We There Yet?

My parents loved to go for long drives. When my brother and I were too young to be left at home, we would accompany them on these drives. Generally my Dad would head towards the mountains and in the early 60’s that meant a full day on the road, there and back again, with a brief stop in Banff or Lake Louise for a picnic before heading back to Calgary. For my brother and I, confined in the back seat of a Volkswagen Beetle, without air conditioning, seatbelts, or car seats, we had no interest in the mountain views but occupied our time playing with the few toys our parents had allowed us to bring. When we tired of the toys, we generally curled up together and slept the rest of the way. Oftentimes we were still sound asleep when my parents stopped at a scenic location, so they let us snooze while they picnicked at a roadside turnout and we would be halfway home before we woke up cranky and miserable having missed out on the picnic, the only part of the trip we actually looked forward to.

We had just started on one such outing and my brother and I were already dreading the tedium of a long road trip. Luckily, my brother had managed to smuggle his pop gun into the car and for awhile I enjoyed watching him shoot at his little green, plastic soldiers that he lined up on the back seat. No longer satisfied with shooting the soldiers inside the car, he rolled down the window and began shooting at several imaginary bear and moose. That held his interest for a few more miles but then he decided a real target would be more satisfying. You would think his big sister would be the logical target, but that was not the case. Instead, over the next several miles he took great delight in “popping” our father in the back of his head! The little cork-on-a-string “bullet” didn’t hurt as much as distract my father from keeping his eye on the road and so after a few volleys from the back seat my brother was sternly warned that there would be consequences if Dad was “shot” again. Perhaps it was boredom, perhaps it was retaliation for subjecting us to long drives neither my brother and I enjoyed, or perhaps it was just childish mischievousness, but my brother got a wicked glint in his eye and re-corked his weapon. He pumped up the play rifle to maximum air capacity, a devilish smirk on his angelic face and took careful aim. POP! Straight into the back of my Dad’s head! Dad’s arm shot back with lightening speed and pin point accuracy swatting the offending weapon out of my brother’s hand and knocking him off his little keester in the process. I can’t remember the bottom-warming he got when we got home, but I’m sure that my brother must have thought it all a worthwhile consequence since our road trip was abruptly cut short due to his assassination attempt on the chauffeur.

Of course, when we became teenagers, there were holiday road trips through the mountains to British Columbia, and when we moved to Vancouver Island, the direction changed through the mountains to visit relatives in Calgary.  By then, my brother and I had learned that surviving the drive meant for us to be plugged into our individual Walkmans with our cassette mix tapes, and hunkering down for the tedium of travel.   We were neither interested in the mountainscapes, nor were we much interested in the occasional wildlife that we passed.  The common phrase my parents heard from the two of us was: “Are we there yet?”  Their response: “We’re not there yet, but getting close.”

My husband and I love to take a Sunday drive after church.  Somehow, over the many years, I finally understand what my parents found so enjoyable about long, relaxing, picturesque drives.  We are so blessed to be near enough to the Rockies, that we can take in the mountain sites, have a leisurely lunch, and enjoy the sunset drive home.  Occasionally, we meet up with road construction, or traffic that irritates us, but for the most part our long drives are a time to reconnect with one another, enjoy the area we live, and build memories.  Of course, when our three children were little, we hauled them all with us, and like my brother and I, they did not enjoy the ride very much.  They were eager to get to the destinations because we made a point of doing something they would like before we had to get back in the car to return home.  You might have guessed the common phrase my kids yelled at us from the back seat: “Are we there yet?”  Our response: “No, but we’re getting close!”

It has been a challenging week for me dealing with a blood clot and pain of a different kind.  At one point I said to my husband that I would just like to skip ahead to November, be done all this chemo, all this stuff, and bypass the next few months.  Wishful thinking, I know, but his response was interesting, “What?  Then you’d miss out on so much that will happen over the next few months.”

He didn’t mean all the chemo side effects or doctor appointments, he was talking about living every day, making memories, and appreciating all the scenic side roads on this long and winding highway that is my new journey with cancer.  He understands the importance of the journey, whereas, this week especially, I’ve been focused solely on the destination.  I want to scream out, “Are we there yet?”  I want to be at the end, get to the destination and stay there.  I’m focused on the finish, but he reminded me that there is validity in making the most of and enjoying the journey in spite of some speed bumps along the way.  “You’re half way there come Monday,” he said.  “Getting close to the end of chemo treatments.  Stay strong.  You’ll get there!”

It’s difficult, I will admit, when I’m in pain and definitely not looking forward to the third round of chemo on Monday, to enjoy the blessings around me.  I have forced myself this most challenging week to spend as much time outside, on our back deck, drinking in the beauty of our view of the Rocky Mountains and praising God for His Creation.  Sometimes I take it for granted.  I have walked (limped) around my home, doing the Marie Kondo thing, thanking God for my house and all the things in it that bring me joy.  Sometimes I take it all for granted.  I have prayed for all those who have prayed and are still praying for me, including many of you blog readers.  I have felt those prayers!  I cannot take them for granted!  I have hugged my grandchildren this week, and enjoyed the love and fellowship of family gathering in my home.  Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to have all my children live only minutes away.  I have thanked God for my husband, for the love and companionship we’ve shared for over forty years.  Charles is my knight in shining armour! I have read a good book.  I have laughed.  I have tried to stay strong.  I have tried to persevere, I have tried to be patient, I have tried to be grateful, I have tried to be less anxious. I have tried not to lean on my own understanding.  It’s a daily walk.

I’m not there yet, but getting close!


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Spiritual Markers

I have several collections in my home. I have a Precious Moments collection, an extensive Angel figurine collection, and a shelf display that pays tribute to my favourite book heroine, “Anne of Green Gables”. I am not a minimalist when it comes to decorating my home. Sure, some may say my “nik naks” are just clutter, and certainly there are some decor pieces I could easily sell without any remorse in a garage sale but, other choice pieces have a story behind each one of them. They are displayed to mark a time, or a significant life event where I fully experienced God’s activity around me in a profound and life-changing way. They are Spiritual Markers.

Scripture has several references to people building altars or celebrating significant feasts or festivals that have specific, spiritual significance to those people. Abraham (Genesis 12:1-8; 13:1-18); Noah, who built an altar to the Lord after the Flood (Genesis 8:20); the day God parted the Jordan River (Joshua 4:4-7); Samuel reminding God’s people that God helped them defeat their enemies. He marked that occasion with a stone as a remembrance of that event. (1 Samuel 7:1-12). In more recent history, the Church uses specific symbols and objects that remind congregants of significant stories and events from the Bible. A “fish” symbol, for example, first used by the early church that indicated when worn or displayed that they were Christ followers, or “fishers of men”. We use the Cross as a spiritual reminder of Christ’s great Sacrifice for us. Basically, a Spiritual Marker is any object, symbol, picture, or event that reminds us of God’s activity around us.

In 2001, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my husband bought me a “Sarah’s Angel” figurine. At the time, I’m sure his primary intent was just to cheer me up by gifting me with a small token of love. He knew I liked Angel figurines and I had been wandering around a store with him admiring the different displays just to take my mind off of my upcoming surgery. When my eyes rested on one little Angel figurine in particular, my husband quickly snatched it up. “You can look at it to know God’s angels watch over you.”

It was such a sweet gesture, I couldn’t wait to prominently display that little Angel in a place I could see it everyday. The store clerk boxed and wrapped the Angel for us could see I was enamoured by our purchase and quickly told us that the man who had commissioned these little figurines, did so in honour of his wife “Sarah”, who battled cancer. My husband and I exchanged looks of surprise at the added significance of learning that fact about our Angel. I hugged my husband, “She’s even more special to me now!”

Through my breast cancer journey, that Angel was a constant reminder that God and His Angels were watching over me. It was always a reminder of His Goodness, His Faithfulness, and encouraged me in times of great trial and distress as I went through the chemo treatments. That Angel figurine became a significant Spiritual Marker for me.

My Precious Moments collection is another example of items that mark significant events in our family. I’m not sure my kids are aware that each of those cute figurines that I dust each week, represent a significant life-event in our family: the year of our wedding, the birth of our children, each child represented by a precious figure; anniversaries, hobbies, career choices, and births of grandbabies. Every time I look at that display in my living room, I remember how God pours out His blessings on our home and on our family!

When I was diagnosed this time with uterine cancer, my husband went on a private quest to find the perfect item that would encourage me whenever I looked at it. I had awakened yesterday once again in pain. My leg was swollen, the blood clot not dissipated as I had hoped would happen overnight now that I was on blood thinners. A Google search further discouraged me when I learned that blood thinners don’t actually dissolve a clot, the body does that over time. Sometimes a clot can take months to dissolve! My morning prayer time with God was beseeching Him to alleviate my pain, but more than that, showing me in some tangible way that He cared about me and was even listening to me!

Yeah, Jeremiah’s Lamentation prayers may have paled in comparison to my own yesterday…

My husband had no way of knowing the specifics of my conversation with God that morning although I’m sure he sensed my ongoing frustrations with my current circumstances as he headed off to work. My day passed in pain-filled solitude. Walking was out of the question. I tried to distract myself by binge-watching shows on Netflix and playing mind-numbing games on my iPad. I was surprised when Charles came home with several packages. “You remembered!” I said when I saw the distinctive Bath and Body Works bag. I had asked him to pick up some foaming hand soaps from there a week ago. He had enough of a supply to last us a year! Then he shyly handed me another bag. “What’s this?” I asked.

“I’ve been looking for awhile, and found this today,” he smiled. “Hope this cheers you up!”

I was more than a little surprised and quickly teared up when I opened a box that contained a Peach-coloured Angel figurine. Peach is the colour of Uterine Cancer Awareness. Not sure if my husband even realized that since he’s colour blind, but I thought, just like the Sarah’s Angel he bought me nearly nineteen years ago, this new Angel figurine would serve as my new Spiritual Marker to mark this latest cancer journey. I hugged my husband tightly, thanking him for this wonderful gift. Then I noticed the inscription on the Angel’s gown and I gasped and burst into fresh tears.

Be Still, God is there.


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